Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Praise Ye the Lord

“Praise ye the LORD.”—Psalm 150:6b

The last phrase in the entire Book of Psalms is an exhortation to praise the Lord, which is an exhortation in itself as this verse segment ends a book filled not with just spiritual highs, but also many lows. 

I believe further revelation about the idea of praising the Lord can be summed up in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I believe God is telling us in this passage that we aren't to focus on the negative, but on the positive all around us. We are to think on the things that are lovely, of a good report, and that are virtuous, to name a few things that verse describes. And when we do think on these things, the end result can only be praise to our Lord.

As I go about my day, I am encouraged to be in constant communion with the Lord in praising His name and thinking on all the good I see in the world around me. For example, I can either concentrate my thoughts on the eczema spot that is developing on my daughter's forehead or I can praise the Lord that she can walk around the house, when so many children cannot. It's not that I shouldn't address the patch of dry skin on my child's forehead, but I must not let the negative aspects of such a condition overshadow all the good I can be thankful to God for about her health. I also shouldn't let it overshadow my hope and trust in God to clear this up somehow, when I bring this issue to Him in prayer. (For the sake of full disclosure, this last sentence convicts me because I haven't prayed for His guidance to either lead me to a product that will bring its healing or His power to heal it without my help!)

Work is a great spiritual testing place as it draws out either our praise or our complaints. I can be under so much pressure at work, with more and more paperwork stacking onto the already massive piles on my desk and start wondering if it will ever end. I can be grumpy that I don't have an assistant who can help me with my tasks as I assist others in my job. Or I can praise the Lord for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to be able to work part-time from home, while my daughter is young, even though I may not get everything done in a manner I would if I went into work every day at full-time hours.

Then, there is the guilt that comes so naturally to mothers. I can choose to be weighed down with guilt about not being able to give my daughter my full and undivided attention throughout the day, or I can praise God that while I'm working at home, she often plays near me and that we are at the very least in each others' presence. I can feel insecure for putting in a long  DVD for her to watch so that I can work at length on time-sensitive projects with little to no interruption. Or I can be grateful that I get to spend quality time with my daughter in the middle of my days by going to story times in the library, going on walks around the neighborhood, or even reading books together and playing tea time with her and her several Sesame Street plush dolls.

My favorite middle-of-the-day activity lately has been visiting a park and walking around with her as she discovers new sights, sounds, and textures. I enjoy listening to my daughter say hi to little girls her age and dogs her size. I savor the look in her eyes as she walks across a field 100x larger than anything she's traveled on with her own two feet before. I love the wonder in her expression as she takes in the largeness of the park fenced in with beautifully tall trees. I love the look of independence on her face as she follows her own path. What a treat that is! I may not get all the work done I thought I needed to complete in a day, but I get to experience my beautiful daughter as she discovers her world. So, what should I say? You got it, praise the Lord!

So, if I start feeling weighed down or guilty about what I'm doing or not doing or how I am or how I am not, I should ask God if there is any sin in what I'm doing. If there is, I need to ask Him to forgive me (1 John 1:9) and to gently correct my walk (Psalm 139: 23-24). If there is no sin, I then need to get my thoughts out of the guilt pit and onto the good that is happening all around me in every moment of every day. It may take some time at first to get my vision on the things God wants me to think about, but I believe with prayer and practice, thinking on the good and all that's mentioned in Philippians 4:8 will eventually become habit.

One final thought. If I am having a hard time thinking on the good right in front of me, that is the good in the temporal or physical realm, I am without excuse because the ultimate praise I have for Him is simply because He is and that I am His child.

So, just as the Book of Psalms ends, let us all be encouraged to redeem our time wisely by seeing something to praise Him for throughout our days on earth. While the natural man is not wired this way, thankfully, praising Him in Heaven will come naturally. Because only then, will we be freed from our sinful bodies and see Him as He is.

Praise ye the Lord!

Our Backyard (Spokane, WA)
March 26, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Without Me You Can Do Nothing

“For without me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:5

I have yet to read a book written by Andrew Murray, but I know he is well known as someone who teaches on prayer very well. During a sermon about a year ago, God spoke to me about three stages of a Christian’s life he defines in his book “Absolute Surrender.”

The first is “I can do it.” This stage is full of our pride, our accomplishments, and our selves. Here is where we fail and then move into the second phase “I can’t do it.” While true, God doesn't want you to stop here. Unfortunately, though, this is where a lot of Christians stop in their walks with God. Through various battles of discouragement, the cares of this world, and frankly, the lies of the devil they come to believe, many Christians stop here and never go further, as they wait on this side of Heaven for their call up. They never reach the Victorious Christian Life on this plain. Instead, they remain on the outer fringes of the Promised Land never tasting the milk and honey of a land where our relationship with God is full and free and our affections for the things of this world die daily.

The last stage is “God can do it through me.” In the sermon, I was again reminded that it is in this stage God can use us. It does not matter if we have skills or talents. I think it could also be added that it doesn’t matter if we have a willing heart because that, too, can be a source of pride. We cannot be fully used of God until we absolutely surrender to Him. I think of my gifts and abilities. My willingness to be used of God. And I have to be honest that I feel like I’m in that first stage again.

I believe throughout the history of my walk with Jesus, He has brought me through these stages over and over. I do not think, at least for me, that this Christian walk is so black and white that once we have crossed over into the Promised Land, that we cannot go back and spend time in the previous stages. Just in reading the Old Testament, the history of the Kings of Judah, for instance, we can see the many ups and downs of God’s people.

I also believe one area of our Christian life may have gotten to the Promised Land, but there are other aspects of our lives that God is still fine-tuning so that He can use us for His glory … for His Kingdom … for that heavenly city where the fruits of His work will reside.

Lord Jesus, you know my arrogance. And you know my willingness. You know my fleshly pride. And you know my desire to be closer to you. I am all mixed up on this plain, believing a lie that to surrender my life to You, which would make an end of me, would be a negative. In one sense it will be. I know my flesh won’t like it. But I know my spirit will thrive and learn of its purpose, and it is only when this happens, that I begin to understand without You, I can do nothing.

Manito Park Rose Garden (Spokane, WA)
September 2007

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ponder the Path of Thy Feet

“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”Proverbs 4:26

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”Proverbs 4:25

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.”Proverbs 5:15

In a most tender and loving way, God encourages me in these verses to look to my own path before Him - to rejoice in my own walk with Him.

Simply, He is telling me to concentrate on my relationship with Him.

Too often, my walk gets distorted by my judging others, either in a loving or a critical way, and how they are or are not walking with the Lord, and I get side-tracked from my own walk.

It’s like this. I am walking down the road God has for me. I am walking with joy in the closeness I feel toward Jesus, I am feeding on the Word, and I am rejoicing in the knowledge it gives me about Him. And then, all of a sudden, I see someone struggling in life because I perceive they are not walking with the Lord. I see them perhaps making a foolish decision and then I allow it to affect my walk in Christ. I think, if they would only [fill in the blank], they would be right with God.

Unfortunately, because of that direction of my thoughts, I soon lose focus on my own walk. And it is a struggle to find my way back to basking in the sunshine of His love on my own path!

So Lord, when my vision gets a little distorted, please teach me to pray for those who are struggling in You, and help me leave them in Your perfect care. If You decide to use me to help assist them in their struggles, then, please grant me the grace and love to speak Your truth into their hearts, giving You all the praise and glory for the insight. Or should You decided to use my actions to help and serve them while they are in this phase of their lives, please help me surrender my will to Yours that they may see my good works and glorify Our Father in Heaven.

Then, Lord, help me me go on to perfection – a maturity in You – because that is what You are encouraging me to do in these verses above and in other passages of Your Word.

In Your precious Name I pray, Amen.

Onesti, Romania (June 2005)

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