Choose to Praise God

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

I once saw a refrigerator magnet that said, “I know that God promises to never give me more than I can handle. But sometimes, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” When trials come and life seems hard, we plead with God to deliver us from the problem when many times, His plan is to deliver us in the problem. Praise does not depend upon an understanding of the circumstance or trial. Praise depends upon an understanding of and faith in God.

As humans, we will never fully understand God – this side of heaven. God is holy and without blemish. God is all powerful and omniscient. He is Creator of the universe and yet lives in me. He is the only true, living God! We may understand some of His ways and comprehend the reasoning behind some of His plans. We may even come to the place of knowing him on what we call an intimate level, but a full understanding of God is reserved for heaven. Until then, we walk by faith, not by sight. We praise him in the darkness, knowing that the light is just ahead. We trust him for things we cannot see and turn to him in the valleys. Honestly, the thought of serving and relying on a God I can understand is not a reassuring thought.

Most people who know me well would describe me as a strong person, someone who can usually handle what life holds. I thought the same thing until, in 1995, I found myself a powerless, prisoner of the darkness as I battled clinical depression. It took me two long years to climb out of that pit and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of that wonderful, horrible time.

One of the many lessons I learned from my “pit experience” was that I cannot depend upon my own strength or my fickle emotions. God often asked me to praise him when, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t a whole lot to praise him for! I didn’t feel like praising him.

I began to understand that praise is not a feeling but a choice, a step of obedience taken without the assurance of a changed circumstance or the elimination of a trial. Praise focuses on God, not the circumstance, and fixes its gaze upon God’s truth and God’s character instead of the trial at hand or just ahead. That is why we can celebrate the battle before it begins. The outcome is neither our responsibility nor our goal. Praise begins and ends with faith in the very nature, personality and integrity of God … and that never changes.

No matter what lies ahead, God is faithful. No matter how hot the fiery trial may be, God will deliver us. No matter what man says or does, God loves and accepts us. So praise God! Thank Him today for every victory tomorrow holds! Celebrate – knowing that the battle belongs to God and because of that single truth, victory is certain.

Have a blessed day!

I Want a Love That Satisfies

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. ~ Psalm 90:14, NIV

I’m needy when it comes to love. Remember that game Hungry Hungry Hippos? Well, I’m pretty much Hungry Hungry Gwenno. (Don’t remember that game? Google it and then buy it for your child, four-year-old nephew, neighbor or grandkid. You’ll thank me.)

It seems our old friend Moses was a bit of a hungry hippo too.

In Psalm 90 he asked God to fill him and God’s people full of love: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (v. 14). Love this! Note that Moses connected the love of God with a satisfaction that put a song in his heart and a skip in his step.

Yes. I want this too. So my prayer each morning becomes, Satisfy me with Your love today, Lord. Fill me with Your joy and gladness, and lead my actions to sing of You.

As I pray this, God’s companionship meets my loneliness.

His grace overwhelms my grump.

His joy trumps my anger.

His provision satisfies my need.

David recognized that he needed God’s all-satisfying love too. He celebrated it … was desperate for it … was responsive to it. Look at what he penned in the familiar words of Psalm 63:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (vv. 1–5)

I see my own heart reflected in David’s words and realize that when I’m hankering for a hunk of love, my longings are best met in the arms of my Lord. His is the love of power and glory. His love is “better than life.” And, like David, I choose to respond to His love with worship. My lips will glorify Him. I will lift up my hands. I will praise the all-worthy One. In doing so, my soul is secure. Satisfied.

Ultimately, I experience the satisfaction of God’s love through Jesus.

God’s perfect love compelled Him to sacrifice His Son to bridge the chasm of death between His holiness and my humanness. His is the love that holds, the love that heals, the love that refines, the love that calls my waywardness back to purity with kindness, the love that is always with me, that rejoices over me with singing and takes “great delight” in me (Zeph. 3:17).

This sacred, scarlet love of Jesus is the Living Water that quenches the desperate longings of my thirsty soul. If I want all the love God has for me, my feeble hands must reach for the ones that were pierced for my transgressions.

Every day.

When the sun shines.

When the storm screams.

I find God’s love when I reach out to Jesus.

His is the only love that satisfies.

Have a blessed day!

Who Really Signs Your Check?

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

She works with eager hands (Proverbs 31:13, NIV).

I have had many jobs over the years. I started babysitting when I was twelve years old. In high school, I worked in a clothing store, as an aid for my choral director, and as a recruiter for an employment agency. In college, I was a secretary for the president of our social science honors program and often gave tours to visiting dignitaries. Some jobs I liked more than others but working in an insurance office when my husband attended seminary was one of my least favorite jobs. I soon discovered that I was not alone in my lack of enthusiasm as I read the following note posted on the office bulletin board:

“If you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, you ought to be here five minutes before quitting time!”

Our attitude about our work will determine the success of our work. Scripture tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman literally “pounced upon” her work with “chosen delight.” Notice the word “chosen.” No job is perfect, and no workplace is always wonderful, but we can learn to choose our inner attitude about our work regardless of the outer circumstances of our workplace. Like this woman, we can learn to train our heart and choose our attitude about our work.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). In other words, joy in work can be found when we look for it. The Proverbs 31 woman chose an attitude that guaranteed success in her work. The right attitude in any workplace is to view our work as an act of worship to God. This woman’s workplace was an altar upon which she laid her best efforts as an offering of praise.

The story is told of three men who were working on a large building project. “What are you doing?” one of the men was asked. “I am mixing mortar,” he responded. The second man said, “I am helping put up this great stone wall.” When the third man was asked, he replied, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.” We need to understand that what gives work eternal value and makes it successful is not the product or service we offer; it is doing the job faithfully to the glory of God. It doesn’t matter if you close a million-dollar deal or do a million loads of laundry. If you do it unto God as part of your life worship of Him, you are a success.

The apostle Paul was a very successful man whose work ethic is made clear in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Every customer you serve or every child you hug, every toilet you clean or every deal you close can be an act of worship when it is done for the glory of God.

A survey by the Families and Work Institute found that 70 percent of people in the United States often dream about doing something different for a living. Books, consultants, and employment agencies offer to help us land our dream job. However, is finding a different occupation always the solution to job satisfaction, or could the key to successful work be discovering a new approach to the work we already do? Twice in Colossians 3, Paul used the phrase “whatever you do” as a call for wholehearted service to the Lord.

A wholehearted effort is difficult when working for a critical, ungrateful boss. Minimum effort then becomes a response that certainly seems justified under the circumstances. However, when our work is done for Christ and we view Him as our supervisor, we will strive to do our best all of the time. The boss may sign the paycheck, but the Savior issues our reward. Obviously, it’s not wrong to seek work that fits our skills and interests, but it is pointless to move from one job to another without first settling the issue of who it is that we truly are serving in the workplace. Daily work takes on eternal significance when it is done for God.

Have a blessed day!

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

red hairy alien

Thank you  Melissa Spoelstra for today’s message.

“Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” Psalm 119:29

As I’m processing a recent conflict with a family member, I’m trying to sort out the fact and fiction in my own head. I usually feel like my truth is the truth, but I know my tendency to equate my perspective with truth is shortsighted. In my daily Bible reading, I just happened to encounter the verse in Today’s Truth, or more likely God sovereignly had it before my eyes right when I would need it!
In this verse, the psalmist prayed that God would help him not to lie to himself. I know I need to pray this type of prayer on a regular basis. Whether I’m justifying myself in a parenting decision, making judgments about others’ choices, or working through a relational conflict, I know I’m biased. I tend to think of each situation based on my perceptions of others’ actions, words, and attitudes. I have one side of the story and it is mine. How about you? Have you noticed that we can all tell ourselves lies at times and not even realize it?

Culture is sending us messages that stand in contrast to the teachings of Jesus. He said to seek purity, forgive, and serve. The world celebrates scandal, revenge, and being served. If I don’t ask God to help me live in truth, I can easily find wrong thinking creeping into my head. The danger comes when we tell lies about ourselves, it can lead us to tell lies about God. I can also lose the ability to see things from another person’s perspective. These are some pretty heavy consequences. So what can we do?

This verse gives us two practical helps when it comes to lying to ourselves:
Admit it. The psalmist knew it was a tendency so he implored God to help him. In the same way, we can confess that we don’t have the corner on truth. In his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul talked about spiritual pride and then remarked, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” (1 Corinthians 4:4) In the same way, Jesus taught that we should be careful of making surface conclusions. He said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (John 7:24) So we begin by admitting that we might be lying to ourselves. We need God’s help to see situations clearly.

Pray specifically about lying to ourselves. The book of Psalms is a prayer book. In it we read personal pleas for help. In the same way, we can cry out to the Lord asking Him to keep us from lying to ourselves.

Study God’s Instructions. After the psalmist asks God to keep him from lying to himself, he then says, “give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” Knowing God’s Word can help us speak truth to ourselves. The more we press into the Bible by reading, studying, and memorizing it, the more we align ourselves with truth. This can expose any lies we’ve been telling ourselves about what we deserve or how our poor reactions were justified. God’s Word lays us bare. 2 Timothy 3:16 describes it this way, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” The privilege of knowing God’s instructions helps us to realize what is wrong including the lies we tell ourselves.

I’m not sure what conversations you’ve been having with yourself lately, but I wonder if like me you sometimes confuse your truth with the truth as you process life. Our perspectives matter, but we need God’s help to be sure we aren’t lying to ourselves

Have a blessed day!

Grace for the Imperfect

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message:

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many ~ Hebrews 12:15, NIV.

It wasn’t a major thing she did to make me upset. It was many minor things over many days. For instance, I shared a joy I was thrilled about, but she changed the subject. I sent her texts of love from the bottom of my heart, and she was either slow to respond, or didn’t respond at all. I showed love, but she didn’t invite me to things other friends were invited to.

Inside, I was ready to write her off.

I’ve invested so much, butI am done with her.

Consciously and decisively, I created distance when we were together: talking to her less, giving her short answers, avoiding eye contact, and paying attention to others more.

But at home, I felt convicted. What is true love if it is dependent on another woman’s response?

I’d looked to her response to define my worth. But in reality, my love isn’t unto her – it is unto Christ. I’d lost perspective.

Worst of all, I’d allowed something horrible to grow within me. . .

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15, NIV).

A bitter root was forming.

Do you have a bitter root forming within? Toward a co-worker? A husband? A friend? A child?

There are 3 ways to pull out bad roots:

1. Forgive.

Christ forgave us when we were still sinners. Likewise, we forgive others while they are still imperfect. This doesn’t negate or defend bad actions, but it frees us from carrying the weight of them.

2. Extend grace.

We can extend to others the very grace we could only hope to receive on our worst day.

No one is perfect. We all are growing. We hit busy seasons. Tough seasons. Rough seasons. Pain. Trials. Tribulations. Huge mistakes.

Christ-like love bears each other’s weaknesses, so as to carry the other person’s cross, even if only for a bit. This kind of love changes relationships, brings back marriages and restores what has been lost. It resurrects.

3. Receive grace.

Undoubtedly, I had eyes for myself in this situation. There was more to this woman’s responses. I could either beat myself up for what I’d done wrong or receive the grace Jesus paid for. The first option would keep me stuck in perpetual self-harm, but the other would set me free.

You too can let yourself off the hook, because Christ is not condemning you. The second you confess, you are blessed by His grace.

Have a blessed day!