Growing in Grace through Celebration: Worship and Praise

Does your relationship with God cause you to celebrate?

Does knowing His presence in your life lead you to praise and worship?

What is your response to His goodness to you?  Does it go by overlooked?

Those are tough questions. And sadly enough they often do not evoke the answers we want. There are so many factors in life that seem to squelch our celebration of having such an awesome Lord. Some of the following may be what you would include in your list.

  • the mundane hours of each and every day
  • the pain, physical or emotional
  • the worry that weighs on our hearts and minds
  • the disappointment that slaps you in the face at every turn
  • the overwhelm of all there is to do
  • the expectations and obligations that come our way from others in our lives

One by one these pile up, and as the stack grows taller it blocks the light of the Lord’s shining glory. Satan wants us to get bogged down in the muck and mire of life and look out only to see our problems and frustrations.  He wants us to grow in hopelessness.

It seems that all too often our eyes focus on the temporal, we see the here and now and do not live with an eternal perspective. We see the glass half empty. We miss the reality of who God is in the midst of all that weighs us down.

Unless the Lord does some magnificent and spectacular miracles we often miss His presence. Our focus is narrow and the overload of seeming negatives keep us from having a heart of celebration.

The Word tells us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Consider these:

  • a new sunrise
  • a mug of steaming hot coffee made the way you like it
  • a warm bed to sleep in
  • the chirping birds
  • the frolicking squirrels playing in the backyard
  • a safe road trip to the store or across country
  • food your fridge and pantry
  • conversation with a loved one
  • your very next breath

There are so many reasons to praise God in our everyday lives. We only need to look into the moments of our lives and allow ourselves to be led to glorify the Lord.

We can worship and glorify Him with our words of gratitude, with declarations of praise, with recognition of His goodness, and with realization of His work in our lives.

We can show our joy in Him and really celebrate the life He blesses us with by choosing to honor Him with obedience. We can respond to the truths of His Word by choosing to live fully for Him and being intentional about it. Living for Him brings Him glory!

There are many examples of praise, worship, and celebration in the Scriptures. One of my favorites is in Acts 3:8. Here we read of a man responding to God’s goodness with “walking and leaping and praising God.”

Many of the Psalms are filled with celebration and worship. Psalm 34 is filled with many reasons to praise. It is a wonderful tribute to God’s goodness. This Psalm begins:

“I will always thank the LORD, I will never stop praising Him, I will praise Him for what He has done, may all who are oppressed listen and be glad. Proclaim with me the LORD’S greatness, let us praise His name together.”

This psalm goes into describing many reasons to praise the Lord. Sometimes when my praise bank seems to be dwindling to empty, and complaining is constantly on my lips, I realize I don’t have the words of worship within me. It is then that I turn to Scripture and read aloud the praises that men and women of old have written. At times I make the Psalm my own by inserting my own words, my own reasons for praise.

Verse 8 of this Psalm tells us, “find out for yourself how good the LORD is.”  Your day may not seem good, maybe all of life seems to be disappointing, yet that does not change Who God is.

This Psalm was written by David who was constantly being chased and having his life threatened by King Saul. David was always on the run, trying to hide and find safety. He was always depending on the Lord for protection and deliverance from his troubles. He found the Lord’s goodness to be real even in the midst of all his problems.

Psalm 145 is another Psalm of praise by David which is worthy of looking at as we discuss celebration. Again, surrounded by trouble and often filled fear, David found reasons to celebrate Who God is. He praised God for:

  • His mighty acts
  • His abundant goodness
  • His righteousness
  • His grace
  • His compassion
  • His rich love
  • His trustworthiness
  • His way of satisfying desires
  • His watching over those who love Him

So many reasons to celebrate!

David is said to have worshiped God “with all his might.” In 2 Samuel 6:14, we read of how David danced before God in public. David’s worship was without reservation.

How about you? How will you celebrate God today? What reasons can you find to praise Him and give worship to His name. We grow in grace as we come to know Lord more anrow in knowing Him we find more and more reasons to celebrate Who He is!

Next week we will look at Growing in Grace through Watching and Praying. I hope you will join me again to find out why this is so important.

 

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Growing in Grace through Meditation, Reflection, and Journaling

Are your growing in grace as you take time to reflect on God’s Word?

Do you see the relevance of His Word for your life as you read it?

Do you feel yourself taking it to heart and really living out the truth nuggets that stand out to you?

Last week we talked about the importance of soul friendships in our lives to help us grow in our relationship with the Lord. There is so much growth that can occur as we share with a spiritual friend about the Lord, His Word, and His work in our lives. But we need to be intentional in our daily lives to grow in grace through being in the Word and in being alone with God.

We can take time to read our Bibles, check the box on our to-do list that says “done” to us, and move on with our busy days. I sadly have to admit I have done that. And although I could say that I was reading the Bible, I took nothing into my heart and it had very little effect on my life.

So what can you do? How can you make it matter? How does this growing in grace stuff really happen?

I think it is really important to come to the Word wanting to know the Lord more, wanting the Holy Spirit to lead you and to give you awareness of what He wants to show you and teach you. I haven’t always done that. I suppose it is because it means slowing down, being quiet, and stopping to pause as He leads. All too often my mind is racing ahead to my to-do list.

The Lord knows our hearts, our minds, and our lives. He knows where we need wisdom, knowledge, conviction, and guidance. So, I am trying to slow down more and more. I am taking to time to really meditate and reflect on the Word as I read. This means I choose a portion of the Scriptures to read, read it through, and slowly take in what is being said.

I find it helpful to compare translations of the Bible as I am reading. I especially like to look at the Amplified version alongside a New International Version or an English Standard version.

Many times I take time to rewrite some of the Scripture I am studying. I may rewrite it in my own words just to help me personalize it or oftentimes I write it into a prayer. I read a few verses and realize I want the Lord to work that in my heart and life and I turn it into a prayer.

Recently I was reading in Acts 11 and came to verse 23, I read:                                                                                      “When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them to all cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart.” (emphasis mine) 

Immediately I thought, I want that (the portion in bold in the above passage). I rewrote it into a prayer asking the Lord to help me to cleave to Him and to be faithful and devoted with a resolute and steady purpose of heart. The words of that verse perfectly declared what my heart yearns for in my relationship with the Lord. I actually didn’t write this prayer in my journal instead I just wrote it in my Bible near the verse.

As I read there are often keywords that stand out to me. Words that I need better understanding of, or words or phrases that just touch my heart and I want to know more. Sometimes I use my Concordance to compare the words in some other verses, and other times I research meanings in a Bible dictionary or other Bible helps.

There are also times when those keywords stand out, that I realize it is truly the Holy Spirit shining a light into the dark crevices of my heart where I have hidden sinful attitudes and thoughts. At those times the Spirit convicts me and leads me to repentance. I recognize that I am doing what the Lord commands me not to do, or I am not responding in the loving way I should. And once again, the Word leads me to prayer. I talk with the Lord about why I am struggling with this issue, that person, or both. I ask for forgiveness from Him, and for help with the person or issue, whether that be for help to forgive or accept or to just know what He wants me to do.

When I slow down and take time to reflect on the Word, I relate it to my own feelings, actions, behaviors, attitudes, and situations. I think about what I may need to change, what areas I need to grow in, and seek guidance as to how to go forward. There are so many lessons in the Word. We can take the key words and phrases to heart and chew on them all day long taking them with us in our minds and thinking on them as we move through our day consciously aware of what the Lord is teaching us.

Of course, since I love to write, much of this process is recorded in my journal. I want to remember what I am learning as I read the Word. I want to remember what the Holy Spirit shows me about me that I have been blind to. I want to be able to see the Lord at work on my behalf helping me to grow in grace as He answers my prayers. I write key verses, I write my thoughts and my questions. And I write my prayers.

I use to write out all of my prayers years ago, but after a while I felt like I was just repeating some of the same things and it became a chore. Yet, I knew I wanted to record my prayers. I felt stuck and was unsure what to do. I have since found that keeping a small booklet with prayer lists for the people I pray daily or frequently for works very well. As I read my Bible I find verses that seem to say exactly what I want to pray for those dear ones and I write these verses on that person’s page and pray through the verses as I bring their needs before the Lord.

I still record prayers in my journal but they are the prayers I personalize from the Word and prayers for things that I want the Lord to work on in my heart and life. I record prayers that come out of “the cellar of my soul.” I record my confessions of bad attitudes, and sinfulness, I write about my fears, my personal heartache, areas of neediness and hurt, and things relevant to that day that I want to give to the Lord.

Yes, this all takes time, and some days I get bogged down because I get frustrated but I am continuing to grow. I am learning and I am excited about the things the Lord is showing me and helping me with.

I have found a couple of books along the way that have been very helpful, I am sure there are many others you may be familiar with but these have led me in my learning.
1. Journal Keeping: Writing for Spiritual Growth by Luann Budd
2. Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney

The Lord desires that we come to know Him more and we do that through learning in His Word, and experiencing His presence in our daily moment-to-moment lives. I hope that you have found something here that will help you in your journey in growing in grace.

Next week we will look at Growing in Grace through Celebration: Praise and Worship.

Growing in Grace through Soul Friendships

Are you growing in grace?

Do you have friendships in your life that draw you closer to the Lord?

The most important goal in life as a believer in Jesus Christ is to grow in knowing Him more and becoming more like Him. So, if that is your goal in life, then it only stands to reason that you would desire to have friends with similar feelings and wants.

We end up with many different relationships in life, and there is a range to the depth of intimacy our relationships reach. The people you are closest to have the greatest influence on you and you on them. Their influence can be for good or for the worst. This helps us recognize why it is so important to make wise decisions or choices especially in our closest relationships. This is also why I asked if you have friendships that draw you closer to the Lord. Growing in grace should be a top priority and a soul friend can be a great help in that.

You may be wondering at this point what I mean when I say “soul friend.” Soul friend is a term I read about when I was doing a little personal studying on the spiritual disciplines. I was familiar with many of the disciplines mentioned, like meditation, prayer, study, solitude and silence, but I had not heard of that of “soul friendship.”

The following qualities are found in a soul friend, she or he:

  • has an intimate relationship with the Lord
  • lifts you up in prayer
  • shares honestly and truthfully with you
  • listens and empathises with you
  • helps you find your way to the Lord when you are distracted, frustrated, hurting, angry, or overwhelmed
  • helps you to hear and know the Lord’s truth about your situation

Mindy Caliquire says that a “spiritual friend” or “soul friend” helps us sit with God and helps us pay attention to Him.

We can be real with a soul friend, confess our problems, sins, share our needs, and be fragile enough to say ‘I need help.’ These kinds of friendships take time to form and develop, and often, I believe, they really come in answer to prayer.

I have been blessed with three soul friends in my life.  Three women who I have known varying lengths of time, but have grown deep with each because of our sharing. These friends do not know each other, they may have only heard me mention the others names. In each of these relationships our sharing with one another is all about honesty, asking probing questions, encouraging each other to seek wisdom, and praying for each other as we would pray for ourselves.

Each one of these three friends is a person I can share my deepest pain with. I can share the part of myself that I rarely tell anyone about. The pain that gets triggered at the most unexpected time, the pain that really makes no sense in the current situation but is all about the hurt of the past. I can be real and share the hurt I feel in a situation, or explain why I reacted. I can explain my reaction as it is connected to my pain, and they will know and connect with me in it. They will reassure me. And it works both ways, I know their inner conflicts and deep hurts, as well as their insecurities and I can be there for them.

Our conversations center around life, how we feel about life, what the Lord is teaching us, and where we are struggling. Our conversations always include how we can pray for each other, sharing Bible verses that touch our hearts, and giving God the glory for what He is doing.

None of us are squeaky clean, on the verge of perfection and knowing it all. We all are struggling in our own ways and we all need help for this journey called life.

We each need at least one soul friend in our lives. There are a couple of verses from God’s Word that come to mind as I share about soul friends. One is Proverbs 27:17:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

A soul friend helps you grow in the things of the Lord, in learning about Him, in learning His Word, in learning about living in Christlikeness. Iron is sharpened.

The other verse is just a couple of verses further into chapter 17 of Proverbs at verse 19:

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friends counsel that comes from the heart.”

The “sweetness of a friends counsel,” words spoken in truth and with love are so sweet. Those words connect our hearts in very special ways and keep us coming back to one another for more support, encouragement, and help. And, more importantly, we find our soul friends leading us back to the love of the Lord, to His wisdom, and that is truly irresistable.

If you do not have a soul friend in your life right now, ask the Lord to show you who He desires you to have that kind of relationship with, and let Him lead you in it.  He can and will make it happen, because there is nothing He wants more than for us to be growing in knowing and loving Him as we enjoy His love in others. He wants us to be growing in grace. He answers these prayers in amazing ways! You won’t be disappointed.

Next post we will consider Growing in Grace through Meditation, Reflection, and Journaling.