Archive for the “Praise” Category

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

Do you remember the Jerry Seinfeld episode “Yada, Yada, Yada”? While he didn’t invent the phrase, he popularized it. You can YouTube it if you’re not familiar with it, but basically, it’s a way to shorten a story. “A friend of ours found a dog who had been abandoned, yada, yada, yada, and now we have a large dog cage in our kitchen.”

Well, the word translated “give thanks” above is the Hebrew word “yada.” Now technically it’s pronounced differently than the English “yada” – the Hebrew version puts the accent on the second syllable. But I’m using it as reminder to give thanks. Anytime I hear or am tempted to use the phrase “yada, yada, yada” – I’m giving thanks!

And that’s what this psalm is about…in part. It’s a lot about giving thanks. It’s also about the great love of our father who reaches down, involves Himself in our lives, and rescues us from whatever situation we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Having begun the psalm with the encouragement to give thanks, He continued:

For he has gathered the exiles from many lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Psalm 107:3

Friends – we’re included in that verse! We are described as being aliens and exiled from God in Ephesians 2 – having no hope and without God. But “give thanks for the wonderful things he has done” – He has gathered us; He has rescued us; He has brought us home, into His family. We were all once lonely – alone without God, but God…let’s continue in Psalm 107.

The Psalmist (King David) then goes on to look at different ways that the Israelites had become alienated from God or exiled. As you read each example, you’ll see a pattern develop:

Some people __________ (fill in the blank with how they became exiled). This is followed by a verse that is repeated:

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress.
Psalm 107:6, 13, 19 and 28

This was followed by a command that mirrors verse 1 of the psalm:

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, 31

Finally, more details are given about how God saved His people.

Here’s the detail:

Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless, hungry and thirsty…

“Lord, help!” they cried…and He rescued them…

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery…

“Lord, help!” they cried…and He rescued them…

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.

Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins….

“Lord, help!” they cried…and He rescued them…

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.

Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror….

“Lord, help!” they cried…and He rescued them…

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.

The bottom line, friends is that God works to bring us back no matter what mess we get ourselves into.

And our proper response is what? “Let them praise the Lord for His great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.”

The word translated “praise in these verses is the same word translated as “give thanks” in verse 1 – “yada.”

Yada, yada, yada – praise, thanksgiving, praise! Thank you, Lord, for working to get me out of the jams I get myself into. Read verses 33 through 42 of the Psalm and you’ll see that God will turn dry lands into rivers and rivers into dry lands to bring us back to Him. The verses highlight that the God we serve is a powerful God who controls all of nature and uses that power to bring us to himself, whether through blessing or discipline. It is his heart to bless us, but he waits for us to turn to him. He waits for the humble cry, “Lord help!”, and then he turns and rescues and blesses.

Thank you Lord, for using both discipline and blessing to bring me back to you.

I love the final verse of the Psalm:

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the LORD.
Psalm 107:43

When we stay close to God’s heart through thanksgiving and praise, we become wise and we see in our own history the faithful love of the Lord. The word translated “faithful love” encompasses mercy, kindness, lovingkindness, goodness and patience. It’s the same word used in the repeated verse “Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.”

Hallelujah! What a God we serve.

Friends, what is your history? Can you look back and see the faithful love of the Lord? More importantly, are you living that verse of praise – are you praising the Lord for His great love and for the wonderful things he has done for you?

This week is Thanksgiving and it provides a perfect opportunity to not be quiet in our praise and thanksgiving.

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

Grow your thanksgiving muscle as you speak out your praises and thanksgiving. As you do that, you will be better able to see God working in your history to continually bring you to Him. You will see His faithful love.

Enjoy your week! Enjoy God!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartEven in our most downhearted moment, we can reach down deep and rejoice at the freedom God has bought for us. There are so many Psalms in which David cries out from the difficult situation he’s in. Yet they always end with a praise to God – with a recognition of the goodness of God and the good things He has done. Psalms 31 and 35 provide two examples of this. Throughout the Psalms, David is not shy about expressing the severity of his situation, crying out to God in verses like this

“Free me from the trap that is set for me” (31:4)

“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends– those who see me on the street flee from me.” (31:9-11)

“Malicious witnesses rise up; They ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good, To the bereavement of my soul.” (35:11-12)

David’s life wasn’t always pleasant (yes, that’s probably the understatement of the year). Yet in both of these Psalms, as well as most (all?) others, he returns to a rejoicing in his salvation and his God:

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” (31:7)

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you…Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me” (31:19, 21a)

“And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation.” (35:9)

“I will give You thanks in the great congregation; I will praise You among a mighty throng.” (35:18)

“And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long.” (35:28)

Joy comes in part from what we choose to focus on. David faced exceedingly difficult times and he poured his heart out to the Lord during those times. But he kept the difficulties from overwhelming him by consistently praising – even rejoicing – in the One who is greater than the difficulties. The One who is sovereign over all things. The One who is our salvation. The One who loves us beyond our ability to fully grasp.

When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” (Luke 19:37) “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” they cried (Mark 11:9).

The Pharisees took offense at the outrageous, joyful praise being given the Lord – “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said. (Luke 19:39)

Jesus’ response is instructive: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

If we do not rejoice, the very rocks we kick down the road will praise Him in our place.

Ron Kenoly released a song in 1995 (yikes, that was a long time ago!) titled “Ain’t Gonna Let No Rock.” “Ain’t gonna let no rock out-praise me. Ain’t gonna let no rock take my place.” You can check it out here. My sentiments exactly. I will rejoice in Him. I will sometimes dig deep for the joy within me, but I will do it because my Savior has bought my freedom!

We in America don’t understand the joy of freedom because we have experienced it all our lives. Here’s a video I found inspiring and instructive. The researchers spend an hour cutting away the netting that threatened to defeat a humpback whale. The whale was close to death when they found him tangled tightly in the nylon. After cutting and cutting and cutting until they were able to fully untangle him, the whale rejoiced over his new-found freedom. He spent the next hour making spectacular jumps out of the water, slapping it with is fins, twirling and totally blessing the people who had freed him. Did you catch that? He spent the next hour rejoicing over his freedom. We were once lost and now we are found. When was the last time you spent an hour simply rejoicing over your new life? Rejoicing is fun! Watch the whale! (The whole video is good, but the whale’s show begins at about the 6:20 into it.) You know he’s having fun! And listen to the joy in the rescuers voices as they enjoy the exuberant display. It blesses God’s heart when we rejoice over all He has done for us. Rejoice friends!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, I published a blog titled The Proof of Repentance – Living Differently. The point of the article was that when we agree with God about our sin, we choose to live differently. We choose to let go of sinful behaviors and replace them with behaviors that are pleasing to God. That makes us counterculture.

If ever there was a lifestyle pattern in which we need to be counterculture, it is grumbling and complaining. It is the most common conversational “style” I find – both among Christians and non-Christians. Ask anyone how they are doing and you are unlikely to hear about how blessed they are, even though we live in a most blessed country. Yes, we’re going through a recession and perhaps they’re not feeling as “blessed” as they were five years ago, but on our very worst days, we’re still living in a blessed country.

Psalm 92 instructs us to give thanks, sing praises and proclaim His unfailing love in the morning and His faithfulness in the evening. That’s a lifestyle of thanksgiving and praise. And it’s inconsistent with grumbling and complaining. A thankful heart must be developed and cultivated in our culture because grumbling and complaining is so prevalent. I confess – sometimes I feel like I have to complain about something just to be a part of the crowd. If I’m not complaining, I’m just too different from everyone else to be comfortable! Lord forgive me! Teach me to embrace the discomfort of not being like everyone else so that I can live in the joy of thanksgiving!

A thankful heart lifts our eyes to the Lord – I need that. A grumbling and complaining heart puts my eyes on the situation – and the very worst elements of it. Next week’s blog is going to be all about that!

This week, I want to get us thinking.

  • What do you have to be thankful for?
  • What keeps you from being thankful?
  • How strong is your thankful heart? Mine is doing OK, but I know it could be stronger.

I’m looking forward this month to learning about how to grow my thankful heart and then…actually growing it! My goal for the next four weeks is to become a more thankful person. Because I’m convinced that there is joy to be found in thankfulness. In good times and in bad times. I am hoping that people notice the difference, but even if they don’t, I will.

I am anticipating going into a difficult few months. We all face times that are more challenging than others. I want to experience my thankful heart growing stronger before I get too far into that difficult period.

So let’s start with an easy assignment. (At least I it’s an easy one.) Memorize Psalm 92:1-2.

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

And if you find that to be a really easy assignment, begin to implement it.

  • Every morning when you wake, proclaim – declare with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s unfailing love.
  • Pause before each meal to give thanks – truly give thanks, don’t just repeat words you often say but frequently don’t fully embrace.
  • At least once each day sing praises to God. (Perhaps you could sing your thanksgiving before one of your meals.)
  • Every night before you go to sleep, proclaim – again, declare it with enthusiasm and confidence – God’s faithfulness.

I’m looking forward to this week…and next week and the week after that. I’m looking forward to them because I believe that developing a heart of thanksgiving has tremendous power to transform us into the people God wants us to be. And that will not only please God, it will bring more joy into my life.

So…let grumbling and complaining cease and let the thanksgiving begin!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

12The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

John 12:12-13 (NIV)


During our journey through 2013, we’re focusing on a different characteristic or quality of the heart each month. You can see all the blogs in the series here.) I’m pulling over to the side of the road this week and next to address the praise-filled heart. With Palm Sunday just two days ago and Easter (or Resurrection Sunday as it’s called at our church) just a few days away, the note I made in the margins of my sermon notebook was “radical praise – it’s a season of outrageous praise!”

I love description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It’s often called the triumphal entry because He was recognized as and given the reception of a King, even if only for a short time. People laid their coats on the ground before Him. And trust me, it wasn’t their spare jacket that they usually left hanging in the closet at home. It was most likely their only over-garment. That’s outrageous praise!

And they shouted “Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosannah!” “Blessed is the King of Israel.”

Outrageous praise! To proclaim Jesus as the King of Israel. Yes, He had been doing miraculous works in their midst. Still no one had yet proclaimed Him a King.

In the midst of outrageous praise, the Israelites were reciting from a Psalm 118. Look at the phrase in context:

22The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
23the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
26Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
27The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
Psalm 118:22-27 (NIV)

Jesus is the stone the builders rejected. Let us rejoice and be glad. The word translated “rejoice” connotes a strong emotion. It’s not quiet joy. It’s outrageous joy. It’s loud, have-to-dance joy.

Some of the Phraisees weren’t all that happy about such an outrageous display of emotions. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said to Jesus (Luke 19:39, NIV).

“I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40 (NIV)

Stones crying out – that’s outrageous praise!

What does outrageous praise look like in your life? Let me give you some characteristics of it:

  • It isn’t temporary. When you’ve praised God outrageously, it’s going to have an effect that doesn’t dissipate before you’ve finished your morning coffee.
  • It goes beyond peaceful. It may bring you peace, but outrageous peace isn’t accomplished with a serene smile on your face while you sit quietly. I truly want to allow for individual differences, but I honestly don’t know how anyone can outrageously praise God silently. (If you disagree, let me know. We can still be friends!)
  • It may make you a bit uncomfortable! If you’re not accustomed to outrageously praising God (and most of us aren’t), you’ll be uncomfortable at first.
  • It’s likely to make those around you uncomfortable. I’m not advocating that you offend your neighbor for the sake of offending them. But I am suggesting that you not allow others to dictate how you outrageously praise God.

I have a challenge for you today. Before the end of the day, spend at least three minutes outrageously praising God. If that’s not a challenge for you, make it five or ten minutes. If you’re new to outrageous praise, start with some of the verses in Psalm 118 and add your own commentary after them. You might begin with verse 14:

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14 (NIV)

Read the verse out loud with enthusiasm, then praise God out loud for being that for you. “Lord, you are my song when I have no song. You are my strength when I have no strength. Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord, for saving me. Thank you, Lord, for lifting me up when I couldn’t reach up on my own.”

15Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! 16The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
Psalm 118:15-16 (NIV)

“Hallelujah, Lord! You have done mighty things for me! You meet my every need! You provide for me every day! Because of You I live in freedom! Because of You I live in love! Because of You I will live for eternity!”

That’s the beginning of outrageous praise. It blesses God’s heart and it will bless your heart.

Share this post with a friend who needs to be blessed this week. And tell me how your outrageous praise session went!

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I love the discoveries I make as I review my notes from sermons I heard the previous year. As I read over the sermons from the first half of the year, I found a continual calling back to dependence on God, a continual encouragement to live above our circumstances by trusting them to Him. You can read highlights from those sermons here.

I got waylaid a bit before going over my notes for the second half of the year. It’s almost Easter and I’m just now publishing highlights from the second half of 2012. Sometimes life gets away from us, doesn’t it? I was tempted to not publish these because I’m so late, but these are too good to not share. I pray that you are as blessed as I’ve been reviewing what God said through mighty men and women of God in 2012.

On June 11th, I attended a prayer meeting. It wasn’t your typical prayer meeting, but a weekly “soaking” prayer time that takes place at Ekklesia Revived, our local prayer center. (You can find their Facebook page here.)  This is a time of sitting and listening to the Lord – soaking in His presence and waiting on Him. At the end of the prayer time, people share what they’ve heard from the Lord. Often God speaks through images, thoughts that come to our mind, or things others say. Here are my notes from one such “speaking”:

“I saw us dancing with the Lord” one woman said. When she said that, I immediately thought of the movie Hitch. “This is your dance space, this is my dance space” [Hitch instructed his client]. The Holy Spirit immediately said to me “It’s time to dance outside your space.”

How cool is that? I love the way the Lord speaks to us. Is it time for you to dance outside our space?

“For God to mend our hearts, we have to give Him all the pieces – or it will never be fully mended.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 6/17/12

“It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it.” A stray note in my written journal. I have no idea who said it. But it’s a good line!

“There must be a desire in each of us to see God move. Wherever we are is to become a habitation of our Lord.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 7/22/12

“He is our Shepherd and without Him we are helpless and harassed. (see Matthew 9:36)” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 8/26/12

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/23/12

(And I would add – and we all need that!)

During our worship time on September 30, 2012, I made these notes in my written journal:

During worship I saw an image of mighty warriors standing in front of the king – creating a protective wall around him. Nothing gets through them. That’s how we’re to be for one another – especially when we see one who has fallen. As I considered this, I saw an image of many guards standing over a fallen warrior. They were clearly giving the fallen warrior time to heal. They were not standing guard over his death. It was not a death watch, it was a protection detail giving time to heal. They were saying to the enemy “we’re standing here and you’re not getting through. We’re providing a protective barrier until our brother has healed.”

Lord, make me one of those warriors!! Enlist me in that army. Teach me that dedication and that steadfastness and that courage to stand. Not here, satan! Not now!

PS note: The sermon that followed that day was titled “Faithful, Fearless Courage!” God was preparing me to hear the sermon and respond!

“God says that no one can stand against us. Does our life show we believe it? Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Trust requires action before God moves.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“The battle has nothing to do with the size of the enemy; it has everything to do with the size of our God. So don’t minimize the size of the problem, just maximize the size of your God.” Pastor Dan Caudill, 9/30/12

“Let the darkness cause us to be excited – because the light is preparing to come!” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“Darkness gives off an air of deception that nothing can penetrate it – making it seem as if there’s no use in trying to impact it. It is a deception. God is the God of Light. He created the Light. The Light has overcome darkness.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Satan now uses ‘weapons of mass distraction’ and it leads to a quiet erosion of our life.” Francis Frangipane, 10/13/12

“In the uncertainty of change, cling to God.” Pastor Larry Klaiber, 10/28/12

“God’s sole purpose is to change us – to make us more like Christ. Therefore, our sole purpose should be to let Him!” Pastor Dan Caudill, 11/25/12

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One would have to be in a pretty bad place for prison to be considered a promotion…at least as we view things. Perhaps, however, we’re not seeing with God’s eyes.

The story of Joseph is an interesting one. Sold by his brothers to traveling merchants, he ended up in the household of the Pharaoh’s (King’s) Chief of Security, Potiphar. He was quickly promoted to being Potiphar’s personal assistant and placed in charge of his entire household. Potiphar’s wife found Joseph quite attractive and begged him (repeatedly) to have sex with her. When Joseph refused, she accused him of trying to rape her. Without any investigation or even listening to Joseph’s side of the story, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. For the second time in his life, Joseph was dealt a tremendous injustice.

I don’t think there are any of us who would consider Joseph’s change in position a promotion. Yet when we see the whole of the story, we can see that it was.

Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison.
Genesis 39:22 (NLT)

In Potiphar’s home, Joseph learned how to run a home. In prison, Joseph learned how to run a prison. He got practical experience in how to manage the prison for the Pharaoh of Egypt. Yes, he was a slave in both cases, but running a prison is a much larger responsibility than running a home.

Being in prison also put Joseph in the place he needed to be to receive his next promotion. It was in prison that he met the Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and baker. It would be the cup-bearer who would introduce the Pharaoh to Joseph. It would then be Pharaoh who promoted Joseph to Prime Minister of Egypt. It is this promotion that put Joseph in a position to save his brothers (yes, the very brothers who had sold him into slavery) and his father from dying of hunger during the severe famine. He learned and refined the skills he needed during his time as Potiphar’s assistant and head of the Pharaoh’s prison.

In each situation, God was preparing Joseph for his next assignment.

I can’t imagine that Joseph was happy about being sold to Potiphar or being thrown in jail. Nevertheless, he was faithful to God – which means more than praying – he was faithful to do his best in the situation God had placed him.

It’s painful to realize that it is God who has placed us where we are when we’re not where we want to be or where we think we deserve to be. I remember an exceedingly painful time in my life when thinking that God had allowed what had transpired to happen only magnified my pain. Joseph’s situation was worse than mine. I may have been betrayed, but I wasn’t sold to others and I wasn’t thrown into prison for staying faithful to God.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

But “working things together for good” is a process. The start of a project – whether it’s a painting or a building or cleaning the house – is often messy. And those involved in a project from the start can get pretty messy before they receive accolades for the finished product.

Our role in all this is to remain both faithful and full of faith – faithful to be obedient to One who knows the end before we even see the beginning and full of faith that He is good and is working for our good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Are you being challenged to be faithful or full of faith today? Don’t give up. God is working – in you, in those around you, in the situation and in your future. In the meantime…

  • Focus on God, not on your situation.
  • Remember His goodness and His faithfulness.
  • Know that His ways bring blessing even if your current circumstances seem to prove otherwise.
  • Remain thankful. Look for opportunities to be thankful.
  • Practice the sacrifice of praise – praising God in the midst of challenging times.
  • Find a church family whose love will help you through to the other side.
  • Seek His presence regularly.

These things sound like platitudes, but they are foundational actions that will help you remain steadfast during the challenging times in your life. They will help you remain both faithful and full of faith.

By the way…did you notice that all the words first words in the above list are verbs – action words. Be proactive when you’re in challenging situations. Work at staying close to God. Work at staying faithful and full of faith.

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14After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: 16“O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 17Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

18“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 19And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 20Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”
Isaiah 37:14-20 (NLT)

I’ve always loved this passage from Isaiah. The Assyrians had conquered towns in Judah, then headed north to conquer Israel. They called out King Hezekiah with a speech that challenges him in front of his people. A distressed Hezekiah sent for Isaiah who delivered a prophecy from the Lord that promised  He would rescue Israel. But the Assyrians kept up their taunting:

10“This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all!
Isaiah 37:10-12 (NLT)

That’s when King Hezekiah went up to the temple, spread the letter out before the Lord and prayed. I love that picture. He doesn’t just stay at home and pray. He doesn’t just go sit in a pew and pray. He goes to the altar, spreads the letter out and then prays. I see him unfolding the letter, laying it on the floor, then flattening it out with his hands before he takes a step back to pray. It’s as if he’s laying a gift at the altar. It’s a petition, but also a gift. Hezekiah is treating the message from the Assyrian king with respect, but he gives it to the One who deserves greater respect.

But after spreading the letter carefully out before the Lord, He doesn’t say “Lord, I’m in a real spot here.” He doesn’t say “Lord, help me. Rescue us from our enemies.” No. He says “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.”

Hezekiah worshipped. When we’re in a jam, aren’t we so tempted to get right to the request? Perhaps it’s because our focus is on our need and not on our God. Hezekiah knew his need was great. But he knew His God was greater. So he first declared that.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – start by praising God.

Hezekiah continued “Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.”

Hezekiah puts the taunting in perspective. No ego here. Hezekiah doesn’t say “Lord, do you hear what they’re saying about me and my leadership?” No, he says “They are defying the living God.” Hezekiah is offended that His God has been insulted, not that he’s been insulted. The battle is not ours, but the Lords.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – put it into perspective. Whose battle is it?

Hezekiah isn’t finished praying. He has more reframing to do:“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands.

Hezekiah brings truth into the situation. He acknowledges that what the messenger said was true – all the other nations and their gods were destroyed by the Assyrian kings. But that’s only half the truth. The full truth is that the gods of these other nations weren’t true gods. They were only idols made of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Of course they could be destroyed by the Assyrian army.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – spell out the truth about your enemy. I don’t know who your enemy is, but I know without a doubt that your enemy is not greater than the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, Ruler of all the nations of the earth, Lord of heaven’s Armies.

Hezekiah finishes his prayer with his request “Now, O Lord, rescue us – then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone are God.” A simple request for a mighty need. A simple request with an eternal purpose – so that all may know that He is God. If the Assyrian army wasn’t so powerful that it conquered every country it attacked, it wouldn’t be so well know for it’s might…and it wouldn’t bring such glory to God when God defeats them.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – remember that you don’t need a miracle until you need a miracle. God’s glory is shown greater when the need is greater.

By the way…after his prayer, the Lord had another message for Hezekiahi:

21Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, 22the LORD has spoken this word against him: ‘The virgin daughter of Zion despises you and laughs at you. The daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head in derision as you flee.’”
Isaiah 37:21-22 (NLT)

Did you catch the phrase at the end of verse 21? “Because you prayed…” I love it. Because Hezekiah prayed, the Lord had a message of humiliation and defeat for the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah’s prayer wasn’t long or belabored. It was simple, heartfelt, full of praise and truth and confidence.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – pray as Hezekiah did.

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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It wasn’t a proposal I wanted to write because the last time we quoted a project for this company we lost our shirts. That doesn’t usually happen, and we praise God for the jobs we win and the ones we lose. Usually praising Him for the jobs we win is an easy thing. The last time we worked with this company it wasn’t so easy.

The porposal was due first thing this morning, so I got up early. I was tempted to skip my devotional reading. I’m so glad I didn’t. As often happens, God used today’s Resting at the River’s Edge scheduled reading to speak to me. (I always think that is so cool! It’s not like I knew what would be happening today when I created the 2012 reading schedule last December! God is so good.)

1“When you divide the land among the tribes of Israel, [the Lord said to Ezekiel,] you must set aside a section for the LORD as his holy portion. This piece of land will be 81/3 miles long and 62/3 miles wide. The entire area will be holy. 2A section of this land, measuring 875 feet by 875 feet, will be set aside for the Temple. An additional strip of land 871/2 feet wide is to be left empty all around it. 3Within the larger sacred area, measure out a portion of land 81/3 miles long and 31/3 miles wide…5The strip of sacred land next to it, also 81/3 miles long and 31/3 miles wide, will be a living area for the Levites who work at the Temple. It will be their possession and a place for their towns. 6Adjacent to the larger sacred area will be a section of land 81/3 miles long and 12/3 miles wide. This will be set aside for a city where anyone in Israel can live.”
Ezekiel 45:1-6 (NLT)

Now you’re wondering what in the word did she get out of that! 81/3 miles long! 62/3 miles wide! 875 feet by 875 feet! 871/2 feet wide! Our God is a God of exactness. Not 8 ¼ or 8 ½ miles long. Not 87 or 88 feet wide.

As I read this, I was so encouraged – God used this passage to remind me that He is a God I can trust to create my proposals!

Imagine, friends, that the God who placed each star in the sky and knows them each by name – that God is a God of exactness. That is a God I can trust to help me determine how many hours to estimate on any given project. That is a God I can trust to help me establish my home budget.

That is a God I can trust. You can too.

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1Faith is the confidence and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith is this wonderful, supernatural, practical, every-day living thing. I’ll use a word that might offend some and say it almost seems magical. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. When you have it, you feel like nothing in the world can hold you back and nothing in the world is going to discourage you. When you don’t have it, it’s so easy to slide into defeatism and wonder if you’ll ever have enough faith, if you’ll ever be able to accomplish things, maybe even if you’ll ever be good enough for God. Of course the answer to that last doubt is no, you’ll never be good enough…but God doesn’t require that you be good enough. He’s already done the heavy lifting and is ready to forgive your sins if you just turn your life over to Him. If you’ve never done that, I encourage you – I urge you – to do so. You can learn more about it here. Or send me an email ( and I’ll respond.

Yet even those who are confident they are living in Christ can become discouraged. As we continue to walk with the Lord, He expects us to mature in our faith. He no longer spoon feeds us to help us get through our daily life. We learn to live in Christ and overcome the things of this world. Don’t misunderstand and think that Christ isn’t always with us. He is. Just as a loving parent, though, He allows us to grow up and confidently face the challenges and experience victory in Him.

So how do we encourage ourselves in our faith? How do we increase our faith when we feel it lagging? In this series we’re going to look at five specific actions we can take that will move us past discouragement toward faith and confidence. Each of the steps will strengthen your walls of faith. They will patch the weak spots and repair the broken edges.

Remember that if you’re at a weak point, it’s unlikely you got there overnight. You’ve probably been sliding for awhile and now you find yourself at the turnoff to discouragement valley. Or perhaps you’ve already taken the exit ramp. It may take a little time to get back to the road that leads to confidence and faith. Take your time and be consistent. Take these actions – starting today – and trust that God will restore you.

Faith Building Action 1 – Praise
There is no substitute for spending time praising God and it is the single-most important action you can take when your faith is dwindling. Often, however, when your faith is low, it can be difficult to remember how to worship and praise God. (Lord, forgive us. Lord, help us.) There are two practical things you can do to help you praise God when your heart is heavy and your mind is blank:

  • Remind yourself who God is. There are many ways you can do this.Here’s just a few.
    • Study or read about the different names of God. He Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord, My Provider. He has always provided for me and He always will. He is Jehovah-Raffe – The Lord, My Healer. He has made me whole!
    • When I’m having one of those medical tests that cause me stress I work through the alphabet identifying characteristics of God that are praiseworthy. He is the Alpha – He’s always been. He existed before the beginning of the world. He’s Big – bigger than any problem I’m facing. (He’s also Better at dealing with them than I am.) He Cares for me – like a mother hen wants to protect her chicks. You get the idea. If you’re working on faith building, don’t just do this in your head as I’ve done during uncomfortable medical tests, do it on paper – journal your way through the alphabet. It is a powerful exercise that can easily take several weeks. Make it a special time between you and God.
    • Read through the Psalms. Many of them describe God in ways that wouldn’t be on the tip of our tongues. He is the good shepherd (Psalm 23). He is a shield around me (Psalm 3:3). He is my rock (Psalm 18:3 and many others). You’ll also find example after example teaching you how to praise Him. “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.” (Psalm 116:1)
    • I love to read the creation story in Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said…” (Genesis 1:1-3a, NLT). I am blown away by the power of God each time I read it – His ability to create all that exists from nothing. God’s Spirit hovered, then He spoke. And the world came into being.
    • Sing praise music. This Sunday, after each worship song our pastor had us call out things we were thankful for that we had just sung about. It made us think about the words we were singing – making it impossible to treat the worship time like a songfest. Engage while you sing praise songs and pause after each one to audibly praise God for things the song identifies.
  • Remind yourself of what God has done for you. Be specific.
    • Tell yourself your “God story.” How were you saved? What prayers has He answered? How has he protected you? How has He intervened in your marriage? How has He changed your life and the lives of your children? Who has he put in your life to bless you? How have they blessed you?
    • If you’ve kept a prayer journal, re-read it. Slowly.
    • Think through the major seasons of your life and identify how God has been a part of them.
    • Think through the major events of your life and remember how God has directed them.

Our pastor said something this Sunday that I put two stars next to in my notes:

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

He followed it with a second double-starred note:

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

How very true this is. It’s that complaining spirit that drives us to discouragement valley. Praise takes the keys away from it and returns them to the Holy Spirit. Then He drives us to faith and confidence.

Friend, praise Him! In the morning, throughout the day and before you go to sleep every night.

It will keep you off the road to discouragement.

In a few days I’ll give you a second action to build your faith when it’s wavering. For now, let’s praise Him.

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