January 31 – Hallelujah!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

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January 31 – Hallelujah!

Revelation 19:1-9

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 

And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” 

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:  “Amen, Hallelujah!” 

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:  “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” 

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.

The great multitude has returned in its worship of God.  What John hears here is a ‘great roar!’  And the word that he hears them sing, “Hallelujah,” has never before been heard since the “Hallel” Psalms of the Old Testament.  In fact, even in those Psalms, the word is generally translated “Praise the Lord”.

The word “Hallelujah” is a combination of two Hebrew words:  “Hallel” which means ‘praise’ and “Jah” which means ‘God’.  John transliterates the Hebrew words into Greek to give us the word “Hallelujah”.

After the voices proclaim Hallelujah, they tell us what happens next.  Without much ado, no big trumpeting announcement.  We don’t even realize that it is coming up.  But, here it is. “The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear.”

Just two sentences, preceded by loud proclamations of praise.  The bride is here.  The wedding is occurring.  This wedding focuses on the bridegroom, not the bride.  The bride has made herself ready to be presented to her groom. In this day and age, the focus is completely on the bride.  Everything revolves around her desires and her needs.  Everything is prepared to her specifications.

On that day, the church – the bride will prepare itself for the bridegroom, the Lamb.  The bride is ready.  She is the church.  Paul says in II Corinthians 11:2 that he wants to present the church to Christ as a virgin.

The bridegroom is ready.  This is Jesus Christ.  In John 3:29, John the Baptist identifies Jesus Christ as the bridegroom, to whom the bride belongs.  He identifies himself as the friend who attends the bridegroom, waiting with expectancy to hear the voice of the bridegroom.

In Old Testament and New Testament times, the period of engagement occurred for a period of time while the bridegroom prepared his home for his bride.  Then, one evening, he and his friends would go to her father’s home and take her back to the home she would live in with him.

We are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb as part of the Church, His bride.  Everything has been made ready.  Hallelujah!

January 30 – The Song of Moses and of the Lamb

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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January 30 – The Song of Moses and of the Lamb

Revelation 15:1-4

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: 

         “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.  Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

The final plagues are about to be delivered and John looks around the throne room to describe what he sees.  The sea of glass from Revelation 4:6, now it is mixed with fire.

The ‘sea’ is represented in the Tabernacle and the Temple as the Golden Laver, or bowl, used for cleansing.  The imagery here is a little obtuse, but you can get there.  In singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, more water imagery is discussed.

The song of Moses was sung in Exodus 15, just after he had led the people of Israel through the Red Sea.  It symbolized crossing from the old into the new, leaving the pain of slavery behind and entering a new life of freedom.

The song of the Lamb also refers to water. Before Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized in the Jordan River.  Baptism is a symbol of repentance and though that was the last thing Jesus Christ needed, it was symbolic of the transformation we all make as we move from a life lived without God to a life lived in His will.  Jesus showed the people of Israel who were there that He was doing His work within the will of God the Father and this was affirmed by the dove who came down from heaven and the voice saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”

 In John 3, a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to Jesus asking questions about His relationship to God and Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again; he must be born of water and of the Spirit.

Each of us makes the choice to be a Christian. We are baptized as a symbol of passing through the water of our old life into a new life living within the will of God.

These songs and this imagery are lifted up as the tension within heaven increases.  More destruction is about to be poured out on the remaining inhabitants of earth and they still refuse to acknowledge God as King.  But, that will soon change as all nations come and worship before Him.

January 29 – The Liar and Accuser

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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January 29 – The Liar and Accuser

Revelation 12:10-12

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 

         “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 

         Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

One of the most difficult things to realize is that the devil still has access to the throne room.  He may have been tossed out, but until the end, he still stands there as the accuser. He lies and confuses, but he insists on being given time to stand before God and accuse us of our sin.  This is probably one of the greatest mistakes he makes.  He either completely ignored the crucifixion and resurrection or he decided that God wasn’t paying attention that day either and he could still accuse us and force us to miss out on eternity in heaven.

Day and night he stands there, pointing at us and hurling insults and half-truths. Sometimes we find ourselves believing him because there is just enough truth that we wonder if it isn’t all true.  We are so easily deceived and assume that any judge of our character will also be deceived without any effort.  All he has to do is stand there and speak a few words about our mistakes and our poor judgment and we believe he has described the entirety of our personality.

Then the day comes when he is sent down from heaven. He no longer has even that right.  God doesn't want to hear any more lies from him.  The blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimony of believers overcame him and he is gone from the throneroom.

He hits the earth and the scripture says he knows his time is short, so he must step up the accusations.  The conflict will be great and he will take the form of anything in order to corrupt God’s people on earth.

January 28 – He Will Reign

Monday, January 28, 2013

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January 28 – He Will Reign

Revelation 11:15-19

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 

         “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, 
         and he will reign for ever and ever.” 

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: 

         “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

I hope you recognized words from Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the beginning of this passage.

There were seven seals and with the opening of the seventh seal, seven angels began to sound their trumpets (Revelation 8:6-9:21) bringing destruction to an unrepentant earth. After an interlude, now we hear the sound of the seventh trumpet.

Loud voices in heaven could be the angels surrounding the throne or more than likely, the great multitude of voices who have found salvation from the Lord.  This is a victory celebration and theologians disagree as to the reason it is found here before the final plagues are released on earth and the final battle is fought.

Some believe that the seals, trumpets and bowls are all occurring in parallel, not consecutively, so this celebration comes at the same time as the wedding feast in Revelation 21. Others believe that this is a portent of the future when all has been settled, the kingdom established and the Lord reigns.

Whatever the timing, that there is a celebration in between the descriptions of God’s wrath being poured out is a relief to the reader.  It is a reminder that though God will punish sin, for those who repent and overcome, there is also celebration.

When God reigns, the time of anticipation will be over.  We will no longer wonder what will happen to those who destroy His earth and refuse to accept Him as Lord.  This victory celebration will celebrate that what has always been in the future will be real in the present.  The Lord will reward His servants.

January 27 – The Great Multitude

Sunday, January 27, 2013

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January 27 – The Great Multitude

Revelation 7:9-12

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 

         “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: 

         “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

The Great Multitude.  In Genesis, God promised Abraham over and over that he (Abraham) would have multitudes of descendants.  “I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted” (Genesis 13:16, ESV).  “And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5, ESV).  “The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10, ESV).

That promise is fulfilled in this passage.  The multitude was so great no one could count and they were all standing in heaven in front of the throne of God.  That is extraordinary!  They sing out praise to God and to the Lamb.  Salvation is through the work of God, not anything the multitude has done.  This is God’s final victory over sin and over the rulers of earth who, in essence, crucified His Son and persecuted those who loved Him.

All of the angels fell down before the throne worshiping God.

We are part of the fulfillment of the Covenant God made with Abraham. Paul tells us in Romans, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17).

January 26 - The Lamb is Worthy

Saturday, January 26, 2013

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January 26 - The Lamb is Worthy

Revelation 5:9-14

And they sang a new song:  “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

In the Old Testament, a ‘new song’ refers to a song which has been written in order to celebrate a special occasion or replaces a song that has been sung for a long time.  These songs tell of God’s wondrous deeds, but here in Revelation, the new song refers to the Lamb who has atoned for the sins of the people and offered redemption.  He has accomplished the redemptive task and for that, a new song rings throughout heaven.

He is worthy not because he is a mighty conqueror, but because of the sacrifice he made on the cross. By this action, He receives power and wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise.

In each section of the song, we see a growing number of beings lifting up their voices in song.  It began with the twenty-four angels and the four creatures, then grows with what should be translated as myriads upon myriads of angels.  These heavenly messengers, according to Hebrews 1:14 are servants to the saints who inherit salvation.  Of course they rejoice and worship the One who has redeemed humanity.  Luke 15:7 says, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” The angels are closely connected with the redeemed and rejoice in great measure.

Following the myriads of angels who join in song, every single creature of creation adds their voices to worship of the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.

Consider the immensity of this worship and that you are part of God’s creation. Lift up your heart and your voice and sing praise and with the four living creatures, say “Amen.”

January 25 - God is Worthy

Friday, January 25, 2013

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January 25 - God is Worthy

Revelation 4:7-11

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: 

         “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” 

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 

         “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

We will spend the final days of January looking at songs of praise from the Revelation given to John.  If I could do anything for you, it would be to make the Revelation as familiar for you as any other book in Scripture.  It is one of my very favorite books and is filled with glorious imagery.

Who are the four living creatures?  They are found in Old Testament literature as well.  In Isaiah 6:1-3, he sees the Seraphim with six wings. They cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV).  In Ezekiel 1:4-15, he interprets the creatures as having four faces: human, lion, eagle, ox.  These creatures represent all of animate creation, but as important as it is to discern who they are, what is more important is to recognize what they are doing.  All of God’s creation stands in His presence to sing His praise.

The twenty-four elders, which represent the Old Covenant (the twelve tribes of Israel) and the New Covenant (the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ) echo back with worship, but first they fall down on their faces and lay their crowns before God.  In other words, they recognize they are nothing before God.  It is He who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power.  Why is He worthy? Because He created all things and only because of Him does creation exist.

Today, sing out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

January 24 – The Word of Life

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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January 24 – The Word of Life

1 John 1:1-4

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Instead of a regular salutation, John looks back to his gospel as well as Genesis. He looks back to the beginning.

The wonderful thing when you identify a beginning is that there is probably an end.  In Genesis, the fact that God was there when the beginning started, means that he will also be there when the end arrives.  Now, in the Gospel of John, we discover that Jesus was also there … at the beginning.  Jesus will also be there when the end comes.

We learn something new in this first letter of John.  The person who was there in the beginning is the same person that many people saw with their own eyes, and who were able to touch them with their own hands.  These people, and John is one of them, testify to the fact that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was actually in their presence.

That is a pretty amazing statement, especially when we realize the profound implications of a human being, albeit God made flesh, was there when everything began.  A man, Jesus Christ, participated in creation of the universe from chaos.  Then, when the time was right, He chose to come to earth as an infant and grow into manhood so the relationship between us and God could be made whole.

I was reading a commentary today which talked about how the creation passages in Genesis set the scene for the relationship of God and humanity throughout the rest of eternity.  God wants to have a relationship with each of us.  John says that his fellowship is with the Father and the Son and that he tells us about Jesus so that we can also be in that fellowship.

That’s the point of it all and that’s a point we shouldn't miss.

January 23 – A Living Hope

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

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January 23 – A Living Hope

1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The beginning of this blessing was also of a type used by Paul, but throughout the Old and New Testament, this type of language was used to describe God saying, ‘the God of Abraham,’ ‘the God of Shadrach, Mesach, Abednego’ (Daniel 3:95) or even the ‘Lord God of Israel’ found throughout the histories and the Psalms.

For the first time, rather than using a historical hero, the definition of God is in relation to someone who is still in the living memory of many people who will read this letter.  Think about that for a moment.  Peter was writing to people who met Jesus Christ and through Him discovered they had met God face to face.  That’s just an incredible thought.

Peter spends the rest of these verses talking about the new life that can be found in Jesus Christ.

We have an inheritance in Christ. It might not look like what we think it should look like.  It isn't gold or silver, wealth or power.  It is a gift of life beyond death, an opportunity to know that long after our time on earth is over, we will spend eternity in the presence of God.  This inheritance will never perish, spoil or fade.

Peter knows that life on earth isn't easy and says that we might have to suffer through trials, but that our faith will be proved out as we make it through these trials.  Then, he specifically says that faith is worth more than gold.

This is the same Peter, who in Acts 3, when a beggar reached out for a gift, said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” (Acts 3:6, New International Version).  Gold and silver may be what we covet and crave, but Peter knew the worth of those things was far less than anything we could receive from Jesus Christ.

There were some in the congregations who received this letter who had never seen Jesus, but believed in him. There were some who no longer saw him physically, but still believed and loved him.  This faith brings inexpressible joy, even through trials, because of the knowledge that there is something much greater beyond our lives today and the salvation of our souls brings us that much closer to the moment we spend eternity with Christ.

January 22 – The Supremacy of Christ

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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January 22 – The Supremacy of Christ

Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Two days ago, I wrote about how theologians have split the attributes / characteristics of God into two categories … those of Creator and Redeemer.  In this passage you see those two categories come to life in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the image of God. Yesterday I wrote about how Paul used the Greek word ‘morphe’ to describe Jesus taking the form, or the nature of God.  Jesus’ life on earth gave humanity the opportunity to have something tangible with which to identify a physically intangible God.  J

Creation.  By Jesus all things were created.  He was before all things and it is in Him that all things hold together.

John says, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3, NIV).  Jesus was at Creation with God and when God spoke, it was Jesus who caused creation to come into being.  He was the Word that God spoke.

Sometimes it is so difficult to wrap our heads around concepts that have no place except in our heads … which is why sometimes math infuriates me!  But, I have been able to accept that there are great mysteries which surround a God who can create a universe as vast as ours and bodies which work with such intricacy … all with the same voice.

Redemption. It was through Jesus Christ that redemption was brought to humanity.  We have made a caricature of the choices Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden.  We like to blame one or the other, but in truth, we make choices every day which separate us from God.  Our choices are as devastating to history as those made on that fateful day at the beginning of time.  We choose to ignore those in pain or actively hurt someone with our words or actions, we choose to ignore God or deny that He exists. We choose to live self-centered lives and raise our children to do the same. We make choices that separate us from God.

John goes on to say, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:4-5, 12-13, NIV).

Because Jesus came to earth, he redeemed humanity.  He offered a new choice to us, he gave us the right to become children of God by believing in His name.  This song found in Colossians reminds us that God is Creator and Redeemer and has done his great work on earth through His Son, Jesus Christ.

January 21 – Jesus Christ is Lord

Monday, January 21, 2013

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January 21 – Jesus Christ is Lord

Philippians 2:6-11

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

These two verses are an early Christian hymn.  Have you ever considered how awesome it is that we lift up the same words as those who knew Paul and were only a generation or so away from Jesus Christ?  These words were sung by those Christians (though they were sung in Greek) as they worshiped Jesus Christ!  Many scholars believe that Paul lifted these words from that hymn and incorporated them into his letter to the church in Philippi.

The word ‘nature’ in these verses is the Greek word ‘morphe’ and is really only used here in the New Testament and Paul uses it twice to make a point.  Jesus Christ who had the form of God, took the form of a servant.  The first verse speaks to Jesus’ pre-existent state.  Before he came to earth, he was God.  Equality wasn't an issue for him.  He was, as part of the Trinity, God.  Since He had no need to attempt to grab equality with God (He already had it), he could release the appearance … the form … the nature of God and become a servant, a man.

When he became a human, he took the form of a servant. He humbled himself, made himself obedient to the needs of humanity and the demands of a righteous God.  He gave Himself up to be the sacrifice for our sins so that we could be in relationship with God.

Because of this, he was exalted … not in heaven, but for us.  Now, the name of Jesus is above every name.  Every knee should bow in all of creation and every tongue confess that he IS Lord.

He is Lord.

January 20 – Because of His Great Love For Us

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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January 20 – Because of His Great Love For Us

Ephesians 2:4-7

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

We've been talking in class about the attributes of God. One of the questions was regarding what we believe to be His most important attribute. Personally, I find it difficult to separate one from any of the others because He is made up of so much … more than mere words of mine can describe.

Theologians have split His characteristics into two categories: firstly from the standpoint of God as Creator, secondly He is the Redeemer.  Characteristics of God which fall under the image of God as Creator are such things as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence (He rules all, knows all, is everywhere), His immutability – the fact that He never changes and then the truth that He is eternal.  Redeemer characteristics are things such as holiness, righteousness and love.  Love is also described using words such as grace, mercy, patience, benevolence, forgiveness and kindness.

Now, how would you answer the question?

In these verses from Ephesians 2, Paul writes of God’s great love.  One of the most amazing things about God’s love is that it is all about the relationship.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son.”  God wants to have a relationship … a friendship with each of us and He doesn’t wait for us to figure it out and love Him first, He did it before time began. He loved.  It’s part of His very being.

This passage says that God has great love for us and that He raised us up and seated us with Him.  His love has a bigger purpose than we can imagine.  He loves us so that He can love us some more as we enter into this friendship with Him.  He creates a cycle of love that only needs His work to perpetuate itself.  He doesn't require us to do anything, He will always love us.  Whether or not we return His love does not change the fact that He is love and that He loves us.

What is the most important of God's attributes?  I can't decide for everyone, but His love is foundational in my own life.

January 19 – To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

Saturday, January 19, 2013

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January 19 – To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

Ephesians 1:3-6

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Grace was real for Paul.  When he wrote about the gifts he received, his heart poured out on the pages.  When he wrote letters to his churches, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and released that into his words.

His opening words to the church at Ephesus have been called a paean of praise. What a beautiful definition of these words.

Paul declared that God was the Father of Jesus Christ.  There is no doubt that the Messiah has come to earth in the form of a man in order to bring salvation.

God has blessed us in the heavenly realms.  His salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in order that we may receive the blessings of heaven.  Without salvation through his work on the cross, we have no access to God, we can not be in His presence.

Before God created the world, He made a choice.  Humanity could either live and die and remain earthbound, or He could draw us to Himself.  Because of His great love for us, that goes beyond eternity, God chose to adopt us as his sons … through Jesus Christ. We aren't servants who are sent away at the end of the day, we are children of God who are invited to stay. He adopted us.

For this, we praise Him.  His grace and love were freely given to each of us.

Praise the Lord.

January 18 – The God of All Comfort

Friday, January 18, 2013

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January 18 – The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Paul usually begins his letters by thanking God for his readers, and then mentions his prayers for the church to whom he writes.  In this second letter to the Corinthians, he starts out quite differently.

Paul has run into some trouble with the church in Corinth. There are people who have come in from the outside and have tried to take them away from his teaching, casting suspicion on him and forcing the Corinthians to call his motives into question. So, rather than thanking God for this church, he begins the letter by asking the church to care for him.  By the end of the letter, we do see that the church has repented and Paul’s joy is made complete in their return to the teachings he offers regarding the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

But, Paul has also been through a great amount of suffering and it is to his friends in Corinth that he turns for comfort.  He was a traveler who spent most of his time in the homes of others, building up the body of Christ.  He didn't have a permanent family who was there to tell him that he was worthwhile at the end of the day and to remind him of the worth of his work.

So, when it came right down to it, all Paul had were those people in the churches he had begun.  It is often said that we humans are the only way God has arms and words of comfort for those who are in need.  It is up to us to respond when others hurt.  Paul rejoices in the God of all comfort because he relies on those whom he loves and cares for to deliver that comfort to him when he has nowhere else to go.

The church in Corinth needed to be reminded of their responsibility to care for Paul.  Who do you need to be reminded to care for?

January 17 - Simeon's Song

Thursday, January 17, 2013

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January 17 - Simeon's Song

Luke 2:29-32

 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Joseph and Mary took their infant son to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. Luke tells us that that Law instructs the first born son shall be called holy to the Lord.  They took a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves (pigeons) and while they were in the Temple, they encountered a man named Simeon.

The Bible says he was righteous and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It also says that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn't see death until he had seen the Messiah.

This man, who had spent a lifetime in the Lord’s will approached Mary and Joseph.  He took Jesus in his arms and praised God.

My heart fills with joy at this story.  One man who had devoted his life to the Lord, held an infant in his arms and saw the world shift on its axis.  This child would grow up and become salvation for the world. He would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a light for glory to the people of Israel.  Nothing else would ever be as important to Simeon as that moment.

When I truly met Jesus face to face in my own life, I wouldn't have told you that the world shifted, but now, nearly forty years later, I can identify times when I would have … could have been something much different without knowing him.  He will always transform, whether you recognize it immediately or much later in your life.

For that, I praise the Lord.

January 16 - Zechariah's Song

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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January 16 - Zechariah's Song

Luke 1:67-80

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68).

Can you imagine not being able to speak for the entire length of time your wife was pregnant with your child?  Zechariah had gone up to serve in the Temple and when an angel told him that he was going to be a father and that his son would prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Lord, he was astounded and couldn't believe the truth of what the angel was saying.  Because of his unbelief, he was no longer able to speak.

Then, came the day of the child’s birth. Zechariah and Elizabeth had already discussed the child’s name … it was to be John, but since their friends and family knew there was no one in the family with that name, they refused to believe Elizabeth at the circumcision.  Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, wrote the words, “His name is John,” and suddenly his tongue was loosed.

The first thing Zechariah did was begin to praise God.  It strikes me as to how selfless these people were. Rather than rush to his wife and speak to her, or talk to his friends or even talk to his son, the one person Zechariah wanted to hear his voice was the Lord God and he wanted the Lord to hear his voice lifted up in praise.

The Song of Zechariah is a prophecy.  One would come who was going to redeem Israel and bring salvation, to remind the people of their covenant with Abraham and to rescue them from their enemies so they would be able to serve the Lord “without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all [their] days” (Luke 1:74-75).

Then, Zechariah spoke to his son.  What a powerful moment this had to be.  He had spent nine months preparing for this child, able to speak to no one except God.  Can you imagine the extraordinary conversations that enforced silence brought about?

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77).

You know, we've gotten far away from setting high expectations on our children from the moment of their birth.  Parents say they want their children to find themselves and find their own way in the world, refusing to call out high goals and plans before kids are even out of diapers.  Zechariah knew what his son was going to do and it was a life that was unimaginable.  For four hundred years, Israel had been without prophets, and yet, John would be just that.  A prophet of God, sent to prepare the people of the Lord for His entrance into the world.

There was a great deal to praise the Lord for when Zechariah’s mouth was opened.

Your mouths are always open, what do you offer in praise?

January 15 – Mary's Song

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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January 15 – Mary's Song

Luke 1:46-55

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

These words open one of my favorite songs of humble worship.  It was sung by a young woman who just found out her life would be turned upside down.  She didn't panic because she was going to have to explain to her future husband and her parents why she was pregnant and she didn't strut around because she had just been given a huge honor. Instead, Mary focused on the Lord rather than herself.

Generations would call her blessed, not because she had decided to allow God to do wonderful things, but because God had done great things through her.

That’s a huge distinction and one that is easily missed in a culture where self-will and choices are important.  Mary knew that it wasn't about her choice, but the fact that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior of the World.

These verses sing out the majesty and glory of God.  He has shown strength and scattered the proud. It is God who recognizes that the rich and haughty need to be brought low, while those in need to be lifted it up.

Her son, the Messiah, would bring balance to an unbalanced world.  When he announced his ministry in Luke 4, he read words from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19).

God didn't choose a queen to raise His Son, He didn't ask a wealthy woman to bear His child.  He sent the angel to a young woman whom no one knew, but who knew Him.  She worshiped God because He saw past her circumstances to her humanity and lifted her up.

Her son looked beyond the outer trappings of the people He encountered and saw who they were inside. He brought down the rich and haughty, those who struggled for power and lifted up the humble who would offer praise and thanksgiving to God their Savior.

January 14 – Habakkuk’s Prayer

Monday, January 14, 2013

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January 14 – Habakkuk’s Prayer

Habakkuk 3:1-19

The book of Habakkuk begins with a lament.  He is weary of the violence and lawlessness found among the people of Judah and begs the Lord to intervene.  Consequently, God sends the Chaldeans (that bitter and hasty nation – Hab. 1:6) to bring justice to his people.  Then, Habakkuk complains to God that the punishment exceeded the sins, the Chaldeans were evil.  Chapter Two finds Habakkuk in his watchtower and he hears from God that the righteous will live while the arrogant will fall.  The Chaldeans were quite arrogant in the oppression of God’s children.

In Chapter Three, we find this great psalm of Habakkuk, praising God for all he has done throughout history.

“O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

The next verses tell of the majestic power of God in beautiful language.

“His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden” (Habakkuk 3:3b-4).

Habakkuk sees the wrath of the Lord filling the earth and says, “Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one” (Habakkuk 3:11-13a).

The power of the Lord was almost too great for him to comprehend:

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (Habakkuk 3:16).

The Old Testament prophets expected and received immense and powerful responses from the Lord.  They walked so closely in His will that when they called down His wrath upon the people of Israel or their enemies, the Lord’s response was swift and fearsome.  Can you imagine what it would be like to walk so closely with God every moment of the day that you knew His thoughts regarding the occurrences around you and were aware of His actions?  We would be quivering and trembling.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a dear, he enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19).

There is no one like the Lord who reigns above all else.  He is the one who give us strength to rise above our fears and the terrors of the world around us.  Praise the Lord!

January 13 – Daniel Receives a Gift

Sunday, January 13, 2013

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January 13 – Daniel Receives a Gift

Daniel 2:20-23

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”


Daniel had heard about the king’s dream and realized that he alone would be able to offer an interpretation, not because he was wise or a magician or had the ability to see into dreams, but because God would be able to reveal the mystery that was presenting itself to King Nebuchadnezzar.

One thing I find so incredible in this short worship experience of Daniel is the depth with which he understands God.  When I am about to ask God for something, I focus on the single moment.  When I receive a gift from God, I spend time thanking him for that gift.

Daniel, however, has a much bigger picture of God.  And look at the structure of this song of praise.  It is like the piece is spoken in concentric circles, each getting smaller and smaller until the focus is on exactly what is needed for the moment.

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever.  There is nothing bigger than eternity … there is nothing bigger than God.

Wisdom and power are his.  The greatest of all things attributable to humanity begin in God.  There is no one wiser and no one stronger.

He changes times and seasons.  God is in control of the earth where humanity lives.

He sets up kings and deposes them.  God is in control of the rulers on earth.

He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.  God is the author of wisdom and knowledge for everyone on earth.

I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power. God is the author of wisdom, knowledge and power in Daniel’s life.

You have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the King.  God has made known to Daniel the dream of another.

From the very general to the very specific, Daniel praises God for his work.

What will you praise God for today?

January 12 – Joy of the Redeemed

Saturday, January 12, 2013

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January 12 – Joy of the Redeemed

Isaiah 35:1-10

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. (1-2)

In Isaiah 34, the prophet writes of a desolate land where thorns, nettles and thistles reclaim the land, where jackals and wild animals roam and where birds of prey fill the skies.  It is a desolate place.

I’ve spent my share of time in what seemed like a complete wasteland of my life.  It began to seem as if that were the normal way to live, desperate for peace and nourishment …. Anything to bring relief from the agony of daylight.  Then, one day, I realized that the pain was gone and my life had transformed.  Everything within me began to bloom again. I found my voice and it was all I could do to not shout out loud for joy.  I saw the glory of the Lord.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” (3-4)

Some of the pain of my worst days was countered by the love and support of friends.  We can not do this often enough for those we love. Whether with words, gifts, or time, we are called to support those who need help.  Give them a hand, walk with them, listen to their hearts; do whatever they might need in order to help them become strong once again.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. (5-7)

Have you ever watched someone come alive after having been in unrelenting pain?  It is an incredible sight to see the skin around their eyes relax and watch as their faces become bright again.  Can you imagine watching as that happens to everyone around you.  In that day, when the Lord returns to take us with him into heaven, peace will finally reign. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain.  Life will flourish, hearts will soar and we will find joy.

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (8-10)

The Way of Holiness will be a safe place on which to travel and will lead into Zion.  I look forward to that journey one day and I look forward to making it with you!

January 11 – Israel’s Song of Praise

Friday, January 11, 2013

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January 11 – Israel’s Song of Praise

Isaiah 26:1-21

“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts” (Isaiah 26:1).

In that day usually refers to the coming Day of the Lord, when he will pronounce judgment on the earth and bring his children home for eternity.  We see the fulfillment of this day in Revelation when the New Jerusalem will come into being.

“Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith” (Isaiah 26:2)

We read in Revelation 21:24 that “The nations will walk by its light (the light of God and the Lamb) and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it (the New Jerusalem).”

In Isaiah 26:7-11, a very strong distinction is made between the wicked and the righteous.  The path of the righteous is level.  When the Lord’s judgments come, the people of the world will learn righteousness.  Though grace is shown even to the wicked, they will not learn. They continue to do evil and they don’t see the hand of the Lord working among them.

Recognition of Israel’s sin in serving other gods is found in Isaiah 26:12-15, but even through that, the Lord brings peace to his people. In that day, no other gods will exist; they will be destroyed and forgotten, the Lord will have assumed their territory and established himself as the ruler over all.

“See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer” (Isaiah 26:21).

In that day, the earth will be transformed.  God will lift up the righteous and punish sinners.

January 10 – I Will Trust and Not Be Afraid

Thursday, January 10, 2013

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January 10 – I Will Trust and Not Be Afraid

Isaiah 12:1-6

“In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation’” (Isaiah 12:1-2).

Do you think about how much you might make God angry?  I try not to because I’m afraid of what the truth might be.  We know what God’s righteous wrath can bring about, and can’t imagine praising Him through that … especially if it is directed at us.  However, God’s anger turns away rather immediately when we repent.  At that point, he comforts us.  What more can we do than to praise him?

Isaiah goes on to say that we have nothing to fear from God.  He is our salvation.  Why would we fear the one person who wants nothing more than to have us as friends?  Oh, I fear disappointing my friends, but I am not afraid of them.  I feared the anger of my parents, because Dad always started any conversation surrounding my punishment by telling me how I had disappointed him.

I had always feared his wrath, until the day Mom made me call him after I had put a dent in the car.  When I got him on the phone and began telling him what had happened, his first question … before anything else, was “Are you alright?”  He was more concerned with my well being than he was with the cost which would be incurred in fixing the damage.  While, as adults, we know that of course, that is the way he would respond; as a teenager, I was prepared for so much worse.

We often react in much the same manner with God.  We find it so difficult to believe that He is more interested in filling our lives with joy and good things than punishing us for our sins, that we distort the relationship God has spent eternity trying to establish with us.

“Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you” (Isaiah 12:5-6).

The Lord has done glorious things for each of us.  These things are the foundation for our trust.  Praise the Lord!

January 9 – Praise the Name of the Lord

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

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January 9 – Praise the Name of the Lord

Psalm 148:1-14

We’re discussing how God has revealed Himself to the world in my Systematic Theology class right now.  One of the ways, God reveals himself is through His creation.  Scriptures tell us over and over again that creation sings praises to Him.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowd sang out His praises.  The Pharisees wanted Him to rebuke them, but he said, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

Psalm 19 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1, 3-4).

How can we not praise the Lord God who has made Himself known to us in such glorious ways?  The Psalmist calls on all of creation to Praise the Lord!

“Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angles; praise him, all his hosts!” (Psalm 148:1-2)

We aren’t alone when we praise the Lord.  Even though we don’t see the hosts of heaven, we have record of them singing God’s praises in the book of Luke when they announce Christ’s birth and in the Revelation when they surround the throne.  Imagine an angelic choir amplifying your praise many times over.  We don’t praise God alone.

“Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” (Psalm 148:3-4)

The Lord asks Job if he has seen the storehouses of snow or the treasures of hail in Job 38:22.  From the sources of light in the sky to the precipitation that falls on the earth, creation is commanded to praise the Lord!

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!” (Psalm 148:7-10)

There is nothing in creation that escapes the command to praise its creator.  Every single living thing, everything that exists is called upon to lift up praise.

“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children.” (Psalm 148:11-12)

From the greatest to the lowest, from the oldest to the youngest; and everything in between – Praise the Lord.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13)

There is no king greater than God, there is no ruler who is more majestic, there is no person who is exalted above the Lord.  It is to Him we give praise.

January 8 – He Heals the Brokenhearted

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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January 8 – He Heals the Brokenhearted

Psalm 147:1-20

“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1)

When the weather is perfect, the sky is blue and the birds are singing; when family is healthy and finances are stable; when all is going well, it is easy to sing praises to God.  But when we face death or loss, stress or anger; singing praise to God isn't quite so easy. In fact, sometimes it seems impossible.

But, the Psalmist goes on and says, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:2)

It might seem as if we are alone when we go through those seemingly impossible times of our lives, but the truth is, God is closer than ever. Sometimes I can hardly imagine what the pain would be like if I were truly alone.  The thought terrifies me.  I see the pain of those who choose to live without the comfort of God in their lives.  It is unceasing. They have no one to turn to, no one to trust with their deepest pain.

But, I have come to understand that no matter the pain I am dealing with, the Lord has strength and power that I will never be able to exhaust.

“He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name” (Psalm 147:4)

The Lord I trust knows His creation intimately and He knows me.

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:10)

When I am at my weakest, when I finally give up; I find that is where God can reach me.  He doesn't ask me to be strong when pain surrounds me; He simply asks me to put my hope in His unfailing love.

Praise the Lord.

January 7 – Sing a New Song

Monday, January 7, 2013

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January 7 – Sing a New Song

Psalm 96:1- 13

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2).

One thing the Psalms tell us over and over again is that we are to proclaim our praise … not in our mind or out in nature or in the quiet of our home, but because God is so great and glorious, we are to sing out His praises, we are to declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

This is not something we are only to do on Sunday morning in the comfort and peace of our church services; this is something we are called to do in response to God’s work in our lives every day!  We are expected to tell others what it is God has done in our lives, we are expected to praise Him for His marvelous work!

“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised … Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psalm 96:4a, 6).

I spent a day hiking through the Redwood Forest in California many years ago, another time I was standing on the top of a mountain outside of Denver, yet another time I watched the waves crashing against the rock walls of the coast near San Francisco.  With each experience I wanted to throw my arms out and yell at the top of my voice, “Thank you God!”  Each time, though, I felt uncomfortable doing so because of the people I was with. I would have embarrassed myself. I was more concerned about my own impression on others than I was thankful for the glorious splendor and majesty of God’s creation.

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord …” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Do you ever think about the fact that the earth responds in praise to God?  With all that it has, it praises the One who created it.  The heavens are glad and the earth rejoices, the sea roars, the fields exult, the trees of the forest sing for joy!”

Have you ever driven past a bean field in August or early September when breezes are blowing over it?  The leaves shimmer and shine as they are caught in the sunlight and wind. Waves of color change and transform the field into a sea of beauty.  Those fields exult in being alive!

If you don’t have the courage to shout and sing out your praises, try saying them out loud in the quiet of your own house … get them out of your mind and into the world!  Sing for joy!

January 6 – Shout With Joy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

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January 6 – Shout With Joy!

Psalm 66:1-20

Yesterday I wrote that I hoped you read through these passages on your own, even though I quote only a few verses.  This Psalm is so glorious, I hope you choose to read it as well.  If you are reading this from within the blog site, you should be able to click on the passage and go right to the Scripture passage … or, pull open that Bible of yours and have at it!

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of his name; offer him glory and praise!” (Psalm 66:1-2)

I wanted to keep typing this Psalm out so you would continue to read the words of praise.  The Psalmist (it’s not attributed to David, so no one is sure who wrote it) commands the reader to offer praise.  Tell God how awesome he is!

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5)

The Lord has power over the sea, he watches everything.  There is nothing the Lord cannot do!

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.” (Psalm 66:8-9)

I laugh on Sunday mornings when worship leaders try to get the people in the pews to make more noise.  There is nothing more frustrating for a worship leader who has spent all week thinking and praying about leading people into the presence of God and then encountering a room filled with people who didn't want to get out of bed that morning.  All week long, the leader’s focus has been on the glorious things God has done for us. How can you not stand up and shout and sing praises when that is who you focus on?  And yet, no one else is focused quite as tightly on those wondrous, glorious gifts God has given us.

So, the leader says things like, “You shout and scream at a football game, why can’t you make the same noise now?”

I guess the question kind of hangs out there with no good answer, doesn't it!  Why can’t the sound of God’s praise be heard throughout the nations.  The next sentence in the Psalm tells us why it should – he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping!  It’s a good question and one we should all answer in our hearts.  When it comes time for us to praise God, why won’t we?

“Come and listen, all you who fear God, let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.” (Psalm 66:16-17)

Tell the world. Lift up His name in praise.  Cry out to Him with your mouth, let His praise be on your tongue!  Tell the world.

January 5 - David's Song of Praise

Saturday, January 5, 2013

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January 5 - David's Song of Praise

2 Samuel 22:1-51, Psalm 18:1-50

Sometimes I am blown away by the beauty of the words of Scripture. We take it for granted because it has been around for so long and the number of people before us who prepared us to read these words seems limitless. We read beautiful poetry by contemporary artists and are inspired … do we realize the depth of the legacy that goes this far back into history? Even before we get to the Psalms recorded by him, this song of praise by David should tell us what an amazingly poetic voice he had (you can find this song recorded in the Psalms as well – Psalm 18).

I would hope you take the time to read all of the passage each day, even though I might quote a single verse, but today, I you really should read the entirety of this song of David.

The words fill my mind with images. David knew how to tell us who God was to him.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” (2 Samuel 22:2a)

“The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.” (2 Samuel 22:8-9)

“Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” (2 Samuel 22:13-14)

This is a Lord who is strong and is in charge of everything, including nature.  You know, we think we get nature under control, that we can live anywhere on earth without facing repercussions of the natural world’s movements and changes.  Humanity was given power over the animals of the world, but NEVER over the earth itself (Genesis 1:28-30).  Scripture tells us repeatedly, though, that God is in control of the earth and the heavens.  We can’t change that, no matter how many ways we try to mess up earth’s ecosystem.  At that point, all we are doing is messing things up.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” (2 Samuel 22:17)

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (2 Samuel 22:20).

Even though the Lord is seen as a fearsome and mighty warrior, David also ensures that He is seen as a gentle and compassionate friend.  Some days I need a mighty warrior who will protect me from those who want to tear me to pieces.  Even if all I do is receive confidence because I know He is at my back, that’s enough.  Other days I need to curl into a ball and shut out the world because the pain has been too great.  That’s when I desperately need His gentle compassion.  There have been nights where I fall asleep believing that the only reason to wake up the next morning is because the Lord loves me and when I wake up and see the sun shining and hear the birds singing, I know that His comfort while I slept renewed and strengthened me.

“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!” (2 Samuel 22:47)

“Therefore I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name.” (2 Samuel 22:50)

Our Lord does live. He continues to be our strength, our rock, our shield and our salvation. It is to Him that we offer praise, both in our hearts and on our lips.

I will praise you, O Lord. I will sing praises to your name!

January 4 - David's Prayer

Friday, January 4, 2013

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January 4 - David's Prayer

1 Chronicles 17:16-25

“There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” (1 Chronicles 17:20)

Before David prayed this prayer, Nathan the prophet had heard from the Lord regarding David’s kingship.  David wanted nothing more than to build a great home for the Lord in Jerusalem.  He said in verse one, “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.”

But, the Lord had some disappointing news for David.  He wasn't going to be able to build the Lord’s house, it would be built by David’s son.  However, even though that might have been disappointing, the rest of the news was wonderful.  The Lord would build a house for David.  David’s name would be well known and the Lord would subdue his enemies.  While David was alive, the people of Israel would have a peaceful home.  Not only that, when David died, his son would continue his kingdom and the Lord would establish David’s throne forever.  The Lord would love him, confirm him in the Lord’s house and in his kingdom forever.

Being unable to build a house for the Lord was a small disappointment compared to the rest of the Lord’s promise to David, whose heart thrilled at those words.  Not in conceit or expectation, but in humility and gratefulness.

“Who am I?” David asked.  “And what is my house, that you have brought me this far?”

Today I stand before God and wonder who I am that He has seen fit to bring me this far.

Sometimes I am angry because things don’t work out my way or because it seems as if I work so hard for something only to see it fall apart or because life just plain doesn't seem fair.  But, why do I believe that I deserve any good thing?  I am not entitled to things because I think I should have them.  I am given life and breath, love and more than anything, I have been given a Redeemer who offers me salvation. The life I’ve lived doesn't entitle me to anything, but God’s grace ensures that I have so much.

Who am I?  Who are you?

There is none like God. There is no God besides Him.  All those things I believe I deserve or have earned are nothing beside God.  God’s love and the fact that He sent His Son to lay down His life for me is more than I deserve.

January 3 - Hannah's Prayer

Thursday, January 3, 2013

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January 3 - Hannah's Prayer

1 Samuel 2:1-10

And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.” (1 Samuel 1:1, ESV)

A man named Elkanah had two wives – Hannah and Peninnah.  Peninnah had children, but Hannah didn’t. The thing was, Elkanah loved Hannah with or without children, but you know how people can be. Peninnah constantly harassed her due to her lack of children.  It’s difficult enough to live through that type of ridicule now, but in days when lineage was of utmost importance and children carried that lineage, it was impossible to hold up under that provocation.

Year after year, the family went to Shiloh to offer sacrifices (this was before the temple was in Jerusalem), and Hannah prayed to receive a son.  One year, she prayed so fervently that the priest on duty, Eli, thought she was drunk and spoke to her.  She told him that she was praying because she was so deeply troubled, he blessed her and sent her on her way.  When Elkanah and Hannah got home, she conceived and bore a son, Samuel.

One thing she had done while praying was promise to raise the son God gave her as a Nazirite and to return him to Eli so he could be in service to the Lord.  She kept her promise and took Samuel back to Eli and left him there, then she prayed with great joy, not sorrow, because above all else, God has answered her prayer.

There is no one Holy like the Lord.  There is no Rock like our God.  He will guard the feet of his faithful ones …

Hannah knew the power of the Lord. It was what she counted on as she lived her life. It was to Him she turned when she had no hope and it was to Him she offered praise when her hope was restored.  Though Peninnah was a thorn in Hannah’s side, she took her concerns to the Lord instead of returning the harassment and making things worse in their home.  But, when it came time to praise His name, she spoke loudly enough that her prayer was heard and recorded and we still read it today.

1 Samuel 2:21 tells us that Hannah had three sons and two daughters and that Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

A prayer and a promise. Hannah’s son would grow into one of the great leaders of Israel, the last judge and the man who anointed David as king.  Her prayer was heard and answered, her promise fulfilled. A nation was touched because of her.

January 2 - Song of Moses

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

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January 2 - Song of Moses

Deuteronomy 32:1-43

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!” Deuteronomy 32:1-3


This song of Moses was recited not long before Moses died.  He had a lot to tell the people of Israel.  They had been worshiping other gods and had whined and complained about the Lord’s care of them all the way through the desert.  They had even wished for a return to slavery at the hands of the Egyptians because they felt God wasn't treating them right.  Moses accuses the Israelites of forgetting their heritage, of forgetting Who was responsible for their birth and then, for their salvation.

The Lord wanted to punish them, but if He chose to do so to the extent that He desired, it might have signaled a wrong intention to their enemies; that He was forsaking them.  Consequently, as much as this song was a hymn of praise to the things the Lord had done for the people of Israel, it was also a warning.

“And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.’” (Deuteronomy 32:45-47)

There is so much promise in these words, if we take the warning to heart.  But, the problem we have, just like the Israelites, is that we hear only the promises and ignore the warnings. Then, just like those Israelites, we complain and whine when life doesn't go our way or it feels as if God is ignoring our pleas.

God’s word is not an empty word for us, but it is our very life.  We sometimes look at it as if it were an arbitrary set of rules set down so that we might be in bondage, but in truth, Scripture contains those instructions which will allow us to live good lives.  Parents set boundaries for their children so that they will be safe (don’t play in the street), so they will learn to interact with the world (always share and don’t call people bad names), and so they will be responsible (pick up after yourselves, apply yourself to your work).  They don’t do this because they want to be in control, but because they want their children to grow up to be successful and happy.

The Lord wants His children to live even better lives than parents want for their children.  Then, we shall “proclaim the name of the Lord and ascribe greatness to our God.”

January 1 - Song of Moses

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

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January 1 - Song of Moses

Exodus 15:1-18

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15:1-2)

Moses composed this song of praise soon after they were delivered from the Egyptians.  It is said by many scholars to be the oldest poem in the world.  Miriam taught it to the women of Israel and with tambourines and dancing, sang praise for deliverance! (Exodus 15:20)

Can you imagine this song of praise being sung by the Israelites as they crossed the desert on the way to Mount Sinai?  Much as singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Easter and Christmas reminds us of the joy we feel in praising God, this song would have crossed generations as they told their children of their history through music.  In fact, the song is part of the song of the Lamb in Revelation 15:3.

It is a victory hymn.  The song is sung to God and is about God.  It praises Him for allowing Israel to have victory over their enemies.  The people of Israel had spent the last four hundred years as slaves in Egypt.  They had forgotten what it was like to be free, to live as a people who relied on the Lord God for all of their needs.  But, now, He had brought them victory, He brought them through the sea to dry land, he conquered their enemies.

This song of praise is appropriate as we begin a new year.  Looking back over the last year, we praise the Lord for standing with us through all that we faced and for clearing paths in ways we may never know.  We praise Him for blessing us with good things and we praise Him because tomorrow is another day in which we can walk with Him.