THE BLACK HILLS WILD HORSE SANCTUARY

While visiting Tampa, Florida, we had lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.   The focal point of the décor inside the restaurant is a magnificent bronze statue named “The Laughing Horse” created by Victor Delfin.  The size and musculature of the figure is breath-taking.

Ulele - Tampa 14

The statue was beautiful, but it cannot compare with what we saw when we visited The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  It was raining during our visit but nothing could dampen our wonder at these magnificent animals.  Wild mustangs created by God and living in thousands of acres of beautiful terrain.

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The Sanctuary has over 11,000 acres of incredible terrain for these horses to roam.  What a beautiful sight!
mustangs
Having a salad with some friends!

 

 

The inquisitive nature of the horse is evident, even in these wild mustangs, none of whom have ever been ridden nor have they had saddles, bit or bridles on them.  But they did like to come up and see what was going on!

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One of the herds gathering together.
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Please pardon my hair, it’s wet from the rain. But, I look great anyway!

We were told that the Native Americans did not have a word for horse, so they called them Big Dogs and this video shows that the characterization is pretty accurate.

 

We felt like we were at home because we have seen our little MinPins do this same thing on the family room carpet, as well as in the backyard grass.  Same thing, other than the size difference, of course!

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31  

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!   Do you ever think of bringing pleasure to the Almighty God? 

We praised the Lord for the beautiful horses that we saw and we gave thanks that He led people to create the sanctuary so that these animals would not be destroyed, people who would demonstrate His steadfast love to this small segment of His creation.

What a blessing we would receive if we remembered to do that which pleases Him throughout our day.  May praise to our Lord be the “default position” of our life!

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.  May I praise You for all that You created and may I remember Your steadfast love throughout my days.

HOW GREAT THOU ART!

We had the privilege to go on an extended vacation last summer.  We traveled throughout the western United States  and visited many of our national parks. 

The sights and sounds were incredible.  Often, the primary sound we heard was silence, as the beauty of the national park was mesmerizing in itself … words were impossible to describe the beauty and we just drank in the view.

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The Grand Tetons were magnificent in their snow-topped heights, and sprawling majesty.

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The colors and pillars (called “Hoodoos”) of Bryce Canyon became etched in our minds as we considered the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork.

Monarch Pass in Colorado, at an elevation of 11,312 feet, was windy, cold and dizzying when viewing the mountaintops that surrounded the parking lot at the summit.

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

Descending form the parking area, the mountains were up close and personal.  Visages of raw power, strength and rugged beauty. 

descending from monarch pass

We were praising God throughout our trip as we saw glorious, sculpted rock pillars in numerous variations of colors and shapes, and prevalent even along the highways.  We praised our God for the beauty of the mountains and for the wondrous provision of water, lakes, rivers, ponds and fountains throughout the hills and byways. 

The hymn “How Great Thou Art” does a good job of summarizing our reaction and wonder as we got a view of God’s creation that was different than we usually experience in East Tennessee. 

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Refrain]

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.

[Refrain]

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

[Refrain]

Of course, the hymn does not describe merely the creation that God has provided to us, it goes on to describe the glories of salvation that God has given when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Creation tells us that God exists.  Salvation tells us the magnitude of God’s love for His people in that He sent Christ to pay for our sin.  Praise is the our rightful response for both His creation and His gift of salvation.

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is the hymnbook of the Israelites, and it is full of exhortation to praise the Lord.  Here are just some of the verses that admonish us to praise Him:

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:” 

Psalm 102:18

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!”

Psalm 113:1

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 117:1-2

The book of Psalms ends with this same exhortation that applies to everyone:

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 150:6

Oh, that I would remember how great our God is even during the humdrum activities of life that so often seem to be frustrating and irritating.  When we consider all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, His Son, we should be shouting our praise and love for Him from the housetops, in everything that we do and in all the ways we serve others. 

Praising the Lord is a matter of the heart.  We can have a settled heart and mind because we can praise the Lord through whatever comes our way.  Praise Him when good things happen, certainly.  That’s not hard!  But, praising Him when adversity may arise is difficult.  We know that pain will be present in our lives; difficulties will present themselves at unexpected and usually inconvenient times; heartache will interrupt our lives when malevolent activities cause grief and loss. 

Beloved, no matter what we may have to endure, nothing will take us out of the Hand of our God, the Almighty God who uses even these hard times to transform us into the image of His Son.  This is why we can praise the Lord even as we are in tears.

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Psalm 112:1

Praise the Lord.  I am challenging myself to make praise my “default position” before God.  Care to join me in this challenge? 

 

Father, I praise Your Name for the wonder and glory of salvation through Christ our Lord.  I praise You Name when I see the creation that You have placed before me, and when I think of Your steadfast love and mercy.  Enable me to praise You even more each day, and may I make praise my “default position” before You!

HOW MAJESTIC IS YOUR NAME

At this time of the year, the full moon seems larger than life.  There is a school with its large parking lot, running track and baseball fields ½ mile from our house.  When we come home from Bible study in the evening, the moon is visible over this expanse of space, without the interjection of trees hampering the vision.  It has been wonderful to stare at the moon, marveling at its orange-tinted hue when it is first visible and appears huge.  Then, as it rises high in the sky, it seems to spread a glow of white light that blankets the land. 

I realize that there is a scientific way of explaining the light, the coloration, the change in apparent size of the moon, etc. and I appreciate that we have gone such a long way in understanding our world.  But, science is quite irrelevant when I see the full moon advancing overhead: I know it does this because God ordained it to do so, and it is awe-inspiring to me.

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Full moon rising over still Mississippi lake.

 Scripture says:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

These verses from David come front and center when we look at the moon and at the beauty of God’s creation.  What is man, indeed?  How is the Creator God mindful of mankind?  He is the One who spoke all of our universe into existence by the power of His Word!  More incredible to think of, this same Almighty God who existed before the universe was created and who is infinite, not only knows of human-kind, He knows ME, individually and personally.  

Psalm 139 provides a listing of all the intimate details that God knows about each person on this planet. He knows: 

  • When you sit down and when you stand up. – 139:2 
  • The path you will take, when you lay down, all your ways. –  139:3
  • What I say even before I speak it out loud. – 139:4
  • His hand is on you and he hems you in. – 139:5
  • You can go nowhere outside of God’s sight or knowledge. – 139:7-12
  • Even in the lowest part of earth, far from heaven, God sees you. – 139:8
  • God is in the heavens and in the sea. – 139:9
  • No matter where you are, God’s right hand will hold you. – 139:10
  • Even darkness cannot hide you from God. – 139:11-12
  • God created you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. – 139:13-15
  • God knew the number of our days even before we were born – 139:16

John Calvin said the following about Psalm 139:17-18 in his Commentary:

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that He who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, Himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

So, the next time you look up into the heavens and see the full moon reflecting the sun’s light over the earth, remember Psalm 139.   

A. W. Tozer [1897-1963] said:

“If we miss seeing God in His works we deprive ourselves of the sight of a royal display of wisdom and power so elevating, so ennobling, so awe-inspiring as to make all attempts at description futile.  Such a sight the angels behold day and night forever and ask nothing more to make them perpetually satisfied!”

The God who formed us knows us and loves us, and gave His Son for us.  Perhaps we should say that the moon is reflecting His Son-shine as it witnesses to us of God’s love and provision.  Let us declare that which the Psalmist said: 

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8:9 ESV

Father, when I consider Your greatness and Your marvelous creation, Your love and intimate knowledge of me, I can only fall on my knees and confess that You are God.  O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Remember when you were young, and one of the questions you would ask when you met someone new was “What is your name and where do you live?”

Even as adults we ask the same questions, although we often add “What do you do for a living” and “How long have you lived in our city?”

I have been going through hundreds of slide pictures taken by my father before his death and I came across several that prompted thoughts about houses in which my forefathers lived.  My grandparents’ house in California, for example.

grandparents-house-in-california
Grandparents’ house in California.

Or my grandparents’ house in Wisconsin.  I loved that front porch!

clyde-smiths-house-in-neenah-60
Grandparents’ house in Wisconsin.

But then there are houses that I can’t even contemplate living in … houses that are so big that I don’t think I could count the rooms.  This Louisiana plantation house is one such building.

louisiana-plantation-house
Louisiana plantation house.

To top it off, there is the house that is currently for sale in our city … a house with its own name, Villa Collina.  The newspaper says that it is “glorious” with over 50 rooms and is 37,000 square feet.  I simply cannot wrap my head around a single family residence that size.

But, all these houses are here, they are material, they are temporal, they are subject to rust and decay.  While I don’t live in any type of house like that, I am confident that I will live in a truly glorious house one day … my Savior says so:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2

Jesus is telling his disciples that he will be leaving them, not for a frivolous purpose or to get away from people who just did not get his mission in this world.  No, He is going home to His Father and he will prepare a place for them in heaven.

This place will be massive because there is room enough for all the believers in the world.  It is a place for those who shall be saved, who were ordained unto life through belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross.  These mansions were to be sprinkled with His blood just as the tabernacle and all the ministry vessels were sprinkled by the blood of the sacrifice.  Hebrews 9:21.  By His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension into heaven as our forerunner [Hebrews 6:20], and by His sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us, He prepares our place in heaven.

Just pause for a moment and imagine the glory that will surround these dwellings and the incredible sound of millions of voices singing praise to the Father for the work that He did through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior, and to the Holy Spirit who sealed us for our salvation.  Glory, power and praise is due to our God and we will participate in giving that glory to Him in eternity.

 

I pray that the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” as sung on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort, from Concordia Publishing House was a blessing to you.

I don’t know if we will sing this in heaven, but I am sure that singing songs of thanksgiving  that give honor to God will be as natural as breathing.

So, “Where do you live?”  Or, more importantly, “Where will you live for all eternity?”  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and your answer will be certain … you will live in the place prepared for you before the foundation of the world together with the saints from all ages.  Praise God for such hope and grace.

Father, if there is one who does not know You or your Son, I pray that the Holy Spirit would use these words to convict of sin and to comfort those who fear death.  Thank You for sending your Son as our Savior and your Spirit to effect salvation in your people.  Thank You too for the sure confidence of faith in Scripture and the truth of Your words. 

FROM VARIETY COMES UNITY

There are times when I look out the window into our backyard and I am amazed at the creativity of our God.  The variety of birds that come to the bird feeder and to the birdbath is wonderful, and it just comprises a miniscule sampling of the birds that He created for His world.

bird
Backyard bird looking for worms!

 

Some are so graceful and fast that our eyes cannot take in their flight unless it is captured in slow motion.

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Precious hummingbird approaching the feeder.

 

Others blend in with the surroundings, but they always seem to appreciate the shelter from the snow!

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Little bird taking cover from snow under the bird feeder “awning”!

The cardinal is young and is not yet fully colored, but he will be a brilliant eye-catcher when he is older!

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Young cardinal looking around the side of the feeder.

 

Some are dusty colored and demure in their plumage, but they create such beautiful music with their cooing and rustling feathers when they take wing!

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Mourning dove at the bird bath.

 

Some are bright in their coloration, and they shine in the sunlight.

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Yellow goldfinch standing brightly on a stem.

 

Each kind of bird brings his own beauty, sound, and sight to the yard.  The variety of colors and of sounds from the numerous birds, both visible and hidden in the trees, brings to my mind the description that God gives of His people and His church.

 

By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Isaiah 45:23

 

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:10-11

 

In the book of Revelation, John records the vision that he had of the end times, of the church and of the activities in heaven.  In chapter 5 at verses 9 and 10 we read:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”  [Emphasis mine]

 

Then, to top it off, that same chapter states in verse 13:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”  [Emphasis mine]

 

Imagine the sound as millions of voices join in the same song of praise.

Schermerhorn choir and musicians
The choir and symphony ready for the music to begin at the Schermerhorn concert hall in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Even now, I get chills when a choir powerfully sings of God’s grace and His love.   I cannot imagine the glorious euphony that will be raised when all of us are praising God through song, even those whose voices on earth sounded more like a “caw” than a “chirp”!

 

Scripture clearly states that through Christ’s blood and his sacrifice, He ransomed us as a people for God, and this group of people is comprised of Christians from around the world, encompassing “every tribe and language and people and nation”.    This means that we will worship in different ways and we will sound different in our language, but the meaning will be the same – our God and our Savior will be praised, adored and glorified.

 

Some may worship in grand and glorious cathedrals.

 

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

 

Others may worship in a wood frame church in the mountains.

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Wooden church in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

 

Just as the creatures in nature are not clones of each other, we are not going to look alike.  Just as each creature has its own unique sound/language, we do not all have the same language.  But if the God who is worshiped in each of these places is the God of the Scripture, the God who sent His Son to save His people from their sins, all of these folks will join together in one glorious song of praise to the King of Kings, now and for all eternity.

So, why wait until heaven? 

Start now – praising the Lord for His glorious creation.  Praising the Lord for His wondrous works to the children of men.  Praising the Lord for His sovereignty and providence.  Praising the Lord for His grace and mercy towards his people through salvation from their sins.  Praising the Lord in song or by making a joyful noise.  Praising the Lord in your heart and in your soul, as you remember all His kindnesses and mercies showered upon you each moment of every day.

 

David put it quite succinctly, repeating the imperative throughout the Book of Psalms:

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 106:1

 

Father, I thank You for your grace, mercy and love as is evident in your creation that is all around us.  i thank You for your Spirit that dwells in each believer in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I praise your holy name for all the gifts and benefits bestowed upon me through no merit of my own, especially salvation through Jesus Christ.  I thank You and praise You now, and forever more.

 

HEAVENLY PRAISE, HERE AND NOW

What do we do in worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and of the Father, Creator of the Universe and Lover of our Souls?   Some of us go to large churches with beautiful scenes depicted in stained glass and a carillon ringing from the bell tower.

Church with stianed glass window
Large, stone, church with beautiful stained glass windows.

 

Others of us go to neighborhood churches that do not have the same type formal adornments but which provide a family atmosphere  among the members.

Church in neighborhood
Neighborhood church with large cross adorning the front of the building.

 

There are a variety of activities that we engage in as we worship in our local church, and those activities vary with the denomination of which we are a part.

 

However, I suggest that we could look at the worship in heaven and take that as a guide for our worship here on our spinning globe.

 

We have a beautiful description of the praise that is given to God in the vision that Isaiah had of the Lord, sitting upon His throne.  Read the words of Isaiah and then close your eyes and picture what he saw.  The heavenly creatures whose function is to praise the Lord because the Lord is deserving of all praise and glory:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:1-4.

Scripture continues to say that, in response to the incredible vision of the Lord, Isaiah fell to the ground proclaiming that he was a sinner, that he had unclean lips. Then, he was cleansed when the angel touched his lips with a coal from the fire, thereby allowing him to stand before God.  [I submit that a true understanding of who God is and who we are will result in terrible awe as we recognize that we cannot stand before God, without His intervention to cleanse us of our sin.  A holy God cannot look upon sinful creatures nor can a holy God tolerate or excuse sin.  However, back to the topic of praise!]

 

Isaiah is not the only one in Scripture who had a vision of the Lord and the praise rendered ceaselessly to Him.  This praise to the Lord is described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”   And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:8-11

 

Clearly, we should praise God with our lives, our words and actions as well as the motives of our hearts.  But, our praise to God also extends beyond ourselves, even to our corporate worship each Sunday, for it is there that we glorify God in the presence of other believers as the Holy Spirit is present with us.  In fact, Scripture exhorts us to worship the Lord and give Him glory in all that we do, whether it is in church or not.

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31.

 

So, the question becomes:  “Do I praise the Lord every day?”  Do you?  Not with a plastic sneering grit your teeth mantra of “praise the Lord” whenever something bad happens, but with heart-felt humbleness as we remember all that God has done for us through Christ our Lord.  Even if a trial comes our way, if distress raises its head, we have the calm assurance that God is in control and He is sovereign.  He will use even the things we consider negative to teach us something about Himself and to draw us closer to Him.

 

Go ahead … join David when he says “Praise the Lord!”  In fact, the exhortation to “Praise the Lord” is found 49 times in Psalms alone.  Clearly, praise is important to our God!  Here are just a few verses from Psalms about praising God:

 

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!

Psalm 112:1

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

 

In fact, make praise the default position of our spirit no matter what comes our way.  Anticipate that God will use each situation for His purposes, and praise Him for having you in His hands and for Him being with you all the way.

 

How can I praise the Lord?  Sing.  Not only do Scriptures exhort us to praise the Lord, but we are told to sing to the Lord.  Here is a sampling of verses with this directive:

 

Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.

1 Chronicles 16:23

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Psalm 104:33

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

Psalm 147:7

 

Singing to our God is exhibited in the New Testament as well.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, … .

Act 16:25

… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, …

Ephesians 5:19

 

Praise God.  Sing a song, out loud.  [You don’t even need to be in the shower!]  Go ahead and let out your praise in prison, at home, in the car, in church, in the choir, wherever you are.  It matters not whether you can carry a tune or read music … your song will be transformed by the Spirit into heart tones that are pleasing to our Father and that will bounce back to you in enriching joy and peace, filling you with His comfort throughout the day.

 

Here is Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song entitled “O come, let us sing”  which features the text of Psalm 95:1-3.  This song was composed by Joey Holder and is on the album entitled The Power of Thanksgiving.  I pray that you will listen and memorize these verses so you will be reminded as you go through your day that the Lord desires praise and we can rightfully provide that praise because He is a great God and a King above all gods.

 

 

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:1-3

 

Go ahead, praise Him even now.  Lift your voice in song and praise the Lord!

 

Father, forgive me when I have gone through the day with a grumpy spirit, or with a frown on my face rather than the glow of your love.  Forgive me when I have forgotten all that you have done for me through Jesus Christ. Accept my petition and enable me to give You praise today, through my words, actions and thoughts.

 

PRAISE THE LORD!

 

Have you ever just wanted to haul off and shout or sing – as loud as you can – because you were so happy about something?

Baby newborn in hospital bassinet (C)
Newborn baby ready to come home from hospital

A grandchild prompts thanksgiving and praise to our great God for the blessing of children.

Have you ever just jumped for joy – for me, physical jumping is definitely out of the question, but inside I can jump really high!

 

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Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovering before getting a drink.

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird has no problem soaring, hovering, flying or reflecting God’s glorious beauty.

 

Azalea in full bloom (C)
Azalea bush in full bloom.

There is infinite beauty in the profusion and detail of azalea blooms.

 

Has praise for your Lord ever just erupted and spilled over into your countenance and conversation after seeing God’s majesty in His creation?

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Yosemite National Park scenic view.

Yosemite National Park showing God’s majesty and power in His creation.

 

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. Denali from train on the way to Denali National Park.

Mt. Denali [formerly Mt. McKinley] in Denali National Park, Alaska evidencing God’s glory in creation.

 

If not, why not?

 

Praise for the Lord is scriptural and is a natural outpouring of thankfulness for the working of God in our lives.

In Exodus 14 we read of the escape of the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians as they crossed the Red Sea on dry land.   In Exodus 15, we read the song of Moses as he and the people of Israel praised the Lord for their deliverance.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. … Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” – Exodus 15:1-2, 11

 

In 2 Samuel 22, King David sings a song of thanks to the Lord for delivery from his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. … For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. ”  2 Samuel 22:1-3, 50

 

When David brought the ark to Jerusalem, he appointed the singers to praise the Lord.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!”  1 Chronicles 16:6-11

 

The prophet Isaiah says:

“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”  Isaiah 25:1

 

The writer of Proverbs says:

An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.  Proverbs 29:6

 

Praise and singing is not just for Old Testament folks.  In the New Testament, we remember Paul and Silas being in prison for preaching about Jesus. In Acts 16:25 we read:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

 

Imagine, singing hymns to God after being beaten and thrown into prison. Not only were they praying and singing, they were singing so loud that the other prisoners could listen to them. They were not gloomy guys bemoaning the wrongfulness of their imprisonment. They were not complaining to God, arguing that this unjust imprisonment should not have come when they were obeying the command to carry the gospel to others.  No — they were rejoicing – praying and singing to the very God who allowed them to be imprisoned.

 

And, the story continues.  The conclusion of this story is that the jailer became free from his sins.  The keeper of the prison asked what he should do to be saved and Paul and Silas told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul and Silas were released from jail and the jailer attended to the wounds of the former prisoners/now brothers in Christ.

 

How could Paul and Silas rejoice in those circumstances?   Can we praise God when things are dark and circumstances are far from happy?

 

I suggest that we can praise God in any and all circumstances.   Paul and Silas had a correct understanding of who they were in contrast to who God is. We, as sinners, cannot come into God’s presence. A holy God cannot even look on sin. Our very best is as filthy rags before God. We have absolutely nothing that we can offer to Him to seek His acceptance.

 

But, we have been redeemed by Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. And this redemption is all about His grace and mercy, not one iota about how good we are.  We have experienced the love of God in a way that the heavenly beings cannot imagine. Jesus, the spotless Son of God, paid the price for my sin – for all of it – and has claimed me as His, bringing me into the family of God:  granting me access to God through Jesus righteousness, not my own.

 

Beloved, this is good news and it transcends any negative circumstance that we encounter in this world.  We should fall at the feet of our Lord and thank Him nonstop for His grace and mercy, for His forgiveness and cleansing, for His love and atoning sacrifice on our behalf, for our adoption into the family of God.

 

Praise and thanksgiving are inexorably connected.   Thanksgiving flows directly into praise and there can be no heartfelt praise of the Lord if we are not thankful to Him.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

 

By the way, no audition is necessary before you can sing in praise to our God! The quality of your voice is completely irrelevant, but the condition of your heart is paramount!

So,

  • Have you lifted up your voice in a song of praise to your Savior?
  • Have you expressed your thanks to the Lord for the gift of today?
  • Have you praised Him for His loving kindness and longsuffering toward you?
  • Have you praised Him for His compassion and forgiveness?
  • Have you praised Him for His mercy and His grace?
  • Have you expressed your love to Him by obedience to His commands?
  • Have you worshiped the Lord today?

 

If not, why not?

 

The Centurymen is a group of over 100 musicians who serve in the music ministry of various churches and who praise the Lord in song. As you think of praise and thanksgiving, listen to the Centurymen sing Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee. I pray you will be blessed by it and that praise to the Lord would come to your lips and heart.

 

Father, thank you for your Spirit that enables me to give you praise, honor and worship. Thank you for your Son who provided the atoning sacrifice for me so that I can be cleansed of my sin and can come into your presence through prayer, reading your Word and worship. Forgive me when I have taken your blessings for granted, or when I have thought that I was entitled to your blessings.  Forgive me when I have focused on outward circumstances rather than on your steadfast love and overwhelming mercy and grace.  Forgive me, Father, when I have ignored your Spirit and when I have sinned in thought and deed.  May my praise and worship be glorifying to you.

STARS – God’s Diamonds in the Sky

I love to go camping. Often, we just sit outside after dark and look at the night sky. We like to do this especially when the sky is completely cloudless and the moon is bright, even if it is not full.  On one occasion, we were several miles from the nearest city so ambient light was not much of an issue, and the stars were exceptionally beautiful.

Millennia ago, the Psalmist had occasion to sit outside and look at the heavens created by our God. His reflections are recorded in part in the Psalms. In Psalms 147:4-5 David wrote:

He [God] determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Think about it … God, the creator who put the stars in the heavens in the first place (Genesis 1:16), not only created the stars but He has given them names. All of them – even the myriad of stars that we have not yet seen or contemplated. They are known to the Creator God.

As we gazed at the heavens in awe, praising God for His wondrous creation, we thought of Psalm 8:3-6:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.

 

Stop look listen sign from ebay
Railroad crossing sign featuring the Stop, Look and Listen admonition that was so popular from the 1930s and beyond.

And again in Psalm 19:1 David says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

In the hustle and bustle of our everyday life, sometimes God seems far away. This is particularly true when we are in the midst of the holiday season. It starts with the Thanksgiving Day feast, and all the family coming and going, with guests and friends stopping by as well. Then there is the decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, gift wrapping and cleaning in preparation for the onslaught at Christmas, not to mention the parties, gatherings, cookie swaps, etc. that require culinary expertise. Christmas day, the celebration of the Lord’s birth, is often almost anticlimactic in that we meet for Christmas eve, we feed the family on Christmas day, somewhere in that time period we open presents both given and received, and then climb into bed thanking God that the holidays are virtually over.

For many people, nowhere in the Christmas cacophony of sounds, events or meetings do they find the Christ Child. Nowhere do they experience the silence of the manger with the sleeping Child resting therein. Nowhere do they experience the awe that the shepherds felt when they heard the angelic announcement of the Babe’s birth. In short, the focus is far from the town of Bethlehem and the Babe who was born that night 2000 years ago. Simply put, many folks don’t have peace at Christmas even though that was the word used when the angels told Mary and the shepherds of the Babe’s coming.

If God seems to be far away from you, you don’t need an RV, camper or tent; you don’t need to go to a campground. If God seems far away from you, you don’t need to do more things, bake more cookies, be more active!

You just need to follow the railroad advice of yesteryear – Stop, Look and Listen.  [The railroad crossing sign shown here is a “cast iron railroad crossing plaque sign stop look listen large heavy sign” as posted on ebay after a search for same on December 29, 2015.]

Stop look listen sign from ebay
Stop, Look and Listen.

 

Stop – all the frenetic activity.

Look ‐‐ go outside on a clear night and look up at the glories that God has given us to enjoy or look at the creative detail in a flower or, better yet, look in on your sleeping child. Look into His Word and read the promises made to you by the God who created all things, including those beautiful stars..

Listen – hear Him speak to you as you praise Him in reverence (awe) and thankfulness for His wonderful works to the children of men, and that includes you and me!

Praise His Glorious Name!

Father, forgive me when I have let the activities and cares of the world overwhelm me. Forgive me when my desire to spend time with you is snuffed out by the loud calls of the world demanding attention. When I am struggling to find you, Father, give me wisdom to Stop, Look and Listen so that I will hear your Spirit speaking comfort, guidance and love into my pacing heart. Remind me, Father, that you are not far from me … if there is a distance between us, it is due to sin of which I have not repented. Give me the strength to repent, and draw me close to you through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ your Son and my Savior, I pray.