Monday, September 30, 2013

Tell the World To Praise

In one more month, I will have reached my four year anniversary of creating this blog.  It started because I had only lived in Western New York for about a month and all my close friends were in Michigan.  I felt led to pray and fast for my family while reading through the book of Nehemiah and I needed to have people pray for me through the process.  Since I was so new in New York, I didn't have friends close enough to ask for prayer, so I asked a few friends in Michigan to pray for me and I began this blog so they could follow along with where God was taking me.  After completing the book of Nehemiah, I didn't feel that God said I was done with the blog, so I continued to write and share very publicly how God was speaking to me through my daily Bible study.  There are so many people in the world that write far better than I do; however, that is the beauty of following God's direction.  Whether or not we are the best doesn't really determine if God can use us, it is our willingness.  And I am willing to continue sharing on the internet what I am learning for a few reasons: I feel God wants me to do this right now; I believe every follower of Christ should be in the Bible every day and if sharing my journey helps people read the Bible, then I am willing to share; and I want the world to know that God is great and amazing and loves each and every one of us regardless of what we've done.  The reason I have this on my mind today is because this week I am looking at psalms that declare praises to God and today's psalm declares the importance of the world knowing God and sharing our praise to God with others.  Please use the link and read Psalm 96.

This psalms tells us to sing our praises to God because He is God.  No other reason needs to exist - He is our Creator, our Lord, our Savior, and the Giver of all good things.  We are to proclaim and sing of His salvation.  I love that even before Christ came to save all people, God was praised for His mercy and salvation; the hope of our salvation existed since the beginning of time (John 1:1)!  That is amazing!  But, here is where I have found encouragement in my journey with writing a daily post on this blog - verse 3 reminds me of the importance of what I do.  "Publish His glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things He does." (Psalm 96:3 NLT)  I hope you notice that this isn't a suggestion; the author doesn't say, "If you feel like it, tell everyone about God."  It sounds more like he is telling us that we are to do what we can to sing our praises and tell everyone about God and the good things He does. This doesn't mean that each person is to write a book or blog or write a song; but I do believe it is very clear that our desire for God should spill out of us and bear witness to other people.

We each have a story in our life of why we believe and follow God.  We know what He has done in our lives and what He is doing today.  God wants us to share that with people to bring Him glory.

How are you sharing the work God is doing in your life?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Before His Throne

I have been so blessed this week reading about the lovely promises given to those who seek God's presence; those who seek to be in His dwelling.  This week has been so crazy, it has been a good reminder to me that even during a hectic time, I can seek Him and find peace.  He didn't change my schedule; however, He gave me strength and help when I needed it.  The topic this week may not have meant as much to you, or maybe it meant even more to you; but I know that it has impacted me enough that I think it may be a good topic to do more study.  Earlier this week a friend told me a quote that basically said that the promise of eternity doesn't start when we die, today is part of our eternity.  Isn't that a good reminder and a neat thought?  With that thought in mind, why wouldn't we seek God's presence?  We are told that we can boldly go before His throne because of Christ's amazing sacrifice.  Hebrew 4:14-16 (NLT) says, "So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."  Mercy and grace is what we will find when we approach the throne of our great Father!  Today, I want to show you one more promise we will find in God's dwelling; please read Psalm 68.

Verses 5 and 6 are where I am parking today.  So many people in this world are broken and I know their brokenness started right in their families.  I know because I grew up in a broken family, and I understand how much that translates into the rest of our lives.  However, this is a promise that I clung to as a teenager and I knew that God would always be there for me.  "A Father to the fatherless, a defender of the widow..."  What an amazing promise!  You see, no matter what has happened or is happening in your family; God will be what you are missing when you boldly go before His throne.  You just need to believe that you have a right to go before His throne because of Jesus.  This promise to this inheritance is all over the Bible, when we believe in the hope we have in Christ we can boldly approach His presence.  We can be confident that "we will find grace to help us when we need it most."  That  is incredible!

We are reminded in this psalm of those graces that are available to those who seek Him: love, freedom, showers, refreshment, and provision.  But here's the thing; you have to ask and seek Him for those things and trust that you will be provided exactly what you need.  Isn't that interesting?  I think this is because God just wants us in His presence; He wants us to be with Him.

Let's go before His throne and trust in that mercy and grace that will give us exactly what we need!

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How To Be In His Presence

For those of you who are parents, I'm sure you've noticed that children always have a way of finding their parents.  If they had a bad dream, they know that they can find you in your own bed (or if they wake up crying you will come to them).  If they hurt themselves, they know to come running to you.  If they are lost, they know that if they start to cry for you, you will find them.  They also know that if they hold your hand in a crowded place, they will not lose you.  There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling a parent has when they realize that their child is lost, and the great joy we experience when we find them is overwhelming.  In fact, we would prefer not to lose our children and we try to teach them safety so it doesn't happen.  The Bible teaches us what we can do to stay with God.  God refers to Himself as our Heavenly Father and just like earthly parents, He doesn't want us to get lost and He is there when we call on Him.  But what can we do to keep from getting lost in the first place?  David wrote a short psalm about what it takes to stay in God's presence.  Please use the link and read Psalm 15.

The description in that psalm sounds like a perfect person, doesn't it?  In that list we see a lot of things that tempt us and can make us loosen our grip and pull away from our loving Father's hand.  You know how a toddler is pretty sure they're big enough to be on their own and do everything they can to pull their hand out of yours?  They just want to go see the pretty, shiny object that is over there!  That is the same thing we are doing when we begin to let the sinful things lure us away from God's direction.  The minute we begin to pay more attention to those things and decide that we have to have it, we are pulling ourselves out of God's loving presence.  Those sinful things do not belong in His courts and we are leaving when we go to participate in them.  The problem is, the minute we leave His presence, we are also leaving all those incredible promises for joy, peace, protection, refreshment, and so much more behind with Him.

We are also told in the Bible of God's loving mercy and forgiveness.  He forgives us through Jesus!  That is amazing!  With that forgiveness, God wants us to leave those things behind and stay with Him in His presence.  There is so much that is promised to the one who seeks His presence that I just wonder why I am so easily distracted by other things.  After all, He is my Father, my Creator, my Savior, and my Lord.  How could I forget all that He has done and all He has promised to go to what doesn't even belong in my life anymore?  Focusing on who He is and what He has done and what He has promised to do is what helps me keep my eyes off the tempting things of the world that don't provide any satisfaction to my soul.

What are the things that so easily make you pull away from God's presence?  Pray and ask God to give you strength and perspective when those temptations come.

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Protection In His Presence

Today is one of those crazy days when my work and personal lives converge and make an extra busy day.  My work day alone is a crazy day today, but then my children and husband also have schedules that are a bit challenging.  With the both combined, I feel absolutely overloaded.  Even with all the craziness of the day, it started out so beautifully with God - He allowed me to feel peace this morning when I woke up and reminded me that I can seek Him throughout the day.  I guess it is no coincidence that I am looking at psalms that refer to the blessings of being in God's dwelling during one of my busiest weeks for work and home!  I think God has been giving me gentle reminders to keep seeking Him through it all and experience blessing instead of stress.  He is so good!  I want to quickly review some of the blessings that are promised to us when we seek God's presence:  comfort, experience God's unfailing love, shield, favor, goodness, joy, strength, and refreshment.  Oh, what amazing promises we can claim when we seek God!  I was reminded of some of my favorite verses (and very challenging verses) found in Isaiah 58.  These verses promise some amazing things when we seek to do the things that please God:
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."  Isaiah 58:9-12 (NIV) (italics added)
What a beautiful extension of what I looked at yesterday in Psalm 84 where we are told that we will bring up springs in the desert and travel from strength to strength!  We just need to seek Him and do what pleases Him.  Today, I want to look at what David had to say about seeking God's dwelling place; please use the link and read Psalm 27.

In this psalm, David expresses the fact that when we seek God's dwelling we are promised protection.  This protection doesn't necessarily mean that nothing bad will ever happen; after all, this psalm was written by a man who experienced a lot of danger and threats to his life.  Yet, we see that even during the threats he sought after God's presence knowing that there was nothing that could harm him there.  This is because David looked at protection far beyond the physical; he understood that no matter what happened on earth as long as he stayed in God's dwelling nothing could destroy his spirit.  God protects from the stronger enemies that we cannot see.  He understood the best place to be is God's house.

Do you seek after God's dwelling?  Do you trust in His protection?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Best Place To Be

When I was young, my family owned a cottage that my grandpa had built in northern Michigan.  The property had woods right behind it and my sister, brother and I would spend our days exploring the woods.  We named different trails in woods based on landmarks or where they would lead us out of the woods.  One of our favorite paths to take was a trail that lead out to a road that had a pond on the left side.  We liked stopping by the pond because there were always frogs and ducks and other creatures hanging around it.  I discovered a small little area off the side of the road right across from the pond where there was a little creek that flowed gently over and around some rocks.  It was surrounded by wild flowers and was tucked away in the woods.  After I discovered this spot, I would go there just to think and relax because it was so quiet; this was my little private corner in the world.  Even as an adult, I occasionally think back to that little creek and the peace I felt there.  As I have grown in my walk with God, I've discovered that when I seek His presence there is a love and peace that I experience greater than what that little spot was like to me.  The sons of Korah wrote a psalm that expresses how wonderful it is to be in God's presence and how we should be seeking to be there.  Please use the link and read Psalm 84.

The sons of Korah wrote that God's dwelling place was the best place to be and the ones who were there were blessed.  Something I want to remind you from yesterday's post is the reality that when we are in God's dwelling place, we are experiencing His love.  It is His love that sustains us when we remember that the physical places here on this earth are not really where our hearts settle, our hearts find peace when we settle in God's love.  This psalm so beautifully expresses the amazing strength and joy we find in His dwelling.  You can see how the Sons of Korah understood that is what our hearts are longing for - God created us to need to be with Him.  Oh, what a blessing it is when we understand that is why nothing on earth can fully satisfy us because we can then turn to the only One who can truly quench that thirst.

One verse really stuck out at me in this psalm:  "As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools." (Psalm 84:6 NIV)  I was very curious about the Valley of Baka and as I researched I found a very helpful article on YouVersion.  The article explained that this valley was a place that travelers had to go through in order to get to the Cities of Refuge in the hills of Israel.  It was a desert valley full of thorns and aside from travelers walking through, this was also a place where people fled when running away from pursuers.  This was a difficult valley because the springs of water were few and far between and the name, Valley of Baka, actually means "valley of tears."  The article listed several people who made the journey into Baka, such as Moses, Abraham, Hagar, Job, and David.  These people were shown the springs of water provided by God's rain to satisfy their thirst.  Isn't that amazing!  We are told that when we go through the valleys of difficulty seeking God, we will make it a place of springs.  Even in the difficulties of life, we will find refreshment when we seek our Creator.

Other beautiful promises we are told is that when we seek God, we will travel from strength to strength (verse 7), God is our sun and shield (vs 11), He will bestow His favor on us (vs 11), He will not withhold any good thing (vs 11), and we will receive joy (vs 12).  What incredible promises given for those who seek to dwell in His presence!  This really is the best place to be.  How true it is when the authors expressed,  "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere..." (vs 10).

Do you seek God's dwelling place?  Do you believe there is nothing here on earth that can satisfy us the way God can?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Where We Settle

My husband and I have moved a lot and have lived in different areas of the country.  We don't like moving - our hearts tear in two when we have to move away from a place.  But, we've moved as we have felt God leading us.  When we lived in Grand Rapids, it was an area where there were a lot of people living there that were not native to the area, so we had several friends who didn't have family living near them.  We now live in an area where so many people living here grew up here.  They live near their extended family and they are blessed with having their families celebrate with them for holidays and birthdays and other special occasions.  My husband and I live far away from both of our families, in fact, they are spread all over the country.  This means that we just don't get to see all our family for any occasion and we even have family that we rarely see.  I only have two weeks of vacation, so what that means is when we take a vacation or choose to visit one relative, we are sacrificing the opportunity to visit someone else.  Those are not easy choices to make!  One thing I know that we have learned from our experiences with moving and living far from family is that our comfort doesn't come from where we settle down (although, you still need to learn how to make a new place feel like home).  Where we live is transient, so to take comfort in something that will not last doesn't work.  We've learned that our greatest comfort comes from God and that is where our hearts should settle - He is eternal and will never leave.  The psalm I am exploring today shows us the idea of making God the place where we dwell.  Please use the link and read Psalm 90.

This psalm was written by Moses, a man who never really lived where he was born.  He was born to a slave who saved his life by giving him away to an Egyptian princess.  He lived in a palace but always felt the pull to his own people.  He had to flee Egypt and lived away from his people and the palace where he was raised and met his wife among a different people.  He was called to go back to his people in Egypt to lead them to their new home; however, he spent the rest of his life living in the wilderness because of lack of faith from the entire nation and disobedience.  He only knew transitions and the feeling of not being home - imagine that!  Yet, the first words he penned in this psalm was the fact that God was their dwelling place.

Moses understood that our comfort doesn't take place in the things of this world, it is found in God.  We see in this psalm that Moses is recognizing God's power and that He is the only one who should be worshiped.  We also see that Moses understood that the wisdom needed to follow God with respect came from the perspective that God is the only One who determines whether we live or die.  He wrote in Psalm 90:12 (NIV), "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  Have you ever lived in a way that you thought about the reality that it is God who numbers our days?  He also wrote about what happens to our hearts when God is where we choose to settle.  "Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives."  Psalm 90:14 (NLT).   When we make God our dwelling place, we understand that true satisfaction comes from His love.

Have you chosen to settle down with God and make Him your dwelling place?  Do you find the wisdom to live and satisfaction that only comes from His love?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Guide Until the End

Think about all your descendants - you know, the people who haven't been born yet.  Think about your line extending a thousand years or more.  This isn't about pride in yourself because of future generations, this is just the reality that your family line will most likely continue on and on.  Even if you do not have children, there are children in your extended family that you can influence.  Or there are those around you in your community or church that you can influence, and it may make a mark for generations to come.  For example, I just recently met someone who is on the brink of giving their life to Christ.  They were filled with so much joy because they were starting to understand God's love for them and want to keep coming to church and join a group because they want to learn more.  When we as a church body invest our time into someone so they can come to an understanding of God's love and they commit their lives to God, we have just made another investment into future generations.  So, think about those future generations and your family and consider how amazing it would be to see them continue to live a life of faith in our great Creator.  Think about the idea that our family will follow Christ until He returns.  How great is that thought!?

My husband's extended family is a small picture of that idea.  His great-grandparents came to this country and lived a life of faith that they passed on to their (many) children.  Some of those children went into full time ministry as pastors or missionaries.  Their children passed their faith on to their children and more pastors and missionaries entered the family.  Those children passed their faith on to their children (my husband's generation) with a few more pastors in the mix.  The first family reunion I went to blew me away to see such a large extended family worshiping God together in their own chapel service.  They prayed together and encouraged each other's faith.  It was beautiful (and it still is).  All week long, I have looked at psalms that remind us to live in a way that passes our faith on to future generations - to even consider how we could pass that faith on to those not even born.  I want to wrap up this week with one last psalm on that subject; please use the link and read Psalm 48.

So many of the psalms I looked at this week was written at a point of danger or great difficulty and the authors continued to share their faith in God.  This psalm tells of the great things that happens when we continue to have faith in God.  That is the reality of life - we are going to have ups and downs, yet we can continue to have faith God and we can experience His greatness in poverty or prosperity.  For as amazing as this psalm is in singing praises to the great things God has done, the last few verses are what caught my attention.  Psalm 48:13-14 (NIV) says,  "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.  For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end."  What a beautiful declaration!  He is our God and will be our guide until we die.

Do you declare and pray that God is your God and guide forever over your family?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You Just Need To Talk About It

There are a lot of opinions and conversations out there about the best way to reach children and teens and help them grow and develop their faith in God.  I don't think there is necessarily one right way; however, I do believe that we need to consider the current students and where they are at as far as influences and preferences.  We need to consider if our methods match what the preferences of the students are; it isn't about what I prefer when I am trying to reach someone, it is about what they prefer.  The message and the truth of the Bible doesn't have to change one bit just because we change the presentation.  In fact, the truth shouldn't change!  But one thing I know for sure, we cannot sit idly by and expect someone else to teach our children about Christ; if we do that no one will teach them and the world will gladly share their ideas with them.  Part of the beauty of the body of Christ (the church) is that we can all influence and work with the next generation to build their faith; that is definitely a gift from God.  However, as parents, if that is all we rely on we are not doing our jobs.  The primary influence for our children's faith walk is the parents and if the parents are not living out their faith or teaching their children at home, the children will notice the inconsistency.  The psalm I am looking at today spells out a clear warning of what happens when we do not teach our children about God.  Please use the link and read Psalm 78; it is a long psalm, so if you do not read the entire passage please at least focus on the first 8 verses.

The author, Asaph, opened the psalm with a reminder of the importance of teaching future generations about God's faithfulness and why we should praise Him.  He tells us that it is not only important, but it is commanded by God to teach future generations.  See what God tells us in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 (NIV):
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
 This isn't just going to church on the weekend and expecting the job to be done.  We see in these verses that it is a lifestyle that is lived out every day and talked about every day, and we also see that these verses are very clear that the primary teaching happens at home.  It is too easy to get overwhelmed by the world's temptations and turn away, so it is so important to always have God's truth at the forefront of our homes.  This really is a matter of life and death - we have to remember how important this is.  You do not have to be a Bible scholar to influence the next generation for Christ; you just have to care and share what you know.  If your kiddos ask you something that you don't know, go to your senior pastor, children's pastor, or youth pastor.  They want to see a thriving faith in your family and will want to help you.  But remember, you are the primary influence in your children's faith.

Are you living your faith out at home each and every day?  Do you understand how important this is?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

He Has Done It!

Several years ago, I was at a conference where Donald Miller was the keynote speaker.  In his talk, he taught us what made a good story.  One of the greatest story builders was conflict - conflict is what kept us glued to the story and wanting to see how it would be resolved.  Without something to overcome, it would just be a story that went nowhere.  Think about your favorite movies and books; they were all written with some type of struggle that needed to be conquered.  His point to the talk was that our walk with God is the same; God didn't create us to live a boring, stagnant story.  If we are living in obedience to Him and following His direction, there will undoubtedly be some sort of conflict or adversity.  I'm not saying that we go looking for conflict and neither was Donald Miller, but when we are following God there will always be something to be overcome.  For example, the idea that my husband and I would be able to take our family to Zambia this summer was absolutely ridiculous because neither of us have a high salary job and the cost was tremendous.  However, even with the impossible, God made it possible for our family to go by using our family and friends to help support us and He somehow stretched our paychecks (don't ask me how because it didn't always make sense).  So, now we can tell people, "God did it!  He provided so we could do what He called us to do!"  Those are the things that grow our faith.  All this week, I am looking at psalms that show us the importance of sharing so future generations will know about the good things God does.  The psalm I am looking at today shows us conflict and God's work and the resolve to share it with others; please use the link and read Psalm 22.

If there was anyone in the Old Testament who understood conflict, it was King David.  This was a man who was called by God to be the king of Israel and was anointed as a young man, yet he didn't sit on the throne until many years later.  And even though God called him to that position, there were so many things to be overcome before he got there, including the King Saul wanting to kill him.  Even once he was king, he faced problems in his family, an insurrection, and many wars.  Yet, when he was fleeing for his life, he still declared his trust in God.  We can see that as David wrote this psalm, he was in a situation that he had not seen resolved, but he trusted that God would save him.  While he wrote out his despair, he also declared God's amazing works and knew that once this conflict was over, he would make sure he would declare God's faithfulness to anyone who would listen.

Once again, David wasn't just thinking of the current generation that he was ruling, he was also thinking of generations to come.  He wrote in verse 30 (NIV), "Posterity will serve Him; future generations will be told about the Lord."  He already declared that because of the testimonies the current generation had of God's faithfulness, their descendants would also serve God.  He went on in verse 31 (NIV), "They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!"  I love that!  I have personally experienced so many works of God in my life that I want my descendants to know because I want them to understand that we can trust in God.  We can believe that He will provide, protect, and save.  I want them to know: He has done it!

What is your story so far?  Have you trusted God to help you overcome the adversity you've faced?  Do you declare to anyone who will listen that He has done it so future generations can trust in Him?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Lord Looked Down

Technology has created an environment where everything is permanent.  For example, we can delete texts from our phones; however, if needed those texts can be retrieved through our phone companies.  Another example is the internet.  Once I post something on the internet, there is potential that it will be there even if I take it off.  Someone somewhere could do a screen shot and save it in a different place.  When a public personality says something, there is almost a guarantee that it is being recorded by someone.  In our digital world, it is so easy to have permanence to something because it takes very little space to store it as opposed to so much warehouse space being used in the past to save important information.  With all that said, it is pretty incredible that something written thousands of years ago is in our hands and distributed to more people than ever before!  Have you ever thought of what an incredible gift the Bible is to us?  Have you ever thought of how amazing it is that we can read the words that were penned by someone thousands of years ago when there was no digital storage and paper was a rare commodity?  This week, I am looking at psalms that show us the importance of recording events so future generations will know about the greatness of God.  Please use the link and read how the author uses his influence to make sure you and I know about God in Psalm 102.

At first glance, this psalm seems like someone lamenting his life; however, look at the psalm again if that is all you saw.  There is so much more to this psalm and I want to make sure we catch it!  In the middle of the lament, we also see such incredible hope.  The author wrote in Psalm 102:19-20 (NIV), “The Lord looked down from His sanctuary on high, from heaven He viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.”  Wow!  Do you see what an incredible statement that is?  The Lord looked down to hear the groans of the prisoners.  But it doesn't stop there, He did this to release those condemned to death.  Do you realize this isn't just about a literal prison?  We have all been condemned to death because of our sin, yet God looked down and saw our distress and saved us through Jesus.  That is absolutely amazing!  I love how God's saving nature was written about even before Jesus had walked the earth - the hope of salvation was felt even before it happened.

But, the thing that is so wonderful is the author had a very specific reason for writing those amazing words of hope - for us.  He wrote in Psalm 102:18 (NIV), "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord..."  What does that do to your heart?  What does it mean to you to know that he wrote those words so that you and I can be encouraged in our walk with God and remember His saving grace?  Oh, how this reminds me how important it is to declare God's praises so that future generations can know that God is real, God is great, and our Creator and Lord looked down and saw our distress.  He saw our distress and saved us and we need to be a part of making sure that truth is planted in future generations.  This psalmist cared enough to make sure this was written so we would know - let's pass it on.

Do you think of how you can instill this truth for generations not even born, yet?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Speak To The Next Generation

Something that I regularly pray about is how my husband and I parent our children.  I am often praying that God give us wisdom so we can instill the importance of living a life for God in their hearts.  We want our children's hearts to be focused on God and the good things He does and we want them to have hearts that seek to please Him.  Part of that wisdom we seek is finding a way to communicate this to our children in a way that they can relate to.  The world they are growing up in is so different from the world my husband and I grew up in.  For example there hasn't been a time since my daughter was born that our country wasn't in a military conflict with someone else.  Another big difference is the use of media - all of my children have only known a world with email, internet and cell phones.  This completely changes how we communicate to our kids and we pray for wisdom on how to communicate God effectively to them.  This doesn't mean the truths in the Bible change one bit; but the method on how we hand it down to the next generation has to change or they will not listen.  As I continue on in my study on the book of Psalms, I want to focus this week on psalms that express the importance of passing our faith on to the next generation.  Please use the link and read Psalm 71.

The author of this psalm expresses the fact that his life hasn't been easy, yet we also see that God has always been his refuge.  He expresses the desire to sing God's praises no matter how old or what is happening in his life.  That attitude of praise is something that could easily be another focus of study; however, I actually want to focus on the overall message of this psalm and one verse in particular.  The author of this psalm expresses his faith in God by using phrases such as God has been, "my confidence since my youth."  What a beautiful statement!  So, we know that the author of this psalm has lived a life of faith in God.  There are other phrases he uses such as, "As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."  Even after living a life that hasn't been easy, the author shows us that he will always place his hope in our Creator.

But the one sentence that stuck out at me the most in this psalm is found in verse 18, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come."  What an amazing statement!  Do you consider that an important priority in your mission?  Do you consider the importance of declaring God's faithfulness and the hope He has given us through Jesus to the next generation?  The author of this psalm shows us the attitude of someone who has follwed God all his life and even when things were difficult, he still sang praises about the greatness of God.  And one of the reasons to be so vocal about singing praises of God's faithfulness was to pass it on to the next generation.

How important is that to you?  Is it important enough to set aside what your preferences are in order to effectively communicate to the younger generations?  Someone set aside their preferences in order for you to understand how important it is to follow Jesus, can you do the same so we do not lose the next generation?  The author reminds us that praising God isn't about how comfortable we are, it is all about Him and passing it on.  How can you be willing to be a little uncomfortable in order for the next generation to learn of His love and faithfulness?

This post is linked with Inspire Me Monday and Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Choosing To Remember God's Mercy

When we face consequences for poor choices, there are a few reactions we can have.  We could decide that life is unfair and no one understands us and never learn from that experience and continue to make poor choices.  Or, we could decide that we made a horrible mistake and choose to learn from it and ask for help getting our feet back on the ground.  Oh what a blessing it is when we make such mistakes and receive forgiveness and help!  When that happens, we begin to understand all the more of the gift of salvation we receive through Jesus.  The psalm I am looking at today gives us examples of people who made poor choices and called to God as they faced their consequences and received His help.  Please use the link and read Psalm 107.

We can read through this particular psalm with questions about why God would allow the bad things to happen in the first place, or why He would punish people only to save them.  We can choose to become bitter and fall even further away from God; but, remember this: that is our choice, it is not what God wants for us.  One thing I know without a doubt is that we do not understand the way God works, nor should we assume we do.  He is so much greater than us that there is just no way our minds can comprehend Him or His ways.  

We could also read through this psalm and see God's incredible mercy and salvation in it.  In fact, I believe that was the author's intent; it was to encourage us and remind us that no matter what we've done or how bad things get, when we call to God we will experience His love.  I am an example of that - I know what God has done in my life!  I know that I cried to God in my difficulties, and He rescued me and healed me and brought me to a place where I can tell others of the good things He has done.  I know that even when I have experienced horrible things, He has turned them around into beauty.  One thing I know for sure; God can take anything and use it to bring us closer to Him; but we need to turn to Him to experience that.  Notice that each example given in this psalm mentions the fact that people called out to Him in their distress.

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things."  Psalm 107:8-9 (NIV).

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron."  Psalm 107:15-16 (NIV).

"But He lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks.  The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths.  Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord."  Psalm 107:42-43 (NIV).

We are reminded to praise God for the good things He has done and is continuing to do.  He loves us and cares - He just wants us to come to Him for what we need.  When we do that, He gives us what we need and we can share what He does with others and praise Him.  We are told that we are to be wise and think on the loving deeds of God.

Do you focus on the good things God has done?  Do you choose to call to Him?  Do you choose to meditate on the good things God has done in your life?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Can't Forget

I have bad allergies and all through my childhood and even through college I took allergy shots to keep them under control.  As a result, I now still have allergies but they are not nearly as bad as they could have been, but they are still bad enough that I have to take an antihistamine every day.  This medicine is good for me because it keeps my allergies under control and keeps them from triggering my asthma.  I have a routine every morning and following the routine helps me remember to take my medicine, otherwise I have the potential to feel miserable all day.  Our spiritual walk is the same - we cannot forget to spend the time it takes to grow in our relationship with God.  As I continue looking at how the book of Psalm tells us to remember the good things of God, I want to take a look at a psalm that gives us a warning of what happens when we forget God.  Please use the link and read Psalm 106.

There are other important things that we all need to remember that has the potential to hurt us if we forget.  We teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street, we remember to put on our seat belts when getting in the car, we put out our campfire before going in for the night.  If we forget to do these things we may not experience something bad, but there is the potential for something to go wrong.  If we forget to do those things on a regular basis, we know that it will eventually catch up with us and something bad will happen.  Think of our spiritual walk in the same way.

Psalm 106 starts out with a phrase that needs to be on our hearts every day: "Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."  His love endures forever!  That is a truth that we always need to remember.  The only way we can keep that truth in our heart is by spending time each day with Him in prayer and in the Bible.  Surrounding ourselves with friends who will encourage us in our walk with God is vitally important, which is why the church should be a regular part of our spiritual walk.  Going to church should happen more than just once or twice a month, this should be a regular part of your weekly routine.  Keep in touch with your friends by becoming a part of a weekly small group so you can be encouraged in your walk with God throughout the week.  These are the things that help us to remember the good things of God; they help us to remember and believe His promises.

"But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold," Psalm 106:13 (NIV).  Psalm 106 shows us what happens when we forget.  When we forget who God is we make choices that will cause destruction.  When we forget what He has already done we become impatient and choose to do things our way instead of waiting on God's plan.  Trust in this truth: God's plan is always better than our plan and it is worth waiting for!  The only way we can have the patience and endurance to wait for God's plan is to remember who He is and what He has already done.

Do you choose to remember?  How do you keep God in your memory each day?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

God Remembers!

The other day, I was sharing some of my memories with my kiddos of their baby years.  They enjoyed hearing stories that they didn't even remember and I think it speaks an important message to them: I remember.  They know that their mom and dad love them so much that they remember things from so many years ago.  Another thing that helps them feel secure is knowing that when we say we will do something, we will do it.  Consistency on following through on what we say is important and if we falter, our children are very quick to point it out.  When we as parents remember to follow through on what we say, we send another message that we care and we can be trusted.  This week as I have been looking at the book of Psalms, I have been exploring the psalms that have the theme of remembering the good things God has done.  I want to continue with that theme today and read a psalm where the author is pointing out a time in history where God was faithful to a promise He had made.  Please use the link and read Psalm 105.

I believe this is an important theme to consider and meditate on for our own lives.  In this psalm, we are not only remembering history of the good things God has done, but we are also remembering that God is faithful.  He will always do what He says He will do.  This psalm points out the specific promise for the descendants of Abraham to inherit the "Promised Land," which at the time of the promise was the land of Canaan.  By the time this psalm was written, the land of Israel had been established as theirs for hundreds of years.  The author was reminding Israel that they could trust and rely on God's promises and was pointing out the faithfulness of this promise over the course of hundreds of years.  This also served as a reminder that we should also be faithful to our God and always praise Him.

This psalm can also serve as a reminder of where our hope is.  We can know that since God is always faithful to His promises, we can know that He will be true to the hope of our salvation.  We can know that His promise of salvation through Jesus is true.  Reading through the Bible not only helps us remember the good that God has done, but we see the good that God has promised.  We also see His incredible consistency of fulfilling the promises He has given us.  We can have hope and comfort in this truth:  God remembers what He has promised and He will always do what He has promised.

Do you believe that God remembers?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Will Remember

In high school, I fulfilled one of my history requirements by taking US military history.  The class took us through each of the wars (and military conflicts) the United States had been in up to that point.  I had a great teacher who walked us through the events that led up to the wars so we could understand the causes of the wars.  He then taught us the military tactics used and showed us why they failed or succeeded.  He taught us that it was important to remember the failures and successes so we would be more successful in the future.  He pointed out when failed tactics were used over and over again because the person creating strategy forgot history and did something that would obviously fail.  But then, he also pointed out some military strategies that were used successfully because someone also remembered history and knew what would work.  I really enjoyed taking the class and learning history from that perspective.  It made me understand all the more why it is good to learn history.  This week, my emphasis while walking through the book of Psalms is to look at psalms that remind us of history and the things that God has done.  The psalm I am looking at this morning reminds us that when things are not looking good, we can choose to remember God's deeds.  Please use the link and read Psalm 77.

We are given a great book of history - the Bible.  Both the Old and New Testaments give us such a rich history of God's works and we can know that they are more than just good stories to read.  There is a greater purpose in the Bible than just reading a collection of stories; the Bible gives us a big picture of God's love and redemption.  Becoming familiar with both the Old and New Testament is important because we can learn from other people's mistakes, and we can also learn what happens when people choose to believe God and trust in His promises.  We learn more about God's character and we learn what is important to His heart.  We learn that no matter how small we are in comparison to Him, He loves each of us as individuals and truly cares about us.  We learn that when we call out to God, He hears us and protects, heals, and provides.

Asaph, the author of Psalm 77, was in a place of despair.  We've all been there; we have all experienced what it is like to feel overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding us.  But, instead of wallowing in his despair, Asaph chose to focus on the good deeds God has done.  Being familiar with who God is and His faithfulness is what gave Asaph hope for his circumstances.  Remembering that God is the One to turn to and He is the One who is holy helps all of us to have a new perspective in whatever it is we are facing.  Remembering that God has been faithful throughout all of history is what helps strengthen our faith.  We can say, if He's done it before, He can do it again!

Do you choose to remember history?  Do you choose to remember the good God has done?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Remembering Helps Us Praise

Yesterday, I found myself in a conversation with someone at church where I was telling him of an incredible thing God had done in my family.  His response was to say that we need to be telling stories of God's work more often because it encourages the entire church body.  He is right!  I cannot tell you how many times I've been encouraged by stories other people have told me how God has worked in their lives.  In fact, there have been times when I have gone through a difficulty knowing that God was with me because I had heard the testimony of someone else telling me how God helped them through something similar.  Hearing these stories are what has helped build my faith and trust in God's provision, healing, and protection all the more.  As I continue looking at the book of Psalms, I want to spend time this week looking at psalms that remind us of God's goodness.  These are the psalms that were written specifically to remind us during difficult times of God's loving care.  Please use the link and read Psalm 9.

This is another psalm written by David and as we read through it, we see that this was written during a difficult time.  But, notice the first thing David wrote:  "I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done."  Even during times of difficulty and oppression, David continued to praise God and declare all the good things God has done.  I think this serves a couple of purposes.  First, it helps our overall attitude when we are facing difficulties; it helps us remember that there is a bigger picture and God is still with us.  When we can remember to praise God no matter what is happening around us, we are reminded of His greatness.  The second thing this does is it reminds the people around us of God's faithfulness even during difficult times.

Part of living in this broken world means that there will be suffering and oppression; however, it doesn't mean we are abandoned.  This psalm clearly speaks of promises that God will never forget the oppressed and needy.  In fact, we are told that the hope we have in God's salvation is what sustains us.  When we remember His goodness, His faithfulness, and the hope we have in Christ we can have endurance.  We know that no matter what, our faith in Christ is our salvation and gives us hope for eternity.

Do you remember the good things God has done in you and in others?  Does that help sustain you through your difficulties?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our Stronghold

What do you think of when you hear the word, stronghold?  I know in church circles, it is often used in a negative sense referring to something that has a hold on someone.  When referring to strongholds with that definition we could be talking about anything ranging from alcoholism to constant lying.  The use of the word represents something that has dominance over someone.  Today, I would like you to set aside the negative connotations to the word, stronghold and consider how it could be used in a positive sense.  According to dictionary.com, stronghold can also mean "a well fortified place; a fortress."  What kind of picture do you have in your mind when you think on that definition?  For me, that gives me a picture of something that we would go to for safety.  As I look at the book of Psalms, I want to continue with the theme this week where we see how different psalms express God as our protector.  Please use the link and read Psalm 144 to see how David used the word, stronghold, to give us a word picture of God's amazing protection.

 David opened this psalm showing us how he viewed God - his total defense.  I want you to consider David for a moment, the man who penned these words.  We often think of him as the king of Israel; however, when we read his psalms, do we remember how he became king?  David started as a humble shepherd over his father's sheep and believed even then that God was his fortress.  With this faith, he didn't falter or run when Samuel anointed him to be the next king.  With this faith, he defeated the giant that no one else in the king's army would even go near.  With this faith, he served king Saul even when Saul would try to kill him on occasion.  With this faith, David fought and won many battles.  With this faith, David left his throne when his son started an insurrection and trusted that God would protect him.  Was David a superhuman?  I don't think so; I think his faith in God's love and protection is what allowed him to take each step every day.

We may physically never face a giant in battle; however, there are spiritual battles that are fought.  There is a battle over our minds and souls when we become part of God's family.  There is an enemy that wants to destroy us; however, God promises protection.  Psalm 144:1 tells us who our instructor to prepare us for these battles.  God is the One who trains us and He is the One who protects us.  I believe that our faith in this truth comes from spending time with Him in prayer and in the Bible, it also comes from our community of fellow believers, and it comes from experiencing His providence and protection in our lives.  His protection is always there, whether or not we recognize it.  But, when we spend time each day reading the Bible and praying we strengthen our faith and we begin to develop eyes that recognize His work in our lives.  Our true victory in the battle is recognizing that it has nothing to do with our skill; it has everything to do with God working in us and protecting us.  When we believe that, we truly do run to Him as our fortress.

Is God your stronghold?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Creator's Care

When my oldest was born and placed in my arms, I was filled with so much joy.  The nurses were incredible at helping my husband and I learn basic care for our new and precious baby.  But, when we came home from the hospital and I was holding him, the gravity of raising this young, innocent baby hit me.  This happened because he was hungry and crying and I picked him up to feed him and he calmed down.  I suddenly realized that this little baby was completely dependent on me and felt safe in my arms.  Being only 26 years old, I was overwhelmed by this reality.  I couldn't believe that there was someone who depended on me and felt safe with me.  Something that is so amazing is that we could be looking to God in the same way and it doesn't overwhelm Him!  Please use the link and read Psalm 23.

This is another psalm written by David and it is probably one you are familiar with.  David grew up as a shepherd, so he is using terminology that he understood fully and completely.  Referring to God as his shepherd was saying that he understood that God took care of him the same way he tended his father's sheep.  David had taken the responsibility of tending sheep so seriously that he had even fought and killed a lion and a bear when they attacked the sheep on his watch.  So, we can know that when David called God his shepherd, he believed that his life and safety were fully in God's hands.

David wrote how God leads us to green pastures and to drink in still waters; which means that he recognized that God was his provider and would give him what he needed.  He also mentioned going through dark valleys and knowing God would protect him.  It makes me think that David understood that sometimes to get to the green pastures, he would sometimes have to guide his sheep through dangerous areas but would still keep them safe.  Our journey will sometimes take us into darker places; however, we can always trust in God's protection.  In fact, David referred to the shepherd's rod and staff bringing comfort.  The rod was basically a weapon used against any threats to the safety of the sheep.  It was like an extension of the shepherds arm or it could even be thrown at an enemy.  The staff was what the shepherd used to pull in any sheep that might start wandering away.

David gave us such an amazing word picture to tell us of the great care our Creator has for us.  He is always watching and guiding us.  We know that if there is any danger, God is our protector.  and the wonderful thing about His protection is that there is nothing that is greater or more powerful than Him.  Just as sheep fully trust and take comfort in their shepherd, we can fully trust in our Creator's care.

Do you take comfort in the truth that God loves and protects you?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Surrounded By Enemies

Have you ever had a time when you felt like you were surrounded by people who didn't like you?  I remember one year in particular in grade school where I felt like everyone in my class despised me and I felt so alone.  There were days were I would dread going to school because there were some kids that seemed to enjoy making my day miserable.  I had even faced a betrayal that year from the one person that I thought was my friend.  That was such a lonely and painful year; however, I got through it and by the end of that year I had made friends with someone who became my close friend for the next several years.  God was also with me that year and I learned that even when friends hurt me, He would always be faithful.  I know someone who was in a work environment where it was similar to my painful school year.  Maybe you can relate from a past experience, or maybe you are there right now.  This week, I am looking at psalms that remind us that no matter what harm people intend for us, God is the One who protects us and helps us.  Please use the link and read Psalm 3.

David wrote this psalm at a time when his own son had become angry with him and started an insurrection.  But, for a while it was a very successful uprising and Absalom not only took David's throne, he even humiliated David by laying with his wives.  David's life was threatened and his army was turned against him.  And while he was fleeing and hiding from his own son, he wrote this psalm.  It is in this psalm that we read David still declaring God as his deliverer even while the uprising was happening.  David wrote that God was the One who sustained him.  David even wrote that he could sleep and wake up the next day because of God!  This was written from the man who had an army searching for him.

I think what I am pulling out of this is the fact that even when we are in the midst of difficulty or betrayal, we can know that our true deliverance comes from God.  The end of this particular chapter in David's life was that his son was defeated and his throne was completely restored.  We are not guaranteed an easy life as followers of Christ; in fact, we are told there will be difficulties.  But, when the trouble comes, we also know that it is God who sustains us and protects us.  Our hope of salvation that we have through Jesus is what reminds us that there is something so much better in the scope of eternity.  We can look forward to that truth!

Do you feel like you are pressed on every side?  Do you believe that God is with you and will not allow anyone to destroy you?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trust In Him

I know many children in other areas of the country have already had their first day of school (some of you started about a month ago), but today is the first day of school in our area.  This means there are many students stepping foot into their schools for the first time and so many others returning to their school.  Some are approaching their first day with excitement while others are nervous.  And I also think about all the teachers and staff at those schools; I used to work at a school and I know how crazy the first day of school can be no matter how much the school has prepared.  This morning as my husband was reading the Bible to our kids at breakfast, he read Psalm 91 and I thought that this would be a great psalm to look at this morning since so many schools across the country are starting today.  Please use the link and read Psalm 91.

All last week, I looked at different Psalms that expressed their praise to God because He is God.  I think that this is important because the more we look at our great Creator with a heart of praise, the more we want to praise Him.  The more time we spend with Him, the more we want to be with Him.  So, looking at Psalm 91 not only reminds us that God is our protector, but when we seek Him in our hearts and dwell with Him we are promised protection.  This doesn't mean that we will never face difficulties or attacks from the enemy, but we are told that attacks and difficulties will not destroy us when we put our faith in God.

When we trust in the things of this world for comfort and protection, we will receive an imperfect and inconsistent comfort and protection.  However, when we call to God in our difficulties, we will receive what is best for us and we will receive exactly what we need.  When we trust in God, we may not get what we want or expect, but we will see in hindsight that He knew what was best for us.  I think that if we are keeping a heart of praise toward God and who He is, it helps us all the more to trust in Him.  This is because as we focus on who God is, we remember that there is nothing that is greater or more powerful than Him.  He is the Creator and Life-Giver and when we can remember that we have more confidence in His protection and knowledge.

Do you focus on God's greatness?  Do you long for His presence?  Do you trust Him?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Music Belongs To the Creator

This morning, as I am writing my post, I am smelling the peach and blueberry crisp that is currently baking in my oven.  My family and I will have to smell it all day until we can have it for when our friends come over to share it with us.  I love summers and all the incredible veggies and fruit that comes from it.  Not only do I love the fruit, but my family also enjoys picking a lot of the fruit we enjoy.  This summer, I didn't get a chance to pick sour cherries for one of my favorite pies since we were in Zambia; however, I made up for it by finding incredible peaches at our farmer's market.  On Saturday, I bought a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes and made some spaghetti sauce for our freezer and I'm trying to decide if I have more time this coming weekend to get some more to at least have some canned tomatoes.  I plan on picking apples soon and hopefully pears very soon!  God created so many wonderful foods for us to enjoy!  When I think of it, I marvel at His creativity.  All of the food and nature set aside, think of the fact that He created humans.  He made us living and breathing beings with the ability to worship Him.  As I continue going through my study on the book of Psalms, I want to look at a psalm that just tells us to praise.  Please use the link and read Psalm 150.

This is a psalm that I have always been able to relate to because I am a musician.  I enjoy reading how to use music and all the instruments to worship God.  I remember when I was young, there was a lot of controversy over the fact that churches were using instruments such as guitar and drums in their services.  I remember being very confused at this controversy because I had been attending a very large church that utilized all orchestra instruments along with guitars and drums.  I didn't see what the issue was.  Then I heard someone refer to the fact that those instruments were used for secular music and the drum beat was from the enemy.  Even as a child I recognized that argument as not making a whole lot of sense.

The reason it doesn't make sense is because these were instruments used in ancient worship and we can even see how David wrote about how they were to be used to honor God.  Don't you see how the enemy was really trying to take something used to praise and pervert it for his own purposes and then make us afraid to use them?  If we were to look at the argument that those instruments were used for secular music then we would also have to admit that God isn't big enough to redeem what already belongs to Him.  Music is His; music is His creation.  How could we possibly believe that the enemy's perversion of music could possibly be greater than the Creator?

Let's not listen to the lies of the enemy and reclaim what is already God's!  God is our Creator and He is greater than His creation.  Let's listen to the reminder of this beautiful psalm:  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

This post is linked with Create With Joy.