Praise His Holy Name

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalms 30:4-5 (NIV)

One of the hardest things to do is to give your best to someone or something when you are not feeling your best.  When the day is long and patience is short and the pain of life seems overwhelming, sing to the Lord?  That’s what the psalmist is getting at.  Bringing the sacrifice of praise to God is not supposed to hinge on our mood, but that doesn’t jive with the ways of the world.

Too often we use worship and praise as personal therapy.  We look forward to Sunday mornings because we enjoy the music and hope it will help us feel better.  There is something profoundly important about worship being about God and God alone.  Being disciplined about why we worship – because God is worthy – helps us keep a longer view of things.  If we can worship God in the midst of our storm, it helps us hope for the sun to break through though we don’t yet see the light.

To develop this discipline in our children we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis why we worship.  What is it about God that we need to praise Him for?  Why is it important to praise Him even on our darkest day?  It is not that we don’t know the answers to these questions, but emotion is hard to overcome when our knowledge doesn’t go deep enough.  We and our children need to know why we love and worship God like we know the sun will come up in the morning.

Lord, help me to worship You as you deserve.  Give me the strength and discipline to give you praise, even on the worst of days.  May my children worship and rejoice in You all the days of their lives.  Amen.

Worship with Creation

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. – Psalms 19:1-3 (NIV)

My family has the blessing of living in the scenic beauty of northernCalifornia.  Rugged, snow-capped mountains, pine forests, pristine lakes and a meandering river valley create a land that begs to be recognized.  The sunsets are breathtaking and the nights are filled with countless stars.  It is a place where God’s glory shines through so clearly, you would think it couldn’t be missed.  But it is.

The human heart can be severely near-sighted, focused on the things that are closest to it without concern for anything else.  When the heart sees the world this way, so much goes by unnoticed and unappreciated.  This can also happen with our physical eyes.  The text on the phone, the picture on the TV or the line on the page can sometimes draw our eyes from what God is saying outside our window.

I am trying to teach my children to keep their eyes open for the fingerprints of God; to see His handiwork and give praise.  We take time to watch the sunset.  We stop to look at a flower or a bird in quiet reflection.  We gaze at the night sky and see something great than the sum of the stars, but not often enough.  I still miss those opportunities to worship God with my children.

It is odd that my physical vision gets worse as I get older, yet my spiritual vision gets clearer and sharper.  It is not, however, a done thing.  Still pressing on.  Still learning to see the world with eyes wide open.

Lord, help me to see the opportunities You put before me every day to join with creation in giving you praise.  May I lead my children into these moments of worship and help them develop a clearer vision of Your creation.  Let me see the night sky and perceive more than stars.  Amen.

Worship Leader

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. – Psalms 8:2 (NIV)

I enjoy the worship at my church.  It is a time to give glory to God, get prepared to hear that day’s message and join together in unity in our love of God.  The musicians are gifted, the leaders are thoughtful and the room is built for singing.  This is a blessing each time we enter into that place of worship and I am grateful.  That being said, what I love the most is hearing my children worship.

It doesn’t matter that they don’t get the words right every time.  It is okay that they miss a note now and then.  It is perfectly acceptable for them to sit and listen to songs they don’t know. I just love watching a heart for worship grow inside of them.  I love hearing that a meaningful worship song is their “favorite” song to listen to on the radio.  I want them to be worshippers of God with reckless abandon.

I think my flaw lies in waiting for Sunday morning for worship to happen.  I need to lead my children into worship wherever and whenever.  I need a heart that is moved to sing and shout praise to God without fearing embarrassment or shame.  I need the sensitivity to know when a song raised in humility will bring more peace and healing than any conversation could.  This child needs to silence the foe and the avenger.

Lord, help me become more prone to worship than to lecture or discuss.  Grow in me an attitude of praise so that my children will see and hear and imitate.  Make me a worship leader for my family. Amen.

Courageous Worshippers

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices.  Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. – Ezra 3:3-4 (NIV)

The ebb and flow of Christianities’ popularity in theUnited Stateshas been marked with fairly small swings of the pendulum.  It seems, however, that the core principles of Christian beliefs are under more and more scrutiny and treated with greater disdain as time moves forward.  Science has become the process by which we define human purpose and action, and morality is bent to the will of humanities appetites.  Within this atmosphere, believers walk with caution and trepidation.  Where can a faithful man find peace?

This is a reality that no believer can escape: our faith puts us at odds with the world around us.  Sometimes it is less abrasive, but we are moving against the grain in this world if we are moving toward God.  This is the same atmosphere the Israelites faced in returning toJerusalem, albeit under greater threat than most of us will likely face.  But worshippers of the one true God are courageous worshippers.  We are not of those “who shrink back.”  We are the overcomers and glory displayers.  We are the sons and daughters of God.  We are the “us” in “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

The questions remain for us to answer, “Am I living a brave and courageous life of worship?  Am I teaching my children to be worshippers in spirit and in truth without fear?”  We may not be facing direct attacks on us or our faith, but we are at odds with the world and we need to be prepared.  Our children may live their adult lives in a culture with little tolerance for people of Christian faith, or they may not, but I would rather hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  I want them to be ready to stand for God even if that means standing alone.

This calls me to be less private about my faith, to open myself to public displays of adoration for my God.  Worship for the Israelites required burnt offerings, the smoke and smell alone was a clear signal of what they were about.  How clear of a signal are we sending to the world around us that we are worshippers of the living God?

Lord, help to worship You courageously and teach my children to worship You in spirit and truth without fear.  Open my eyes and heart to the opportunities to display my adoration for You in the midst of the world and not hide the light of Your salvation.  Amen.

Good Stewards

The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD; it was paid to the workers, who used it to repair the temple.  They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.  The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings[c] was not brought into the temple of the LORD; it belonged to the priests. – 2 Kings 12:13-16

Somewhere along the line, we have been taught that money is evil – that it is inherently tainted – but as with all things, it is us that makes them good or evil.  When we handle money with integrity and stewardship toward God, it is put to good use.  When it becomes the object of our affections, we and it are put to bad use and it is questionable if we are any longer in charge.  The example above shows the type of conduct and attitude the people of God should have toward money.

If we approach the subject of money with our children as a matter of the heart and not the pocket, we will equip them for a successful life.  If we teach them to master their money with a heart full of love for God, instead of being mastered by a love of money, we prepare them for a life of contentment and gratitude.  We can teach them that there is a difference between earning wealth and pursuing riches.  The best way to do this is by being good stewards ourselves.  In a culture where money is listed as one of the top reasons for troubles in marriages, this can be a hard row to hoe.

Having the relationship with money that we want our children to develop as they grow older will be the toughest challenge for some of us.  We can give them Scripture verses, quotes from famous Christians and tell them what is right, but if we aren’t living it, our efforts will fall flat.  Whatever your weakness is with money, start working on it because your children are watching; I know because I am still working on it and it is nice to know I am not alone.

Lord, help me to be a good steward.  Show me the flaws, misconceptions and weaknesses I have in how I handle money.  Work in me an attitude of contentment and gratitude so I can master money instead of it mastering me, and may you begin the same work in my children. Amen.

Walking in Power

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen ofIsrael!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.  He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. – 2 Kings 2:11-14 (NIV)

Power has become an ugly word.  Power corrupts.  Power makes one person stronger than another and makes things unfair.  But God has called His people to be empowered for His work.  Elijah walked in the power of God and God worked His power through Elijah.  Foot races with chariots, calling down fire, praying for rain and parting the waters were some of the acts of power God used His prophet to perform.  Elijah lived with an expectation and anticipation of God’s power working in and through him as He followed God’s direction and Elisha followed quickly in his steps.

We don’t talk much about empowering our children to do God’s work.  We talk about equipping them and educating them and protecting them, but we don’t talk much about power.  There are conversations about releasing their potential, but not enough about God’s power being released in their lives.  But power is exactly what they need to be prepared to handle.  Our children should live with an expectation of God’s power being released in and through their lives.  We cannot ask them to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and then not teach them to expect His power to work in their lives.

We also cannot expect to teach them an expectation and anticipation for God’s power to be expressed in them if we don’t expect it ourselves.  Elisha expected the power of God because Elijah did.  We live and breathe by the power of God.  We minister His grace by His power.  We produce fruit by His power.  We walk and wait and worship in His power.  It is the life we were made for; we and our children.

Lord, help me live a life defined by Your power.  Give me the will and the way to expect and anticipate Your power moving in and through my life and lives of my children.  Lord, show Your power. Amen.

A Lesson in Sacrifice

That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”  Following Gad’s instructions, David went up, as the LORD had commanded.  When Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming toward him; and Araunah went out and prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground.  Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you in order to build an altar to the LORD, so that the plague may be averted from the people.”  Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.  All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God respond favorably to you.”

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.  David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being. So the LORD answered his supplication for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel. – 2 Samuel 24:18-25 (NRSV)

Sacrifice requires at least one element in order to qualify as sacrifice: it must cause us a deficit of some kind.  For David, it would be easy to assume that his deficit was the cost of the threshing floor, but the real deficit for David was his reputation. By purchasing the threshing floor from Araunah, David was declaring the place of sacrifice as his and his alone.  David was living out his own words, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:17)

In today’s society, going without cable or eating out less are considered sacrifices, but they are not the ones that get us closer to the heart of God.  The kind of sacrifices that we need to teach our children about will cost us something.  They need to see in us the willingness to put our reputations, our careers, even our lives at stake for the sake of being right with God, our family and our community.

It is interesting to note that the threshing floor and the surrounding hill became the building site of the temple.  This place that was a billboard for David’s sin would become the dwelling place for God and the place of worship for His people.  This is what sacrifice does for His people – it expands His residency and gives us opportunity to worship.  Teaching our children to sacrifice like David will take time, but it will increase God’s living space in their lives and room to worship Him.

Lord, help me to be a man of sacrifice.  Give me the tools to conquer pride and selfish ambition so You can overcome the unconquered areas of my life.  Let me be an example of godly sacrifice to my children for Your name’s sake. Amen.