Sunday, July 21, 2013

Awaken My Praise... Every Day!



They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.  Psalm 145:7 NIV

As a family, we are so blessed to be going to a wonderful spirit-filled church with awesome worship.  The worship was one of the main reason we decided to make this church our home church.  When the worship begins, the presence of God becomes manifested within minutes of the first song.

One particular Sunday service I was singing with the congregation as usual.  But this time I felt the Lord impress upon my heart that praise and worship are not only to be done at church, but should be bountiful in my daily life.

I've always listened to worship CD's and Christian radio in my car and home, but usually during times when I'm distracted by conversations with my children, cleaning the house or while using the computer.  Even though there is nothing wrong with listening to worship songs as I go about my day, I felt the Lord was asking something different from me.  What if I started taking time each day to be alone and praise the Lord without distractions, even if it were only for a few minutes?

I took this prompting seriously.  So on my way home from church that day I stopped at Walmart to pick up a new CD player since my old one recently died.  When I got home I gathered up all my worship CD's and put them in a place where I would see them everyday and where they would be easily accessible.

The next day I was reading my Bible and I stumbled across a verse in the Psalms.  It said...

Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  Psalm 145:2-3 NIV

This verse touched my heart in a way I didn't expect.  The words every day stood out on the page.  God had my attention.  I knew He was wanting me to be intentional about setting some uninterrupted time each day to focus on Him in song.  Since He is most worthy of praise, I set about making a new habit of singing to the Lord.

Each day I try to find a quiet moment to sing and focus on the Lord.  Sometimes it will be during my quiet time in the morning before my children are up, other times it's in the car while driving alone.  Most days I'm listening and singing to a song on a CD or my ipod, but sometimes I just sing a song from my heart while washing the dishes.  It varies from day to day.

One of the sweetest aspects of forming the habit of intentional praise is my discovery of solo piano music.  Nothing seems to draw me into the presence of God quite like the tender sounds of this beautiful instrument.  I've discovered some Christian piano artists that I love to listen to.  Some of my favorites are David Nevue, Fernando Ortega and Josh Tesh.  In the evenings I softly play one of their CD's while getting ready for bed.  Playing piano music before bed brings a peaceful atmosphere that helps me to unwind and re-directs my thoughts to God before I go to sleep.  My husband also has commented on the benefits of it.

I cannot say that praising God in song comes automatic to me yet, especially when my days are full and hurried.  Some days I wake in the morning with a song on my heart, other days my mind is racing about the activities of the day.  But I've learned that it's my responsibility to awaken that praise and be deliberate about it.

Singing to the Lord takes my heart and mind to deeper places.  While I sing it helps me to focus on Him, dwell on the truth of who He is and reminds me how greatly He loves me.   That alone is enough reason to make singing to Him a priority in my life.

As I've been writing this, one of my favorite worships songs comes to mind...

Every day, I'll awaken my praise 
And pour out a song from my heart
(Gateway Music, "You Are Good.")
Click here to see the YouTube video of this song.


Let my words be as David's words in this Psalm...

I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 69:30





Saturday, March 26, 2011

Return to the Battlefield




When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, "You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered..."  
Joshua 13:1 NLT

Life is hard.  With so many things calling out for our attention, it's so easy to grow weary - so easy to just want to give up.  There are many times that I would love to throw in the towel.  But obviously, that is not God's will for any of His children.  God never intended for us to walk around feeling defeated.

When Joshua was an old man the Lord told him that there was still much land to be conquered.  In other words, God was telling Joshua to get busy because the battle was not over.  God did not tell him to rest because he was growing old, but instead to stay pro-active in kingdom business.  The same is true for us today.  As for me, I thought when I got to my 40's I could just "coast" through life in hopes to get to the finish line without too much struggle.  That's not biblical.

We are told in Ephesians 6 to put on our full armor of God and to be alert while remembering to pray for all:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 
Ephesians 6:13-18

Recently I've been thinking of all the ways I've allowed Satan to take ground in my life.  It's happened very subtly.  I have become spiritually lazy in my prayer life, having time alone with God and reading my Bible.  I've become numb to the fact that the clock is ticking and there is still much land to conquer.  I have walked off the battlefield.
In Bible days a trumpet or a ram's horn, also known as a shofar, was used to signify many religious holidays but also was used for the start of a battle.  Jewishroots.net said that the shofar was blown three times before battle...
The first trumpet was a signal to prepare to depart...  The Bible believer should be ready to depart swiftly for any field of conflict as ordered, always ready to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7).

The second trumpet was a signal to form up... At this stage, a believer should have on the whole armor of God. The Lord wants skilled warriors, lined up with others, who will do battle against the wiles of the Devil (Eph. 6:11).

The third trumpet sound was the order to march.

This trumpet may also point to the personal resolve of a believer to march out to serve Christ, to stand against all challenges to God's kingdom, and to be willing to endure hardships like a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3). 

I have heard the the trumpet call.  I am ready to return to the battlefield.
One of the most beautiful traits I love about God is His unlimited patience with me.  Whenever I feel attacked and want to run away from combat, He encourages me to get back to the battle and to not give up.

What about you?  Have you taken off your armor in order to pursue things that are insignificant?  Are your weapons rusty?  It's time to polish your armor and get back to war.  The battle is not over.  Listen for the shofar and return to the battlefield!






Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strength and Dignity




She is clothed with strength and dignity, 
and she laughs without fear of the future.  
Proverbs 31:25 NLT

I was recently at a women's conference and the speaker referenced this verse from Proverbs.  "What would it look like if we walked through our situations with strength and dignity?" the speaker asked the audience.  I meditated on this question for some time.

This verse became more and more profound to me as I watched my dear friend go through a tragedy.  Her eighteen year old son was in a coma for more than 70 days.  Hundreds of people were praying for a miracle for this precious young man, but an earthly healing was not God's plan for him.  His death left his family, friends and our community heartbroken, but we are also comforted knowing that Luke is with his Heavenly Father now.

I realize that my friend's pain is far from over and that the road to healing may be long and hard, but I am astonished at how God's grace covered her during the darkest hours of her life.  I saw first-hand what it looked like for a woman to walk through a tough situation with strength and dignity.  Even though she didn't understand the "why" of this situation, her hope was in the Lord and her faith remained strong.  Karen made Proverbs 31:25 come to life for me.  Her example has encouraged me to cleave to God through all my situations and allow Him to strengthen me. 

What about you?  Are you walking through your situations with strength and dignity?







 




Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forget-Me-Not




Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Psalm 103:2 NIV

As a home school mom I consider it a privilege to be able to be with my children all day.  Even though there are times when the challenges are overwhelming and I feel like quitting, there is nothing else I'd rather do with my life.  It truly is a blessing!  Learning reading and math are great, but the most enjoyable times of our week are when we learn exciting new things about God's creation!

I love springtime, but I'm not much of a gardener.  So when we came across the forget-me-not flowers in a story we were reading, I quickly realized I knew nothing about them - not even what they look like.  So, off to the computer I went to learn all that I could.  After showing a picture of them to my kids I then found myself interested in learning more about them.

Through my research I learned that there are 50 different kinds of forget-me-nots.  They are mostly sky blue in color, but can also be pink or white.  They have five petals and a yellow center.  They can be either annual or perennial and grow nicely in shaded areas.  They are an excellent ground cover to help hide bare spots under tall shade trees.  The forget-me-not is the state flower of Alaska.  Even though everything we studied about this beautiful and elegant flower was fascinating, we enjoyed learning the legend of how it got it's name the best.

 The German legend tells of a Medieval knight and his sweetheart that were walking alongside a riverbank when they came across some beautiful blue flowers.  As the knight plucked the flowers and held the bouquet in his hands, he accidently fell into the water.  Because of the weight of his armor he was unable to get out of the water.  According to the legend, he tossed the bouquet at his love and shouted, "Forget me not" and then disappeared.  The young woman never forgot her knight and wore the flowers in her hair until her own death.

There are many versions of this legend but they all insinuate the same message - the knight didn't want to be forgotten by his love.

After learning about this saga I instantly thought about the verses in the Bible which tells me to "forget not" my God.  How many times do I allow the busyness of life to take my thoughts off God while I focus on lesser things? This story is a great reminder of how I need to be mindful of God and all that He has done for me.

I don't know about you, but I feel like planting some forget-me-nots!

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day.  
Deuteronomy 8:11 NIV

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

White Lily


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  
Matthew 5:8 NIV


After the cold winter, I really enjoy the warmer temperatures spring brings.  It's such a wonderful time of the year!  There's nothing like the great outdoors and the smell of fresh cut grass or the thrill of watching a colorful butterfly fluttering by.  However, nothing compares to the joy of seeing flowers blossom.

The White Lily has been cultivated for thousands of years and are used even today in weddings, floral bouquets and in the celebration of Easter.  It is a biblical flower that represents purity.  It's mentioned many times throughout the Bible.  Jesus Himself mentioned the beauty of this flower as He instructed His disciples to not worry about the things of this life...

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these..."
Luke 12:27

This delicate, snow-white flower was often used in ancient paintings of the Virgin Mary.  Modesty and virginity symbolize this lovely plant.  It's no wonder the artists used the beautiful and graceful White Lily to accompany Mary in the portraits.  When I think of Mary I can't help but think of a young woman who was pure in body, but also pure in heart.  Psalm 24:3-4 tells us about a pure heart.

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?   The one who has clean hands and a pure heart...
Psalm 24:3-4 NIV

The Lord wants us to call on Him with a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).  If our hearts are holding onto sin then our prayers are hindered (Psalm 66:18) and our fellowship with God is broken.  When we come to Him with a repentant heart (that means turning from doing things "our" way and going "God's" way instead) it demonstrates to Him that we want to be clean in heart.  Regularly confessing our sins and asking for His help with the sins that seem to entangle us, we are learning to be transparent and open with our Heavenly Father.

You may ask, "How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?" Sometimes our sin is obvious while other times they are not.  Since God sees ALL of our sin we need to be courageous enough to ask Him to "search our hearts" and reveal to us the hidden ones.  (Psalm 139:23-24).

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?  Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep your servant from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me.  Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
Psalm 19:12-13 NLT

Confession of our sins not only puts us in a right place with God, it also frees our hearts from guilt.  Just as the beautiful White Lily represents purity, our hearts can also reflect innocence. It all begins with an open and honest conversation with our Creator.



Friday, March 4, 2011

Morning Hours of the Gardener




It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” 
Luke 13:19


My children and I are reading a wonderful book called, "The Basket of Flowers."  This beautiful story tells about a Gardener who had a daughter who loves flowers.  He "took advantage of his daughter's love for flowers to give her many lessons of heavenly wisdom."  The Gardener expressed to his daughter "how near we are to God in every part of His creation...."  He was accustomed to devoting the first morning hours of his day in Bible reading and prayer.  In order to have this special time in his day he had to rise before dawn. 

The Gardener taught his daughter to cherish this time of the morning also.  They would walk along together in the garden to listen to the birds sing their praises to their Creator while he explained how she can trust her Heavenly Father to take care of her needs just as He feeds the birds.  One beautiful illustration after another he shared with his precious daughter.

I understand the heart of the Gardener.  There is nothing like having an uninterrupted morning with my Heavenly Father.  Even though God is approachable every hour of the day there is something delightful about the morning hours.  Jesus Himself spent those hours with his Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.   
Mark 1:35 NIV

But what if I find it difficult to rise early?  Rising early in the morning used to be an easy thing for me, but over the past year it's become more difficult.  Sometimes the season of life we're in makes it more challenging to rise early.  Sometimes all we need to do is adjust our schedules or make more effort to get to bed earlier so that it's not so grueling to get up when the alarm goes off.  I also have a sweet friend who keeps me accountable and who asks me several times a week how I'm doing in my morning times.  She has been a huge help to me.  She encourages me to "try again tomorrow" when I oversleep and also reminds me to make time for Bible reading and prayer some other time throughout my day.

What matters most is that I draw close to God some time each day.   Whatever it takes, it's worth the effort to make a daily quiet time with God.  Just like the Gardener I prefer the early morning hours, but sometimes that just doesn't happen.  Can you relate?  Don't get discouraged.  Not giving up and continuing to pursue a morning routine is hard to do, but worth it.  Developing the habit of  "alone time" with God takes time.  It won't happen by accident.  You have to be intentional about this.  Ask God to give you wisdom to know how to develop the habit of rising early for reading His Word and praying.  He promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.   
James 1:5 NIV 

Spending time with God is the most important accomplishment we can do each day.  Let's learn from the Gardener and make it a priority.





 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Instilling Faith or Fear?

"We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!". So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: "The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there...Next to them we felt like grasshoppers..."    Numbers 13:31-33





In Numbers 13 and 14 we read the story of Caleb and Joshua, along with the other ten spies, going to explore the land of Canaan.  As they explored the land for 40 days they discovered that the land was fertile and full of good things. There was only one problem - the land was also filled with huge people. The Israelites looked liked grasshoppers compared to these giants!

When they came back to report their findings to Moses, ten of the spies came back with a negative and fearful attitude. As they told the Israelites about the "giants" they would have to conquer in order to possess the land the people also became fearful. Their lack of faith displeased the Lord which caused them to miss out on the promise land God wanted to give them.

Joshua and Caleb had a different perspective on the situation. Their faith was strong. They tried to convince the others that God was big enough to handle this plight, but the fear from the other spies was contagious.

We have the same affect on people. By our words we can instill faith or fear into the hearts of others.  I don't want to be a woman who causes another to doubt the goodness of God or to cause someone to lose faith.  We would be wise to stop and examine our words before we share stories with others.  Before you speak ask yourself a question,  "Are my words full of faith or fear?"  Let's be women who encourage others with our faith!