Are We Called to Obey or Sacrifice?

I was attending our Prayer and Share group at church. Someone said, “Scripture tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Obedience is a form of sacrifice.” Time for me to do some studying.

The first act of disobedience is recorded in Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their sin, God sacrificed an animal to clothe them with garments of skin. If Adam and Eve has obeyed, there would not have been a need for sacrifice. Obedience would have been better than sacrifice. Disobedience required sacrifice.

The first reference to obedience being better than sacrifice is found in I Samuel 15:22 NLT.What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.These are Samuel’s words to Saul when Saul disobeyed and God rejected him as king. Sacrifice did not mean obedience was unnecessary.

Lack of obedience led to the need for sacrifice. The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20. The Israelites did not obey all that God asked of them. This led to the need for sacrifice. Leviticus 1-7 describes all the sacrifices God would require. There were burnt offering, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and trespass offerings. So many sacrifices! All because of disobedience.

Would sacrifices continue forever? No! Hebrews10:1-18 tells how Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was made once for everyone. The law for sacrifices was only a shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice yet to come. These annual sacrifices were a reminder that the blood of animals did not take away sins. Christ set aside the animal sacrifices and made a holy sacrifice through His body once and for all. The priests had to stand while performing their religious duties because there was always a need for more sacrifices. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God. His work is completed. Verse 18 proclaims, “sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” No sacrifice required – but obedience is required.

Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice when He died upon the cross. Romans 10:4 says, “Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in Him are made right with God.” Now we must obey God. We must believe.

Jesus was obedient to His Heavenly Father when He sacrificed His life. Now He has given us a command to obey. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” “Taking up our cross” sounds like sacrifice. “Follow Me” sounds like obedience. We may be asked to make some form of sacrifice. Then we must obey.

If we are asked to make a sacrifice, what might our sacrifice be? Very likely, our will. (Let us pray the words of Matthew 6:19, “Your [God’s] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”) Possibly our desires. Maybe our reputation – what people think of us. Our time is another thing that may need to be sacrificed.

We have been thinking about sacrifice. Now let’s focus upon obedience. Jesus obeyed perfectly. Jesus says in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

The following are several scriptures that will help us walk in obedience.

You must love the LORD your God and obey all His requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. – Deuteronomy 11:1
If you love Me, keep My commands.John 14:15
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. – II John 1:6
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it. – Luke 11:28
This is love for God: to keep His commands.I John 5:3

Obedience and sacrifice seem to go hand in hand. Obedience may be better than sacrifice. However, obedience may require sacrifice. I encourage you to strive to sacrificially obey the Lord!

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Dot-to- Dot


Do you remember doing dot-to-dot pictures when you were a child? Following the numbers from 1 to 20 (or higher), I would make a picture of an animal or a flower or whatever else might appear. If I did not follow the number sequence correctly, the picture would not turn out as expected.

I think God may have a big dot-to-dot picture in mind for our lives. The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Each of us creates a unique picture designed by God. According to Psalm 139:14, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

As a child, I made mistakes in my dot-to-dot books and had to erase improper lines and try again. Most likely, we will make a few mistakes while completing our life pictures because Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Thank God for His holy eraser of forgiveness that allows us to erase and retrace a few of our steps. According to I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There are times when we draw lines between dots according to our own will rather than those directed by the number sequence. These choices may disfigure the image God originally designed for us. However, He is willing to work with a few of our distortions. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD works out everything to its proper end.”

Like a child who may be required to redraw some of the lines of his picture, we may need to make a few changes in our lives. We do not always get it right the first time. Hebrews 10:36 tells us, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” The Lord simply requires us to keep trying. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Within the passage of Ephesians 5:15-18, Paul cautions, “Therefore be careful how you walk. . . . Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. . . . Be filled with the Spirit.” To apply these words to a dot-to-dot picture, maybe we should say, “Be careful how you draw your lines. Don’t be foolish, but follow the correct numerical sequence. Help is available.” My mother would help me if I could not find the next number of my picture. Today, we have the Holy Spirit as our helper when we are making decisions. Jesus says in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Romans 8:26 assures us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Our preference may not always be the way our life picture is to be drawn. We may not like what the dots involve. However, we are reminded in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” Our final life picture will reveal the image of Christ in us. Graham Cooke has said, “You are here for one purpose only and that is to be made in the image of God. Every single situation, oppositional feature, difficult person, everything is designed to make you in the image of God.”  That means every dot! 

We are given guidance in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your hear. And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Although we may not understand why some dots are included in our life’s picture, we need to remember Psalm 33:11, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” God has a whole book of dot-to-dot pictures including the images of all the people of the earth. God’s plan does not begin and end with each of us individually. He has a greater eternal purpose in mind for all of His people.

Let us agree with the words of Job 42:2, “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” May we remember I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This includes times of joy and sorrow – times of adversity and prosperity.

No matter what we encounter while connecting our dots, we have the promise of Hebrews 13:21. God will “equip us in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.”

As a child, I remember sometimes singing while drawing dot-to-dot pictures. This may be a good idea for us today. David says in Psalm 34:1 NLT, “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.” With God’s help, the final picture of each of our lives will reflect the image of God. According to II Corinthians 3:18, we are “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Our lives are not just a bunch of unconnected dots of happenstance or coincidence. Our lives are God ordained. My Reader, along with Paul, I am “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.I Thessalonians 2:12.

A Treasure Hunt


Please join me on a treasure hunt. The Bible will be our map. We are going to look for meaningful and valuable spiritual treasures hidden in the scriptures.

for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21

As we begin our hunt for treasure, we must look into our hearts. The kind of treasure we will seek is determined by our heart’s condition. Romans 10:10 says, “for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

In the account of Jesus birth, Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Giving birth to God’s son, being in a stable surrounded by animals, having shepherds come visit – so many things for a new mom to think about! Yet, Mary treasured all these things because they were part of God’s plan. She placed a high value upon these experiences. Her heart was full of love. Jesus was her treasure.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
Matt 13:44

Let’s dig for a hidden treasure in the first gospel of our Biblical map. Matthew says God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field. Paul alludes to hidden treasure when he writes about a hidden message. He says in
Colossians 1:26 NLT, This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.” Paul is referring to the glory of Christ as a once hidden treasure that we can now find. Matthew 6:33  says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. I think we have found a piece of our treasure. 

I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places
Isaiah 45:3

Treasures of darkness do not sound like the kind of treasures we want to find. However, we must not be too quick to discard dark times.

In Jesus Always, Sarah Young writes about treasures of darkness. Hear Jesus speak the following words through her writings. “Look for Me in the hard places of your life…. I am tenderly present in the difficulties,… your problems are fertile soil for growing in grace and encountering My loving Presence in greater depth and breadth. Watch for Me in dark times – both past and present. Invite Me into those broken places, and cooperate with Me in putting the fragments back together in new ways…. Against the backdrop of adversity, the Light of My Presence shines in transcendent radiance.”

The last part of Isaiah 45:3 promises hidden wealth in secret places. Even in dark places we can find treasures. Jesus, who is the light of the world, shines His light into our dark experiences helping us find unseen riches.

Discovering Jesus’ presence is a valuable treasure. Sometimes it is easier to find Jesus in the dark places than in the light. Daniel 2:22 says, “He (God) reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”

He (the Lord) will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.
Isaiah 33:6

I Corinthians 3:11 confirms the words of Isaiah, For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” While digging deeply to lay the foundation of our lives, we find treasure. Our treasure hunt reveals riches of salvation, wisdom and knowledge – not riches of gold and silver. We discover a reverential fear and awe of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our treasure!

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary,
and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him
with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:11

While on their treasure hunt, the Magi followed a star. When they found Jesus, they found the perfect treasure. Jesus was more precious than the treasures they brought with them. Like the Magi, we may be required to lay down our earthly treasures to find Jesus, our eternal treasure.

I Peter 1:7 NKJV says, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Eternal treasure has a higher value than earthly treasure.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show
that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
II Corinthians 4:7

While on our treasure hunt, we have taken various routes shown on our Biblical map.

We discovered the treasure of the kingdom of heaven in a hidden field. We found wealth hidden in treasures of darkness. We uncovered treasure in salvation, wisdom, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. We found treasure more costly than any precious metal or jewel. All of these treasures are part of the greatest treasure – Jesus. Jesus is the hidden treasure of the Old Testament revealed in the New Testament.

Jesus is the treasure for which we have searched. We want to keep Him in our jars of clay. We want to keep Him in our hearts. Ephesians 3:17 says, “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Our treasure hunt is complete. We found the treasure. Jesus!

Mary – JESUS – Mary

Imagine a group of books being held upright by a bookend at each end.

Now make some changes to this image and create a spiritual picture.

Replace the books with the life of Jesus. (Maybe a collection of 33 books – one for each year of His life.)
Instead of bookends, imagine a woman named Mary at the beginning and another Mary
at the end of Jesus’ life. Two ladies supporting Jesus at His birth and death.

Let’s make some comparisons between the two Marys. I will refer to one as Mary Mom (the mother of Jesus) and the other as Mary Magdalene (a woman uniquely positioned in Jesus’ inner circle of followers).

  • The young Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, was from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. (see Luke 1:26)
    Mary, known as Mary Magdalene,
    was from Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of Lake Galilee. (denoted by her name)

  • Mary Mom was a pure virgin whose baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1:31)
    Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene – at one time she was not so pure. (see Luke 8:2)

  • Mary Mom encountered an angel (Gabriel) when told she would bear a son named Jesus. (see Luke 1:30-31)
    Mary Magdalene saw an angel (a young man wearing a white robe) at Jesus’ empty tomb. (see Mark 16:5-8.)

  • Mary Mom was fearful but was told not to be afraid. She was perplexed by Gabriel’s visitation and message. However, he told her not to be afraid because she had favor with God. (see Luke 1:26-38 esp. v30)
    Mary Magdalene was fearful but was told not to be afraid. When she saw the empty tomb, she was bewildered. Then the angel told her not to be alarmed because Jesus had risen. (see Mark 16:5-8 esp. v8)

  • Mary Mom would have been the first person to hold Jesus as a human baby. (Isn’t this the privilege of a mother?)
    Mary Magdalene had intended to be the last person to hold Jesus’ human body. (Had she fulfilled her plan of preparing His body for burial at the tomb, this would have been her privilege.)

  • Mary Mom anointed Jesus for life. I think Mary Mom may have anointed Jesus (with baby oil?) before she wrapped Him in warm blankets. (an assumption by author)
    Mary Magdalene desired to anoint Jesus after His death. Because she had spices with her, I believe Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. (see Mark 16:1)

  • Mary Mom wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths before she laid Him in a manger. (see Luke 2:7)
    Although Joseph of Arimathea had already wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, I believe Mary Magdalene had intended to provide a proper burial for the crucified Christ by wrapping His body in a linen shroud. (see Mark 16:46; John 19:25)

  • Both Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene were near the cross when Jesus was crucified.  (see John 19:25)

Looking closely at the spiritual image, I see one Mary holding baby Jesus at the beginning of His life and another Mary with the intent of holding His body at the end of His life. Jesus was surrounded and held by Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18 seem an accurate description of Jesus’ life,Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Living One. We no longer hold Jesus as a baby in our arms (as Mary Mom) and there is no need to hold His body in the grave (as Mary Magdalene).

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

A Valentine for 365 Days

Universally, the heart is a symbol of love. However, on February 14, the heart is commercialized in more ways than one can imagine. Greeting cards are created in the shape of hearts decorated with lace and flowers. Heart-shaped boxes enfold decadent chocolates. Bouquets of red roses with a plastic heart stuck in the middle are advertised. Even fluffy stuffed animals portraying love are for sale. Whatever the expression of love, there is always a heart included with the sentiment “Be My Valentine.”

Why magnify love only one day of the year? True love lasts longer than one day. Love is more than a few romantic words composed by Hallmark. Love is more valuable than commercial stuff. God’s love is lavished upon us 365 days of the year. (see I John 3:1) God is love according to I John 4:8.

Let’s make a few comparisons between what God says about love and what the marketing industry sells.

The Greek language has several unique words for love. Agape is God’s love – selfless love. Eros is passionate or romantic love. Valentine’s Day focuses on Eros.

Here are images of angels. Cupid is the valentine angel. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love. A cupid is described as a winged being symbolic of love.

In comparison, we see an image of Michael, God’s archangel. Micheal is a warring angel who fights for us. (see Revelation 12:7-9) In Revelation 5:11, John heard the voice of “thousands upon thousands and tens thousand times ten thousand” angels. Too many angels to count! Psalm 91:11 a  loving verse telling each of us about our personal guardian angel. Weapons are evident in these images. In the valentine image, Cupid is shooting an arrow with his bow. On many valentines, there is an arrow of love aimed for the beloved’s heart. Is this truly romantic?

The other image is symbolic of the sword of the Spirit – part of God’s armor. (see Ephesians 6:18) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Offensively, God’s Word can penetrate the unbeliever’s heart allowing him/her to experience the love of God. Much more powerful than an arrow!Is love costly? Looking on the back of a valentine card, one discovers how expensive a particular piece of folded paper can be. Is Eros love worth this amount of money?

Agape love cost Jesus His life. That’s costly! Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And I Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”Pictured above is an old-fashioned valentine. On a flimsy piece of paper, a cute little angel says, “It would be heavenly to have you for my Valentine.” Although this might be a sweet sentiment, there is no sincere commitment.

In contrast, God reveals His love for us throughout the Bible. In Revelation 21 and 22, the angel of the Lord shows John the new heaven and the new earth that will last throughout eternity. The Lord’s love endures forever.  (see  I Chronicles 16:34)

So, forget the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day. Concentrate on God’s  love. Listed below are  scriptural love notes from God. (Emphasis is by the writer.)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.
I John 4:7

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But
the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

 

 

 

 

 

Everything!

“Everything” is all-inclusive! When I was a little girl, my mother helped me learn me how to pray by giving me a simple prayer outline. She suggested that I pray, “God, thank You for ______ and ______.” I was to fill in the blanks with two things for which I was thankful that day. Sometimes it would be easy for me to fill in the blanks. Other times, I might just pray, “Thank You, God for everything!” This could have been my prayer because my heart was so full of gratitude that I could not choose two specific things. Or, it might have been an easy way out because I was too tired to think. Today, when I think about thanking God for everything, it involves a greater risk than I perceived as a child. Can someone be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer? Can another person be thankful for losing their job? At this point in my life, I do not always find it easy to thank God for everything. However, I do still pray about everything. I have discovered some all-inclusive scriptures I want us to think about today.

Jesus looked at them intently and said,
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God.
Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 NLT

Nothing” can be replaced with “everything” when we allow God to work on our behalf! This verse from the gospel of Mark is Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Humanly speaking, neither this man nor any of us can do anything to inherit the kingdom of God. Admitting that we can do nothing opens the door for Jesus to do everything for us. Jesus did it all! He died on the cross to pay the price we cannot pay.

The other factor we need to remember is that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His power, we become capable of doing the impossible even though we are human. I recently heard Bill Johnson  encourage us to not run from the impossible. We are told in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God for whom nothing is impossible and we can receive that same power. Bill Johnson pointed out that this power of the Holy Spirit in us is enough for us to do the impossible. We can do the impossible not because we are human, but because Christ through the Holy Spirit lives and works through us. This leads us to the next scripture.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 NLT

Everything” is “every thing.” From this verse, I gain the confidence that I can do everything that I encounter in life because Christ promises to give me the strength to do what I need to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. I should never say, “I can’t.” When faced with a regimen of chemo treatments for a cancer diagnosis, one may feel overwhelmed and be tempted to cry out, “I can’t do this!” However, Paul assures us that we can do the “everything” facing us because Christ will be with us and working for us during the duration of the treatment. Years ago, my uncle underwent numerous treatments for cancer and I remember my mother commenting that she did not know how he was able to keep going in spite of the side affects etc. However, less than a year later, she faced similar cancer treatments and I witnessed the grace of God sustain her during her time of trial. I need to have the mindset of “I can” rather than “I can’t.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7

Everything: can be “whatever.” This verse can be dangerous if we do not focus upon the complete verse. We must not skip over the “if” qualification for receiving what we wish or ask for “ if you remain in Jesus and His word”. In I John 5:14-15 the “if”qualification phrase relates to God’s will, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” God is able to do everything we ask when we become so attuned to Him that whatever we ask is always in accordance with His will. Although God may not answer in the way we expect, He is able to give us everything as He promises when we surrender everything to Him allowing all our thoughts and desires to be His thoughts and desires. Psalm 37:4 NASB says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desire of your heart.” When we delight in Him, our desires are transformed into His desires.

Now there is another “if” scripture for us to consider.

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.
Mark 9:23 NLT

Anything” is “everything!” In this scripture, Mark tells of a man who came to Jesus asking if He was willing and capable of releasing his son from the influence of an evil spirit. Because this man was thinking of Jesus’ capability from a human perspective, he was questioning Jesus’ ability to set his son free. Jesus responded by reassuring the man that through faith and trust anything and everything is possible. Like this man, we must be careful that we do not prevent the Lord from doing what He promises to do because of our lack of faith. We also need to remember that although anything is possible, God will only answer our prayers in His way according to His time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to
His purpose. . . . predestined to
become
conformed to the image of His Son,
Romans 8:28-29

All things” is “everything!” The point to remember from this scripture is that while God is capable of causing everything to be used for His good, He does not cause everything that happens to us. Referring back to my simple prayer outline, I can pray “Thank You, God, for how You are going to use my current experience, whether it be positive or negative, for Your glory.” That is quite different from asking a recently unemployed person to pray, “Thank You, God, for my losing my job.” I like the thought that God gives us all kinds of situations so He can give us all things.

When we encounter all kinds of situations, God has the opportunity to reveal His faithfulness to us by showing us how He actually uses all the things we experience for good. God will use everything we encounter to make us more like Him. We may not like everything we experience but we still need to embrace everything and allow God to turn negative situations into positive life lessons. 

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.
Jeremiah 32:17

Everything” can meannothing.” Nothing is too hard for our Lord who created everything with His hands. Today, everything we experience passes through the hands of Him who created us and our surroundings. He continues to hold everything in His hands, so we do not need to fear anything we experience. If He could create this world we live in, then He can take care of it. There is no reason for us to doubt His ability. Truly, there is nothing too hard for God to do!

In Genesis 18:114, the Lord asked Abraham, “Is anything too Hard for the Lord?” My Reader, how do you answer this question? How does your response to this question affect how you feel about everything that happens in your life and how you handle every situation you encounter? May you remember the words of Colossians 2:10 in the Living Letters, “So you have everything when you have Christ.”

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

 

Be a Prays-er

Prays-er” is a word used by Cindy Jacobs in the book Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. The uniqueness of this word Cindy created has given me much to think about. Most of us will say that we are pray-ers who talk to God asking for His help in situations in our own lives and in the lives of others. However, if I say I am a “prays-er” I am describing myself as a person who praises the Lord while I am praying. As a praiser, or prays-er, I choose to praise Him because of who He is, not because of what He does for me. I praise Him because He is the Creator of all things and the One who has given me life. I praise Him because He is my Savior, Lord, Healer, Deliverer, Defender, Provider, Protector, etc. He is loving, gracious, merciful and kind. God is good! He is worthy of my praise! Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.” I want to fulfill this scripture by being a prays-er.

Psalms is probably the best book of the Bible for references to praise. (My Reader, you may want to do more research on your own regarding praise scriptures as I cannot begin to be inclusive in what I share. I just want to create within you a desire to become a prays-er.) Psalm 145:3 is a good starting point for praise. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 100:4 instructs us, “Enter gates His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 150:2 NLT says, “Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness!” David and the other writers of the Psalms were definitely prays-ers!

As a leader of the Israelites, Moses sets an example of the importance of praise when he personally declares in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Moses refers to the Israelites as well as himself when he says in Deuteronomy 10:21, “He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Flipping a few more pages of our Bibles, we find other references to praise.
I
Chronicles 16:9 instructs, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” Reading a little further in this chapter, I Chronicles 16:25 says, “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.” None of these people limited their conversations with God to requests. They praised God for who He was. They were prays-ers!

Being a pray-er, requires more of us than asking God to help us and meet the needs of those around us. Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Petitions are a part of prayer but so is praise. When we praise the Lord for who He is, we will worry less because we will become more aware of His character and nature. When we praise the Lord for who He is, our faith is built up and we have the confidence to thank Him for what He is going to do. Praise is a powerful part of prayer! Be a pray-er and a prays-er!

Since there are scriptural references to praise in both the Old and New Testaments, praise is not restricted to a particular time period. In Isaiah 43:21, the Lord declares, “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim My praise.” This is amazing! One of the reasons God created us is so that we can become prays-ers! Moving into the New Testament. we read I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Praise is pertinent for us today! God desires our praise – He wants us to be prays-ers!

Acts 16:25-26 tells us, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” The combined power of prayer and praise resulted in freedom from the bondage of prison. The same wonder-working power of God is available to us. Paul and Silas are an awesome example of prays-ers!

Praise is mentioned in the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel 2:20 says, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” John says in Revelation 5:11-12, “Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” It is interesting that the angels also praise the Lord. One of my favorites scriptures is Philippians 2:9-11, “God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This indicates to me that I will be a prays-er not only while I am alive on earth but throughout all eternity! What a privilege!

I am a pray-er, a person who prays (talks to God), but I am also a prays-er, a person who praises (lifts God up and honors Him for who He is). I acknowledge with the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” I personally declare Psalm 104:33, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” and Psalm 145:1-2, I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.”

My Reader, will you be a person who praises the Lord in addition to being a person who prays to God? I encourage you with the words of Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Be a prays-er!