Friday, April 28, 2017

Paid To Praise

Sometimes the strangest thoughts hit me out of the blue.  I guess my mind works in mysterious ways. Anyway, yesterday I was struck by a convicting thought, but before I get to the idea itself, let me ask you a question.  When you pray and give thanks to God, do you find yourself grouping things into categories like family, church family, health, food, etc.?  Though the old hymn clearly says, "Count your blessings; name them one by one," how often do we really do that?  I confess I'm guilty of hurrying through my praise by making blanket statements like "Thank you, Lord, for my many blessings" or "Thank you for all the ways You've provided today."  And while it's good that we're giving thanks, is this all-encompassing approach sufficient?  To answer that question, let me share my thought with you.

Suppose someone offered you $100 for every blessing you could name.  Would your praise list grow?  Would you take a little more time, thought and effort to truly count your blessings and name them one by one?  Instead of "bless my family," would your prayer include each family member by name?  Oh, my, my!  If you're anything like me, you just realized that our praise is lacking and our motivation is questionable.  Why would we spend more time in praise for monetary reward than we would simply praising God because He deserves it?  (See, I told you it was convicting!)

I want to say one last thing, and then I'm going to leave you alone and give you some time to meditate on this idea.  Praise to God is always rewarded, though it may not be in the form of money.  The Bible is clear that God delights in our praise, and not only that, He inhabits it.  What better reward could there be than the sweet, one-on-one fellowship with the God of all creation?  Money can't buy that!

Here's an example of real praise:

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul. - Psalm 103

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst

About the Book:

The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love.

In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection—from the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father to the perceived judgment of the perfectly-toned woman one elliptical over.

With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers:
  • Release the desire to fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process their hurt.
  • Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady their soul and restore their confidence.
  • Overcome the two core fears that feed our insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging.
  • Stop feeling left out and start believing that "set apart" does not mean "set aside."
  • End the cycle of perceived rejection by refusing to turn a small incident into a full-blown issue.


About the Author:

Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times bestselling author of Uninvited and The Best Yes. She writes from her sticky farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com.


My Review:

I have read and enjoyed many of Lysa's books, and I'm happy to proclaim that this is among my favorites.  With her sheer honesty and trademark wit, she offers the readers an insight into a life of rejection and how that one who felt left out finally discovered the place she'd always longed to be--a place of love and acceptance.  Lysa shares parts of her painful past as well as comical experiences she has faced throughout the years that have helped her arrive where she is today.  I must say that my favorite account was the one with the cussing angel (you'll have to read the book to understand and truly appreciate the humor).

I've had my eye on this book for some time but was waiting for the "right time" to spend money on it.  Recently, I felt the Lord impressing me that now was the time.  As I began reading, I understood His promptings, for the first few chapters of the book discussed the very thing I was studying and covering in my own new book:  the power of our thoughts and words.  Lysa reminds us that, whether we realize it or not, what we think and say has a dramatic impact on our actions and attitudes.  With that in mind, she urges us to guard our thoughts and tongues against the negativity that often so easily besets us.  God worked it out that I was in the perfect place in my life to thoroughly appreciate this insight.

As with all of Lysa's books, I had trouble pacing myself because once I started reading, I didn't want to stop.  Her words encouraged my heart and motivated my spirit as I'm sure they will do for you.  This is a must read for anyone who has ever struggled with feelings of rejection (which I'm certain that we all have).  You won't be sorry!


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What Are You Seeking?

And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. - Exodus 33:18-23

In this beautiful passage, we see Moses asking to see the Lord's face. And while the Lord could not honor Moses's request for his own safety, God was honored by the fact that Moses was seeking to know God on this level. In the same way, God is honored when we seekHhis face; however, we are often too busy seeking His hand.

Sadly, we tend to be a selfish and self-centered generation, expecting the Lord to act according to our wishes. Day after day, we pepper Him with questions and requests, and while God is happy to give gifts to His children, don't you know He grows weary of us seeking His hand for more often than we seek His face? Think about it, when was the last time we went to Him in prayer, not to ask for anything, but merely to speak with Him, to be with Him, to rest in His presence? In contrast, how often do we go asking for things, whether they be needs or wants?

Let me make this clear. The Bible does say, "Ask and you shall receive," but it also says, "Draw nigh unto God." We don't get close to someone by only being in their presence long enough to ask them for things. We get close by spending time with them--talking, listening, and sometimes just being. While God does long to bless us with the desires of our hearts, he wants, even more, to be sought out for who He is rather than what He can do for us.

As I taught this to my Sunday School class on Sunday morning, the question was asked of me, "So what do we do when we have a need? Is it okay to ask God to meet that need?" Absolutely. As I said, God wants to do things for us because He loves us. But we need to balance the appeals for things that we don't have with praises for the things that we do. We need to make sure that we're spending as much time resting in God's presence as we are spouting our list of demands. By all means, ask God to meet a need, but make sure that's not the only time you're spending with God.

Now, before I close, let me show you an extra special blessing from the passage above in Exodus. We see that Moses was seeking God's face, but as God explained, it is humanly impossible for man to see God's face and live. But notice what God did do. He placed Moses in a safe place and covered him with his hand. Did you catch that? Moses sought God's face, and God gave his hand. That's the way it's supposed to work. When we seek God's face first, He will ensure that all our needs are met, and we will lack no good thing.

What are you seeking today?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. - Matthew 6:33


Monday, April 24, 2017

What Do You Want Now?

Yesterday, I had a rather graphic and gruesome reminder about contentment.  As I worked on dinner, I noticed the dogs next door were barking, but this was not their usual type of bark.  Something was definitely different about it, and when the barking continued for several minutes, I decided I'd better go out and investigate.

The two dogs were standing with arched backs, barking at our fence.  I looked around and saw nothing in our yard that would cause such a frenzy, so studying their behavior more closely, I realized that their attention was on the ground just in front of the fence.  My first thought was that there was a snake.  It wouldn't be the first time.  But I was terrified of one of the dogs getting injured, so I went near the fence to see if maybe I could distract whatever was causing them such grief.  That's when I heard the noise.  It was definitely not a snake.  Nope, it was a groundhog.  And it was trapped.

I ran into the house to get Jason to see if, between the two of us, we could manage to distract the dogs long enough to allow the groundhog to escape.  It sounded like a good idea, but the dogs were intent on their prey, and despite our calling and clapping, they continued to bark at the cornered animal.  Finally, the inevitable happened, and I found myself having to run back inside so as not to witness the carnage.  Yes, the dogs had a new chew toy, and within moments, the groundhog lay dead in the middle of the yard.  Poor thing!  (I told you it was gruesome.)

Here's the crazy part.  After a few minutes, both dogs began barking again.  I looked out the window to see what was going on, and they both stood around the deceased rodent.  I was pretty sure the creature was dead.  Jason had even confirmed it, but the dogs continued to bark.  It was as if the entire ordeal had been a big game to them, and now that the groundhog wasn't playing anymore, they were upset.

Isn't that the way with desires?  We think we want something, but then once we get it, we realize it wasn't all we thought it would be.  The joy and satisfaction of achieving the prize are short-lived, and suddenly, we're reaching for the next thing to satisfy.  Never content.  Always wanting more.  Never seeming to remember that when we have Jesus, we have all we'll ever need.

I hate that it took such a horrid event to remind me that I need to be on guard for discontentment, but I'm glad that God loves me enough to teach me, even when the lessons are painful.  Discontentment is a sin, and instead of searching for the "next thing," we need to be thankful for all the blessings we have.  It would do us a world of good.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to attend a funeral. . . for a groundhog.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. - Philippians 4:11