It’s the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team is down by one run. There’s a runner on second base with two outs. The count is no balls and two strikes. The batter is down to his final strike. The pitcher winds up and throws. The batter sets and swings. With a loud crack, the bat connects with the ball, sending it clear over the head of the left fielder–a home run! The home team wins! The crowd claps in polite admiration.
If you’ve ever been to a ball game, you know that last line is far from the truth. When the home team wins like that, the crowd erupts in shouts of joy. Now, if we can react like that to something as insignificant as a baseball game, how should we react to the greatness and the wonders of our God? With a smile and a polite round of applause? With a whispered word of praise? Or, should we open our mouths and not just sing but shout our praise?
The Bible is not a quiet book. Throughout God’s word, we see many references to the word shout, as well as words like shouts, shouted, and shouting. Many of these references speak of God’s people shouting His praise. In many of the psalms, we are told to shout our praises. In Joshua 6, God told the Israelites to shout at the walled city of Jericho and what happened? The walls fell down and they took the city.
A large number of the references to shouting in the Bible are shouts for joy. When God moves in our lives, when He comes through for us in a time of need, we should be so filled with joy that we just want to shout it out and let the whole world know how great our God is. A shout of praise lets God and everyone around us know how joyful we feel. A shout of praise can also be a powerful weapon. Just as the shout of the Israelites was able to tear down the walls of Jericho, so our shouts of praise can tear down strongholds in our lives.
Are you joyful? Do you need God to fight for you or tear down a stronghold? Then get ready, open your mouth and–SHOUT!  

A Heart Surrendered to the Lord is Like a Fountain of Praise

“Worship the Lord with your life and praise Him with your mouth. A heart surrendered to the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit becomes like a fountain, pouring out praise.”

Those are the words I heard the Lord speak to my heart one morning. God’s word clearly tells us that our lives should be our living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1). He has shown us incredible love, grace, and mercy, and our response should be to offer Him our lives–not just part of them, but all of them–as a sacrifice of praise. By doing so, we are presenting our worship to God, worship that is not just true and proper but holy and pleasing to Him. We are being obedient to His word. Our hearts should be filled with worship. When they are, our mouths cannot help but speak (or sing!) His praise.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of the story of Zechariah in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. Zechariah was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son, whom he was to name John. Because Elizabeth, like Zechariah, was advanced in age, Zechariah doubted what Gabriel told him. As a result, his mouth was shut up and he was unable to speak. When Elizabeth did give birth, in obedience to the Lord, Zechariah confirmed that the child’s name would be John. Immediately, his voice was restored by God. And what was the first thing he did when his voice was restored? He opened his mouth in praise to God. His heart was so full of worship that it just bubbled up from his mouth in the form of praise.

Lord, in obedience to You, I give my life to You as a sacrifice because of Your great love and mercy. May that sacrifice be pleasing in Your sight. Let my heart be so full of love, fear, and awe of you that praise will always be on my lips. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

God’s Love and Faithfulness: They Keep Going, and Going…

As I read a devotion about the love of God, two thoughts came to my mind. One was of the Energizer battery commercials. I kept hearing the phrase, “It just keeps going and going…” The second thought was similar. It was of the old Timex watch commercials where we heard the phrase, “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” (I’m dating myself now!)

At first, I thought that my mind was just being distracted, but the next thought that entered my mind was from Hebrews 13:8, which tells us that Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever. I wondered why the Lord was bringing all these thoughts to my mind. I thought, “What do Energizer batteries and Timex watches have to do with God?” As I sat and thought about that, this is what the Lord spoke to my heart:

We are always searching for things that last. We long for relationships that last a lifetime. We buy products that we have been told are built to last, that come with a “lifetime” guarantee. But do these things last? Some relationships do, but not all. Watches may last a long time, but they will one day stop ticking. And while some batteries might last longer than others, they do eventually die. But God never dies! He cannot and will not die. As the Scripture says, He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. That promise is clear in His word.

When we are searching for something that lasts, what we are really searching for is God. He is the King eternal (1 Timothy 1:17). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13). His love and faithfulness never fail (Psalm 89:2). They keep going and going…

Thank You, Lord, for this promise.

Have No Fear!

“Have no fear!” This phrase appeared in my thoughts as I sat quietly before the Lord this morning. I thought about that for a while. Fear is something we hear a lot about lately. People fear many things–terrorism, threats of nuclear weapons, even the future leaders of our country. But, if we put our trust in God, there is no need for us to fear. We see this promise in many places in God’s word. In Psalm 56:3-4, for example, David says that when he experiences fear, he will put his trust in the Lord. He realizes that, if his trust is in God, there is no reason to be afraid. Philippians 4:6-7 tell us that when we give our fears and anxiety to God, we receive His peace and He guards our hearts and minds.

A well-known pop singer/songwriter said, “There is no fear when you choose love.” As believers, we know this to be true because God is love. When we choose to live in love, we live in God and He lives in us. His love is made perfect in us. That means that we don’t need to fear because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:16-18).

The key to overcoming fear is to put your trust in the Lord. But, we also need to keep our hearts and our minds focused on Him. Matthew 14:25-32 gives us a good example of why this is important. The disciples were in a boat at night and saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. The disciples were filled with fear because they thought it was a ghost. Jesus assured them that it was He and they had no need to fear. Peter needed more proof, though. He said, “Okay, Lord, if that really is You, then tell me to come to You on the water. When Jesus told him to come, Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk. He took one step, then another, then…

Peter took his eyes off Jesus and turned his focus to the wind and the waves around him, fear took over. The result? Peter began to sink.

In the midst of the storms and cares of life, we need to put our trust in the Lord and keep our focus on Him. If we focus on what is going on around us, we allow fear to creep back in and overcome us. So, what the Lord was telling me today is “Have no fear! Put your trust in Me and receive the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

Lord, help us to remember always to keep our eyes focused on You. I put my trust in You, Lord, and I choose to abide in Your love. Thank You for Your promise that, when I put my trust in You and live in Your love, there is nothing I need to fear. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Don’t Settle for Fast Food!

As I sat doing my devotions today, I read Psalm 1, which speaks of how the person who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night will prosper in anything he does, just as a tree planted by a river does. As I read this, the Holy Spirit put this thought in my head: “Don’t settle for fast food.” I stopped and thought about that for a minute. “What does that mean, Lord? What are You trying to tell me?” I knew that there is nothing in the Bible about fast food, but I searched His word for an answer and came up with several passages of Scripture dealing with food. As I read those passages and meditated on them, I believe that this is what the Lord was speaking to my heart.

In Deuteronomy 8:3, I read that God caused the people of Israel to hunger and then fed them with manna. He did this so that they would learn that they could not live on bread alone. They needed to live on His word, as well. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He quoted from that very passage in Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:4), so it must be an important thing–not just for the Israelites, but for all of us–to remember. The manna that God sent to the Israelites was not food of the world, but rather food of heaven, food from God. What I believe the Lord was telling me is that bread–the food made by man–is like the ways of the world. Manna, on the other hand, represents God’s ways. Bread is worldly knowledge and wisdom; manna is the knowledge and wisdom that come from God and His word. We do need the bread, but we need His word–the manna–even more.

So, where does “fast food” come in? God’s answer to that question came to me as I read Isaiah 55:2, where He asks why we spend money on food that does us no good. Instead, we should read His word–His food–which is the finest of food. Given the option of eating at a fast food restaurant or at the finest restaurant in town, which would you choose? I know what I would choose–the finest restaurant in town! Fast food, like the ways and the wisdom of the world, does us no good. It can even do us harm. Food at a fine restaurant, on the other hand, is like the ways and wisdom of God–much more satisfying and nourishing.

Don’t settle for fast food. Seek His ways and His wisdom by “dining” on His word day and night.

God Gave Us Music: Let’s Lift Him Up in Praise

The Lord has been speaking to me about worship and praise. I know that He is worthy of our praise because He is God. All that we have comes from Him, so we should praise Him with all that we have–our finances, our time, our lives–our very beings. We must praise Him and worship Him with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. We can praise Him and worship Him by how we live our lives. We can worship Him by our service to Him. And, of course, we can praise Him and worship Him with our mouths. God has given us music for that reason. Music was created by God. It is His gift to us, so it is right that we should use that gift to lift Him up, to glorify His name, to praise Him for all that He is and all that He has done, and to worship Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Lord God is our strength and our song. He has created us with the ability to use our mouths, our hands, and our hearts to make a joyful noise by using music played and sung for His glory. We must lift our voices and shout and sing His praises. If we don’t, if we remain quiet, Jesus tells us that the rocks will cry out His praise. I, for one, don’t want to be upstaged by rocks!

Lord, thank You for creating music. Help us to use it always to glorify Your name. May our voices be lifted in Your praise every day of our lives. You are Lord of our lives and deserving of all of our praise. Let our hearts be filled with songs of praise so that our mouths will be filled with sounds that will worship and glorify You and be pleasing to Your ears. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Worship Through It

Recently, as I spent time with the Lord, a phrase came to my mind: “Worship through it.” At first, I just pushed the thought aside, but I kept hearing those same three words – “worship through it” – repeating in my mind. I sat for a few minutes, just letting that thought turn through my mind and my heart, then picked up my guitar and started playing. As I played, I thought about the book of Psalms and how, in a number of them, David is crying out to the Lord and complaining about his circumstances. But, he always ends up speaking words of praise. I grabbed my Bible and started searching for examples.

In Psalm 13, David lists his complaints, even asking God if He will forget him forever. Then, in verse 5, he begins with a very small but important word – but! The psalm then goes from complaints to praise. David says, in effect, “Lord, have You forgotten me? I’m really struggling right now and my enemy has the upper hand. Without Your help, I will fall and my enemy will celebrate, BUT I trust in You, Lord. Your love never fails and You have come through for me in the past, so I am going to sing to You because You are so good to me.”

In Psalm 42, we again see David discouraged and depressed. But twice he asks himself why – “Why am I so discouraged? Why am I depressed? After all, I have hope that comes from God. So, here’s what I will do–I will praise Him!”

As I read through these psalms, I was reminded of Paul and Silas in Acts, chapter 16. They had been beaten badly and thrown into prison where they were placed in chains. They could easily have sat there in despair, complaining about their circumstances, but (there’s that word again!) instead they chose to pray and worship the Lord. We know what happened next – not only did their chains fall of and the doors to the prison open, but the jailer and his family gave their hearts to the Lord!

God was reminding me that, when things look bleak, when we are discouraged or depressed, when life seems to be just one trial after another, we need to “worship through it.” When we do, our hearts are lifted to him, our eyes focus on Him rather than our circumstances, and our chains – those things that are weighing us down – are broken.

Psalm 145: David’s Song of Praise

Psalm 145 is the first of the praise psalms that conclude the book of Psalms and is titled as a “praise” or “tehillah” of David. As I read this psalm today, I could sense the awe, the joy, the excitement of David as he wrote it. It must have been sung with great enthusiasm and I can see where there would have been a lot of emotion expressed in singing and dancing before the Lord. In this Psalm, David praises a number of God’s deeds and attributes. He talks of God’s mighty acts, His greatness and power. He reminds us that God is righteous, merciful, compassionate, and faithful. He protects all who love Him. David ends the psalm with praise and a prayer that everyone on the earth will bless the Lord’s name forever.

As I reflect on this psalm, I am reminded that we have so many reasons to be thankful to and praise the Lord. First and foremost, He has freed us from the bondage of our sin through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. When we come to Jesus and put our trust in Him, when we repent of our sins, God’s great gift to us is the promise of eternal life with Him. That is a reason to give Him praise!

But God is such a loving and giving God that our reasons for praising Him don’t stop there. We can praise Him for sicknesses healed, for marriages restored, for timely words of encouragement, and provision in time of need. Because of His grace, love, and mercy, He gives us all of these things and more. He is a great God and most worthy to be praised!

Lord, we thank You and praise You for all that You are and for all that You have done. We thank You and praise You for Your Son, Jesus, who died so that we may have eternal life with You. We praise You, Lord, for You are worthy to be praised! In Jesus’ name. Amen!

God is With Us… Always

Among the many promises of God is His assurance that He is always with us, no matter what we are going through. In Joshua 1:9, He tells us to be strong and to have courage. We do not need to fear because He will be with us wherever we go. In Exodus 14:14, He says that He will fight for us. In Psalm 23, David stands on God’s promise when he says that he will fear no evil because the Lord is with him.
What stands out to me about this promise is that it requires action on our part. God tells us not to fear, to be still, and to take heart. He says we need to be courageous. All of these things require that we focus on Him and allow His peace, His strength, His comfort to work in our hearts. He is always there, ready to give us the courage, peace, and comfort that we need. We need to open our hearts to Him and allow Him to do so.
Another thing that stands out in this promise is that God is not telling us that He will take away all of our trials and tribulations. In Isaiah 43, He says “when” you pass through the water and “when” you walk through the fire. He doesn’t say “if” and He doesn’t say He will keep us from them. We will pass through the waters and walk through the fire. But, He will not allow the water ro sweep over us or the fire to burn us. We will feel the wetness of the water and the heat of the fire, but they will not overcome us. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that, in this world we will have trouble but, because He has overcome the world, we can have peace as we go through our trials and tribulations.
What an awesome promise from and awesome God! Thank You, Lord!
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