April 27 – Songs of Praise – How Habakkuk was able to sing

Read Habakkuk 3:1-19

When I answered the phone that Sunday evening and heard news of my friend’s mother having been murdered the night before, the questions flew around my mind like snowflakes in a blizzard.  Why would God allow such wickedness?  How could He let such dark and horrid evil steal my friend’s mother, her children’s grandma, from this life so pointlessly?  It wasn’t fair.  It made no sense.  The whole event shook my faith in a way I’m not sure words can rightly portray.

I think that might be how Habakkuk felt when he wrote his book.  His name being “the embracer,” Habakkuk’s very nature needed to understand the why’s.  Why was God allowing His own people, Israel, to live in sin?  And, furthermore, why in the world would He use the Babylonians to serve the punishment due the Israelites?  Really, God?  You’re going to use them to right this wrong?!?  Needless to say, it was not how Habakkuk had imagined God’s justice to play out.  Not at all what he’d pictured when he visualized the end of the Israelites season of sin and their return to the One true God.

Nevertheless, Habakkuk knew Him whom He followed.  Though he knew not why He did things the way He chose to do them, Habakkuk trusted the very character of God.  And that is what prompted him to write this song of praise that we read today.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  (vv 17-18)

Habakkuk could have looked around at the situation, thrown his hands up in despair and given up on the One he had chosen to follow.  Except, when he gave his life to God the LORD, he trusted not the things He would do.  He trusted Him alone.  He knew the character of the One true God, so placed faith on that.  God alone was Habakkuk’s hope.  Not the way he had hoped God would do it.  Not his own ideas of how things should be done.  God Himself was the strength of Habakkuk’s life.

When we follow the One True God, are we placing our hope and faith in what we think He should do or how we think He should act?  Or do we trust His very character enough to say with Habakkuk . . .

yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior?

Bria Wasson

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

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

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

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

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

November 27: What a Celebration!

Read Revelation 19:1-10

It’s a song we will sing at the end of time as we know it.

Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. (vv1,2)

Worship like we’ve never known.  And all because of the justice of Almighty God.  The trials and suffering and persecution and evil that the saints of God, His followers whom He has made righteous and clean, will finally end.  The bride of Jesus Christ, His Church, will finally be ready for the wedding.

Oh, what a celebration that will be!

Almighty God has courted His bride with grace and truth and love and hope.  He has clothed her in the fine linen of His very own righteousness.  And, still today, the Bridegroom prepares His bride, even as we endure the difficult of the now.  Even as we will endure the trials of the not-yet end times that we read about in this book called Revelation.

But one day, He will end the evil and invite us to the wedding to end all weddings.  A wedding feast.  Not just a cake and hors d’oeuvres reception, mind you.  And on that day, we will celebrate like nobody’s business!

Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns! (v6)

Let the wedding procession begin!  Even bigger and grander than a production of Handel’s Messiah.

Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God . . . (v1)

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (vv7-8)

That’s going to be worship like you and I have never known.  A celebration like no other.  Finally, all the evil and hardship will end.  And He shall reign forever!  The King of kings!  The Lord or Lords!

Don’t you want to be there for that?  What a glorious day that will be!

brw

November 26: Utter Worship

Read Revelation 5:1-14

Forever started long ago.  And we live in the now.  But the not-yet waits secure for us because of the plan of Him Who sits on that throne of forever and mercifully, justly proclaims the end of time as we know it.

The book of Revelation used to scare me.  So much I don’t understand.  The beast and the scrolls and the creatures with six wings and eyes all over. (See Rev. 4:6-8.)  Quite frankly, I still don’t understand so much about this book that John the Apostle wrote describing the vision God gave him concerning end-times.

But I do get this: Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, secured my righteousness and yours when He shed His blood and then conquered death.

(Y)ou were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (v9)

Perfect, holy Son of God became the Lamb of God for me.  For you.

And so we read today in Revelation of all heaven and earth sing out in utter worship of the only One deserving.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! (v13)

The scene reminds me of the one that happened in a field near Bethlehem when an angel broke the news of Christmas and, as if waiting in anxious anticipation, an impromptu angel-choir burst out in song.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Lk. 2:14)

Utter worship of the only One Who deserves no less than all of my worship forever.  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God with Whom God purchased you and me for Himself!  He secured our forever and freed us from sin and death.

I’ve heard it said that heaven will be a perpetual worship service.  Only worship all the time.  That’s how enamored with God we will be!  To the point that all we will want to do is offer our praise, all the time.  To fall down in awe and worship of Almighty God.

Call me crazy, but I think we should start now.  True worship offered in honest praise to the One true God.  Not always in the form of songs, but also in the form of kindness done in His Name.  It might look like a job well-done because it was done for God’s glory or a word of encouragement to someone in despair.  The truth is, when we offer any part of us for the glory of God, we worship Him. (See Rom. 12:1.)

So let’s live our lives in utter worship of the One Who deserves it all.

November 23: Mary’s Undistracted Praise

Read Luke 1:26-56

I wonder if Mary knew at what point the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and made her the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The very Son of God.  The very son of Mary.

I try hard to work out the details in my finite mind.  I imagine Mary struggled with the details as well.  I mean, how can one grasp the reality of a virgin conceiving and birthing God Himself?

Yet, even as her mind struggled to understand, Mary received the Word, both spoken and Living, with nothing less that grateful praise.

I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said. (v38)

Upon receiving that Word, her inmost being rejoiced at the truth that God Himself had a plan for the redemption of His people.  And not just any plan, a plan that involved lowly little virgin her.

It strikes me that Mary’s immediate response involved complete quiet-spirited submission to the One Whom she served.  God Himself.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what kinds of questions she had as the pregnancy progressed.  We don’t know what kinds of opposition she faced in her little town called Galilee.  We don’t know how she broke the news to Joseph that she had indeed saved herself for him yet was pregnant with God’s Son.  Or how she reacted when he made plans to divorce her quietly. (See Matt. 1:18-25.)  But we know one thing for sure — even in the midst of all the turmoil in the details of the coming King in Mary’s womb, the depths of her soul could only rejoice.

Even as Mary’s belly grew large and, no doubt, the rumors grew larger, she celebrated the great things of the Mighty One Who had made her the blessing that she would be.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me . . . (vv48,49)

Her spirit knew the truth of the forever that God had promised.  And nothing could distract her.

What kinds of things do we let distract us from the truth of the forever God has promised us?  You know, the truth of His rescue through Jesus Christ.  The truth of His death-conquering and life-giving.  The truth of the new life He gives when we trust Him and follow Him as Lord of our lives.

Like Mary, we each have a choice.  We can sing a song of praise to God for all that He has done, or we can let the distractions of the details in the meantime keep us from the celebration.

Today, I choose to celebrate Him.

brw

November 22: How Habakkuk Was Able to Sing

Read Habakkuk 3:1-19

When I answered the phone that Sunday evening and heard news of my friend’s mother having been murdered the night before, the questions flew around my mind like snowflakes in a blizzard.  Why would God allow such wickedness?  How could He let such dark and horrid evil steal my friend’s mother, her children’s grandma, from this life so pointlessly?  It wasn’t fair.  It made no sense.  The whole event shook my faith in a way I’m not sure words can rightly portray.

I think that might be how Habakkuk felt when he wrote his book.  His name being “the embracer,” Habakkuk’s very nature needed to understand the why’s.  Why was God allowing His own people, Israel, to live in sin?  And, furthermore, why in the world would He use the Babylonians to serve the punishment due the Israelites?  Really, God?  You’re going to use them to right this wrong?!?  Needless to say, it was not how Habakkuk had imagined God’s justice to play out.  Not at all what he’d pictured when he visualized the end of the Israelites season of sin and their return to the One true God.

Nevertheless, Habakkuk knew Him whom He followed.  Though he knew not why He did things the way He chose to do them, Habakkuk trusted the very character of God.  And that is what prompted him to write this song of praise that we read today.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  (vv 17-18)

Habakkuk could have looked around at the situation, thrown his hands up in despair and given up on the One he had chosen to follow.  Except, when he gave his life to God the LORD, he trusted not the things He would do.  He trusted Him alone.  He knew the character of the One true God, so placed faith on that.  God alone was Habakkuk’s hope.  Not the way he had hoped God would do it.  Not his own ideas of how things should be done.  God Himself was the strength of Habakkuk’s life.

When we follow the One True God, are we placing our hope and faith in what we think He should do or how we think He should act?  Or do we trust His very character enough to say with Habakkuk . . .

yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior?