Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Beauty of Praise

"Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright." 
Psalm 33:1

To those who have a relationship with the Lord, the praise they offer to Him makes them beautiful. It's like wearing attire that really makes you look great. Like the special dress which always brings compliments to the woman who wears it. Or the suit and tie that makes people admire the man who puts it on. When we're praising God, our countenance shines. Whether we're praising Him silently or in a crowded auditorium with a worship band, praise becomes us. It always does. But I suggest that there is a particular beauty that comes in praising God from a weeping heart. The person who is suffering, or impoverished, or brokenhearted, and can still find it within themselves to praise God, has found the secret to lasting beauty. Praise is easy when things are going well, but to praise God in the midst of hard circumstances is a sacrifice. And sacrificial praise is the most becoming of all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Work is Good

"There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?" 
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

We work all our lives to put away enough money so that we no longer have to work. As if work is something to abhor. But Solomon tells us here that it's good to labor; that it's as good as eating and drinking. God is the one who provides the work. It is to our enjoyment when we acknowledge His provision with thanks and complete our tasks for His glory. "Everyone gets certain gifts from God such as life, food, drink and work, but only the children of God who walk with Him faithfully get the gifts of enjoyment and satisfaction. This is a great secret, that our stuff and our satisfaction are two different things and that our satisfaction doesn't come from our stuff, but from our Savior." -- David Fairchild

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What God Has Promised

And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them,“Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
Mark 4:37-40

I suppose we can't blame the disciples for being afraid and believing the Lord didn't care about their dire situation. After all, they were in a "fierce gale" and it appeared they might drown. But they had forgotten what Jesus had said before they set sail: "Let us go over to the other side" (v. 35). The Lord intended to remain with them and together they would cross to the other shore. They were in the same boat as Jesus. His will was to calm the storm and that's what He did. But what about the times the Lord doesn't stop the storm? Sometimes it rages on. Suffering continues, loved ones are taken from us, financial ruin happens. Does that mean God doesn't care and that He has abandoned us? No. Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) God has promised "never to leave us nor forsake us" (Deuteronomy 31:6). "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). 

God Hath Not Promised
By Annie Johnson Flint

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower strewn pathways, all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptations, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.

Crippled and twisted most of her life with arthritis, Annie Johnson Flint knew a lot about suffering. Her disease helped her understand and encourage others who also were suffering.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Find the Truth

"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
Acts 17:11

The Berean Jews were eager to hear Paul preach. Their hearts and minds were open to what he had to share. But they didn't take what Paul said lightly. They examined it with the truth of Scripture -- the Old Testament. The word examine in the original Greek is Anakrino -- meaning to investigate, inquire into, scrutinize, sift, question; specifically in a forensic sense of a judge to hold an investigation, to interrogate. In other words, the Bereans were a serious lot when it came to spiritual teaching. When they learned what Paul taught was true, many of them became believers. It is good to listen to preachers, but we must be as noble-minded as the Bereans and test the words we hear with Scripture. Dig in, study it for ourselves in context and discern if what we have been taught is, indeed, true. U.S. Treasury agents are trained to recognize counterfeit currency by spending hours studying the real notes. They become so familiar with true currency, that false ones are easily recognized. The more time we spend in the Bible, the more truth we will learn and, consequently, the more able we will be to detect false teaching. "For [the Bereans], the Bible was not just a pretty book of poetry or mystery or nice spiritual inspiration for thoughts-for-the-day. It was a book of truth, and that truth was there to find out." -- David Gruzik

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

As Noah Walked

"Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God."
Genesis 6:9

In the midst of a decaying culture so violent God had determined to destroy it with a great flood, one man stood out. A godly man. A man who didn't follow the crowd. A man who walked through his life with God. His name was Noah. Imagine the pressure society placed on Noah to conform. He was probably labeled a Goody Two-Shoes, Holier Than Thou Believer by his neighbors. Perhaps he was called ignorant by the enlightened thinkers of his day. Or maybe the community just considered him a religious nut to be avoided. No matter how Noah was treated by others, he didn't cave in to popular opinion. He was a man of faith and obedience. He took God at His word and did all God told him to do. His faith and obedience were rewarded. God spared Noah and his family in the ark Noah built. Lest we think Noah's life and story have no bearing on us today, consider Jesus' words in Matthew 24: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." Jesus is speaking of His second coming. We don't when this will occur, but it could be in our lifetime. May we never walk like those who "did not understand until the flood came and took them all away." Instead, may we walk as Noah walked: with God in faith and obedience.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Soul Talk

"Why are you in despair, O my soul? 
And why have you become disturbed within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him 
For the help of His presence." 
Psalm 42:5

Have you ever felt so discouraged that you had to talk your soul into hoping in God? This is what David does in this psalm. He had seen the faithfulness of God in the past and had experienced great heights of joy. And yet, at the time of this writing, he is depressed. Things haven't been going well for him. He's under duress from the persecution of his enemies. Bad things happen to God's people; even to "a man after God's own heart." David struggled with his emotions, but he never stopped trusting in God. He reminded himself to "hope in God" and assured himself that he would "again praise Him for the help of". . .what?  His presence. It is the presence of the Lord that we need most when we are in despair. If your soul needs a pep talk today, Psalm 42 is a great resource for the words.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just Passing Through

Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 
Matthew 8:19

Jesus had performed many miracles when the scribe approached Him and said he would follow the Lord wherever He went. It may have seemed glamorous to follow someone of such fame and with so much power. We humans do tend to go after such things. But Jesus made it clear to the man professing devotion that the life he would lead with Jesus would not be easy. Jesus was not at home on earth. He had left His home in Heaven to come here and complete His mission. He would go to the cross and give His life a ransom for many. There is a cost that comes with following Jesus. Once we come to Him and get a taste for Heaven, we are no longer at home here. "The disciple of Jesus Christ, who intends to truly follow Him wherever He goes, can never be at home in this world.  The world is not my home.  We are passing through, on the way, to our true home, for our citizenship is in heaven." -- Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

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