Month: October 2014

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

31 Days...

Today is October 31st – the last day of October. For the last 31 days God has allowed me to write words which hopefully lead you into awe of your God. I want to end the month with an observation I have made while reading through the book of Psalms this month.

The phrase “steadfast love” is found 122 times in the book of Psalms. It is mentioned in 52 of the 150 psalms – 35% of the psalms. In Psalm 136, the antiphonal phrase “for his steadfast love endures forever” is found 26 times.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, steadfast means firmly fixed in place, not subject to change.

The love our God cherishes toward us is firmly fixed in place and it is not subject to change. Now with that idea in your mind, contemplate the full meaning of the repeated phrase of Psalm 136 – “for his steadfast (firmly fixed in place, not subject to change) love endures forever.”

Do you see the repeated ideas just in that little phrase? Steadfast…endures… forever. I don’t think God was breaking English Composition 101’s rule about succinctness. I think He was trying to beat into our stubborn minds and hard hearts that His love is nothing like ours. It never changes. It never fails. It lasts forever. It endures no matter how many times we turn away from it.

I don’t deserve it and, according to the Bible, you don’t deserve it either. And yet, it is given to us so freely, and not just given, but lavished on us. Lavished…poured out on us regardless of the cost; regardless of the worthiness of the recipient. How can it be?

I don’t know. I can’t begin to understand it. I am in awe of the God who can love worthless wretches like us. And I can’t help but praise Him. Won’t you join me?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1-3

Praise in Community

Psalm 1471

One of the steps of inductive Bible study is to look for repeated words. Sometimes that is not so easy, but in the last five chapters of the book of the Psalms finding repeated words is not at all difficult.

In five short psalms we are commanded to praise the Lord thirty-five times. Each of the five psalms begins and ends with the sentence: “Praise the Lord.” Psalm 147:1 says, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” We are not just commanded to praise our God, but we are taught that is good for us, and it is a pleasant experience for us. It just makes sense for us to praise the God who made us, takes care of us, loves us, and redeems us. Why would we not praise Him?

Let’s focus for a minute on the praise described in Psalm 148. In this psalm specific groups are commanded to praise God ranging from angels to all parts of the earth itself, to beasts of the earth and sea to weather to all the peoples of the earth, both high and low, young and old. Praise certainly does happen individually, but this psalm celebrates praise in community. Everything and every person is called to praise the Lord.

It’s an exciting psalm. Thirteen times the word “praise” rings out. Nine times the word “all” pounds through the verses – all his angels, all his hosts, all you shining stars, all deeps, all hills, all cedars, all livestock, all peoples, all his saints are called to praise the Lord!

Have you experienced this contagious, exciting community praise? Last night with our 3rd and 4th graders we had a taste of it. After talking about how Elijah stirringly called the people to stop waffling between worship of Baal and worship of God, the kids wrote out prayers to God and quietly hung them up on a prayer wall. Then, together we sang a song called Because of Your Love by TruWorship. It’s not a quiet song (neither is Psalm 150!) but it’s packed with truth. The motions were very simple so we could all focus on the lyrics. It was a time of community praise to our God and when it was over I wanted to do it again. It was good and pleasant and fitting.

So grab a friend or your kids or your dog or just anybody – turn on a song like Because of Your Love and praise the Lord!

13 Reasons to Praise God

13 Reasons

Today, one of the last days of this writing challenge, I am going back to one of my favorite things to do when I study the Bible – list-making. Indulge me a little bit and let the Holy Spirit teach you and remind you of what you already know about your awesome God.

Why should we praise God? Psalm 145 gives us thirteen reasons. Read them slowly, remembering the times when you have experienced each of these characteristics of God in your life.

1. He is gracious.

2. He is merciful.

3. He is slow to anger.

4. He is abounding in steadfast love.

5. His mercy is over all that he has made.

6. He is faithful in all His words.

7. He is kind in all His works.

8. He upholds all who are falling.

9. He raises up all who are bowed down.

10. He satisfies the desire of every living thing.

11. He is righteous in all his ways.

12. He is near to all who call on him.

13. He preserves all who love him.

Of what other being can we truly say all thirteen of these characteristics?

Tonight, I taught my 3rd and 4th grade class about Elijah and Ahab and the prophets of Baal. The false idol, Baal, was unable to deliver his worshippers from drought and famine. The chunk of stone the Baal followers had deified had no power to do anything when they fervently called on it. Only Jehovah, the one and only God, had the power to throw fire down from heaven, to consume the sacrifice and the altar, and to send the life-giving rains after three long years of drought. He alone is worthy of our praise.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,

and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

Psalm 145:21

 

A Wholehearted Thanksgiving

wholehearted thanksgiving

We are almost to that time of year when the words “thankful” and “thanksgiving” are heard regularly, but when I read Psalm 138, I can’t help but wonder how thankful I really am. The first line of the psalm reads, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.” I do give thanks to God, but I am questioning whether I give thanks with my whole heart. And then, I wonder, what does it mean to thank God with my whole heart. Does it mean being thankful for everything; does it mean being thankful without even a shade of insincerity?

It is, of course, important and essential to look a bit further – to read the sentence in the context of the rest of the psalm, to compare it with other similar scriptures, and perhaps, even to consult theologians who have commented on the Psalms. The rest of the psalm builds on that first sentence, increasing in emotion and coming to a crescendo in verse 8. The psalmist recounts the things for which he thanks God – His steadfast love and faithfulness; giving him strength of soul; regarding the lowly; preserving his life; delivering him from his enemies. The psalmist’s heart is full of God and so he cannot help but declare his thanks even before those “gods” who would oppose the one true God. His full heart bubbles up and makes it impossible for him to be silent.

Psalm 9:1-2 echoes Psalm 138. “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” The idea of exulting in Him conjures up images of a child playing in a fountain or water sprinkler, letting the water fall all over him and jumping and squealing in delight and pleasure. The goodness of God falls all over us. We delight in it and our delight naturally flows into praise.

So how can we make this coming season of thanksgiving wholehearted? I would suggest these things:

1. Fill up on the Word of God. Saturate your mind and your heart with it. Let the goodness of God fall over you.

2. As the psalmist did, keep a list of the wonderful deeds of God – both from Scripture and from your daily life.

3. Open your mouth and praise and thank your God, and then open it again and let the people around you know why you are thankful.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”

Psalm 138:1-2

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