Let All Things Praise the Lord

Today’s journal writing marks the final chapter of Psalms. Our Bible Journal team has written about every chapter, one hundred chapters written by eight authors, and fifty chapters from unknown authors.   The Book of Psalm is filled with love and adoration, struggle and strife, happiness and joy, and desperation and sadness.

Sound familiar?  The books of Psalm were written thousands of years ago, as mankind still struggled with balance and challenges related to everyday life.  The authors question God, implore to God, and ultimately praise God in the final chapter.   The chapters describe what many of us feel and experience today.

Psalm 150 concludes the book with this…

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

2 Praise Him for His mighty acts;

Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;

Praise Him with the lute and harp!

4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;

Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!

5 Praise Him with the loud cymbals;

Praise Him the clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Do you feel like praising God?  Do you believe a relationship with God is right for you?  Or do you have questions?  Are you unsure why things happen and how that relates to God?

I choose to praise God, and it comes down to one verse.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Understanding God’s word can be complex.  It can be overwhelming, especially stories that are thousands of years old.  What I do know is that there is emphatic proof that Jesus walked the earth, and He was the Son of God.  I believe that Jesus came to earth to save man from ourselves.  I believe God, through Jesus, demonstrated how we are to love and treat others.  Man, has consistently fallen away from God throughout history and Jesus was sent to change our relationship with God.  If you need more proof of Jesus’ existence, read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

I can always do better, but I try to praise God through my prayers, the message and good news about Jesus I share with others, and my attempts to serve as an example how a relationship with God can change your life for the better.   Praise Him through the trials and tribulations.  Praise Him through the pain. Praise Him during the good times.  Our lives are about growing closer to our God and our faith can grow stronger through the good times and the bad.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 149

We celebrated Father’s Day last weekend. Throughout the weekend when I picked up my phone and scrolled through social media, most posts were related to the holiday. Kids were celebrating and honoring their fathers. They were writing words of gratefulness for the selfless acts of their dads and sharing memories of special adventures and everyday routines of love that they appreciated about their dads. Moms were praising their husbands for being awesome dads and posting videos of their husbands in their best fatherly moments. They were listing the reasons they most appreciated their husbands and the acts of service they found most endearing in their partners. I read many beautiful tributes to men from people who felt honored to be in family with great men…people who felt privileged to be able to share with the masses their love, honor and praise for their special man. Many of the Psalms read similarly to these Father’s Day posts. They are praising, honoring and documenting the attributes and acts that the Psalmists appreciate about our Heavenly Father. We’ve read almost 150 of them since the first of the year so we should be well versed in the hearts of these writers. We should be familiar with the words of praise and the honor they ascribe to our Father. The phrase that struck me this morning is “glorious privilege”. It is our glorious privilege to sing a new song to the Lord, to sing His praises with others, to rejoice in our Maker, to praise His name with dancing, to be delighted in by Him, to be crowned with victory by Him, to rejoice that He honors us, to sing for joy as we rest in bed and to let the praises of God be in our mouths! All are our glorious privilege!

 

As I read back over the list of praises described in this Psalm, I am overwhelmed by God’s love. I still, after almost 50 years of relationship with Him can hardly believe that the Creator of the universe delights in me. As I try to accept this one truth, my heart is filled with praise, gratefulness, wonder and awe. Out of 9 verses of truths and 150 chapters of truths in just this one book of the Bible, one sentence has the power to melt my heart and show me the value that God places on my life. Which truth undoes you?

 

My hope is that this past six months has changed the way we see and relate to our Heavenly Father. I trust that soaking in His praiseworthiness for so many days has renewed our sense of wonder and awe for who He is, how He relates to us, and what He has done for us. I hope we are more readily relishing in the glorious privilege of being His. I hope we are more grateful and aware of the good gifts He lavishes on us. I trust that praises of Him are running in our mental ticker throughout our days with less conscious effort on our part. I hope that spending this much time in one book of God’s word has made us different.

You Do Amazing Work

This morning, I awoke to the sound of birds singing.  They were enjoying the first morning light and the calm air.  As I listen to their song and the stillness surrounding me, I find awe.  It comes from knowing that God has done this.  He set the sun to come up, every day.  He made the trees and created the air that we breathe.  He set us all in motion around his creation so that we can know him.  As I listened, I said, “you do amazing work, God.”

This is what Psalm 148 is all about.  When we are finally still enough to see and experience God, what do we do?  When we are awed by creation and realize at that moment that God is right here among us, how do we respond?  We praise him!

When I think of how we praise, I am reminded of a man that I knew a long time ago, Dan Olsen.  We were standing on a beach, overlooking a gorgeous bay.  He said simply, “you do amazing work, God.”  I was caught off guard by his audible comment, yet the intentionality of the remark was profound.   You see, he clearly understood the beauty of that place, at that moment, was the good work of God. He knew there was only one appropriate response to the awe.  Praise!

Today, I pray that you will see the beauty around you.  It has been carefully crafted for each one of us so that we can experience God.  When you do, remember to praise Him.

 

Pleasure in Our Love for Him

Today’s reading is Psalm 147.

I have to admit I began reading this chapter in preparation on the Bible app on my phone while sitting at my niece Delaney’s graduation. There were 401 in her graduating class. I also have to admit that while I was very happy to be there and very proud of her..our last name starts with the letter B. So, she was announced very early on and then after what seem liked quite a while later, I said to my brother, ”Ugh…we are only in the D’s still!” Shortly thereafter I read Psalm 147. I was reminded again how different God is from me and the humans he created.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

He gathers the outcasts of

Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:2-3

Every single one of those graduates matter immensely to God. He created each one of them. He knows their story and every little and big thing about their past and their future. And most importantly, despite their past or future missteps or mistakes He loves them more than they can imagine…every single one of them. Jesus said in Matthews 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more of value than they?”

During creation, God said about each day that it was “good.” But, on the sixth day when He created us, he said in Genesis 1:31,”…behold, it was very good.”

The graduation recognized those for their accomplishments through notations in the program and attire worn such as medals, pins, and colorful stoles. And those students are deserving of that recognition for their hard work, but what is so unfathomable about God is that He loves all those graduates and us the same regardless. And what He takes pleasure more in than all their accomplishments is when they love Him.

His delight is not in the

Strength of the horse,

nor His pleasure in the legs of a

man,

but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who hope in his

steadfast love.

Psalm 147:10-11

As humans, we are attracted to those that have the best grades, best personality, are the most athletic, or the best looking, but that doesn’t matter to God. In fact, He may have taken the most pleasure in the boy or girl who graduated 401 out of 401 in the class because they love Him. It is so comforting throughout the Bible how we see how God uses the meek and the lowly and some of the worst sinners for His purpose. As Romans 11:33 says, His knowledge, wisdom, and ways are unsearchable. This should give us so much peace if we feel we have messed up or not had the worldly success we wanted or met the expectations others had, or we had for ourselves. All that matters to God is that we love Him. And if you are reading this and you haven’t loved Him yet, or at least not as much as you think you should, God tells us yet that’s ok in Romans 5:8, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He does not care about your past. God wants your heart, and He wants it now. And it’s never too late.

I am extremely proud of my niece Delaney. She was Homecoming Queen and has had success both in the classroom and on the lacrosse field. She is beautiful both inside and out. What I am most proud of though is the woman of faith she has become and her love for the Lord. I wish her all the success in the world. No doubt her future is bright. But, in the real world we know their will be challenges for her because well..that’s just life here on Earth. However, I have no doubt she is ready to face the future because she is strong in the Lord and has put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Psalm 146

Why do people have to die?
Where did cancer come from?
When you die, do you instantly go to heaven?
What does your body look like after you’ve been dead for a month? 
Explaining death to children is no small feat. It’s hard enough for adults to understand, and then putting it into terms and helping kids wrap their minds around it can be a challenge.
But the rich conversations grow our faith and draw us closer. Not to be cliche, but Jesus really is the Answer! Our next door neighbor, our teacher’s young daughter, friends and family members, are all being missed and also being celebrated as they enter eternity. Listening to our kids process these losses has been a huge encouragement to me in this season. We miss them, but they’re so happy to be with Jesus! 
Just as Jon shared yesterday about his Scottish Granny’s passing, we can celebrate the joy we had in these special relationships.  God creates amazing experiences and community for us! While death brings emotions of sadness, fear, and anxiety, it can also represent new life for eternity. When Jesus comforts Martha at the loss of Lazarus he says  “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, they will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”.
Psalms 146, our reading for today, gives us more insight into death:
      • This song starts out with praising the Lord, and ends with praising the Lord. Our lives can reflect this same beginning and end. (verse 2)
      • Keep our eyes on Jesus, our trust is in him, not people on this earth. He has a plan to complete His perfect will. (verse 3-4)
      • People on earth are blessed because of their hope in the Lord. (verse 5)
      • It’s God who created, loves, upholds each of us. When we miss his creation, we can still rely on him. (verse 6-8)
      • The Lord is eternal and is over all, forever and ever! (verse 10)

Psalm 146 

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Lord, you alone are to be praised. You are the eternal father who blesses us and loves us. Thank you for leaving us with your Word to comfort us and give us hope of an eternity with you. Your timing is always perfect. Amen

Psalm 145 – Praise!

This week we learned of the passing of our friend and honorary family member, Isabel Burns. Our long-time readers may know her as “Scottish Granny“.

The draft of this post led with a phrase about “mourning the loss” but after writing those words I realized they weren’t really true. We are not mourning, we are celebrating the joy we experienced in knowing her. Isabel had been bedridden for the last few years with limited capacity to communicate. It was her time to go home to her maker; to be relieved of the pain and suffering she had endured for a very long time.

Let us all turn our mourning to praising God today for all that he has done. For the friends and family members he has given us; those we have lost and those with us. God’s timing is perfect, he makes no mistakes, everything he does is out of love for us so that we can do good things according to his plans.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)

Today’s reading is Psalm 145, a song of praise, written by King David. Perfectly fitting for us to take a moment to praise our creator. What really hit me were the many attributes to describe God. The one TRUE God is:

  • God and King (v1)
  • Eternal (v2)
  • Worthy, great (v3)
  • Mighty, powerful (v4)
  • Splendorous, miracle provider (v5)
  • Doer (of deeds); not idle (v6)
  • Good, righteous (v7)
  • Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, his love unfailing (v8)
  • Good (to everyone), compassionate/merciful (v9)
  • Thanked and praised (v10)
  • His kingdom is glorious; he is powerful (v11)
  • His deeds are mighty; he reigns (v12)
  • He rules forever, keeps promises, gracious (v13)
  • Helper, uplifting (v14)
  • Giver, sustainer, provider (v15-16)
  • Righteous, kind (v17)
  • Near, available (v18)
  • Giver, listens, responds, rescuer (v19)
  • Protector, destroyer (of the wicked) (v20)

Just think, even on our very best day, in our very best moment, we may display only a few of those attributes. God was, is, and always will be every one of those and more. He is worthy of all praise, and as David closes out the song, may our response be the same.

I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)

Psalm 144

Summer is the only season I like.  June is my favorite month of the summer and, therefore, my favorite month of the entire year.  Kids are out of school, the temperature is warm (but not super hot and humid), and fun summer activities are in full swing.  After June of 2020 when COVID was on the rise and so many things were cancelled, I have found June of 2021 to be extra fun doing things WITH people rather than trying to social distance all the time.  In fact, I have played more golf so far in 2021 than I played in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.

I play golf and have dinner most every Tuesday night during the summer with a group of friends.  Five of us played together this week (rather than a typical foursome), so 9 holes took us a little longer.  Because it was guest night, there were also more people eating dinner than usual.  It was almost 9pm my the time we got our food and I found myself starting to get a little frustrated because everything was so slow…UNTIL…I realized it was June 15.  My favorite month of the year was half over already.  Oh no!  The “self talk” that followed this revelation sounded just like the Zac Brown song I’d listened to earlier in the day –

Quiet your mind
Soak it all in
It’s a game you can’t win
Enjoy the ride (Zac Brown and Wyatt Durrette, 2010)

I stopped and reminded myself to slow down, as I really had NOTHING for which I needed to get home – kids are too old to need my help at bedtime, I didn’t have any work to do, and I didn’t need to get my lunch and clothes ready for tomorrow since I’m working from home.  So, we ordered dessert and stayed out a little longer.  So fun!

Given the events of Tuesday night, it is no surprise that my heart was draw to David’s words in verse 4 of our scripture for today –

For we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4).

Life is short.  We have the opportunity to choose Jesus and live the life to which God has called us while we are alive, but when life is over, we don’t have a “re-do” option.  Knowing that God alone is the source of purpose, fulfillment and joy for our lives, why then would we chose to live for anything else?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Carpe diem!

Psalm 143

Psalm 143:3 “My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground. He forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear”.

The word enemy is used frequently in the Psalms. David cries out to God for deliverance from his enemies many times including todays reading of Psalm 143. The idea of having an “enemy” is a difficult one for me. I don’t have anyone that I would call my enemy. I am a peacemaker and try to avoid conflict as much as possible, probably to a fault. Even if I disagree with someone I can usually see their point of view and empathize with their situation. I often skim over these verses. How can I relate to a man being pursued by his enemies?

As it turns out, I do have enemies. My enemies present as pride, selfishness, laziness, fear, worry, envy…..I could go on and on. These are the things that keep me from enjoying the bounty that God has provided. If left unattended these “enemies” take hold and choke out all the good things that God has in store.  Just the other night I woke up obsessing over the coming school year. We have 3 kids that will be in different sports and activities, my husband and I work full time, our oldest is a senior and I don’t want to miss any opportunity to support him this year, who is going to do the laundry and the cleaning? Can the bathroom go a few months without being cleaned? Is it ok to forego grocery shopping and just eat out all year? Can we go back to last year when we were all locked up in our homes with nothing to do? Needless to say I didn’t sleep that night and struggled the next day with fatigue and felt like I lost an entire day. Those middle of the night worries are the enemies that chase me, knock me to the ground, and force me to live in darkness. I let all that happen in a matter of hours. I didn’t recognize my spiraling thoughts as distractions until it was too late. And my worries are for normal things, not the unexpected like illness or the death of a loved one. God is present for all struggles – big and little. The challenge for us is to continue to turn to Him in all things and trust His plans, not our own.

Psalm 143 is a perfect Psalm to pray against the enemy. When we are consumed by our own thoughts and feeling lost there is still hope! On our own we cannot escape the grip of the enemy, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). First, remember His works – 143:5, then reach out to Him in prayer – 143:6, trust Him – 143:8, and finally seek to do His will – 143:10. (thank you turbo notes!) When we take the first steps of action towards God, He will meet us. It doesn’t ensure a trouble free ride, but we can rest in the assurance that He goes before us and has plans beyond our own and peace beyond understanding (Phil 4:7). Practicing this in the everyday will strengthen us to do the same when the unexpected happens.

James 4:7 “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Tomorrow, next week, and next year will happen whether I worry about it or not. As I choose to trust God for the upcoming year I look forward to His peace and watching His plans unfold.

Shelly

 

 

A Psalm of Instruction

Today’s Reading: Psalm 142

When I was a child, I used to run from our neighbors, the Anderson’s to my house.  It was in the country, and you had to pass by some woods and often a cornfield before you made it home. ( I once snuck downstairs and watched a part of a movie my older brothers were watching, Children of the Corn, bad idea…) I would literally run full sprint for 3/4 of a mile screaming for our dog to meet me halfway. In addition to pure fear, I felt alone and afraid.  As a boy, I would often feel alone as I hung out with friends who seemed to have their home life together as I witnessed our household fall apart. Even as an adult, I can speak of a time where I was afraid, alone, and a little insecure about what the future would hold.

We can all feel loneliness at times. David was feeling this way as he stayed in a cave hiding from Saul.  I think there is a difference between being alone and loneliness.  Alone can be more of a physical state of being, where loneliness can occur even when you have others around.  Have you ever felt this way? Deserted, depressed, defeated? David shares some instructions here on what he did to work on healing.

  • Cry aloud to God. Let Him know how you are feeling.  I’ve realized through the years I can’t fake it all the time and pretend everything is all good.  I’ve also realized the answers I’m looking for don’t come from any of my ideas.  They are all His.  He is the One who knows us best.  (Verse 1-2)
  • Remember that He is watching over us! The noise of the world can muffle the Lord’s voice.  Everything wants our time and attention. The world can give out a beating on your emotional state and leave you struggling.  (Verse 3)
  • Allow Him to be your Refuge. David was being fearful, abandoned, and feeling like he had lost everything. Still, God is above it all and
  • Remember – Problems will fade in His Presence. God will show us his Goodness just like he showed David.  (verse 7)

Are you dealing with feeling alone? Depressed? Feeling imprisoned by your surroundings?

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then You knew my path.

Take a moment to refocus on Him.  Take the cares, worries, and problems and turn them over to Him. Heavenly Father, help us turn to you when our emotions get the best of us, when we feel alone, afraid, imprisoned, or scared.  You will grant us comfort.  Please help us to trust in your plans for our lives.

Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.”

Have a blessed day!

Testimony

Today’s Reading : Psalms 141

Throughout our lives we have experience many different emotions and situations. I have experienced joy, sadness, despair, comfort, healing, jubilation and awe. These different emotions have been a part of me these last several weeks.

It stared with a little time away with my wife. We had a great time reconnecting and celebrating us as a partnership. Over the last several years we have been able to grow together and understand each other on a deeper level than when our relationship started (eighteen years ago) and even more since we were married (thirteen years ago).

Almost immediately after we returned, I received a call that one of my closest aunts passed away unexpectedly. I have many aunts and uncles, but this one was one of my main prayer partners and warriors. She and I had a relationship that was so connected when either one of us hurt, the other could sense it. We would call each other and say “God placed you on my heart” and we would prayer for each other. I had the honor of being a pallbearer for her to her final resting place.

Upon returning home from the funeral on Memorial Day, Oliver had one of the most terrifying seizures I and Jillian has witnessed. This happened in the middle of the night and we had to go to the emergency room and then to Lurie in Chicago to the neurology department for more observations. He was released on Thursday.

The following Sunday, my mother had to go to the hospital for observation and monitoring for heat exhaustion and cardiac monitoring. Then this past Thursday, Ollie had another major seizure that was a result of sodium depletion and new active brain tumor. We spent three days at Lurie Children’s hospital in Chicago getting him stable again. This has been a rough couple of weeks.

As I was sitting with Ollie and reading my devotions and my scriptures, Psalms 141 rings true: 1-2; 8-10

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

8 But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless![c]
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.

In my devotion I have been going through the books written by Luke: The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. One of the most profound parts that I was reintroduced to was when Paul was overwhelmed and didn’t want to continue, Paul had been through so many trail and tribulations that he wanted to give up everything, but God spoke to him and gave him courage.

Acts 18:9-10.

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

 Here is a few of the trials that Paul had endured before Corith.  2 Corinthians 11:22-28.

23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[a] in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

These weeks make me “Cry out to God, Give ear to my voice”  for his protection and grace. And I have the assurance that he has been with me, is with me, and will be with me in times like these and beyond because of his love and promise. I pray that this will be a testimony that would encourage and enrich you in whatever you will, currently experiencing, or will experience in the future.

Lynden McGriff