Thoughtful Thursday: The Purpose of Monotony

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Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, 8, 10, 11, 13

2 “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher, “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!” 3 What benefit do people get from all the effort which they expend on earth? 8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it: The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing.  10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? It was already done long ago, before our time. 11 No one remembers the former events, nor will anyone remember the events that are yet to happen; they will not be remembered by the future generations. 13 I decided to carefully and thoroughly examine all that has been accomplished on earth. I concluded: God has given people a burdensome task that keeps them occupied.

Ecclesiastes 2: 1, 2, 10a

2:1 I thought to myself, “Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.”  But I found that it also is futile. 2 I said of partying, “It is folly,” and of self-indulgent pleasure, “It accomplishes nothing!”  10 I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. 

On Thoughtful Thursdays over the coming weeks I will be going through the book of Ecclesiastes.  It should be thought provoking to explore Solomon’s examination and exploration of the purpose of life.  Come on in . . .

Day in, day out.  Wake up, shower, school, work, prepare meals and clean up. We can complain about the daily grind, and yet when we are thrown off schedule, we feel disoriented.  We are trapped within this never-ending repeated cycle like hamsters on a wheel, and yet the very mundanity of it all has a purpose.  Somehow we want to escape this confinement, but that urgent desire to escape the futility of life is ultimately what can lead to our captivity or freedom.  The poverty of our soul can be met by worldly prescriptions which do not solve our dilemma and enslave us more, or drive us to find our joy and satisfaction completely in Jesus.

Blessed with the highest wisdom in the world and riches beyond belief, Solomon was surprised to see within himself this yearning, boredom, even, with life.  He had everything and yet felt it was without meaning.  He saw that any accomplishment in this world was futile.  In his search to find meaning to life, he began with indulging himself and pursuing materialism.  His focus on a self-gratifying pursuit is evidenced by his referencing repeatedly, the phrase, “for myself” six times in chapter two, among many other references to self.  Everything he did was motivated by what his flesh desired – and it never fully satisfied him.

Solomon was right – today we still do the same thing.  We have this vacuum within our souls and we try to fill it – with busyness, indulging ourselves, purchasing things that will somehow make us happy.  When those efforts do not return what is promised through the smiling faces on various advertisements, calling us to indulge, we grow disillusioned, frustrated.  Why?  Because we were designed for a specific purpose and when we are not doing that purpose, we cannot be fully satisfied.  The things of this earth were never meant to satisfy us like the things of Heaven.

A secret that Solomon uncovered – serving ourselves will not bring us lasting joy.  It is temporary and unsatisfying.  The wise heed this and recognize that the greatest fulfillment in life is in serving and giving to others.  That is how we were designed and what Christ modeled.  Christ, the King over all, chose, for the joy set before Him, to serve others.

So, is it ok to do things for ourselves?  Of course, but not if we hope for those things to be our Savior.  Perhaps instead of complaining about the seemingly futile aspects of our daily lives, we can see the benefit of the mundane tasks set before us.  They make us yearn for God.  They become a holy calling when they are done for God’s glory.  Even changing a diaper, preparing food, cleaning the toilet – all these things can be done for an eternal reward – when they are done with hearts that delight in serving others and God with a humble heart of gratitude.

Lord, help us to glorify You in our routine.  Nothing is insignificant to You and the efforts made here will last forever.

Worshipful Wednesday: A Living Sanctuary

Photo Credits Ron Giangiacomo

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Ron Giangiacomo

Psalm 114:1-2

“When Israel left Egypt, when the family of Jacob left a foreign nation behind, 2 Judah became his sanctuary, Israel His Kingdom.”

1 Corinthians 3:16

 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

1 Corinthians 6:19
” Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
2 Corinthians 6:16
Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”
Ezekiel 36:27
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
Psalm 116:6,13
“I will serve the LORD in the land of the living,13 I will celebrate my deliverance and call on the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 115:1

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us!  But to Your name bring honor, for the sake of your loyal love and faithfulness.”

How humbling and amazing it is that the God of this universe would choose to dwell in us.  And for what purpose would a perfect, Holy Being elect to dwell in a sinful vessel?  His glory and relationship.  Amazing love and grace.  It is his indwelling that makes us Holy and restores our relationship with Him.

What a beautiful picture it is of the Israelites, choosing to accept the deliverance of God and leaving behind Egypt and all of its hardship and trappings.  It took faith, for sure, to trust in God to deliver them – their enemy was so powerful.  But that faith was met with a glorious fulfillment in which His people became His sanctuary.  Imagine if they accepted the deliverance from God but still wanted to serve the gods of Egypt – would God condone such an action?  Sound familiar?

We, too, were called to come out and be separate – to leave our former way of life and walk in a new abundant life.  We cannot remain unchanged, we cannot take the sinful traditions around us and think God will wink at that.  When the Holy indwells the unholy, it is to redeem and change us forever, it is to purchase us from a dead way of living, and we are no longer our own.  The things of this world which we would cling to in ignorance, only serve to hinder the transformation that Christ is accomplishing in those who are fully surrendered to Him.

Without His indwelling, we would merely be trying to follow laws, which we can never fully achieve.  With His indwelling, God is able to convict us of sin and cause us to walk in His statutes.  What a miracle that is – formerly we had no concern for obeying God, then suddenly our hearts desire to do His will.  Praise God!

Ultimately, this radical love expressed in such a sacrificial salvation was all for His glory.  We are the benefactors but also the mirrors which reflect His glory.  He, being manifest and represented in each of us Who have accepted His free gift, restores to us once again what it is to be made in His image.

Lord, thank You for saving us!  Thank you for Your mighty deliverance!  Help us to not use this freedom to indulge the flesh by compromising and still living like we did when you saved us.  The cost was high and may we never take Your salvation for granted.

Tattoos in Whose Image?


Leviticus 18:1-5

1 “The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘I am the Lord your God3 You must not do as they do in the land of Egypt where you have been livingand you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan into which I am about to bring you; you must not walk in their statutes. 4 You must observe my regulations and you must be sure to walk in my statutesI am the Lord your God. 5 So you must keep my statutes and my regulations; anyone who does so will live by keeping them. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:28

“You must not slash your body for a dead person or incise a tattoo on yourself.  I am the Lord.

We are surrounded by voluminous propaganda today regarding how we should live.  Some tout alterations to their body as freedom, and hurl insults at anyone who would say they cannot do what they want to their bodies.  The world might choose to honor satan with their bodies, but we who belong to God are called to be different.  Our bodies and the very life we have been given is not our own, if we have surrendered to Christ.

Pervasive among us are recommendations made – piercings, tattoos, clothing, lifestyle – which all mirror and glorify our culture or society, not the God in whose image we were made.  What is appealing about marking our skin with ink, which never washes off?  I do not know.  Perhaps it is a status symbol, a mark of rebellion or daring to do so?  Not something I typically boast about.  Maybe it is acceptance with others who have chosen to mark themselves in that way.  Much as we like to sanitize the origin of the tattoo and consider it harmless, the roots of tattoos are founded in the occult and paganism.  We cannot sugar coat this fact for political correctness, and dare not gloss over it as insignificant.  We must not be negligent and “go with the flow”, thinking it does not matter.  Little by little our resolve and convictions can be whittled away until we forget where the compromise began.  It all matters to God.

God punctuates His command to not tattoo our bodies by saying it is He who said it.  It is not man’s opinion that should sway us, but God Almighty Who made us in His image.  Lastly, can you picture Jesus sporting a tattoo?  To those who would argue that this is the Old Testament, Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  God does not change.

If you are reading this and have had tattoos done, God forgives you.  Turn away from that behavior and honor God with your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t make excuses or try to justify your behavior.  We all fall short in many ways, but God can use those very shortcomings to bring God glory.  Holiness still looks the same today as it did thousands of years ago.  Changing cultures and time do not take away from God’s precepts.  Dare to be Holy, not to indulge the flesh.

Lord, help us to live for Your glory and to not rationalize what holiness might look like in today’s society and to boldly for you.  May we not walk in ignorance, but in wisdom.

The Calling of Holiness

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1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3, 4, 7, 8

1 “Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the LORD Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more. 3 For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, 4 that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.  7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Consequently, the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

1 Peter 1:16

“For it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

I am humbled by the truth that God calls each of us to be holy as He is holy.  How can what is flawed, with nothing good inherently in our being, become holy?  What is impossible with man, is possible with God!  Moment by moment, day by day, we are being fashioned into His image – what a beautiful sight to behold!  The version above uses the word “shall” – what a precious promise is contained in that little word.  God is going to do the work of making us Holy and we shall be Holy.  Sure, we might stumble around and fall short, but we eagerly look onward to this calling of Holiness, knowing the One who said it will complete it in us.

This command to be holy is not a suggestion, but it is also a calling.  A calling differs from a command in that it is in us – urging us to live a life worthy of the One Who laid His life down for us.  You cannot silence that calling, you can only muffle it a bit with a stubborn heart.  But a calling is going to come to fruition when the LORD is the initiator and the completer of the covenant.

Some men hide behind their man-made religions, eager to judge their perception of wickedness and carry out what they define as Holy judgment. They might even be right in saying something is unholy, but their handling is wicked, as well. Average people can judge other’s lack of holiness but not see that holiness extends to all aspects of life.  We might judge another for what seems an obvious lack of holiness in their life, and not see that our speech or our attitude is also unholy in the presence of our most Holy, perfect God.  I am so grateful that the One true living God is not like that.  He is the One Righteous Judge and He will judge all – but before that He extends mercy and grace and opens our eyes so that we might see.

Let us serve and help one another where we are myopic and blind.  Let us encourage one another to heed the calling of holiness and even admonish and exhort, when needed.  But may we also extend grace and instruction that causes our souls to yearn after God and His ways.  May we press on and never grow weary of being like Jesus . . . for the sweetest promise of all awaits those who pursue holiness in God . . . seeing Him face to face!

Lord, thank You for heeding the call and living a perfect life as an example to us.  Work in us for Your glory alone, LORD. Help us to seek after Your Kingdom and Your righteousness.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Mark of a Beautiful Woman

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Proverbs 31: 10

10  “Who can find a wife of noble characterFor her value is far more than rubies. 11 The heart of her husband has confidence in her, and he has no lack of gain. 12 She brings him good and not evil all the days of her life25 She is clothed with strength and honor, and she can laugh at the time to come26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. 31 Give her credit for what she has accomplished, and let her works praise her in the city gates.”

I went there today – the dreaded passage – Proverbs 31.  The one most women feel inferior to, but is such a wonderful picture of what God can do through His daughter, yielded to Him.  Used as a checklist, we miss the point.  This Proverbs 31 woman is actually a compilation of many women, and an example of what a Holy life, walking in wisdom looks like.

She is not subjugated and treated like an object as some cultures insist.  She is not a poster child dressed scandidly, as some cultures put forth as beauty and the definition of her value.  She is powerful.  Not because of a liberal agenda that supposedly empowers with equality – no she is all her own – powerfully adorned in character and wisdom, uniquely made for God’s glory with a specific calling on her life.

The strength and honor she possesses come from a vibrant faith in and dependence on her God.  Her husband has confidence in her because of her walking in wisdom.  She is not silent – she instructs lovingly.  But the character trait that brings her the most praise is fearing the LORD.  You won’t see that on any tabloid, but the eternal Word of God says it.  Fearing God instructs how she lives – each day a gift – not perfect, but beautifully walking with her Savior.  She is guided by God’s Word and invests her life in her family – the amazing gifts of a faithful life partner and precious children.  I can hear someone saying, this is a Norman Rockwell image and my husband and children are not perfect.  No, but neither are we.  It is this Holy calling of being a wife and mother that humbles us but achieves an ultimate righteousness.  It will be difficult and will take our all, but it will be worth it all.

So many distractions prey upon women today – images and fashion cheapening her existence and worth, societal pressures putting forth goals that are not biblical .  If she yields to the world’s definition, focusing on vanity and selfish endeavors, future generations are not impacted by the wise example she neglected.  If she cleaves to God’s Word and seeks to live as God created her to be, the fruit of such a life is endless.  Ultimately, the fear of the LORD is where the greatest satisfaction and peace are – it is what we were made for – to fear the LORD and enjoy Him forever.

Lord, help us all to live in a manner that pleases You.  Even when the world seems so appealing, may Your wisdom and Your Word win the battle for our souls. 

Worshipful Wednesday: The Real Golden Rule

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Psalm 111:7-10 His acts are characterized by faithfulness and justice; all his precepts are reliable.  8 they are forever firm, and should be faithfully and properly carried out.  9 He delivered His people; He ordained that His covenant be observed forever.  His name is Holy and Awesome.  10 To obey the LORD is the fundamental principle for wise living; all who carry out His precepts acquire good moral insight.  He will receive praise forever.

Our society has many anecdotes for how we ought to live.  We are told that the golden rule –  treating another person as you want him to treat you – is the main principle to live by.  This is a biblical principle – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” But here in the Psalms we see a very simple rule, given by God: obey Him! So simple, and yet difficult to carry out.

The constant battle with the flesh can make us want to give up, to become deceived that this principle of always walking in wisdom is impossible.  It is in the obedience of God’s precepts, however, that our eyes become opened and we can see.  Herein is the mystery: we cannot gain this insight by just merely assenting or believing in God’s precepts – we understand by doing it.

And what are we choosing to obey?  Not principles or fads that change depending on what we feel, or upon humanistic ideals, no – it is on the reliable precepts of God Almighty.  It is based upon the One Who has never failed – never sinned – the Perfect One, Who truly knows the best path we should take. He is trustworthy and faithful and His principles last forever.  We can know this by His past deeds, by His Word and His promises for the future! Go with God today.  Go with His revealed Word and obey what He has revealed to you.  Continue to seek Him and discover what other principles He has set for His people – not to confine you – but to establish healthy boundaries that will set you free and be a blessing to you.  Walking in wisdom with our God is truly the most joyful life one can have.

Lord, I love You!  How wise and Holy and awesome You are!  Your precepts are life and I thank You for them!  Help us to live for You and to walk in wisdom to bring You glory and to reach this lost world!

The Fruit of an Apt Reply

Luke 12:12, 17, 34, 37

12 Now they wanted to arrest him (but they feared the crowd), because they realized that he told this parable against them.  So they left him and went away17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him34 When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him37 If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

2 Timothy 4:2

Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

Proverbs 2:10

For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.

Our response when we hear truth, even when it hurts, shows the condition of our hearts.  We can choose to ignore it and run away, we can stand in amazement or listen with delight, or be humbled and silent.  I love the feeling I get when truth in God’s word pierces my soul – it is a cleansing, a revealing that sets me free.  It is not condemnation, but a sweet conviction or affirmation that heals my soul.

But what if no one had ever been willing to share truths with me that might hurt initially, but ultimately would liberate my soul?  I thank God for people who loved me enough to share a fitting word, whether it was for my edification or instructional, which bore fruit and brought glory to God.  We are called to follow Christ’s example and to speak the truth in love.  Of course Jesus is perfect and His answer will always be perfect, holy and fitting.  We can get off track and forget why we have to be prepared at all times to share God’s word.  Paying it forward, some call it – Scripture says that just as we have received, so we should give.  Not just material belongings, but the deep spiritual truths that we have been entrusted with.  It is not just a defense of the Gospel for knowledge sake, no, it is a fervent desire to share God’s love with another and set them free from the bondage of sin.

If I have this deposit from God contained in this clay vessel and forget the mission I am on, I can get puffed up with this knowledge which was given to change me to be more like Him and to serve and help heal others.  We desperately need truth – we need our eyes to be opened to the constant deceit satan is dispensing.  We do not need enablers who will flatter, nor do we need condescending judgmentalism.  We need to be prepared at all times and sensitive to God’s leading to share God’s message to one another.

The greatest commandment – to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength – propels us to fulfill the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Sometimes that love takes action by providing for a need, and other times by speaking an apt word to another soul loved by God.  May we be ready to do both.

Lord, help us too be led by You in our busy lives, to study Your word and share it with a dying world.

Doing Life Together

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1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

4 We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 in that our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (surely you recall the character we displayed when we came among you to help you). 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction. 7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For from you the message of the Lord has echoed forth not just in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place reports of your faith in God have spread, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

12 And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we do for you, 13 so that your hearts are strengthened in holiness to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

These Scriptures make my heart ache for simpler times when humankind seemed less busy and fellowship more common.  We stare numbly at our devices that keep us moving – and I speak to myself here, too.  Sure, we attend church weekly, and maybe another church event or two, but hanging out together?  Not as often as I used to in the past.  Does anyone identify with me on this?  People are too busy to get together, citing “ministry” as the cause.  The man who isolates himself loses all sound judgment, according to Proverbs 18:1, but we do not think that applies to us, surrounded by “to do’s” and passing people by day in and day out, we are not alone – or are we?  But somewhere in the quiet, a still small voice is a call to simplicity again.

A time when our agendas were not our idols or taskmasters.  A time when we did not have multiple things scheduled simultaneously.  A time when we could get together with another family and not have to feel entertained – just the company was enough – ok, and maybe a Scrabble board game.

I am struck by the clear message of the impact of discipleship in the verses above.  It is “doing life together” that sharpens one another – even when we disagree – and makes us more like Christ.  It is not finding someone who is identical to you, who will be a “yes man” who will grow you in Christ as much as it is someone who loves you enough to call out sin in your life and walk beside you while you together obtain the victory in Christ.

We all fall short of the glory of God, and need to resist the formation of “cliques” that exclude other believers and breed a sense of self righteousness.  We are all sinners, saved by grace, and desperately need one another, lest we lose sight of the vision Christ has given us.  This world desperately needs to see believers, assured of their calling, working together and loving one another.  United, there is no greater witness on this earth.  Divided, there is no worse witness on this earth.

Lord, help us to seek You together and to care for one another sincerely.  Help us to manage the time you have given well – for Your glory and Your purposes.  To us who are feeling isolated, bring friends into our lives who are willing to walk through life together.  To us too busy to notice – draw us back to a simple faith in You, surrounded by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thoughtful Thursday: Appropriate Ire

Proverbs 29:11, 22, 33

“A fool lets fly with all his temper, but a wise person keeps it back.  22 An angry person stirs up dissension, and a wrathful person is abounding in transgression.  33 For as churning of milk produces butter and as touching the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”

Proverbs 19:11

“A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 14: 16, 17

“A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is overconfident.  A person who has a quick temper does foolish things, and a person with crafty schemes is hated.”

Proverbs 14:29

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

James 1:19-20

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.  For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”

Ephesians 4:26

“Be angry and do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger.”

Anger is one of many emotions God has given us and can have a fitting place in the life of a believer.  Christ’s turning over the tables when He saw the sin within the church was godly and appropriate.  He, the Righteous Judge, is the One Who had the authority to judge the church.  We can be angry at the devastation of sin in a person’s life, but that does not mean we are permitted to sin in our display of anger and we do not have the authority to give full vent to our anger.  We, as ambassadors for Christ, need to exemplify lives free from ungodly anger, tempered by the humility that the fault we are irritated by in another we are also just as capable of exhibiting.

So when is it appropriate to become angry and how do we navigate through anger in a way that pleases God?  Just as God is angered by our sin, as a parent, I am angry when one of my children rebels.  Angry at the affect of sin and wanting to prevent them from the harm that sin can produce in their lives.  Angry that they chose to disobey, but my response in those moments is what can produce righteousness in their lives versus condemnation and shame.  None of us are perfect in our moments of disappointment or anger, but there is a way out when you are tempted to give in to that ire.  By directing passion biblically, we can ask for wisdom in the heat of the moment.  This is hard to do, but praying and asking God to help us refrain from ungodly words helps us to not be reactionary.  If correction is in order, contemplating our own weaknesses should provide ample reason for humility in our response.

The passion often associated with anger and the thoughts we choose to dwell on in a moment of anger are what need to be guided.  Rage unchecked is not godly and not permitted scripturally, but apathy and placating wrong is not a correct response, either.  What causes anger?  Is it something outside of yourself, or inherent?  Is a catalyst, such as a person or a circumstance, really the cause of anger?  The inability to control, not getting our way, fear, lack of trust and pride can all be contributors to an outburst of anger, but we cannot blame something or someone externally for our anger.  Flying off the handle will not help produce righteousness in those we are angry with, either.

Ultimately, anger should not be a dominant emotion in the life of a believer and should truly only be something that propels us to prayer for the person or situation, rather than judgment and bitterness.  If the fruit of our anger is ugly; i.e., resentment, vindictiveness or condemnation, that should be a check in our spirit that our anger is not righteous and we need to get rid of all anger and bitterness.  While expectations unmet can be discouraging, God understands more than we ever could about people letting us down.  May we give our anger to Him, the only Righteous Judge Who forgave us when we were guilty.

Lord, help us to glorify You with our anger and all of our emotions.  When  we are hurt by others, help us to remember that it is all about You and not us.

Worshipful Wednesday: Determined Praise

Psalm 108:1

I am determined, O God!  I will sing and praise You with my whole heart.”

2 Timothy 1:12

“Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”

Determination.  The mere word sparks images of situations which required a decision in the face of fear or apathy.  A child learning to ride a bike decides that they will take off the training wheels and plunges headlong on a two-wheeled vehicle, despite every part of their being that cries out against it.  In that moment, determination overcomes every argument that attempts to intervene.  How?  The costs are weighed; the benefits of triumphing over fear and riding in freedom instead of being constrained by training wheels wins.  The achievement is worth it, even if a couple of scraped knees happened along the way.

Being determined when learning something new is challenging, but perhaps not as challenging as ruling the heart when tempted to fear, doubt, or become pessimistic or bitter in the midst of life’s harrowing challenges.  It is a decision made, a setting of the will to choose to not focus on the outward seemingly impossibilities and to set our hope on God’s ability and promises.  This kind of determination cannot be half-hearted.  It cannot be void of passion.  It requires all of our heart and our being.  Our members might try to sway us from a determined stance due to fatigue or discouragement; but giving in to fleeting emotions will not grant us the sweet victory that sticking firmly with a belief or conviction will.

Knowing the One our faith is set upon is the source of all our determination.  Our hope is not futile, it is grounded on the Rock, our LORD Jesus, Whose faithfulness convinces our souls.  Our enemy and our flesh will seek to pick away at believing in God above all things, but we must remember in those moments to ask God to strengthen our feeble knees and to grant us faith.  The Nike slogan, “Just Do It” can be helpful to inspire athletes to pursue health goals, but it does not have the power to motivate long-term a consistent determination like the power of the Holy Spirit that believers can call upon.  Here lies before us today a decision: will we trust God or be tossed to and fro?  Be determined, my friends.  Choose to praise God in all seasons and experience the joy and fruit that determined praise brings.

Lord, I praise You!  I believe You are in complete control over everything and choose to trust in You!  I praise You with all my heart and pray that You will awaken Your bride to be determined to praise You and reach this world with Your love.