Sunday Praise and Worship: 10,000 Reasons

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I’ve shared this one with you before but not as a Sunday Praise and Worship song. I’m talking about Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons.” This is such a wonderful song to give praise to our Creator. The lyrics always get to me, especially this part:

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins

 

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

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How Long, O Lord (Repost)

Originally published at TRC Magazine (The Relevant Christian) on April 30, 2014.

Devotional Series

By Anna Popescu

This prophecy of Habakkuk tells of a struggle and triumph of faith which took place in the soul of the prophet himself. “It begins with a sob, and ends with a song; and it is in the process from the one to the other that the little book discloses the heart of its meaning to us.” —Dr. Harold L. White

Picture1Chapter 1: Habakkuk’s Conflict

How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?
I cry out to You, “Violence!” yet You do not save.
—Habakkuk 1:2

Have you ever questioned how God seems to be working—or not working—in your life? We might be struggling with financial problems, wondering how much longer we can keep a roof over our heads. Perhaps we’ve been praying for such a long time for a specific need, and still don’t have the answer. Maybe we’re living a life filled with physical pain that doesn’t ever seem to end.

And then there is all the crime and evil in our society. The unborn and young children are still being exploited and preyed upon. Too many people feel entitled to have it all without making any effort to earn those possessions. Christianity is being mocked as never before. Our values and beliefs are constantly being laughed at, provoked, and demonstrated against. The claims of open-mindedness seem to embrace everything but Christianity.

Then we look around at the people who seem to sail through life with hardly a care. They have lots of money, the latest tech gadgets, gorgeous clothes and cars. It seems to us that they are never lacking anything.

So we may ask ourselves: Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Doesn’t He love or care about me anymore? Can’t He see how I’m struggling just to get through each hour of the day?

Beloved, things are no different today than they were back then.

Habakkuk’s Concern

Habakkuk had a big problem. He was looking at all the injustice in his world and wondering why God wasn’t taking care of it. He knew God was just, righteous, and punished evil, but it seemed to him that God was doing nothing to punish the sin and violence he saw all around him. In fact, to Habakkuk, it looked like God was simply ignoring all the wrongdoing and wickedness. Habakkuk’s heart was broken, and in his anguish, he believed God did not care.

Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises.  Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted. —Habakkuk 1:3-4

Habakkuk lived in a time of some very evil kings. The people of Judah had strayed very far from God, away from Mosaic Law, and had chosen to follow their own path rather than God’s way. Habakkuk became very concerned that God apparently did not care that His chosen people were living such sinful lives, and wondered why God wasn’t taking care of this. How could God ignore such obvious corrupt behavior from His own people?

At this point, Judah was about to be invaded by the Chaldeans who lived in southern Babylon. These Chaldeans (also called Babylonians) were intelligent, aggressive and loved war. They worshiped many idols rather than the One True God. Habakkuk was appalled that God would punish Judah by allowing such a corrupt people to invade them.

J. Vernon McGee described the scene this way:

“The people of Judah apparently felt that they were God’s little pets and that He would not punish them for their sins.”1

Habakkuk was concerned that if the Jews were indeed God’s chosen people, why didn’t God do something? Why was He allowing this to happen to them?

He is about to see that although God’s ways don’t seem to make sense in this case, God is still in control.

God’s Confrontation

Picture2God didn’t mince words with Habakkuk:

Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.
For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.  All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings. And rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god.
—Habakkuk 1:5-11

Habakkuk was understandably confused at this point. Although he knew how wicked the people of Judah have become, and heard God say that He will yet set things right, he doesn’t see why God would use such a wicked people to chastise Judah. After all, they weren’t nearly as bad as those awful Chaldeans!

Habakkuk protests first against the violence and injustice of his countrymen in Judah (Habakkuk 1:1-4), and then against the violence and injustice of the Chaldeans whom God is sending to punish Judah.2

Habakkuk’s Confusion

Yes, God answered Habakkuk’s first question but God’s answer confuses Habakkuk so much that he has another, even more troubling question:

How can a holy God use a sinful nation to accomplish His purposes?1

Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; and You, O Rock, have established them to correct. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they? Why have You made men like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without a ruler over them? The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook, drag them away with their net, and gather them together in their fishing net. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net; because through these things their catch is large, and their food is plentiful. Will they therefore empty their net and continuously slay nations without sparing? I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. —Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

In essence, Habakkuk is lamenting: 

LORD, I know You are in control but You are holy and righteous, so how can You possibly allow this? And then, in spite of his confusion, Habakkuk returns to what he knows to be true: the LORD is almighty, unchanging, holy, just and absolutely faithful. Habakkuk knows that whatever and however God is working in this situation, it must be righteous because God is the Righteous One: “LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this” (Ezra 9:15).

I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. —Psalm 7:17

For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face. —Psalm 11:7

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. —Psalm 19:9

I will come with the mighty deeds of the LORD God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. —Psalm 71:16

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness. —Psalm 96:11-13

Can’t you just imagine Habakkuk’s bewilderment at these series of events? I can feel Habakkuk’s confusion and anger at God’s strange way of dealing with people who refuse to worship Him and Him alone.  He asked God, “Why are You allowing this, but how can Your way be just?”

Habakkuk’s Contemplation

Habakkuk see the Chaldeans as self-serving–a people who honor their own cleverness. They refuse to worship the LORD, but instead worship the works of their own hands. In verse 1:16 we read that they are worshipping the fishing nets that bring up huge catches of fish. Really?How far they have strayed from their LORD!

Habakkuk’s why was not meant to challenge God’s sovereignty. He was simply confused and asking God for clarification. Questioning God is not wrong as long as we do it with a sincere heart.

“It is entirely different to wonder why God allowed a certain event than it is to directly question God’s goodness. Having doubts is different from questioning God’s sovereignty and attacking His character. In short, an honest question is not a sin, but a bitter, untrusting, or rebellious heart is. God is not intimidated by questions. God invites us to enjoy close fellowship with Him,” from GotQuestions.org: Is it Right to Question God?

Beloved, are things any different today than they were in Habakkuk’s time? Violence and chaos surround us. We are daily inundated by news of catastrophic weather all over the world, like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, wildfires, and the list goes on.

What about the diseases and chronic pain illnesses that plague mankind? And what about trying to make ends meet when we can’t even find work? How can we afford health insurance when we can hardly pay for the basics such as housing, food and clothing? How do we rationalize all the casualties of war?

Where, oh where, is our God in all of this?

Beloved, hang tight with me while I explore Habakkuk’s change from gloom to glory.1 Next time we’ll sit with him while he waits and dwells on God’s attributes, confirming what he knows to be true:

God always knows best and always works for our good and His glory!

***

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.

Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.

But resist him, firm in your faith,
knowing that the same experiences of suffering
are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

After you have suffered for a little while,
the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

—1 Peter 5:6-11

1 Thru the Bible with Vernon McGee ©1982. Thomas Nelson.
2 From John Piper’s sermon: The Just Shall Live by Faith.

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Our Rock of Refuge (Reblog)


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This year I decided to do a chronological reading through the Bible, which I am really enjoying. A lot of  that reading lately has been in Psalms and this particular one really stood out to me the other night, especially this section:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.

In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;
give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
    I will ever praise you.

I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. 

—Psalm 71:1-8

I find myself in a similar mode as David when he wrote this later in his life. When I am floundering in my circumstances, I can only see myself and my problems. But when I focus on my Rock of Refuge, it makes me look at everything He is doing in my life with new eyes.

Yesterday already happened.

Tomorrow I may not be here.

But right now I can rely on the Lord to be my true refuge…to guide me through the mountains and valleys in my life until He finally brings me home with Him.

How about you, Beloved? Is Jesus your Rock of Refuge? Will you totally trust in Him for everything in your life?

Oh, Jesus, we need You so much in our lives! We are so thankful that because of Your sacrifice on the cross, we have the hope of eternal life with You. We love you so much! And how can we ever thank You enough for being our Rock of Refuge? Help us to learn to rely on you daily … hourly … minute-by-minute. Amen.

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Joy in Our Circumstances (Reblog)

I wrote this several years ago, but it still holds true today. Sometimes God needs to knock me on the side of the head with that 2×4 to get His message across. I know Whose I am and the value He sees in me, but it has taken me a very long time to understand that. In trying to do more and more, I’ve compromised my health. Thank the Lord that He doesn’t give up on me! I am resting in Him now while He shows me that I don’t need to strive so hard to prove my worth. 

Instead of my usual Sunday Praise and Worship post, I’m sharing this again in hopes that God will use it in your lives too.

“Genuine, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, goodness, and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which “he saith, shall come to pass.””
—Necessity of Prayer, E. M. Bounds

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But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
—Job 2:10

Don’t you wonder how Job could say this after everything he went through? Doesn’t it make you shake your head and think, “yeah, right”? How could Job even think to say this after everything—and I do mean everything—was taken away from him?

Job had it all: a loving family, great wealth, a thriving business and good health. He was loved and respected by his family and the community because he was a very general and loving man. He indeed had it all … until suddenly it is all taken away and he is left helpless and hopeless.

Oh, did I say hopeless? Hardly.

“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” —C. S. Lewis

I know it’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me but rest assured that God has been very much at work in my life. I have been heard to say that I’d like to wipe the year 2010 from my calendar, but as I have reflected on this, I have to say now that’s not really true.

Like many of you, I live with daily chronic pain. Among the several illnesses I endure, my most persistent “thorn in the flesh” is daily migraines. Last year I tried yet another medication I hoped would help but the greatest side effect was to increase the intensity and duration of my migraines plus cause me to sleep for a good portion of the day as well as at night. It wasn’t unusual for me to get 12 hours of sleep during the night and then sleep again for 2-3 hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. I found myself unable to do the simplest tasks and the year went by in a blur of pain.

Without going into too much detail, it turned out that the new medication had caused a host of reactions, the least of which was the increased migraine activity. Once I was completely weaned off this medication, I started feeling almost human again. Living in a haze of pain medications is no picnic!

So many times last year I felt as if I was sliding through what I called wasted days–when all I was capable of doing was sleeping, eating and some light household chores. I spent lots of time talking to God, wondering why this was happening to me and if it would ever end. I thought my days were wasted because I wasn’t doing anything that I deemed valuable, but in reality God was doing a work in me that I finally understand.

Before this time of pain and frustration, I understood how to be joyful in spite of my circumstances. However, I can now see that God has shown me how to be thankful because of those same circumstances. In effect, God increased my faith by allowing me to travel through that tough time in order to bring me to the realization that not all bad things are… bad!

God allows circumstances and situations in our lives that are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and all He wants us to do is trust that He knows what is best for us. It is all about having faith in spite of not seeing or knowing the “why” of it. When we cannot understand the meaning behind our suffering, we immediately want to tell God how angry and frustrated we are. I know, because I’ve been there.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
—Hebrews 11:1

Faith essentially does not make sense to our human way of thinking. I guess that’s why it’s called faith—”a belief that is not based on proof,” according to the dictionary definition.

When we pray in faith, we are saying in effect that we believe God knows what is best for us—in spite of what our circumstances appear to be. We are ultimately acknowledging what we know to be true: God knows all and we do not!

In spite of that, we want to breeze through life without experiencing any kind of pain or disappointment. We think that “if only” this or that wasn’t happening in our lives, everything would be so much easier or better. If only we had more money or more time or better health or a larger home or a different job… and the list goes on. What if the circumstances in our lives—good or bad—are there to make us stronger? What if—bear with me here—we try to change our outlook so that the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad after all?

“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”
—George Seaton

Beloved, if life on earth was one big picnic would we ever yearn for heaven? Would we truly be able to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?

Oh, and our friend Job? In spite of all the horrible things that happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Obviously Job was not happy that he had lost so much and did not like what God was allowing in his life, but he trusted God even as he was going through that terrible time. Oh, that we could all be as Job and exhibit such trust in our Creator!

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m thinking that life here on earth is meant to grow our faith, to show us how to life joyfully and victoriously because of our circumstances, not merely in spite of them. “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 104:33).

My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
—Psalm 57:7

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You Are I AM (Reblog)

This is from several years ago and my appreciation for this song has not diminished. Enjoy!

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My daughter shared this MercyMe song with me the other day and I couldn’t believe I had never heard it before. It is awesome and humbling to think of God as the I AM, isn’t it?

So sit back and relax for a few minutes while you let the words of this song wash over you. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, you can read the lyrics here.

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Red Stained Purity

I have not taken the time recently to thank Patricia Knight for contributing so well to my blog. Her devotionals are very well written and I love her insights. I especially appreciate the way she weaves Old Testament with New Testament passages together to tell her stories. 

Thank you so much, Pat, for blessing us with the gift of your writing!

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What embodies more potential for beautiful memories, reflects a significant investment, and is absolutely dazzling in pure white?

A wedding gown.  Brides-to-be typically spend many hours shopping for their unique gown, the one dress they’ve dreamed about for years. Prior to the wedding, the bride protects her gown from prying eyes and from damage.

Imagine the reactions of horror when red wine splashes on the front of the pure white gown the afternoon before a candlelight ceremony. Red, indelible stains on pure white; a shocking contrast.

There’s no way to effectively remove dark stains on white satin and lace. The gown is ruined. Panic erupts throughout the wedding party. Every bride seeks perfection for her wedding day. And yet, her gown of choice must be sacrificed until an appropriate substitute is found a few hours before the wedding.

Jesus left His glory and His throne in heaven where He was one with His heavenly Father, both of whom participated in every aspect of creation, to be incarnated a man on earth. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the purest person who ever lived. He is God. He is radiant and unblemished, flawless and undefiled.

Wherever He taught on earth, Jesus lived the way He preached. Motives for His actions were holy. His heart was pure from lack of sin. As pure white as new-fallen snow, Jesus  glistens as a pearl inside an oyster shell; as unblemished as a newborn baby’s skin, as brilliant as bolts of lightning flashing against an ebony sky. There is nothing on earth with which to compare Jesus’ purity, for He is heaven-sent.

In the Old Testament, God’s temple laws required specific unblemished animals to be sacrificially offered regularly for individual sins. Spilled blood was God’s requirement to atone for sin. The animal must be perfect, neither spotted in color or physically defective. For centuries the covenant of sacrificing animals was performed by priests to redeem the people’s sin. Though it wasn’t the optimum system, it was God’s approved method until the promised Messiah, His only Son, was born on earth as the ultimate sacrifice for man’s sin, a permanent solution for the ages.

As long ago as 600 B.C., the prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’ impending sacrifice.

As the Messiah Jesus would shed His blood to forgive our sins.

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Isaiah provided a figurative account of the consequence of forgiveness: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The offer of forgiveness is conditioned upon belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, necessitating a change of heart and lifestyle to conform to our Savior’s humble, loving ways.

Death by Roman crucifixion was agonizing and atrocious, but no one has ever suffered on the cross as Jesus did.  In addition to the horrific physical torture and pain, Jesus bore the sins of all people from the past, present, and future generations of the world. A perfect sacrifice for our sins, Jesus was pristine, pure, and sinless.

His life for ours, for people of all time;
Jesus, the guiltless one for the guilty,

the sinless one for the sinner.
 

As Jesus bled and died, He did so that we may live a spiritually victorious life. Three days later Jesus arose from the grave, conquering sin forever. 

To man, sin may seem inconsequential, but God hates all sin. Sin creates a great and awful chasm between God and man. During crucifixion, blood streaming down Jesus’ perfect body was a vivid contrast to His innocent life, staining His unblemished body, and redeeming the sins of believers forever.  Our sin cost God His very best, His own Son. Jesus offered Himself as the sacrifice required by the justice of God if man was to be saved from his sins.

We are so precious to God, He offered the ultimate sacrifice—His only Son—to redeem our sins. Our Savior’s blood gushed from His wounds to stain a perfect, lily-white life without sins, to save the multitudes. Beyond the physical torture, Jesus assumed our burden of guilt bearing down on His already tormented body. The Roman officers dishonored our Lord’s innocence by striking and spitting in His face, verbally taunting Him, pulling his beard, and grinding a wreath of thorns down over His forehead. His back was flogged, shredding the skin that was pressed against the rough timber of the cross. By the time He reached the top of Golgotha hill, Jesus could barely walk. His body was weakened, dehydrated, bleeding, and mangled, already suffering greatly before He was nailed to the cross.

Jesus’ glory will never fade; His power will never deplete. But His love will become ever more endearing. Jesus commanded us, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 20-21). Jesus commands us to consider our priorities on earth in view of life after death.

Like wedding vows, Jesus represents purity, a major investment for the future, and a decision that will change the course of a persons’ life. There the similarities end.  Christ is our living Savior, Lord, and King, who loves us, died and rose again to redeem us from our sins, providing the only means to secure life eternal in heaven.  What is your individual response to such a love-saturated, free gift that entitles each believer to fellowship with our Savior in heaven for an eternity?

Some brides pay exorbitant amounts for a perfect wedding gown. However, one drop of our Savior’s blood is more magnificent than the most exquisite gown intricately embellished with glittering diamonds.

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