Praise even when I don’t feel it!

Let’s be honest. Some days, some circumstances, some seasons of life do not feel very praiseworthy, do they? Life can be all out stinking hard some days and sometimes for a lot of days in a row can’t they. And sometimes it’s hard to lift a song of praise from your own voice when times are like that. I know, believe me I have had seasons like that that I found it hard to lift my praises. 

But it’s times like that for me, that hearing praise becomes even more important. I have often heard the words that God inhabits the praises of His people. It comes from this verse.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3

David says it right there that God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. I never gave much thought to what the context around this verse was. I thought about this verse many times from a church worship standpoint. I thought it must have been when all the people had come together to worship. But David didn’t write this when things were going well. Nope. Go back a couple of verses and this is what you see. 

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2

David was apparently not having a good day when he wrote this Psalm and I’m sure he had no idea that Jesus would use the same words from the cross when He was being crucified. I couldn’t find where scholars may have pinpointed the timing of the writing of this Psalm. But if you have studied David’s life you know it could have been written at lots of given times. David was anointed king but then was on the run from Saul for fifteen years before he was able to take the throne. He hid in caves, he knew battles and even once he took the throne, he had family issues, and a son who tried to overthrow him and take the throne from him. I like to study David because he was so real. He had some very good days but he had a lot of bad days too. He sinned and yet was a man after God’s own heart. He made real mistakes and he had some really hard times yet he knew God and knew God to be praiseworthy regardless of his circumstances. And this Psalm right here showed it. Even though the days were hard David knew where to turn his thoughts and his praise. He felt forsaken by God in the moment, he was praying for something and yet he did not feel like he was getting an answer but he knew that even if he didn’t find an answer if he turned his thoughts toward praise that he would find God. And that the presence of God would at least carry him through his circumstances. 

I have this playlist on my phone that I named “Battle Songs”. A few years back when I felt like I was having more dark days than good days. I had felt grief upon grief with losses. We were going through some sickness in our family and some hard circumstances that were beyond my control. Some days I would feel wrought with anxiety and my heart just hurt over it all. I would find myself thinking breathe in, breathe out, feeling like I had to think about how to breathe so I wouldn’t get too short of breath and hyperventilate. But in my office and in my car and anytime I could I would turn on this playlist to play in my background. Anytime I ran across a song that I felt spoke to me I would add it to my Battle Songs and I would set that playlist going. Sometimes I would listen intently and sometimes I just let it play in my background. That playlist brought to mind praise of Him even in the midst of some days that were very painful to me. When my lips had trouble praising Him, I still filled my ears with praise for Him so that my heart would turn to praise. And I can honestly say that through it all, I would feel His presence and it carried me.

I know that He inhabits praise of His people because when I would turn on that playlist I knew it was like an invitation to Him and I knew He was with me. And over time, it was His presence that healed my heart. If things are hard right now, if you feel anxiety taking over, even if you don’t feel like you can praise Him from your own lips, fill your ears with praise for Him and let Him heal your heart from the inside out. Let your praises invite Him in!

Creation Praises!

“He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” Luke 19:40

I love this verse. I love that Jesus said this to the Pharisees. Let me give you a little background. Jesus said these words to the Pharisees after His Triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the week of His death. The disciples had gone ahead and gotten a donkey for Him to ride on and as he rode along the disciples and the people were throwing cloaks down on the road and waving palm branches. And the people began to cry “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” There were loud shouts of praise and joy! This may be the only time during Jesus earthly ministry where He truly received the outward praise He deserved. At one time the people were all in accord. Praising Him simply for who He was! 

Spurgeon pointed out: 

“And yet, I suppose, those disciples had their trials as we have ours. There might have been a sick wife at home, or a child withering with disease. Yet they ALL praised Him!”

And the Pharisees didn’t like it, not one bit. They rebuked Jesus and told Him to get His disciples under control. Jesus said oh, but if I do, even the very stones will cry out praise to me!

Can you imagine the looks on their faces when He said that? The Bible addresses many times creation praising God. It speaks about trees, hills, rivers, mountains, valleys, the birds and fields all give Praise to God. But this may be the only place it says the very stones will cry out if the people don’t. 

I can see how the mountains the beaches, the fields the birds of the air praise Him. I can’t go to the beach nor the mountains without looking out from me and praising Him because of creation. But have you ever seen Him and praised Him in the rocks? Not enough I haven’t that’s for sure. But think about it, from what this says is if the rocks start praising Him, it’s because we have stopped. We can let the mountains and the oceans, the wind and the rain praise Him. But let’s not let the rocks take our place. He deserves our praise. He deserves it when things are going good and He deserves it when things are not going good. He deserves it just because He is God! 

I won’t let the stones cry out in my place, will you? 

Everyday Worship!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

When we think of Praise and Worship our minds automatically go to singing. Or at least mine does. But Paul is telling us here that our acts of spiritual worship are simply living for him every day. 

Paul starts this verse with “I appeal to you therefore”. I’ve heard it put this way when you see a therefore, you need to ask yourself what is it there for. So I backed up to the previous chapter to see what was happening. When you see therefore it is building on, or an answer to what has happened in the scriptures before. In chapter 11 Paul was talking about how the Gentiles (that’s us) have been grafted in. Make no mistake ever the Israelites are God’s chosen people. But when Jesus died on the cross, He made a way for all of us to be children of God. This is what Paul had addressed in Chapter 11. So this is what the first verse of chapter 12 is saying. 

“Therefore” because Jesus made a way for us Gentiles. And Paul emphasizes this point with “by the mercies of God”. He made a way for us because He had mercy on us, because He loved us. Because of all He has done for us, we should live for Him. That’s what Paul means by “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” We know that before Jesus the people had to bring animals to the priest. I’ve heard it said that man would have to actually place their hand on the animal as the life left that animal to know the depth of the sacrifice for His sin. Praise Jesus we do not have to do that anymore. Jesus has already been the sacrificial lamb for us. So what we can do is be a living sacrifice for Him. 

Being a living sacrifice for Him simply put, means to just live for Him every day. Do your best to be “holy and acceptable” to Him. This doesn’t mean to be perfect. There is no way to attain that. But we can strive to be holy, we can strive to be acceptable. We can strive to live for Him daily. 

I love the simplistic way this verse reads in The Message. 

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (MSG)

Well when it’s put that way, it sounds so simple for my simple mind! All we have to do is come to Him daily, ask for His help to walk out this everyday, ordinary life, knowing what He’s done for us already, and asking Him to guide us through each and every day! 

And that my friends is our spiritual worship to Him! 

Worship in Spirit and Truth!

This week let’s talk about praise and worship! I was about to wrap up these one word lessons for us with peace, but last week the word praise kept popping up and I felt like the Lord was leading me to talk about praise before I got to peace. He has led me to a few verses on praise and worship that we will unpack.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:23

This one hit me because if there ever was a time in my lifetime when I felt the urgency to worship in spirit and truth it would be now. There is so much going on in the world! Of course we also have to look at the context of this verse in the Bible. Jesus said these words to the Samaritan woman that he met at the well and asked for a drink of water from. Which was a huge no no In the first place. First of all she was a woman, second she was a Samaritan woman and third she didn’t have the best reputation. So for Jesus to be talking to her much less asking for a drink of water would have been frowned upon. But that’s Jesus, He met her where she was, and He meets us where we are too. Jesus wasn’t just trying to cause a stir, He was after her heart. 

At any rate during their conversation, the woman points out that some had worshipped on the mountain but that worship was to take place in Jerusalem. She was delegating worship to a place. She said this because before Jesus came, the people would take their animal sacrifices to the temple and there would be a ritual of killing the animal and cleansing of sins and there they would worship God. Worshiping God took place at a place, in the temple. Jesus was saying the hour would come, which would be His death on the cross, but also that He was standing right in front of her when true worshipers would worship the Father anytime and any place as long as they were with Jesus. No longer would we have to take an animal and sacrifice it as an act of worship. The only thing we need is Jesus. I love singing praises in church but I don’t have to have the church building in order to worship Jesus! 

Friends, yes there is craziness in the world. Yes, some days it may feel like the world is falling apart. Some days it feels like, and I keep hearing “end times are near”. But what I believe the Father is seeking is people who are still worshipping Him. We as children of God are not to live in fear, we are not to cower, we are not to get overly frustrated by the current events. We are to continue worshipping Jesus, no matter the craziness of the world or our personal circumstances.

The Samaritan woman didn’t have her life together when Jesus sought her out for a drink of water so that He could introduce her to His living water. We don’t have to have it all together for Him to seek us out either. Take a drink of the living water. Sit with Jesus for a little while today and just worship Him. 

Shouting for Joy!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6

These verses are an encouragement to me. If you’ve hung around me for any length of time, you know that my past few years I have had some stuff. There have been things that have broken my heart. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that if I lined it up next to some others it wouldn’t compare. But still, while I have had many blessings over the last few years, I have had some hurts and heartbreaks. But one thing I had to realize, I could crawl in a hole and let it make me bitter and sad and despair or I could keep getting up and keep laying it down and keep praying and keep hoping and keep trusting God for some changes and for some things and at times just trusting Him to hold my heart through it. I can’t say I have always wanted to keep doing the work it took to dig and to learn but in some ways it has been my survival. 

These verses tell me what is sown in tears will reap with shouts of joy. The picture that one of my commentaries gave me is the farmer who goes out with just a little seed, maybe even barely enough to hope for a harvest. Yet as he plants and sheds a tear he also prays for a bountiful harvest. Because he does the work with his seeds he will reap a harvest. 

Our hearts are much the same way. When our hearts are broken, if we sow, yes even with tears and turn to Jesus and ask Him for direction, or just to carry us through, the harvest will be a closer relationship with Him and sometimes yes answers. The reason I say sometimes is some hardship really doesn’t have an answer or an end. For the Mom who has lost a child. The only real answer she wants is for that child to be here, and she knows that is not going to happen. But Jesus can carry her through. For the precious soul with a diagnosis that she knows will cut her life on earth short, she wants healing that may or may not come. But Jesus can give peace and carry her through. And sometimes it is direction you need in a hardship. I believe when that is the case if we keep crying out to Him that Jesus will show the way. Sometimes it’s a life that needs to be rebuilt or a relationship that needs to heal and I believe that Jesus can redeem. 

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:6

I believe that if God will take my tears and bottle them up, it is to water the garden of my seeds I plant. You see he will take our tears, but we still have to sow, if we will come to Him and dig up the soil of our hearts and study His word and learn and lean into His heart, He will water our garden with our own tears and we will get the harvest of shouts of joy. I believe this because deep in my soul, as I have come to know Him more and more I know that He takes my tears and He is making something beautiful out of them. And I will shout for the joy of knowing Him. The harvest for my soul is Him! 

Everyday Joy!

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

The last few years have not been years I want to repeat, nor continue to live in. I have had loss, I have had grief upon grief. I have had some really difficult circumstances thrown my way. This season has been a hard one. I am afraid my face has shown it, my demeanor has shown it and at times, my mood has shown it. I hope not too bad, but I am afraid it has. But I can also say that through the times that have been hard, I have learned a desperation for Jesus in my life that I hadn’t known before. I have had to cling to him and ask Him to sustain me. I have also grabbed hold of Him and begged Him to bless me. 

Yesterday I was thinking of these passages we have been studying this week on joy. And while this has been a hard season of life, that I really do not want to relive, by clinging and learning what it’s like for my heart and soul to be desperate for Jesus, I truly do not want to lose THAT part of this season. I want my heart and soul to be desperate for Him just as much in the good times as in the bad times. Many times we will turn to Jesus when life is hard but when life gets better we tend to put Him on a shelf until Sunday morning. Maybe occasionally taking Him off that shelf to attend weekly bible study. I don’t want to turn back anymore. I want to be just as desperate for Him when life is going my way as I have been when I had sorrows and troubles to lay at His feet. 

This Psalm says that to me. David wrote this Psalm and it is believed that he my have written it in tough times. If you study the life of David you realize that he was anointed King of Israel then he had to flee from King Saul for around fifteen years before he ever took the throne. David didn’t always have it easy. Then when he became king, he still didn’t always do things right, he sinned with Bathsheba, had her husband killed, then he married her because she was pregnant with his child. Then later this child died. He loved Bathsheba though he had many wives. He had family issues, his children did not always act like they should. One son tried to take over the throne, then that child was killed in battle. I think all of this is one reason I love David so much. He was real, yet he knew God and was considered a man after God’s own heart. It is believed that this Psalm was written in a time of crisis. Yet there is a quiet confidence in the entire Psalm in who his God is and how God would sustain him, and not just sustain him but that David would know joy by walking with Him. 

David learned and sometimes had to relearn that God would show him the path of life. He learned that when he was walking the path with God that there was a fullness of joy and that the pleasures and blessings of life were his to enjoy. He learned that even when you are in crisis you can have joy if you know how to remain in His presence. I love that it is believed that he wrote this Psalm in a crisis. 

Take the time to read this short Psalm today and let it speak to your heart. I want to stay on the path with Jesus. I want to know the fullness of His joy and the pleasures of walking with Him every day. I want to share the good times of life with Him as well as the tough times of life. My heart is desperate for Him every day and I pray that I never turn back so I can know the fullness of His joy!

Joy of the Lord is Strength

“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” Nehemiah 8:10

I love the book of Nehemiah. It have a few highlights in my Bible in the book of Nehemiah. This verse is one of them. I have also heard this verse quoted many times, but this, like all scripture should be looked at in it’s context to see what was really happening here. 

Nehemiah and a team of Israelites had just completed the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. They had done so with much opposition and they had finished it in only 52 days. They had worked hard, all the while having to be ready for battle if they were attacked from surrounding countries. But they had God on their side and they completed the wall. Then the exiles had returned to Jerusalem. I am sure all the people were a bit weary. Ezra the priest brought the Law of the Lord and he opened the book and he read it to the people. The people came face to face with their sin that day. They realized the blessing of God to rebuild the wall that had broken down because of their own disobedience. And when they did they wept. 

Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites were telling them that this was a day for rejoicing in what God had done and to let what God had done in spite of their sin be their joy. The people were sad because they never should have gotten to the point they were. But God had shown a picture of redemption in the blessing of rebuilding the wall and rebuilding Jerusalem and that was a reason to be joyful. 

We can be the same way. Yes when we have sinned we need to be repentant of that sin to turn away from it. But Godly sorrow brings repentance not shame. We are not to walk around kicking ourselves for the rest of our lives about the sin. We are to repent, turn and walk in the joy of the Lord. We let the joy of the Lord give us the strength to walk with Him. It is a straight lie of satan that wants to keep us down in the doldrums and stuck in shame over the things we have done. God wants a Godly sorrow for our sin, but then He wants us to turn and walk it out in Joy of Him and who He is. 

Have you ever been there? I know I have. Satan loves to remind me of things I have done in my past I wouldn’t want anyone to know about, as well as the things in my present, that aren’t lining up with His will. And when he does my brain somehow has a hard time letting it go. And when that happens I find myself sitting in the ‘what ifs’ and ‘I wish’ moments and it’s just not good for my soul or my spirit. That’s not where God wants us to sit once we have turned from some sin. I know that when I succumb to fret and worry and wishing I had done things differently, or wishing that something in my circumstances now were different, I become a grumbling complaining whiny mess. But when I am laying it all down to Jesus, my past, my present and my future and when I am trusting Him to make something beautiful out of my mess, I walk with joy, peace and contentment. I am sure I am a much better person to be around when I am relying on the joy of the Lord to be my strength! 

Full Joy

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

The first question we must ask when reading this verse is what are “these things” that Jesus is talking about? So I backed up a bit to look at the full context of this verse. This is a passage in John where Jesus is talking about abiding in Him. When you back up to verse one it begins the passage. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

Jesus goes into an explanation about abiding in Him, just as the grapevine abides in the plant. You see you can’t cut away the vine from the base of the plant and expect it to continue to produce fruit. That is impossible. And it is impossible for us to live for Him if we are cut away from Him. When we abide in Him, and He in us we will live a productive life as a Christian. We will only be able to bear fruit for the kingdom if we remain connected to the vine. We must remain connected to Him, in order to fulfill the purposes of God. 

Another point here is that when we are abiding we are in a position to ask Him for blessings

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Now the point in this statement is not just to give us a way to get whatever we want. But the fact of the matter is if you are abiding in Him, you will want the things that will line up with His will. So as you learn to abide, your thoughts will change to kingdom thoughts and your wishes and desires will have a kingdom purpose. 

But then Jesus wraps up this little lesson with our focus verse today. You see He is not trying to get us to abide in Him just so we can do the work. He is telling us that abiding in Him is how to have a fullness of joy. The kind of joy that will only come by living for Him, and living in His will. The kind of joy that comes as a result of abiding in His love. I am on a pursuit of joy this week. And really I want to live my life that way all the time. Abiding in the joy of Jesus is not living a life void of problems, but it is living a life in step with Him so as to know He’s got whatever is concerning me. It’s living a life that is producing fruit for the kingdom. It’s knowing that my joy is full and complete because of Him. 

Choose Joy!

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18

I was having a very bad day. This was one day last week. I had to go to my office last weekend on Sunday because there was a hurricane coming on Monday and we would not be working and there was something that had to be done. On my way home I heard a rock hit a window and I looked all over my windshield and the car windows, including my sunroof and did not see anything, no rock chips, nothing. So on Tuesday morning I get in the car and my sunroof was shattered. It was still holding together but it was obvious it would have to be replaced. Not knowing if it would hold together or not, I closed the panel on the inside and headed to work. On my way to work I began to hear glass falling on the panel and I knew I would have to turn around and take my car home to sit under a covering until I could get it fixed. Now I know that a busted sunroof is nothing to necessarily cry about. But you know how on some days that one thing can happen that just might push you over the edge. This had the potential to be a one thing pushing me. I didn’t cry over it, but I did feel I was teetering on the edge. 

On my way back to work, in my husband’s truck, I felt myself teetering so I began saying out loud “Lord I am so grateful that my joy is not tied up in a sunroof!” After I said that one it set me going I began to out loud say to the Lord, “Lord I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in hurricanes!” “Lord I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in my work.” “Lord, I am grateful that my joy is not tied up in my children, and whether they are doing or acting like I think they should.” “Lord I am grateful my joy is not tied up in my finances” I did this all the way back to work for about 15 minutes or so. And you know what, by the time I drove up at work I could honestly say “Lord I am grateful my joy is tied up in YOU!” 

You see the point is this, some days are bad days, some years are bad years and some seasons of life are hard seasons, but if you belong to Him, we get to choose joy! This verse is actually part of a passage by the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk is never considered a particularly happy book to study. However, this prophet, even though he was prophesying the coming judgement of Judah still knew how to put his faith, trust and joy in God. The book itself is only three chapters, and while you see his complaining and crying out to God, he ends it with a prayer and a declaration that his joy is not in circumstances but in God. This is his declaration. 

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk wasn’t looking at his circumstances to bring him joy. He claimed joy in the Lord in spite of his circumstances. Sometimes we have to reach out and claim the joy because the circumstances surrounding us just aren’t cutting it. Won’t you do that with me today. Won’t you name a few things that you are grateful are not the source of your joy and then tell Him how grateful you are that your joy is in Him not in your circumstances. 

Trust and be Safe!

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2

What does it mean to dwell in God’s shelter and abide in His shadow? I think we could think that is just for the super spiritual, those who are pastors and/or scholars. But I don’t think so. I think dwelling in His shelter and abiding in His shadow is very simple really when you think about it. It means having fellowship with Him every single day. It means having a time set aside to study His word and to listen for His voice. It means going through your day knowing He is with you. Even when the going can be hard. It means knowing that even when bad things do happen that they have sifted through His fingers. And it truly means trusting Him to work things out the way that is best! 

I wish I could say that I went about every day like this. I try, I really do. I have a habit now of getting up early and having some time with my God! But some days, even though I may have had a wonderful time with the Lord, something will happen that sets the mood for the day in a way that does not feel like dwelling and abiding with Him. Something will happen that makes me want to shake my fist or to scream that this doesn’t feel very safe. On those days I have to work even harder to make sure I am putting my trust where it belongs and not in the things of the world ,or my mood, or whatever is happening that day. It takes a little extra effort to dwell and to abide. 

It’s days like that, when I feel like I am having to remind myself to breathe in, breathe out, when I feel like I am at the end of a very thin thread and one wrong move will break the thread that I know I better retreat. It’s time for me to be intentional about my dwelling and abiding. It’s days like this that I will turn on a podcast of a sermon or some worship music on my phone to play in the background while I work. Let’s face it, sometimes you just have to quiet the noise of the world and that has been my secret weapon in order to do that. 

No, dwelling and abiding does not mean that you have to appear super spiritual all the time. At least I don’t think so. But dwelling and abiding just means you know where your heart is at home. My heart is more at home when I am in close communion with Jesus than at any other time. It’s when I quiet the noise of the world, no matter how bad or how good the day is and bring my concerns, and my joys to Him whatever they are. Dwelling and abiding just means spending time with Him and asking His direction and His will for my life. Dwelling and abiding means laying it all down at His feet and then trusting Him to carry it out the best way He sees fit. Dwelling and abiding is knowing that your concerns, your prayers, your heart is safe with Him!

Again, I am going to give you this verse in the NLT. I love the simplicity of it. 

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” Psalms 91:1-2

May we be people who live in His shelter and find rest in His shadow, and may we know that we are safe and we can trust Him.