Greatly to be Praised

I just returned from a mission trip to Uganda with my husband and pastor. Since coming home, my spirit has lingered in the state of praise in gratitude for the divine grace and mercy that was evident throughout the entire trip.  And yet saying “Amen, Hallelujah, Praise You, Thank You, Wow, Awesome” seems inadequate for what we were privileged to experience.  God’s grace allowed us this priceless opportunity and we felt His mighty hand. We witnessed it when confronted with forces set on delaying, and destroying the work.
Our hearts sang songs of joy when the blessings and gifts of love came upon not only us, but also those we came to serve. These experiences gave us time to see the Lord in expanded ways.  When the presence of God overshadows the mundane, the trivial, the commonplace you want to praise Him, and then have others share the experience.

You want others to see the joy, the light, the love, the goodness, and feel His presence; The heavenly Father, the Messiah who is our everything. You want the saints of God to cherish those sweet moments when beyond the veil you behold His glory. In these moments all life is transformed. Your eyes are opened to what is possible, truly possible when we praise and worship Him. The matchless Lord transfigures you, and sends your spirit soaring to new heights of love, and power. He is greatly to be praised.

As we visited Kampala, and the small village of Iganga, and felt God’s power and presence our lives were in awe of God’s grace. He is greatly to be praised. He is greatly to be praised for our salvation. He is greatly to be praised for leaving His arms open to receive us despite our sins. He is greatly to be praised for each breath; for each open and closed door; for everything good and perfect gift.  He is greatly to be praised for the joy unspeakable, and showing us how to live the abundant life.

I praised Him for allowing us the honor to serve him both here and aboard. For the opportunity to minister, teach, and mentor church leaders while leading a crusade in Uganda. I praised him for the healing, deliverance, the blessings He showered upon the pastors and congregation in Kampala and Iganga. I praised him for everything.

As I praise Him for our experience in Uganda, I am also praising Him for His priceless gifts here at home as well. Thank you Lord for the opportunity to see our first grandson graduate today, for the birth of our niece last night, for the honor and privilege of being a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, friend and more importantly for being His child. He is greatly to be praised.  Thank you my Lord for being my all in all.

Today, praise the Lord for He is worthy to be praised.

He is Risen

Christ is Risen

Glory and praise. Resurrection Sunday. Christians celebrating and worshipping our risen Savior.  Praising Him for the most amazing gift every conceived – the gift of eternal life.  Christ is to be glorified for what we can never do – restore us to God the Father.  With Christ hope has been restored; life has been restored; joy has been restored; power has been restored; love has been restored.

1 Peter 1: 3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (NIV)

Our Lord stated, “I am the truth, the way and the life.”  Our risen Lord fulfilled his mission, and restored our right to experience the new birth and have an inheritance that will never, ever perish.    Christ is Risen. Praise be to God.

Thought for today

I’ve been studying for our adult Sunday school class from Philippians Chapter 1, where Paul imprisoned, wrote about the gospel being preached, and his desire to leave and be with Christ.  It is a lesson in personal conflict.

Paul’s ministry had an amazing impact on those believers. They were bold for Christ and the message was yielding fruit.  Paul’s joyful attitude made them eager to share Christ with the world.  The purity and sincerity of Christ’s love broke down the walls, and despite his tremendous joy at the spreading of the gospel, we see Paul’s desire to be with the Lord [Phil 1:21-23].  While he remained, the gospel was being preached, and the church was encouraged, but if he died he would be with the Lord, a thing which he desired.    Paul’s attitude was resolute – ” Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. [Phil 1:24]”  Paul stated that no matter what he had to endure, he would not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ[Phil 1:20]. His purpose was to honor and glorify Christ at all costs.  So it didn’t matter if he was imprisoned, his spirit, his attitude was not.  Paul was freed from the snares, the temptations, and his own flesh to do the will of Christ.  He did not sit in a corner moaning his misfortune, instead Paul reflected Christ.  Paul’s total message was so captivating that Christ’s message of love and grace won the hearts and minds of those desperately seeking the Messiah.  And they discovered Christ-the hope of glory through Paul despite of his chains.   The thought for today is, does our attitude reflect and honor Christ despite our situations, challenges, and personal imprisonments?  

Faith asks us neither to destroy nor to exalt human desire but to gather it into an even greater desire; the thirst for God.

Author Unknown

Dear friends, let your entire being like Paul, reflect the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Share Christ and let the joy of your salvation bring forth the light and love.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17  Amen. 

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve preparations and celebrations across the globe are underway. Cooking, cleaning, selecting just the right table setting, beverages, clothes for a night of feasting and celebrating. Folks will be filling up New York City, and at different homes the host or hostess is busy preparing for the arrival of friends and family. There are also preparations for another kind.  At some African-American churches, Watch Night Services will be held this night to praise, pray and give thanks to God for His mercy and grace. There will be singing, and a message of hope shared. This tradition dates back to the Civil War era when slaves gathered together waiting for news of their freedom.  We are no longer waiting for that news.  Believers have been freed through the gift of Christ.  What believers are watching for now is the return of our glorious King.  So these gathered hearts will sing joyously in triumphant to the risen Lord for the blessing of another moment, another hour, another day upon earth.
Whatever way you choose to “bring in the new year” take time to say thank you to our Lord for His blessings. And resolve to do the work He has called us to do. As Keith E. Eggert said, “So we must work hard now, live at our peak, serve and love those around us, help the church grow, heal someone’s wounds, write a good poem, clean up our spaces, do our best at school or work, but always with one eye toward heaven.” Because a better day is coming.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Happy New Year.

Thanksgiving

 “Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a smoking censor with the sweet incense of thanksgiving.”  C.H. Spurgeon

As you prepare for feasting and fellowship with family and friends, let us not forget those whose sacred circles have been disrupted.  Those columns of home, health, safety, and family which anchor our hearts and minds, for some have been blown apart by nature, poor decisions, or the insensitivity of man.    Pray for those who are feeling lost, abandoned, rejected, alone.  Ask God to strengthen their hearts and minds, and out of His endless supply of love grant them hope, peace and blessed assurance He knows all, see all, and is still there.   Then offer up songs of praise, and thanksgiving to our Great God for His amazing love, His mercy and His grace.   God has done so much for us.  We owe it to ourselves to spend some time in His garden of grace expressing our appreciation for His mercy and great love.

May the God of all mercy and grace be with you and your family this holiday.

What Are You Prepared to Do?

 “The Lord is with you when you are with Him.

If you seek Him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2 b (NIV)

What are you prepared to doWhat are you prepared to do to seek God?  What are you prepared to do to honor and love Him?  What are you prepared to do to gain Christ?  The journey to seek and find God can be an easy or perilous one.   We were designed for the task, and the very best markers were left to guide our paths.   But the real question is, what are you prepared to do?

Scripture said if we seek him, we shall find him.  That if is a huge marker that indicates some action on our part.  We must initiate the seeking.  God is already there waiting for us to discover Him, but it is up to us to do so.  Seeking Him means taking part in the process. When you want something bad enough, you will rally your resources to get the intended object.  If we really want to find God, we will do everything within our power to seek Him out.

Seeking also means serving Him.   Service, when done out of love and deep appreciation for what He did for us, becomes a glorious journey of discovery and experiencing God.   Along the way, you discover why God gave us His very, very best His Son, Christ our blessed redeemer.  The process of seeking also reveals the real purpose for which we were created.   The seeking creates windows of opportunity for the expression of God’s goodness and mercy through service.  And as we serve, our lives become a beautiful reflection of Christ’s magnificent gift.   We learn that we fulfill the whole law as we serve Him.  We lose nothing, we only gain.  We discover love, joy, peace, understanding, diligence, and beauty.   Life becomes more about Him and less about us.  We undercover the true family, fruitful relationships, abilities, gifts, and talents through the gateway of service in His kingdom.   We taste and see that the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever.  We find out He will be with us until the end of time.

So, what are you prepared to do?   If you forsake the Lord, and all He has done, then the journey to find fulfillment, and happiness becomes empty, shallow reflections; tainted, worthless idols of fame and fortune.  Our souls become bleached and withered from the years of wandering in the wilderness.   If you forsake Him, you lose all; everything; you lose God.  He will not force it; for this is a voluntary act of gratefulness to find Him who is our all in all.    There is a cost to seeking God.  It may cost everything.  But He reassured,  there is great reward.

What are you prepared to do to find God?

 

Moments Away

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” 

You may have seen this popular quote on billboards, cards, calendar or wall art.  How many moments recently have taken your breath away?  Was it watching Michael Phelps break all time Olympic record, or the US Women’s Gymnastic Team win Gold? Perhaps it was exuberant hug of a child, or unexpected good news.

Everyday holds the possibility of a miracle someone once said.  God provides moments through the beauty of nature, or through the love of family and friends to remind us He will turn darkness into light, and make our rough places smooth.   He promised never to forsake or abandon us, even in the darkest of times.  So each new day is another opportunity for you and I to experience these precious moments.  So don’t get so caught in the doing things, and miss them.  Every rainbow, warm breeze, and gift of love is God blessing us with moments meant to bring us closer to Him.   Isaiah 42:16 NIV

Breaking Bad

After my prayer and meditation I began writing in my journal about a family whose father’s health is declining rapidly, and the situation did not appear hopeful.  I wrote, “This is a hard time.”  Then I was struck almost immediately by the word “hard,” and I thought how often  we label something bad, or look at painful images.  “It’s a bad day;  This is a bad report; I got up on the wrong side of the bed; I’m having a bad hair day.”  Or we watch shows like, “Breaking Bad, Desperate Housewives (I know it’s been cancelled), Basketball Wives, Revenge, Scandal, Hell’s kitchen, I Hate My Teenage Daughter”.  Our language is sprinkled with words that pull us down, and not lift us up.  We say, “This is horrible!!” with exaggerated gestures and raised voices.  It is no wonder our attitudes and behaviors reflect the current culture.   We are like that double minded man who is unstable in all his ways, because he is being tossed around by everything around him.

I’m not saying we should not define tragedies.  I am saying our daily language needs some refinement.  Philippians 4:8-9 asks us to meditate on the things which are of good report, and the God of peace will be with you.  Peace of mind will evade us, if we constantly bombard our minds and speak language that does not reflect the God of peace.

I challenge you to avoid using those words that do not reflect the God of peace, and only use words that lift up the name and character of our Lord Jesus Christ for one day.  Let’s go for “Breaking Good, instead of Breaking Bad.”

Hymnal

A hymnal is a collection of songs meant to worship or praise God, or express His relationship in human affairs.   Hymns growing up as a child were just songs we had to sing before the minister got up to preach.  “Jesus loves me this I know” was the first song I remember learning.  It was a cute, simple tune.  The congregation often smiled in approval, and an occasional “Amen” could be heard if we got it just right.  As I grew up I thought it was too cute to be sung by anyone.

As we grew older, we sung songs like “A Mighty Fortress“, “Rock of Ages” and “Blessed Assurance.”  I often thought why sing these old songs, doesn’t the preacher know anything modern?  Sunday after Sunday, we pulled out those hymn books, and turn to a page and begin singing as a church-one song-one voice.  Expressions on the faces were mixed. Some smiles, tears, blank or disinterested looks. I’m sure at times my face projected these same looks.  It was the words that struck me though.  Where did they come from, who wrote them and why?  It wasn’t until I got older and been through the storms of life, faced my fair share of challenges, gone down in defeat, battled the enemy, and felt the precious hand of Jesus did those old hymns become real to me.

Finally I understood.  Words to a song like “Amazing Grace” meant something.  These were expressions of love; of thanksgiving; of hope; of desperation; of grief and sorrow, frank and earnest conversations with Our Father which Art in Heaven.  And more importantly when sung now, within a community of believers, words such as “saved a wretch like me” are more profound.  Now when we sing them, we (the community of believers) become the hymnal.   We’re the praise, the thanksgiving, the love song to God.

Look at the pages of any current or past hymnal, and we are there, on every page and in every note praising God from whom all blessings flow with every song of tragedy, triumph, hope and redemption.  Yes, hymnal are a collection of songs, but as time passes they become so much more and so do we.

Clean Heart

“Create in me a clean heart, so that I may serve thee… ” Become my sweet heart song O’ Lord, fill me with your joy. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness.  Forgive me Oh God for my sins…only you….only you can cleanse me.  You, O’ Lord are mighty.  You, Oh God are awesome. You Oh God are worthy of all the honor, and all the praise.  You, O’ Lord can heal me, restore me.  Create in me a clean heart so that I may serve you. This is my prayer.  This is my heart song.

Amen.