Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. Psalm 148:11-12
When is the last time you praised the Lord? I don’t mean a hasty thank you for what He’s done, or a praise tacked on to a list of requests, but true praise. Praise in which you express sincere excitement and admiration for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As a society, we are often ready to heap praise on professional athletes and teams or entertainers. We get loud and raucous at sporting events and concerts, but when it comes time to praise the Lord, our enthusiasm often wanes. Psalm 150 indicates that the Lord takes delight in our enthusiastic praise, calling us to dance, sing, and make music in his honor. When we take time to praise Him, our cares, worries, and troubles seem to diminish in importance because our focus is on Him and His greatness and power, not on ourselves.
He has given you a new day today, another chance to tell someone about what He has done in your life. Don’t miss this opportunity to praise Him for it.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139: 1-6
Michael and I have been married for 24 years, so we know each other pretty well. If I hear Mike rummaging in the pantry, I know that he’s looking for his favorite cereal. We can read each other’s thoughts with a glance, and Mike knows that if I quietly cough when others are around, it means that he needs to wrap up whatever story he is telling. Mike can tell if I am irritated, sad, or worried by the way I stand or how I hold my hands. But our knowledge for one another doesn’t hold a candle to how the Lord knows us.
The Lord knows what I am going to say before the words leave my mouth. He knows when I sleep and when I wake. He knows my plans and dreams, and He knows what’s in my heart. He knows my vanity and pride, my arrogance and fear, my selfishness and greed, and yet, despite all of this, He loves me. David writes that this “knowledge is too wonderful for me.” It is astounding that the God who created the universe “searches and knows me,” and I am so grateful for that. His love motivates me to serve Him. His love challenges me to crucify my sinful nature. His love reminds me that I have worth and purpose.
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4: 20-21
When Elijah was around six or seven years old, he asked, “Dad, when you met mom did you have hearts in your eyes?” Mike and I thought the statement was so cute and funny, but in all honesty, many of us see love in the same way. It’s all about emotions and feelings. It has to do with flowers and romance, passion and expensive gifts, which makes verses like those in 1 John troubling. We recognize that we don’t really have those kinds of feelings for our “brothers.” We don’t have hearts in our eyes, as Elijah put it. But the command to “love our brothers” has little to do with how we feel. Instead, this command hinges on our actions. True love manifests itself in how we treat others.
C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. Ask yourself, “If I were sure that I loved my brother what would I do? When you have found the answer, go and do it.” Our actions matter more than our emotions or feelings. What can you do today to demonstrate your love for God? What can you do to demonstrate your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Don’t worry about hearts in your eyes, take action.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
When Christ appeared to his disciples after the resurrection, Thomas claimed that unless he saw the nail holes with his own eyes and touched them with his hand, he would not believe. Many of us approach our faith in the same way; we’ve got to see it to believe it. But the author of Hebrews writes that faith is having assurance “about what we do not see.” The statement seems almost paradoxical. How can we have assurance in something that we can’t see with our eyes or get our hands on?
We live in a fallen and broken world, yet we put our hope in a God who promises to redeem it. We face illness and aging, yet we put our trust in a God who promises eternal life through belief in Him. We struggle with sin and tribulation each day, but we believe in a God who walks with us through the valleys of life. We believe in what we cannot see. We have a hope that is not based on our circumstances or our emotions. Our hope, as believers in Jesus Christ, rests in His promises.
“Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods. You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.” Psalm 40: 4-5
The season of advent is here, a time to reflect and prepare for the coming of Immanuel. Each day of advent brings us closer to the time when Christ came to Earth and “pitched his tent” among us, but this season is also a reminder that He will be returning for His people yet again. It is a time of great joy, hope, and celebration. But often during the Christmas season, people don’t experience much joy or happiness. Many times we focus so much on shopping, decorating, and hurrying to the next party that we miss out on the true focus of advent. The psalmist writes that “happy are those who make the Lord their trust,” but if our trust is in the number of presents we give or receive, or how many parties we can attend, or how fancy our tree looks, we miss out on the true blessing of this glorious time of year. The psalmist praised the Lord for his “wondrous deeds,” and declared that they were “more than can be counted.” In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, take some time to ponder what God has done in your own life. Take some time to ponder His great and abiding love. Take some time to reflect on and recount all His marvelous deeds. Trust in Him for your happiness this Christmas season, and you won’t be disappointed.
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
Wherever you go today and whatever you do, take some time to thank the Lord for his blessings. Thank Him for his love and mercy. Thank Him for his goodness and power. He has promised never to leave or forsake you; thank Him for that.
Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician, or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” Daniel 2: 27-28
When Adam and Eve were caught in their sin, their first response was to point the finger of blame. Adam blamed Eve and God. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam, and no one was willing to take responsibility. After thousands of years, I’m afraid to say that we haven’t changed much at all. When we are caught in a sin, we like to point the finger of blame as well. Many times we chalk our bad behavior up to silly things like a headache. We make excuses for our actions by saying we were tired or hungry or worried. In other words, our bad actions aren’t really our fault at all. However, I find it interesting that when we do something good, we always take credit for it. There is no finger pointing for our positive actions, unless of course we are pointing at ourselves. We love to take credit when we are generous or kind or patient.
That is what makes this narrative in Daniel so interesting. Here is Daniel, an exile in Babylon and a slave, standing before the king. He has a chance to make a name for himself. He has a chance to elevate his status in the Babylonian empire. He has a chance to take credit for the interpretation of the king’s dream. But he doesn’t. Instead, Daniel gives credit where credit is due. He tells King Nebuchadnezzar that only God can reveal the mystery of the dream. Daniel chose to elevate God rather than himself.
When it comes down to it, the only reason there is any good in me is because of God. Instead of taking credit for my positive actions, I need to point to Christ who is transforming me into His likeness. I need to give credit where credit is due.
“Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven.” Daniel 2: 17-19
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream so disturbing that he called all of his wise men together and asked the impossible. He demanded that these men not only interpret the dream, but that they also tell the king WHAT he had dreamed, threatening them with death if they were unable to do so. Perplexed by this impossible task, the wise men proclaimed that only God could do such a thing. No man could possibly reveal what King Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed during the night. Unsatisfied and enraged, the king ordered that all the wise men in Babylon be put to death.
Daniel was among their number, and when the king’s messenger came to deliver this dreadful news, he asked for time. Daniel and his friends prayed for mercy, realizing that they were incapable of meeting the king’s demands. In their desperation, they cried out to the only one able to save them from certain death, and the Lord responded with mercy.
Like Daniel, many of you may be facing an impossible situation, something completely out of your power to fix. When confronted with the impossible, there is only one place to turn. Call out to the God of heaven just as Daniel and his friends did. Plead for mercy, strength, and deliverance. The Lord has compassion for those who love Him, and His mercies are new every morning.
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4: 9-10
Fans of Sesame Street certainly remember Oscar the Grouch. Unlike the other muppets, he was unsociable and grumpy. He disliked visitors, grudgingly speaking to them from his trashcan. Oscar grumbled when anything or anyone interrupted his day.
I can definitely relate to Oscar. My husband loves to entertain, and he would be perfectly content having a large crowd of people over every weekend. Me…not so much, and when he does invite friends over, I sometimes grumble. This means extra cleaning, cooking, and socializing, and that can make me a little grouchy. But Peter writes that I am to “offer hospitality…without grumbling.” When I grumble and complain, I am not demonstrating love. If I serve others grudgingly, then I have missed the point. God has given each of us specific gifts, and those gifts are not to be used to serve ourselves, but others, and our attitude matters. Paul writes that without love, our actions amount to nothing. During this holiday season, let’s remember to show hospitality and serve others, without being a grouch.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19: 14
Our thoughts are powerful. The things we meditate on often determine our attitudes, emotions, actions, and words. A heart filled with worry and fear results in actions led by those emotions. A heart filled with anger and envy does the same. But when we meditate on the word of God, when we meditate on His goodness and mercy, then our words and actions are “pleasing” to Him.
Focusing on God’s word allows us to better hear His voice. Meditating on God’s love and power drives out thoughts of anxiety and stress. When we fix our minds on the Lord, our actions and words follow.