Shout with Joy -- (Psalm 100) -- Psalm 100 outlines how to approach God in prayer!
We are to enter his presence with joyful PRAISE on our lips for who he is and THANKSGIVING in our hearts for all he has done! This shifts the focus off how big our problems are onto how big our God is! He made us; he knows us and our needs far more intimately than we do ourselves. Praise says, "God, I trust you!"
Praise Always -- (Psalm 34:1) -- Can one really have the praise of God on their lips at all times?
Note the intro to Psalm 34: "Of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left." Wow!! How can this verse follow that?! The key is the word, "will" which appears twice. Turns out, praising God regardless of life's circumstances is a choice. Praise invites the power of God into our circumstances, no matter how dismal they may seem.
Taste and See -- (Psalm 34:8-9) -- How do you satisfy your inner cravings? Food, alcohol, addictive substances, sex, money, prestige?
A woman I once mentored told me this verse inspired her to lose 147 pounds. She said, "I discovered I ran to food with my inner cravings, but it only satisfied momentarily so I had to keep coming back for more....and soon my life was in shambles. I decided to try feasting on God by reading his Word more and God proved to me that He is more "delicious" and soul satisfying than the temporary "fix" food or anything else offers." There is no high like The Most High.
Don't You Know -- (Romans 6:12-22, I Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20) -- If you are a child of God, the Spirit of Jesus (Holy Spirit) lives in you!
Although he is RESIDENT, you must choose to make him PRESIDENT! That means surrender of all rights to your body. You are no longer in charge of your choices. You must continually check with the "CEO" of your body as to what HE wants you to do and say. How did he get this astounding privilege? He BOUGHT you.....with the currency of his own blood! He bought you out of the poverty of sin and darkness and adopted you into his family as a joint heir of ALL the wealth and riches that are his!! If Someone gave it all up for you, including their life and everything that was theirs.....wouldn't you live out the life in your body in total honor of that Person?
Salvation -- (Acts 4:12, John 4.6, Romans 10:9-10) -- If you are not a child of God, these verses clearly summarize how to enjoy that privilege!
The God of the Bible is unique in that he LOVES you, FORGIVES you, and DESIRES to have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with you. Why would he want this? Because He MADE you and wants you to willingly live in harmony with Him. You do not have to earn or deserve His love. He will not force you to love him. To fully enjoy the benefits of his love, you must CALL ON THE NAME OF JESUS and ask Him to save you from your sin and be Lord of your life.
Fear Not -- (II Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 41:10,13) -- Fear is the most common emotion known to man.
It is crippling and even paralyzing, extinguishing peace, joy and hope. God is not the author of fear. He invites us to take hold of his strong right hand which readily reaches out to help and encourage us in our times of fear. If you look around you, you'll be distressed. If you look within you, you'll be depressed. Look above and you'll be at rest.
Can Do -- (Philippians 4:13) -- Life's challenges often appear as insurmountable walls.
The first word many of us think when confronted with such a wall is "can't." This verse holds the key to "can." The truth is, we indeed "can't" without a Power stronger than ourselves. One may look around and say, "But, there are many people who don't acknowledge God who accomplish great things and don't need any 'crutches' to lean on. They appear to have the "can" down just fine without a God "crutch!" The truth is, everyone leans on a crutch of some kind, even if it one of their own making. Self-reliance, however, can never compare with God-reliance from an eternal perspective.
Don’t Worry -- (Philippians 4:6-7) -- These verses present a clear contrast and a clear outcome.
Often we are told, "Don't do this....Do this" without a clear reason why! These verses, however, take a problem every human being faces: WORRY, and provides an alternative: PRAYER, that not only defeats worry but clearly opens the door to blessing! Try making worry in your life a trigger to immediately pray, surrendering the concern to God. When you release your worry to the One who has the power to do something about it, you clear the way for peace to invade your mind instead.
Beatitudes -- (Matthew 5:3-12) -- These famous words, from the opening of Jesus' renowned "Sermon on the Mount" succinctly outline the path of blessing in life.
The path is not easy as it requires self sacrifice: poverty of spirit (humility), meekness (strength under control), mercy (forgiveness even when undeserved), purity (walking in light vs darkness) and a desire to pursue peace (rather than get even). The path gets even bumpier as those on it are called to rejoice in persecution, insults and false accusations because they claim the name of Christ. The path is indeed too difficult to walk alone! We must embrace Jesus, the only One who embodies all of these characteristics and allow Him to transform us as we surrender our natural responses to his supernatural ones.
Never/Not By Might -- (Hebrews 13:5-6, Zechariah 4:6-7) -- What an incredible promise!
God says he will march WITH us through the battlefields of our lives, be they physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. And, he not only comes WITH us, he provides the MIGHT and the POWER to face the mountains in our lives with confidence. He indeed IS our confidence!!
Filled With Joy -- (Psalm 9:1-2) -- How would you fill in this blank?
I will be filled with JOY because of____________________________.
God challenged me with this thought several years ago and I had quite the list ready for him. Slowly he began to show me that the only lasting, consistent, deeply fulfilling JOY was in HIM ALONE. Knowing this releases me from the weight of unfulfilled expectations. I was blessed to join Joyce on the last verse of this, my life's new theme song.
God So Loved -- (John 3:16-17) -- The one TRUE GOD is the ONLY One who LOVES and sacrificially GIVES.
Why on earth would he do THAT? Because he MADE us, he WANTS to spend eternity with us! There is a catch though. God is perfect and cannot wink at sin. Someone needed to pay the penalty we sin-infected people deserved. JESUS willingly stepped up to the plate, voluntarily giving his life, dying the death we deserved and then offering us his eternal love gift, "sins paid in full." How could something that cost SO MUCH be handed us without strings attached? The more difficult question is, "Why is it so hard to reach out and willingly receive it?" I am praying that you will be counted among those who do.
Trust In the Lord -- (Proverbs 3:5-6) -- What can you trust these days? WHO can you trust?
We are told the only one we can trust is ourselves. The problem is, we find ourselves leaning on a splintered stick, as we see our inadequacies in the face of what life throws at us. We all secretly wish for our own personal "Superman" sometimes. There is One who is not fantasy, however, who stands instantly ready for you to fall into his waiting arms: the God who made you! Can you think of anyone more capable of trust than that? Start by verbalizing, "God, I need you. I trust you with____________. Thank you for being there to direct the unknown path ahead."
God Is Love -- (I John 4:8, I Corinthians 13:4-8) -- Notice how the harmonies of the opening chorus repeat throughout this entire song. I did this intentionally as way of portraying God's love as the only sure, consistent foundation under our attempts to love. Indeed, we cannot consistently generate the beautiful qualities of love listed in I Corinthians 13. But, we can ask God to love others THROUGH us with HIS perfect love.
Be Joyful -- (I Thessalonians 5:18) -- This song is a summary of all the songs on this CD!
Being joyful, giving thanks and praying continually are stepping stones on the raging waters of life toward living in lasting peace with God and others. It is not ignoring the raging waters, it is a shift in focus: choosing to look UP at all the resources our all-powerful God provides rather than looking DOWN at the crises swirling at our feet. Walk out the door, embracing these promises and they will transform the way you think and respond to life!
Roots and Fruits -- (Jeremiah 17:7-8) -- Is it possible to remain unbothered, even productive when disturbing life circumstances scream otherwise?
These verses provide a definitive "yes." Note the succinctness of their directive: "those who" (anyone!) Key words: TRUST, HOPE, CONFIDENCE (what is required). Singular object: the LORD (only One source). If our "roots" (our trust, hope and confidence) are continually planted (saturated, anchored) in the Lord, we can draw upon his strength in adverse situations and accomplish way beyond what we thought possible.
Perfect and Precious -- (Psalm 19:7-11) -- What one thing could you never do without?
These verses clearly state what Is most precious, perfect, pure and sweet. God's Word is not just letters on a page, it is living and active to transform, nourish, comfort and challenge your mind and heart. There is nothing in this world more valuable or life-altering than the Word of God.
It is Good -- (from Psalm 92) -- How can we counter all the "bad" in ourselves, our world?
Self-help plans abound which are temporary at best, destructive at worst. Vance Havner once said, "If you look around you, you will be distressed; if you look within you, you will be depressed; only when you look above will you be at rest." This Psalm challenges us to focus on praising the Lord, making music to his name, remembering his love, faithfulness and all that he has done! Praising him is truly good!!
Who can be against us! -- (Romans 8:31-32) -- Do you ever feel like everything and/or everyone is against you?
No matter what you do, it doesn't work or doesn't seem to matter? Be encouraged by the hope found in this verse! There is One who is always FOR you, no matter what! God PROVED he was "for us" by giving up his own son to pay the sin penalty we deserved and going BEYOND EVEN THAT to graciously give us all things! If you are on God's side, be assured you are on the winning side!
Peace -- (John 14:27; 16:33) -- Is peace possible?
Political rulers, philosophers and educators down through the ages have sought to establish an ever-elusive world peace. In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus alone is called the "Prince of Peace." In these verses from John, Jesus underlines that his peace is different than the peace the world offers! How? It is unbreakable, it is not a "temporary fix," it is eternal. Jesus doesn't minimize the troubles of this world, but rather provides us with internal peace NOW as we trust in him and world peace in the future when he returns to rule and reign.
Sure Foundation -- (Isaiah 33:6) -- What foundation are you building your life on?
Achieving educational, career or monetary goals? Establishing a reputation that will go down in history? This powerful verse reminds us there is ONLY ONE SURE foundation- one replete with salvation, wisdom and knowledge. And, there is only ONE KEY to access this treasure: the FEAR (respect, submission to, worship) of the Lord. Jesus echoes this in Matthew 7:24, "Therefore whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock...."
Sing to the Lord -- (Psalm 104:33-35; 105:1-5,7) -- What memories dominate your thinking?
Injustices done to you? Unfulfilled expectations? Here is the antidote for negative thinking: "Remember the wonders he's done! Give thanks! Sing praise!" to the God who daily puts breath in your nostrils and life in your body! Notice all the times the poet says, "I will." You must DECIDE, CHOOSE to praise the Lord for as long as you live. If you focus on the 5% good in your life, it will fill your mind 100%.
Know Me -- (Jeremiah 9:23-24) -- Have you ever made a list of your greatest accomplishments?
Perhaps it is your educational degrees? Your job? Influence? Wealth? Now, turn that list over to God and see what he thinks about it. Turns out, what is highly esteemed among people doesn't even show up on God's list! In fact, only ONE THING shows up on his list: truly KNOWING HIM --understanding that he alone is Lord! Paul echoes this exact thought in Philippians 3:8, "Everything else is WORTHLESS compared with the infinite value of KNOWING CHRIST JESUS my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, that I may gain Christ."
Undivided -- (Psalm 86:11-13,15) -- What does the term, "undivided" mean to you?
Perhaps "not divided, separated or broken into parts." Why would David ask this of God? The dictionary also defines it in this way: "concentrated on or devoted completely to one object." This is more difficult. Our minds are constantly pulled in many directions. Perhaps God is in our thoughts periodically, but....consistently? This is a tall challenge. Seems impossible. Oswald Chambers, whose life was characterized by difficult challenges, loneliness and suffering stated, "Jesus has become the CONSTANT COMPANION of MY THOUGHTS." He learned to consciously invite Jesus into every thought throughout each day....and learned what it meant to have a complete, wholehearted, unbroken, consistent relationship with him.
What the Lord Requires —(Deuteronomy 10:12-13) -- Are you an "outline" type of person?
"Just give me the bullet points," you might say, "and I'll know exactly what to do!" Well, God has done that for us! You don't have to wonder what he wants, or dig through a maze of vague sayings to try and figure it out. He wants us to CLEARLY KNOW his expectations of us! Here they are: fear, walk, love, serve, obey. Note his first expectation is for us to FEAR him....reverence, respect, submit to and worship him. This is the foundation for the other points, for unless he first RULES and REIGNS in our lives, we are powerless to do the rest. And, walking with him, loving and serving others and obeying him become a JOY rather than a burden when HE is our focal point!
Opportunity for Joy -- (James 1:2-4) -- What is your first response when life throws you a curveball?
Disappointment? Fear? Anger? Frustration? Anxiety? Depression? Probably not JOY!! And yet, that's what James, the brother of Jesus tells us SHOULD be our first response. "That's impossible!" you may logically argue. And indeed, it IS impossible from our feeble human vantage point. But, consider this acronym for JOY: Jesus. Overcoming. You. By SUBMITTING to JESUS in and through every trouble of life, you allow HIM to OVERCOME your natural responses. Give your trouble instantly to Jesus...call out to him, throw your fears up to him in prayer, ask for his help....and you will be amazed at the calm, steady JOY that at first trickles, then flows and finally surges through your mind and heart as you set about doing your part and surrendering the rest to God. He will never fail you....and you will GROW into his likeness in the process. This is the ultimate JOY!
Stand Up and Praise -- (Nehemiah 9:5b-6) -- Why do people stand up and cheer?
Standing shows appreciation, respect and favor. Thousands pack sports stadiums, standing and cheering for their favorite team. Entertainment venues of all kinds find people standing and clapping in appreciation of a musical performance, a dance, drama or speech. In the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites STOOD, listening, while the Levites read from the Book of the Law for a quarter of the day, then they CONTINUED STANDING while they confessed their sin and worshipped God for another quarter of the day! Eight Levites called out to the people with loud voices asking them to "STAND UP and praise the Lord your God, who lives from everlasting to everlasting....!" God is the ULTIMATE ONE to stand and adulate because he is FAR GREATER than anyone or anything! He ALONE is the LORD! HE made the skies, heavens, stars, earth and everything in them. In addition, HE preserves and gives life to everything...even the multitudes of heaven worship him! Spend time each day STANDING IN AWE, reverence and worship of our great God. No ONE or no THING comes even close to ALL GOD IS and ALL GOD HAS DONE. Stand up for HIM!!
Wait -- (Psalm 130:5,7) -- How would you fill in this blank: "One of the hardest things in life is _______________________.”
While life has many daunting challenges, perhaps one of the most difficult is waiting. Worrying is often closely related to waiting. David counters this idea in these verses though! Instead of impatiently waiting for his problem to be solved.....he specifically says he is waiting FOR THE LORD. He is putting his HOPE in HIS WORD. David shifts his focus from his OWN EXPECTATION to the LORD and his word, confident of HIS UNFAILING LOVE and ability to FULLY REDEEM anyone and any situation. Waiting rooms are God's "time out" in our lives.... drawing us deeper into a trusting relationship with himself. Don't wriggle while you wait. Allow yourself to be drawn into the loving arms of the Lord. Listen and learn.
Unfailing Love/God Promises -- (Psalm 138:2-3; Numb. 23:19) -- Has anyone ever broken a promise they made to you?
Have you ever broken a promise? The answer is probably "yes" for many people to both questions. Humans are good at mouthing promises but often poor at long-term commitment to the same. There is ONLY ONE who has NEVER made a promise he did not fulfill. GOD ALONE. EVERY SINGLE WORD he has spoken either HAS or WILL come to pass. He ALWAYS FOLLOWS THROUGH because he is NOT a man...HE CANNOT LIE!!! I don't know about you, but that's the kind of God I want as the foundation of my life.....one who does not change like shifting shadows. His promises are BACKED by the HONOR OF HIS NAME. His unfailing love and faithfulness never change. Praise him! Promise your life to him!
Hope -- (Romans 15:13; Hebrews 6:18-19, 10:23) -- What do you think is the most crippling emotion one can have?
I think it is hopelessness. Paul, in Ephesians 2:12 states, "Remember that at that time you were excluded from Christ…WITHOUT HOPE and without God in the world." He is saying that without God, without Christ, we are without hope. Conversely HOPE is found in CHRIST ALONE! Romans 15:13 reminds us that the God of HOPE WANTS to FILL us with all JOY and PEACE as we TRUST in him. The hymn writer affirms this: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…" The author of Hebrews declares that HOPE in Christ is the ONLY ANCHOR for our souls in the storms of life. On what or whom do you place your hope?
Yours, O Lord -- (1 Chronicles 29:11-14) --Try to picture in your mind the throne room of heaven.
Picture yourself, among others, coming before the King of kings and Lord of lords, falling prostrate before him, stunned by his profound beauty and brilliance. As he gazes lovingly upon you from his throne, intimately knowing the number of hairs on your head, would your first words to him be of YOURSELF or of HIM? I believe David's majestic doxology of praise and thanksgiving would immediately pour from our lips from hearts overwhelmed by all he is and all he has done for us. "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, the glory, the majesty and the splendor! For everything in heaven and earth is yours!" Tune your heart to continually praise and thank the Lord and, as the hymn writer states, you will find that "the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."