Who doesn’t love to hear about a good book? Okay, so probably a lot of people. I know not everyone likes to read, but for those of you who do, be on the lookout-coming soonish, Book Reviews, here on my page, is where you’ll find my thoughts on some of the books that I read. I don’t know when my first one will be, but rest assured, it will happen!
I love to read, and over the last couple of years, I have discovered some authors whose work I love. Author Spotlight is going to be where I feature some of those authors. I’ll be doing “interviews” with them so we can all get to know these authors a little better. The first Author Spotlight is scheduled for June 10th! I can’t wait to introduce you to some of my favorite authors and their books!
This past Sunday, we took communion at church. As I slowed down and stepped away from all the busyness to focus on Jesus and what He did for me, I was just in awe and I feel like we need to take some time here to proclaim the goodness of God and exalt Him. To tell of His works.
Last week I mentioned praising God even when I am overwhelmed. This turns my eyes back to my source of hope when my eyes have strayed. It helps begin to put my sometimes chaotic, or fearful, or overwhelmed mind to rights. It reminds me of who God is and the power He has, and it reminds me of who I am and that I belong to Him. Offering praise to God, especially when we don’t feel like we can, when we feel overwhelmed, is a powerful thing. It turns our eyes to the source of our power and defeats the enemy and sends him running.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15, AMP
I call on the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:4, AMP
God is worthy of our praise. Even if He never did another thing for us, He is worthy. Just for the incredible fact alone, that He sent His only Son to die for us so that we could be with Him, so that we could be set free, He is worthy.
Think about what that means for a minute. If you are a Christian, He pursued you, He chose you to be His. For that wonderful blessing alone, we should be praising Him, honoring Him. He didn’t give up on us. He didn’t walk away. Instead He took the time to pursue us, to woo us, to show us the depths of His love. How incredible is that! Are you His and is He yours? Then you have something to praise Him about.
Even beyond that is the reality that He deserves our praise no matter what we perceive He has done or not done for us, just because of who He is. He is God alone!
Give to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness or in holy array. Psalm 29:2, AMP
God calls on us to exalt His name, to tell of His wondrous works, the things He has done for us. Let’s praise Him. Let’s focus on praising Him, on His goodness, specifically to us.
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear, revere, and worship You, goodness which You have wrought for those who trust and take refuge in You before the sons of men! Psalm 31:19, AMP
He IS the Great I Am. He is everything we need. He is our rock. He is our shepherd. He is our provider. He is our comfort. He is our guide. He is all that we need. Who has He been to you when you needed Him most?
Sometimes it’s not easy to praise Him. Sometimes we feel lost or overwhelmed, but that doesn’t change the fact that He’s worthy. And sometimes we offer distracted, unfocused praise. We need to choose to praise Him. To be purposeful, intentional about it. He is so deserving and worthy of our praise. Turn your eyes upon Him. Give Him honor and glory. Think about the things He’s done for you. Think about how you are praising Him. Don’t let it be some haphazard, unfocused thing that you don’t really mean.
God’s Word is a powerful tool in helping us to praise Him. Read through the Psalms and intentionally praise Him through the words you read that bring glory and honor to Him, to His name.
We take refuge in Him by praising Him and allowing His presence and His glory to surround us. He lifts our heads for us when we praise Him. Consciously choose to praise Him, to turn your eyes on Him. Let His goodness wash over you as you praise Him.
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3, AMP
So, let’s tell of His glory, His might, His power, His strength! Let’s declare to the world His goodness and His good works! Share in the comments below what He has done for you, who He has been to you, how He has met your greatest need, how He has lifted you up. Share verses of scripture that declare His goodness and His wonderful works.
I WILL bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My life makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble and afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought (inquired of) the Lord and required Him [of necessity and on the authority of His Word], and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:1-4, AMP
When I think about some of the things I’ve walked through in my life and how different, how heavy the burden would have been if I had not had the hope Jesus offers as I walked through those things, I realize just how much He’s helped me, and I’m reminded of the amazing hope He offers. There have been situations in my life that were tough, things that hurt, and had I not had God to bring me through, had I not had Him to place my hope in, I cannot imagine how I would have ever made it through.
A while ago, I was reading during my quiet time in Acts and I came across this verse:
“Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted exceedingly; moreover, my flesh also will dwell in hope [will encamp, pitch its tent, and dwell in hope in anticipation of the resurrection].” ~Acts 2:26 AMP
I was blown away as I contemplated the idea of dwelling in a state of hope—setting up camp, pitching a tent, not going anywhere kind of camping in the HOPE of His resurrection, lingering and abiding there. Putting my eyes on that, keeping focus on that. I thought, “Wow! I want to do this. I want to be a hope dweller.” So, I prayed and asked the Lord to help me be a true hope dweller.
Some days, it’s “easy” to pitch my tent and hope and stay there, but other days things happen to test my hope dwelling status. In those moments, it seems like my flesh is chomping at the bit to move, and sometimes, it feels like before I even really know what has happened, my flesh has ripped up the stakes, rolled up the tent, and said, “Let’s move, lady!” (Here I realize that I am no better than the Israelites as they begged to go back to captivity in Egypt instead of continuing through to the promised land.)
And so begins the march toward old land, unhealthy land, the land of fear and worry where my flesh quickly sets up camp and hammers in stakes. Before long, it’s as though I have forgotten that I ever had intentions of continually dwelling in hope. My campsite in fear and worry begins to feel heavy and overwhelming and I struggle under the weight of it. Then God finds a way to remind me of what He showed me, of how how I wanted to pitch camp in hope.
As I wonder if it’s possible to get back to and camp in hope again, He reminds me gently of the practical steps I need to be taking that will take me back to hope. Taking thoughts captive-not dwelling on things that want to cause me to worry or fear. AND choosing to praise Him even when I feel overwhelmed which means I am taking my thoughts away from the trouble area and turning them towards the source of my hope.
If I’m honest with you, I will tell you that I have failed many times at dwelling in hope. Some days feel like the whole day is a failure. Others there are glimmers of hope while still others are bursting with hope. But I have come to realize that if I am never tested in this area, I will never learn how to change it and I will never really grow to the point where I really, deeply dwell in hope, to the point where the stakes are driven so deep it’s impossible to uproot them. I am so thankful for a Savior who walks beside me and guides and teaches me if I’ll listen. A Savior who reveals truth to me and then allows a way for me to learn to actually WALK in that truth.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ~Romans 5:3-5, NASB
A friend recently shared a vision he’d had as he had been struggling and trying to find some answers. In this vision, he was standing at the top of one mountain, and could see himself at the same place on the next mountain. In between the two mountains was a valley. As he watched, it was as if God said, “Be prepared—you are going to go through this valley, but I will be with you and you will come out on the other side. It will be an easier path if you go through the valley with Me than if you try to do it on your own.”
As Christians, we are not exempt from the valleys, the pain in life, but we have a choice about how we go through them. Are going to go through them with the Lord and His easy yoke, the one that redeems the pain or are we going to struggle through them our own way, on our own terms? Will we go through kicking and dragging our feet and making the pain in the trial that much worse and quite possibly making the time in the valley last that much longer? Or do we stop, rest, and abide in Jesus and place our hope in Him to get us through? Do we focus on the overwhelming length of the deep valley that we can’t see our way out of or do we focus on the One who walks beside us and let Him guide our steps through?
Everyone faces valleys in life. I am not promised a life without them, but God hasn’t let go of me yet and I have His trustworthy promise that He won’t. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. ~John 10:27-29, NASB
Those valleys have the potential to produce “perseverance, proven character, and hope” in us. And I can tell you it’s true. Each step/trip through the wringer has made me stronger on the other side and even more confident in God and His grace and new every morning mercies. These battles have taught me who God is and who He wants me to be. What the enemy meant to tear me apart has only served to strengthen my relationship with the Lord though in the midst of it it may not have felt like that.
Have you pitched your tent in hope? Or are you dwelling elsewhere at the moment? Let the Lord show you what steps you need to take to get back to dwelling in hope. Each trip through a struggle, a valley has the potential to make your next stay in hope a little longer, to make you a little stronger if you’ll let God be the one to guide your steps through.
I read a blog recently about sacrifice and the lack thereof in the society we live in today. I was convicted as I read it because I realized, “how often do I really and truly live sacrificially?” It really started me thinking and I wanted to share my thoughts here.
We’re told from a very young age in our culture to “follow your dreams,” but we’re hardly ever, if at all, told to sacrifice for others. We’re taught to go after, with tenacity, the things and the lifestyle that we want, but we’re almost never encouraged to sacrifice courageously—to give up ourselves, the things we love, or the wants we have for the sake of another. Somehow, that “follow your dreams” mentality has lead to a “me” focused society. It’s all about me, what I want, what my desires are.
In the blog that I read, the writer had done an internet search about our me-first society and found the following statements:
• YOU don’t need anyone’s permission to do what is right for YOU.
• I just do what I want. It’s not about what people are saying. It’s about ME.
• Do YOUR thing and don’t care if they like it.
• If YOU don’t go after what YOU want, YOU’LL never have it.
• I’m going to do what I want, when I want, how I want, and you can’t do anything to stop me.
We’ve willingly received the lie that it’s all about me. We often plan our futures and plot to reach our goals and dreams without ever consulting the Lord or looking to see how our decisions and actions will affect those around us. What if part of His plan for us is for us to live and love sacrificially? I can pretty much guarantee you it is. Christ sacrificed Himself for us, and through His Word, we know that He calls us to sacrifice as well. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11, NASB
- God calls us to sacrifice for Him, to give up our selfish/self-focused ideas and plans and seek His ways. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB
- He calls us to love our spouses sacrificially. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. ~Ephesians 5:25, NASB
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:22, NASB
- He calls us to love our brothers and friends sacrificially. This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:12-13, NASB
- He even calls us to love sacrificially those whom we don’t know or those who may not love us in return. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? ~Matthew 5:44 & 46, NASB
We’re often bothered by this concept of giving ourselves up to the Lord, of giving up our own self-focused plans for His plans. We think it might be a burden to do so or that it might make us feel trapped. We think our freedom comes in following after “me, myself, and I”, in doing whatever “I” want or whatever makes “me” feel good. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Following after “me” leads to destruction. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. ~Proverbs 16:25, NASB. True freedom comes in following after the Lord. It’s actually freeing, liberating to not follow after “me” and “whatever makes me happy.” Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~Matthew 11:29-30, NASB.
Following after God brings so much of a deeper satisfaction than seeking after my own selfish desires or what makes me “feel good” for the moment can bring. Trust me, I know. I’ve lived both ways. Following after “me” only takes me so far into the realm of satisfaction and contentment. And it only lasts so long before it just doesn’t fulfill me anymore. But following after the Lord changes the game. As I seek Him, draw closer to Him, His desires/His plans become mine. The work He is doing and joining Him where He is at work become the desires of my heart, and my deepest satisfaction is met in following Him and in pursuing His plans. It’s satisfaction that following MY dreams just can’t duplicate or compete with. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. ~Psalm 37:4-5, NASB. That contentment and satisfaction is something that is so hard to explain, to put into words just how deep it is, just how satisfactory it is. It goes soul/spirit deep and seeps into all areas of my life, of me. Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” ~John 4:13-14, NASB.
As our desires become His desires, we can be certain that He will accomplish them. They’re His will, His plan. We don’t have to wonder if they’ll happen. O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. ~Isaiah 25:1, NASB. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB. Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. ~Proverbs 16:3, NASB. He will accomplish His perfect plan.
What/who are you following after today? Are you chasing after “me” dreams or “God” dreams?
We have a choice in the direction we go—whether we will follow the world and culture we live in that points us in the direction of all things “me” related or seek after and live sacrificially for His kingdom.
Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . yourself or the Lord? I encourage you—be intentional and be real in the choices you make. This is where my heart is now—trying to live each day with the mindset that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”