April 26 – Songs of Praise – “Why not?” or “Who am I?”

Read 2 Samuel 7:1-28

“Why not?”  That could have been the response that David had given after the Lord turned down his offer to build the temple.  After all, temple building seemed obvious to David.  To him, it seemed unfair that he should live in a spacious palace while the Ark of the Covenant, representing the presence of God, had only ever been in a makeshift, portable tent.  As a result, David began to dream of a glorious temple that would reflect the greatness of God.

God had other plans.  As God spoke through David’s trusted servant Nathan, He revealed to the king that David would not be the one to build the temple.  Solomon, his son, would.  But that wasn’t the entire message.  God reminded David of his humble roots.  He pointed to the peace that Israel enjoyed at that time.  And He spoke of the future greatness that would one day be associated with David’s name.  From his offspring would come One (Jesus), whose kingdom would endure forever!

So, rather than the “why not?” of disappointment, David’s response is marked by the “who am I?” (v. 18) of privilege.  It was beyond his capacity to understand God’s selection of him and the many blessings that he had been permitted to experience.  David was so taken back by the wonder of God’s work that he even asked in amazement, “Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?” (v. 19)

Which of those phrases most marks your attitude during this Thanksgiving season?  Do you find yourself expressing the “why not?” of disappointment over things that you had hoped for but never realized, prayed about but never experienced, dreamed of but never saw fulfilled?  If so, your joy tank is likely being filled with bitterness.  That is dangerous!

Or is the phrase that defines your attitude the “who am I?” of privilege?  Your focus is on a long list of undeserved blessings.  And you can hardly contain the sense of gratitude that you feel.  That is life-giving!

Years ago, a band called “Casting Crowns” released a song by the title “Who Am I.”  The lyrics help us to capture the privileged position that we have in Him.  Catch the song by clicking the link here.

Steve Kern

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April 25 – Songs of Praise – Hannah’s Song

Read I Samuel 1:1-2:10

I wonder at what point the music of Hannah’s song began.  When did God hear the praise of her heart even as she offered Him the very hope it held?  Scripture tells us that as soon as Hannah gave Samuel to the LORD, she prayed the song of praise we read today.  But I am inclined to believe that God heard her praise, her sacrifice of worship, much earlier than that.  Was it when Hannah stood up from the meal, having resolved to hand her misery over to the only One Who could help?   Did her song begin as Hannah bitterly wept, pouring out her soul and the pain of her childlessness?  Perhaps the music started playing in God’s perfect hearing as Hannah walked the long miles up to Shiloh in order to offer all the hope she possessed, all that God had given her.

My mind struggles to grasp the magnitude of Hannah’s sacrifice and, consequently, the depth of her worship.  As a mother who prayed for and loved my own children even before they were conceived, I find it difficult to imagine bearing a child fully intending to release him or her before adulthood.  Call me crazy, but I find it even more difficult to imagine offering that child to God Himself and then singing a song of praise to Him for it.  In fact, I think I would have secretly expected Him to let me keep the child.

But not Hannah.  Nope.  She gave God the very son for whom she had pleaded and then praised Him with an amazingly full heart as He accepted her offering.  Hannah knew from Whom her son had come.  And she knew to Whom she offered him back.  Hannah knew with firm and solid conviction that God the LORD was worthy of every last ounce of joy and hope that she possessed.  So she offered it to Him in the form of her only son, and with great sure satisfaction.

I’m guessing the song the LORD heard continued long after that day at Shiloh when Hannah gave Samuel up to Him.  I think the praise song of her life was only just beginning.

I wonder what God hears when upon our offerings of praise.  Does he hear clashing notes and off-key singing as we grudgingly agree to offer our Saturday mornings to help rake someone’s leaves or buy cans for a food drive?  Or does God hear beautiful music as we offer all that have with the same truth as Hannah did?  What’s your song?

Bria Wasson

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April 24 – Songs of Praise – Who Gets the Credit?

Read Judges 4:1-5:31

Who will get the credit?  Who will receive the recognition?  Deborah told Barak he wasn’t going to be the one.  Even though he would rally 10,000 troops, there would be one whose reputation would be greater than his.  In spite of the fact that he would be the leader of troops responsible for conquering 900 chariots of iron along with their leaders, someone else would be more widely known.  Although the victory song would mention his name, it would draw more attention to another.  Could he live with that reality?  Can you or I be at peace with that?

That question seemed to be important enough that Deborah warned Barak in advance that he would play second fiddle.  In verse 9, she said, “…the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.”  He would not be the one responsible for conquering Sisera himself.  That honor would go to…are you ready for this?  Drum roll, please…A woman would take him out!  An untrained housewife named Jael later killed Sisera with a tent peg.  Now, I am not trying to make any gender statements here, but there were likely no women numbered among the 10,000 troops going with Barak.  I wonder if it was hard to swallow that neither he nor his men would receive credit for eliminating Sisera.  Nevertheless, he rallied the troops and conquered the chariots.  Apparently, Barak was able to live with that reality.

Can you live with that reality?  Are you one who desires the credit and recognition due you?  Most of us enjoy receiving honors…especially when we have worked hard and sacrificed in order to achieve them.  But, thanksgiving requires that we are able to look beyond ourselves, recognize the contribution of others, and acknowledge our dependence on God.  Are you OK with that?

Our accomplishments, whether large or small, are not like a road leading to our own glory.  Instead, our successes in life provide us with the opportunity to honor the One who provides us with the resources and abilities to accomplish anything.  He is worthy of all praise!

Steve Kern

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April 23 – Songs of Praise – The Song God Wrote

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-47

So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. (31:22)

God had written a song.  And He chose Moses to perform it.  It would be among his final public proclamations before following God up the mountain to die. (v48ff)  Had Moses himself written the song, perhaps it would have been a bit more upbeat.  But God Himself wrote the lyrics and hand-delivered them to Moses.  A song written by none other than God Himself.

When I think about “songs of praise,” my thoughts don’t go to God’s judgment or His chastening.  Rather, I think of the more likable characteristics of God.  Remembering the great things He has done in the past.  Admiring His beauty and almighty strength.  The greatness and faithfulness of God my Rock are what I like to sing about when I lift my voice in praise to Him.  Perhaps Moses felt the same way.  In fact, maybe that’s why God wrote the song rather than giving Moses a blank slate with some musical notations and a general direction.

The song was to be a testimony against the people of God for when they would rebel and oppose His ways.  A way for them to remember that God called it right, even as they would forget all that He had done on their behalf.

Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. . . And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. (Dt. 31:19,21)

The lyrics read like a story.  One that begins and ends with the mighty and perfect name of the LORD.  The Rock Who always acts perfectly and justly and “who does no wrong.” (Dt. 32:4)  Even in their chastening, the LORD God is just.  Even in the difficulty that the Israelites would eventually bring on themselves, Faithful God would remain true to His Word.  And the Israelites needed to know.  They needed the lyrics inscribed on the pages of their minds so that they would not forget Yahweh, the LORD.

The song rings true for us as well.  It begins with the mighty name of God.  And it ends on the same note.  Always just and faithful and true, God the Rock has always been and will always be the One True God.  When we choose our own way and go against His, He remains true.  When He works on our behalf to show us the emptiness of an idol we have let take His place, still His faithfulness never wavers.

Oh, that we would learn to trust His song and sing it too.

Bria Wasson

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April 22 – Songs of Praise – How Can We Not Praise Him?

Read Exodus 14:1-15:21

To picture it proves difficult.  As if molding solid clay, God used His breath to form walls with sea water, making way for His people to escape their pursuers.  A million people walking straight through the middle of the ocean’s floor, surrounded on either side by solid water walls constructed by the very breath of God.  It reads like a science-fiction movie script.

So when it was all said and done, and God had powerfully re-placed the sea water over the enemy of His people, the Israelites responded accordingly.

They celebrated.

Four hundred thirty years, they had served as slaves in Egypt.  At least a few lifetimes.  Four hundred thirty years they had awaited deliverance from slavery and the only life they had known.  And now the only One who could save them rearranged an ocean to do it.

When God moves His hand, something mighty always happens.  And the Israelites had seen not just the work of His hand, but the blast of His very breath as they walked between those water walls.  They had been awaiting their deliverance with baited breath of their own, realizing the truth of God’s absolute control over His people and their situation.  Whether carrying out a plague on Pharaoh and his people or changing Pharaoh’s mind about letting them go, the Israelites had been learning that God’s power prevailed over all, and His plan always rules.

How could they not celebrate?  God, the I AM, had personally led them to freedom and delivered them to new life.  When God’s people, the Israelites, experienced the effects of His mighty hand, they could not help but sing His praise.  And He expected no less.

But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.  (Ex. 14:4)

He left no room for wondering Whose hand it was.  No room to doubt Who He is.  He brought glory to Himself by acting on behalf of His people.  And He has done no less for us.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  (Rom. 6:22)

The very same God, who made walls from an ocean to rescue His people, conquered death itself for us.

So, how can we not praise Him?  How can we not celebrate His might?

Bria Wasson

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April 21- Passion Week Report – Sunday Resurrection

Jesus’ Tomb is Empty!

Read Matthew 28:18-20

JERUSALEM, Sunday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – The tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty today!

After His controversial execution by crucifixion on Friday, two men took the body of Jesus. Just prior to the beginning of the Sabbath late Friday, they placed it in a tomb belonging to one of the men. This morning, the tomb was empty.

While all are in agreement that the tomb is empty, stories conflict about what actually happened to the body of Jesus. Jewish officials are claiming that His followers stole the body. Meanwhile, followers of Jesus report that He has been raised from the dead.

Already on Friday, Jewish leaders, were concerned that Jesus’ followers would do something with His body. To prevent the disciples from stealing the body and making claims about a resurrection, they secured the tomb with a seal and a guard. In spite of their efforts, one of the guards gave this description of what happened: “Saturday had been a long day. Even though we did all that we could to fight sleep through the night, we still dozed in the early morning hours today. It was during that time that the disciples came and took the body of Jesus.”

Meanwhile, followers of Jesus report that He has been raised from the dead. Women were the first to makes such claims after arriving at the empty tomb around sunrise. Multiple followers of Jesus report eyewitness encounters with Him throughout the day. Thomas, one of His disciples, states, “I heard the reports of His resurrection. I had my doubts, and I expressed them to others who were convinced. The next thing I knew, Jesus was right there with us. He even invited me to touch the wounds inflicted by the crucifixion. It really was Him. He is alive!”

Perhaps the days ahead will make clear what really happened.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

Does it not seem odd that the very guards placed at the tomb to prevent His body from being stolen are now claiming that it was taken?

I am an eyewitness of the risen Jesus. A friend and I were walking to Emmaus when we encountered Him. After recognizing Him, we scurried back over the seven mile path to Jerusalem to tell His other followers. Words cannot express the way our hearts felt! He is alive! I will spend the rest of my days hurrying to tell others.

Cleopas

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April 20 – Passion Week Report…Correction – Saturday Peace at the Tomb

Quiet Day at the Tomb

Read Matthew 27:57-66

JERUSALEM, Saturday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Although one anticipates relative peace at a grave site, that is not a given for the tomb of Jesus. The past seven days have been marked by anything but peace and quiet. Controversies over the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth escalated to the point of His arrest on Thursday and His crucifixion yesterday. But the tense, tumultuous, and controversial week culminated in a peaceful Jewish Sabbath today.

Many suspect that the peace is only temporary as tensions are masked by the Jewish Sabbath/Passover observance. Sabbath observances limit the activity of Jews. Still, even as Jesus was crucified yesterday, His disciples were notably absent. The only obvious followers of Jesus present for His crucifixion were His mother, a handful of other women, and one disciple identified as John.

In order to ensure peace at the tomb, government officials took steps to guarantee that the body of Jesus would go untouched. After an appeal from Jewish leaders, Pilate had the tomb sealed and placed a guard on watch.

The guard shed further light: “Jews were concerned about predictions that Jesus had made about rising from the dead. They didn’t want His disciples to come and steal His body and make some kind of ridiculous resurrection claim. That’s the reason the tomb was sealed and why I am here.” He went on, “Actually, today has been pretty boring. To be honest, I am not expecting anything to happen. I am just trying to pass the time.” Pointing to the club at his side, the guard concluded, “I am prepared in case His followers come to steal his corpse.”

It will be interesting to see what transpires once the Sabbath is over.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

I heard Jesus make those predictions about His death and His burial. He was definitely accurate with those claims. I also witnessed Jesus powerfully performing miracles. His predictions of His own resurrection were also clear. Although I don’t pretend to understand how a dead man can rise again, I would say that a tight fitting, heavy stone, a bit of wax, and a man with a club are not insurmountable obstacles for the miracle worker.

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