When I was a young kid, The Imperials released a song called, “Praise The Lord”. Their lead vocalist at the time was Russ Taff who had an incredible voice. To this day, this song is one of my all time favorites. The first verse and chorus say, “When you’re up against a struggle / That shatters all your dreams/ And your hopes have been cruelly crushed / By Satan’s manifested schemes / And you feel the urge within you / To submit to earthly fears / Don’t let the faith you’re standing in / Seem to disappear / Praise the Lord / He can work through those who praise Him / Praise the Lord / For our God inhabits praise / Praise the Lord / For the chains that seems to bind you / Serve only to remind you / That they drop powerless behind you / When you praise Him.”
When David was a teenager, King Saul would have him come in and play his harp to the Lord each time he was stressed or oppressed by an evil spirit. When David would play, the spirit would leave. David saw that as a teen and learned the power of praise. He began to write down his songs which combined with other praises to God became known as the book of Psalms. We now read them as poetry, but they were set to music. Even without their original tunes, they still release the power of praise when we read them. They speak to the very soul of each one of us because we have a need to praise God whether times are good or bad.
Psalm 147:1 and 3 says, “Praise the Lord! It is good to sing praise to our God; it is pleasant and right to praise him. He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds” (GNT). It’s always good and right to praise the Lord. It has the power to break your chains, to lift you out of the situation you’re standing in and to usher you into God’s presence. Take time today to get alone, whether in your car, your home or wherever, and sing praises to God. It will lift your spirit and change your perspective. When we magnify Him instead of our problems, things get put in their proper place. Praise is a tool that God has given you to combat the enemy and fortify your spirit at the same time. Don’t underestimate the power of praise.
Here is the link to The Imperials song “Praise The Lord” if you’d like to hear it.
My son is constantly asking questions. Sometimes we know the answers. Sometimes we have to look them up. Then there are times he asks questions no one knows the answers to. It’s often a constant barrage. We usually answer him from wherever we are sitting or ask him to come to us so we can hear him better. However, if he’s ever in trouble or there’s a problem, when he calls out, we’re on the move trying to get to him. We don’t just sit there and tell him to figure it out or ignore him. Depending on where he is, sometimes he can’t see that we’re on the way. It’s a similar relationship with God that we have as His children. He’s always listening to us and our prayers. Whenever we need Him, He’s there to help even when we can’t see Him.
In Matthew 14, the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when a storm popped up. They were doing all they could to keep from going under. Jesus had eyes on them, but they couldn’t see Him until He came walking on the water towards them. Peter felt safer with Jesus on the water than in the boat so he asked to join Jesus. As he walked toward Jesus, Jesus walked toward him. At some point, Peter became terrified of his situation and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus reached out, grabbed him and walked with him back to the boat. When they got back in, the storm stopped.
Psalm 145:18 says, “You draw near to those who call out to you, listening closely, especially when their hearts are true” (TPT). God doesn’t expect us to go through our storms alone. He’s not far away when it feels like we’re going under. He’s waiting on us to stop trying to do everything on our own. Once we realize our need for Him, and call out to Him, He draws near to pull us up and walk with us through it. When we put away our stubbornness and pride that says we can do it on our own and call out to Him, He draws near to us, reaching out. It’s a point we all must come to in those times. He doesn’t want you to suffer. He simply wants us to recognize our need for Him and to want to be close to Him. Like a good parent, when we call out, He comes running, even if it’s on water.
We usually take Thanksgiving as one day out of the year to be thankful for the things we have. I believe it’s important to be mindful and thankful daily for the goodness of God. I try to start each day with an attitude of gratitude. My first words of prayer each day are thanking God for another day. Then I thank Him for His goodness and His mercies. I need the daily reminder that God is good and He is for me. He gives us good things, and He doesn’t withhold good things from us as believers. Being thankful daily for His goodness is one way to count my blessings. Being mindful of His goodness helps me to keep perspective on who He is and who my supplier is. All that we have comes from Him and belongs to Him. The more we appreciate the goodness of God, the more of it we will see.
Here are some Bible verses on the goodness of God.
1. Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.
James (Jacob) 1:17 TPT
2. The Lord is our protector and glorious king, blessing us with kindness and honor. He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right.
Psalm 84:11 GNT
3. Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Psalms 103:1-5 NLT
4. How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
Psalms 31:19 NLT
5. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation (NLT).
The other day I looked over at my son and it hit me that we’ve passed the halfway mark of how long a kid traditionally stays at home. I started thinking of how much more we wanted to pour into him with the time left. Then I started thinking of my own life and how I’m passed the halfway point of an average lifespan. I thought of the things I still. Want to do and accomplish. Then I began to think about purpose and calling. There’s a lot more left unaccomplished than accomplished when it comes to fulfilling God’s plan for my life. I wondered if God would still do what He promised, if there was still enough time to make an impact and if I’m able to do it.
I started thinking about David who was a teenager when his father was visited by the prophet to anoint the next king. It wasn’t long after that when he killed Goliath and everyone knew him. He had been invited into the king’s palace to play music. He must have thought things were happening quickly for him to become king. Then year after year passed by and he found himself hiding in caves and eventually having to live in a foreign country in order to stay alive. He must have wondered if the prophet got it right. Was he going to be king? Would God fulfill His promise? Was it too late? He was human so he probably had times when he doubted or wondered if he interpreted it right.
In Psalm 138:8, David prayed, “You will do everything you have promised; Lord, your love is eternal. Complete the work that you have begun” (GNT). When David doubted or felt down, he would reassure himself to trust in God. He would go back through the Scriptures and recite the times God fulfilled His promises. He built his faith up when his circumstances caused doubt. His prayer here reminds us that God isn’t finished with our story, no matter how late in life you feel you are. His promises still hold true. He will do everything He’s promised to do with your life and complete what He started. His timing is not our timing, and His ways are not our ways. Be faithful in the waiting, build up your faith and stay ready. God’s not done with your story yet.
When I was a teenager, I had a shirt that read, “Second place is first loser”. When I watched “Talladega Nights” and Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” I laughed pretty hard. He expressed my mentality pretty well. I’ve always been on the competitive side. Part of that must come from being the middle child. I honestly can’t stand losing, and now my son has it. He got a 99 on a test this year. He came home disappointed and said, “I might as well have failed.” Not being first is a hard pill to swallow, but it is what Christ has called us to. When we accept Him, we are to get off the throne of our life to make Him number one, putting ourself in second place.
On the night before Jesus was to be crucified, He knew what was coming. For 33 years He knew what He was born to do. Even though He knew it, and was willing, His flesh fought back. In Mark 14:36, we hear Him pray, “Father, my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want” (GNT). He made a conscious effort in the most difficult circumstance to submit to God’s will and place His own in second place. He was demonstrating to us that we must yield to God and constantly offer Him first place in our lives. Anything less is not true submission to Him.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord” (AMP). Becoming a mature Christian is the process of giving up the throne of your life to Jesus. It’s willfully taking second place, which is a very hard thing to do. When we accept second place, and allow Him first place in our lives, we fulfill God’s will for our lives because we have life in proper order. If you’re struggling to give up first place, you’re not alone. It’s a daily process of taking up our cross, crucifying our flesh and following Him (Matthew 16:24). Spiritual growth and maturity happen when we accept second place.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I would fall asleep, but never get rest. I would also stop breathing for up to a minute before popping up gasping for air. The doctor said that having my heart go from a resting rate to the sudden fast beat could kill me, so he put me on a CPAP machine. He explained that I had a negative pressure where the pressure outside my body was greater than the pressure inside my body. The CPAP, which stands for continuous positive air pressure, would force air inside my body to push against the negative pressure and keep me from not breathing. Ever since I’ve been on it, I’ve been able to get rest when I sleep.
In Matthew 4, Jesus had just been baptized and was led into the wilderness for a 40 day fast. While He was hungry and weak, the enemy brought negative pressure in order to tempt Him. He was first tempted to turn stones into bread, but He pushed back by quoting the Word of God. He was then tempted to test God, but again He pushed back with what the Bible says. Finally He was offered earthly kingdoms in exchange for eternal ones. Just like before, He was able to overcome by the Word of God. In doing so, He taught us how to overcome the negative pressures we all face.
Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (NLT). Having God’s Word in our heart provides a positive pressure inside us that pushes back against all the negative pressures from people around us. Without having it in our hearts, we can have the life choked out of us spiritually. Reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture and studying it are all ways we create positive pressure inside our spirit in order to overcome.
When most of us were young, we were taught (sometimes forced) to share. As we got older, we began to share less when it became our choice. Sharing is a way to value another person. It sees their situation and says you care enough about them to give them something that is yours. Did you know that sharing is Scriptural? God calls us to look out for the needs of others and to share spiritually, emotionally and financially with what we’ve been given. We’ve all had times when we’ve been in need. We can identify with those who are in need with something we have to share. If you start looking for people to share with, you won’t have to look very far. Be a blessing today.
Here are some Bible verses on sharing.
1. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 NLT
2. For I long to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift, to strengthen and establish you; that is, that we may be mutually encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12 AMP
3. Learn to generously share what you have with those who ask for help, and don’t close your heart to the one who comes to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:42 TPT
4. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
Proverbs 22:9 ESV
5. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
There’s an exercise I do with people to show how our minds jump to conclusions and we assume. We observe a conversation where a lot of things are left open, and then I ask them questions about it. The group doesn’t know that I’m exposing how their brain works. As I ask the questions, they typically make assumptions. I keep asking questions to get as much detail from them as I can to see how much they’ve made up.
I keep asking questions until someone inevitably says, “I don’t know.” I then go back to what was said and ask, “So what do we really know?” I sometimes have to go through it several times before they get it. Most of the answers they give are based on their assumptions and not on what they know. I then like to ask, “How much of your life is based on what you’re assuming versus what you know?” It’s a heavy question that I usually leave several seconds of silence after while they think.
Job was a righteous man in the Bible. He honored God in all he did and even fell down to worship God when he lost his kids and his wealth. As time went on and he was struck with boils, his friends began to question his integrity. In their conversations back and forth, it’s clear that they make many assumptions about his predicament and how God is doing it to Him. They don’t know that Satan is behind the whole thing and is the one tormenting Job.
In Job 19:25, Job makes a great statement. He says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives” (NLT). We may not know why we go through certain things or why things happen, but we can know that our redeemer lives. We can live with assurance that He is in control and our lives are in His hands. We need to stop our assumptions that God is behind everything bad that happens in our lives. We know that it’s the enemy who steals, kills and destroys. It’s God who brings life. So they next time things happen, don’t make decisions based on assumptions. Go with what you know.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I ok an assessment at work several years ago. One of the things it told me was that I like big risk, big reward scenarios. The down side to that is that I leave a lot of low hanging fruit behind going after those situations. It’s a mentality that many of us have: go big or go home. When we think of doing things, we think of grand gestures like proposing on the Jumbotron at a game, but miss the little things like opening a door. When we think of any endeavor, we think of doing things that get noticed. Slow and steady wins the race can be a foreign concept. Success in our eyes often looks like being famous, being the lead person or being the boss. Being the person who does things behind the scene or garner little attention can feel like we’re failing, but the truth is greater success is found in the little things.
I often identify with Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, he brought all of Israel to Mount Carmel for a big showdown with the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven. When it was all over and the prophets were killed, Jezebel threatened his life. After running and meeting with God, he was sent to a small town. He was met at the gate by a widow picking up sticks to build a fire so she could have her last meal. When he said he was hungry and asked for her last meal, she offered it to him. It was her small act of faith that got blessed. Her flour and oil didn’t run out until the crops returned. Big acts of faith are great, but mostly God is looking for small acts that often go unnoticed.
Matthew 25:34-36 says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me’” (NLT). These small acts of faith went unnoticed even by themselves, but not to God. He loves to see us love others in the little things. It’s time we opened our eyes to what’s in front of us. Does someone need a little help? It could be Jesus in disguise. He gives us daily opportunities to share His love through small acts. Don’t miss them while you’re looking for the big ones.