Give Praise to God -Psalm 105:1-4

The Lord God Almighty Is Worthy Of All Praise

1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.

Profoundly Praise

The heart of this Psalm is praising the Lord for what He has done.  The author immediately begins with a command to praise God: not just in private; but to announce to the world what He has done.  As image-bearers of God, we are to loudly proclaim, as the works of His hands, the glory of the One who created everything and even now directs the paths we take.

It brings great glory to God when His people, who are called by His name, proclaim what God has done.  Not only what God has done in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but also what God is doing right now.  After the fall of man through Adam, God hasn’t rested.  He has constantly been at work in the lives of everyone and in the order, motion, and the progression of all things that are occurring.

We would do well to remember that God’s name, YHWH, means “I am He who exists and is dynamically involved in your life.”  We are to publicly praise God for who He is and what He has done.  The Psalmist next describes three ways to do this.

Symphony of Song

The first way that we can praise God is through singing.  When you have time (OK, you can stop laughing now…), search through the Bible for the words sing, singing, sang, and sung.  Throughout the Bible, the only times that these words are used are when human beings are using their voices in song.  Nowhere does it say that angels, who are mightier than humans, express their praise to God in song.  The angels proclaim the glory of God, but they don’t sing of it (at least the Bible doesn’t record that anywhere).  But we are told to make music and sing to God as part of our praise and worship of Him.

Singing God’s praise may be a function that is given only to humans, in that singing evokes an emotional response that resonates within us.  The angels will never know of the glorious and inexpressible joy that we have from our release of the bondage of sin and invitation and acceptance into the household of God.  We have been given the great opportunity to make a joyful noise to the Lord in gratitude for all that He has done.  Even if you sing out of key, or can barely make a sound, use all of your might to express your joy to the Lord as best you can in song, for it is not only for the benefit of man that we sing praise about the Lord, but it is to extol and recount the glory of the Lord and His mighty works.  And when we make every effort to glorify God in song that expresses the deepest desires and emotional state of our hearts, it pleases God to hear us express it in this manner.

Revel and Rejoice

As part of our praise experience, we are to glory in His name and rejoice in our hearts as we contemplate all that God has done for us and through us.  Our hearts are to be tuned to praise God rather than ourselves or others.  Nehemiah said that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  We should have the attitude of gratitude when it comes to the Lord.  As we remember how the Lord has helped us and brought us through deep waters (our most difficult trials), our hearts will be tuned to rejoice in the One who has done all of these things.

See and Seek

And, as part of our praise, we should always look to the Lord and His strength, and seek His face always.  We are to constantly desire to be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  We are most protected and strengthened when we are in the will and the presence of the Lord.  When we make it our heart’s desire to seek the Lord in all things, our very lives pour themselves out to Him in a continual song of adoration and praise.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I have the attitude of gratitude?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart rejoices in You.  May I ever seek Your face, and desire to be in Your presence.  When I sin, I am appalled at what I have done.  But when I repent, You are faithful to forgive and help me to draw close to You again.  Give me the strength to get back up when I have fallen.  Help me to recount all that You have done, that men may know of Your mighty works and deeds, and know Your heart that is filled with love for Your creation.  Give me a new song to sing, that my praise would be ever vibrant and changing, not a mere repetition of words to music, but a continual outpouring of praise and adoration towards You that is impossible to stop.  May all praise, honor, glory, power strength, and dominion be Yours forever and ever, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Discernment and God – Philippians 1:9-11

Perfection In Love Provides Discernment For What Is Good

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Lengthening Love

Paul was given, as part of his gifting by the Holy Spirit, a heart to see the people of God grow in their knowledge and discernment. Paul recognized that since God is love, increasing in the very defining characteristic of Almighty God would provide the perfect place for the development of knowledge and insight into the wonderful character of our Creator.

As we grow in love, we grow in the understanding and capability to actively participate in the character of God, and therefore to know Him experentially. This gives us the opportunity to increase in our discernment of what is good and proper. Love fulfills the law, and love shows us the way to what is good. For of every good giving and every perfect gift, love is the most powerful and lasting of them all.

Increase Insight

Paul desires that we develop the insight into the character and experiential knowledge of God. It is not merely enough to learn about something. To truly understand it, you must embrace it and experience it. It them becomes real for you, and as you practice anything, its nuances and the depths of its virtues become apparent.

For instance, it may look wonderful to jump from an airplane, free-fall for a while, and then pull the cord to release the parachute to glide gently to the Earth. This all looks good, fun, and liberating, but until you actually do it, you won’t experience the thrill of free-fall, the wind against your face, the buffeting of the air against your body, the temporary feeling of liberation from gravity, and the majesty of seeing the land beneath you from a great height.

You won’t experience the nuance of controlling the parachute with your controls, moving left and right, leveling and directing your glide, working with and against the currents of the air, and the moment of truth as you try to gently end your flight without causing harm to your body as you either suddenly or slowly decelerate your fall with your feet and legs. It only becomes real to you when you do it. Words cannot truly describe what the body must experience. And words cannot truly describe what the spirit must experience as well.

Develop Discernment

As we exercise our spirit through the practical application of love, we will have the wonderful opportunity to increase our capacity to discern what is good. Exercising love provides the circumstances in which we can more fully understand and discern what is good and right. This gives us the perspective of wisdom – the practical application of knowledge – that helps us to grow spiritually wise.

Discernment is a vital tool in the life of a disciple of Christ. Discernment provides the filter through which paths can be assessed to end in good or evil. Discernment give the disciple insight to grow in love and the character of Almighty God. Without discernment, we will fall for every trick of the enemy, and find ourselves ruined, and possibly find our faith shipwrecked:

1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

4 “But let no one bring a charge,
let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother-
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

Filled with Fruit

The fruit of righteousness comes from and through the experiential knowledge of following Jesus Christ – obeying His commands.  When we obey Jesus, we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit has He did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  And when the Holy Spirit of God indwells us, and we give Him permission to work in us and through us, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Producing Praise

When we are walking in the spirit – being filled with the fruit of the Spirit by the One who provides the fruit, we live a life that bring glory and praise to Almighty God.  As we bear fruit in accordance with the will of God, we develop discernment concerning both how to bear fruit, and what we should avoid in order to bear more fruit.  Just as an arborist prunes trees so that the dead wood no longer burdens the tree, and increases the available nutrients for the good branches, so does discernment help us to stop feeding the dead wood in our lives.  It is only when we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit that we are living a life that is correctly modeling our divine calling and nature as image-bearers of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I increasing in the insight and discernment by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to bear fruit through me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is the greatest honor to bear fruit for You.  You have given me life as a branch unnaturally attached to the vine, grafted in for Your pleasure.  You prune my dead wood, and help me to grow and bear even more fruit for You.  Help me to recognize the dead wood in my life, and to deny it any thought or energy.  Help me to let it die, and be pruned off, so that I would grow in grace, wisdom, and discernment of what is good, proper, and holy.  Help me to be sustained by Your nourishment, for You provide for all of my needs.  Guide me in the way I should go, and help me to do all that You have planned for me to do in Your will and Your way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Joy of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

God Fills Us With Joy

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Children are Chosen

God has chosen His children.  He has predestined that all men should be drawn to His Son since Jesus was crucified.  The true children have heard, and will hear, the message of the Gospel with joy, and it will manifest itself with power through the Holy Spirit in the deep conviction that comes with the witness of the Holy Spirit about all things that are true. Truth is no longer an abstract concept relegated to relativism, but is now the embodiment of the Son of God who has declared:

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Holy Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and power of the word of the Living God as the word penetrates into the hearts of all who listen.  God’s word will not go void;  everywhere it is heard, His word will have effect upon all who hear it.  The soil of our hearts is being plowed by the difficulties of life and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of times, the Holy Spirit of God is able to soften the hardest of hearts in the emotional pain of suffering and loss.  God has said through His servant Paul that we are predestined to be His children.  We merely need to respond to the message.

Severe Suffering

We know that we are His children because we have responded to His word, and it has grown in us through the hardship of life.  Paul reiterates that when we become imitators of him, we are being imitators of the one who sent him.  Hardship and suffering produce perseverance,  which produces character, which then produces hope – a fully justified expectation of completion of what has been promised.

When we are tried through the crucible of suffering, our faith is tested, and it grows.  Those who do not have a deep faith in the solid rock of Christ will find that whatever they have placed their faith in will be eroded by the crashing waves of hardship and suffering, just as sand is swept away by the outgoing tide.  The sand erodes, and exposes the fragility of the foundation upon which the building was laid.  But upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, no hardship or suffering can prevail.  For it is within Christ that we have our joy. and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Justified Joy

The Holy Spirit testifies of the Son of God, and fills us with joy as we cling tightly to the author and perfecter of our faith.  And a peace that transcends understanding fills our heart.  We may not understand why, but we know that our joy is justified, well-placed, and authentic.  Nothing and no one can take that joy from us except that we take our eyes off of the one who beautiful gaze is the sole object of our affection:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. – Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

It is in the light of His glory and grace that we find our peace and our joy.  In these desperate and wicked times, turn to the author and perfecter of your faith, and witness the joy and peace that transcends understanding as He fills your heart with Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the joy of the Lord to fill me up during my duress?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, glory and power be to You who are exalted above all.  Praise be to You in all things, for You are all in all, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  Thank You for bringing me joy through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit as I walk in Your ways.  Give me a heart of thanksgiving and joy as I contemplate the magnitude of all that You have wrought.  Tune my heart to Yours, and help me to endure the trials that are and that are to come.  Prepare me for the great and terrible day of the return of Your son.  Help my life to be a witness to the love, grace, and mercy that You extend to all people in the hopes of reconciling everyone to Yourself.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Bearing Fruit for God – John 15:6-8

Remain In Christ To Bear Great Fruit For God’s Glory

6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Wasted Wood

God is the master gardener.  He carefully prunes His vines, removing the dead portions of branches to make them more profitable, and when necessary, removing the dead wood from the vine.  Just as any gardener will tell you, it is never good when you have to remove entire branches from your plants.  Although necessary in order to ensure the survival of the plant, it impacts the plant and lowers the productivity of your investment.  Branches that are dead to the vine become a liability, and are good for nothing except to be burned in the fire.  We need to keep this in mind, for most of us are wild branches grafted into the vine.  And if God will prune out the native branches, how much more so will he for the grafted ones!

Favors Fulfilled

Jesus says something very profound here.  If we remain in Him, God will grant whatever we ask of Him!  Part of that is because when we are in Christ, we are walking in the same way that He did – in complete submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit of God.  As such, we are in the position to be used by Him to execute the plans and purposes that God desires to accomplish. We are other-focused, with our eyes on Jesus and the cross.  When we are focused in that manner, the requests that we make will be to ensure that God’s will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.  God certainly would grant any request that fulfills His plans and purposes.

The second part is that when we are submitted to God as Jesus was to the Holy Spirit, we will only be seeking what is good.  Self-centered prayers and desires will not dominate our thoughts, and we will put down the attempts by the enemy as he attempts to distract and derail our efforts by placing selfish thoughts in our minds.  If the enemy can distract us from fulfilling our purpose that God has planned, he is successful in doing the only thing that he can – to keep us from properly bearing the image of God.  And when that happens, we are not bringing glory to God.

Glory to God

Jesus points out that the purpose for granting our requests IS to bring glory to God.  It is not for our comfort, self-fulfillment, emotional happiness, material enrichment, or any other purpose than to bring glory to Himself.  God and God alone is worthy of glory.  We have been tasked with doing His will to bring glory to His name.  God will do everything He can to make sure that we are successful in our attempt to submit in obedience to Him for this purpose.  Anything that we ask that God has planned and desires will be granted:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Decidedly Disciples

When we are submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we will bear much fruit in season:

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither-
whatever they do prospers.

Since we are the branches and Christ is the vine, we are expected to bear fruit for Christ when He wants us to, in or out of season:

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

God is full of grace and mercy.  But if/when we continually refuse to bear fruit for the one who gives us nourishment and provides for our every need, eventually He will prune out the dead wood.  And for those who respond to His desire to bear fruit, He will prune the dead portions of the branch so that the rest of the branch will grow and bear fruit, thus honoring and bringing glory to God.  And when we bring honor and glory to God by bearing fruit for Him at His request, we show that we truly are His disciples.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to bear fruit out of season for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown great compassion towards me in bringing me to Your Son.  Grant me the strength and desire to bear much fruit for You.  Help me to be prepared to do all that You require of me so that I may bring glory to Your name.  Help me to be a better disciple, and grant me the ability to submit and obey Your word more and more each and every day.  Forgive me when I fail and succumb to selfishness desires.  Guard my mind and my heart against the plans of the enemy, and give me the character to consistently turn towards You in every circumstance that You permit in life, for You are Sovereign Lord over all creation.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Give Thanks to God – Psalm 136:1-3

Always Give Thanks To God

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

Thoroughly Thankful

In this Psalm, the author stresses that we should give thanks to God.  Everyone benefits from God’s grace and mercy whether they realize it or not:

  • Every breath is a gift from God
  • The sun rises on the good and the evil
  • He causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust
  • Every good giving and every perfect gift is from God.

The list goes on and on.  We are the recipients of a loving and faithful God who greatly desires to pour out His blessing upon us.  We are directed to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us.  The author then goes on to list some very good reasons to give thanks to God:

God is Good

The first of these is that God is Good.  God is the embodiment of everything that is good.  He is holy – there is no evil or malice within Him.  His holiness is so perfect, that even the angels who surround His throne righteously declare the character and nature of God.  No human being can gaze upon His face without being utterly destroyed.  Moses was only allowed to see His trailing glory, and his time spent with God was so close that Moses’ face glowed, and the people were frightened.  Since God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we can always count on the goodness of God.  And as such, He and He alone is worthy of praise and worship.

God of gods

The next aspect of God that the author takes note of is that He is the God of all gods.  This is not to say that there is any God other than YHWH; this is merely to highlight and denote that God is above all.  Those who worship false gods and idols do not worship the One True God.  There is none like Him.  All power, authority, and dominion is YHWH’s and His alone.  He delegates authority as He sees fit.  But God will not share His glory – for only He is worthy of all glory.

Lord of Lords

The third aspect of God that the author takes note is that He is Lord of lords.  This rightly implies that YHWH is sovereign over all.  No one and nothing is His equal nor above Him in power and authority.  He created all things, and in Him all things have their being.  All authority is invested in Him, and He gives out authority as He sees fit.  He is the ruler over all.  And when the Judgment of God comes, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord:

By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Lasting Love

Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we can count on his enduring love.  God loves us in a way that we cannot even fathom.  Just as God gives parents the ability and desire to rejoice in and see the benefit of their children, God’s love for us – His children – is a million-fold greater.  We cannot even conceive of the love that God has for us.  And when the Son of God comes again in glory, and gathers the righteous to Him and the unrighteous to judgment, we will fully know as we are fully known in love by the One who is God, King of kings and Lord of lords.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I truly have a thankful heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Lord God Almighty, You are worthy of all praise and worship and glory.  May the meditations of my heart be upon You always.  Help me to cultivate a heart that is thankful in all circumstances.  Help me to always remember that You do not change, and that Your love endures forever.  Give me strength through my trials that I may not falter, but gaze upon Your glory and beauty.  Show me where I need to grow, and provide the necessary circumstances to get me there.  Help me to be thankful through it all, that You may receive the glory that You so rightly deserve.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?