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Luke 6:21b, Matthew 5:4  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

How can we be blessed when we cry? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that those who cry now will laugh in the future. Matthew’s account in 5:4 says that mourners will be comforted.

Jesus promises over and over that there will come a day when everything will be turned upside down. We will all pass through a form of judgement when God separates the sheep from the goats. People who have lost a faithful loved one who walked with Jesus in this life can more nearly know morning and joy at the same time. The contrast between sorrow and joy is perhaps never so real as when they realize that their departed loved one has left his or her broken down crippled body behind and has entered into the presence of Jesus with a glorious new body. 

But God doesn’t expect us to have to wait until we die to enjoy his blessings. Read Psalm 30 and find your spirits lifted. The Psalmist shared that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. He also declared that God had turned his wailing into dancing.

I have often heard the difference between happiness and joy explained. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We are happy when people praise us and do nice things for us. But joy is based on our contentment with our lot in life and our relationship with God. As long as our trusting eyes are focused on God, we can be content knowing we are in loving and competent hands. But when our eyes stray as we compare our circumstances to those around us who have more wealth, status, or _______ (fill in the blank), we risk losing our joy as we covet what others have.

Whoa! I’m preaching to myself today!

Father God, help me to keep my eyes focused on you alone. Help me to accept my lot in life with true joy and thanksgiving in my heart, and help me to accept disappointments without grumbling and complaining.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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A week and a half ago I had cataract and corrective surgery on one eye. As the eye heals my vision in that eye continues to improve so that my once extremely near-sighted left eye is becoming closer and closer to 20/20. Meanwhile my right eye continues to be extremely near-sighted without correction and 20/20 with correction which includes a bi-focal lens.  My glasses have become glasses as the left lens was removed following surgery.

My new “bionic” left eye should be a source of joy to me except that it wants to argue with my right eye. I have been continually evaluating each situation and deciding which eye(s) to use… Driving calls for my glasses and bionic eye, while indoor activities are more pleasant without the glasses.  Reading and using the computer are a draw considering my bi-focals are less effective than they used to be and I have been able to pull my glasses off to read anyway. I now feel cross-eyed when wearing the glasses.

Sunday morning I had a pity party as tears rolled down my cheeks during the worship service. I will not be able to have surgery on my right eye for several months for various reasons, and this could turn into a year or more, maybe never. So I have begun to feel very betrayed by my doctor who didn’t prepare me for this battle between my eyes which has become so distracting.

We have campmeetings this week at Hemingway Campground, so I have been wrestling with my anger toward my doctor as well as wrestling with depression and despair over the possibility that this disorientation may go on for some time. Meanwhile I recognize that I have been continuing to draw more and more into myself.

I feel myself coming under conviction – my attitude has not been bringing glory to God. We sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” and I see my hypocrisy in my complaining spirit. I am allowing my eyes to rob me of my joy in the Lord. Doesn’t God’s word tell us to give thanks in everything? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I am resolving to praise God for my eyes, and to wear my glasses with greater resolve that my eyes will make the necessary adjustments with God’s help. I also desire to walk more closely with Jesus so that I may sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” without reservations, with his joy bubbling in my heart. As he promises in his word may I draw near to him so that he will draw near to me. (James 4:8)

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (Click on this link to read the passage. It is too long for me to copy into this post without breaking the Copyright law that governs its use.)

This passage is a psalm of David’s even though it is not in the book of Psalms. It is a song of thanksgiving and praise to God for all he has done for his people. The cause of this celebration of praise was the restoration of the arc of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

In this psalm David is thanking God for all of the wonder acts he performed on behalf of the Israelites. He is calling for the Israelites to rejoice and to glory in the name of God. He calls on them to remember the wonders and miracles God has performed as well as his righteous judgments against those who rebelled against him.

David remembers God’s faithfulness to his covenant even when the people were not faithful. He remembers God’s faithfulness to give the Promised Land to his people as an inheritance.

David recalls how God protected the Israelite nation as they wondered in the desert with no place to call home – yet. He then calls on the Israelites to sing God’s praises and to declare his glory to all nations.

David declares God’s sovereignty over all other gods. He challenges the Israelites to give God the glory and honor he is due. He calls on the earth to tremble before the Almighty God.

My feeble re-telling of this great psalm leaves much to be desired. One needs to read this Psalm over and over. Try to imagine King David’s uncontainable excitement as he sings his heart out to the Israelites through these words.

As I have written these words today I have wondered how we could bring this psalm closer home. Those of us who live in the United States have a history that, at least at the beginning of our nation, had very close ties with God. His name is embedded in our national documents, and his people were at work making our nation great. It is grievous to see how far away from God we have moved in the past 100 years.

I would like to see this psalm re-written to fit our nation’s history and to challenge our own citizens to “Cry out, ‘Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise.’ Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.” (1 Chronicles 16:35-36 NIV) 

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalms 150:1-6 (NIV)

How many ways can we praise the Lord? This stirring passage offers many great opportunities for praising him. Let us reflect on them.

Praise God in his sanctuary. In our regular worship services we offer him praise. We can also praise him anywhere we feel his presence – or where we wish to feel his presence.

Praise him in his mighty heavens. We must think outside the box here. Since we aren’t there yet, we are challenged to imagine him in his mighty heavens. Consider the immense greatness of the heavens he has created.

Praise him for his acts of power. The thunder and lightening, the ocean tides, even the massive hurricanes are but a breath compared to God’s power, as they are all under his control. God demonstrated his power when he parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk to the other side on dry land.

Praise him for his surpassing greatness. One can only stand in awe… gazing into a sunset… searching a starlit night sky or the recent eclipse… walking in a creek or admiring a waterfalls… visiting an aquarium… watching an ant hard at work…

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet… Do you play an instrument? Do so for his glory. If not, sing and make a joyful noise. Or if that is still not an option, play a radio (on a Christian station please) or a CD of Christian music.

Praise him with dancing. Does Jesus put a spring in your step? Then don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to praise him with dance, however flamboyant or humble.

Praise him with the clash of cymbals. If you don’t have cymbals, clap your hands. Make a noise that springs from the joy in your heart.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Are you breathing? Thank him with joyful praise!

We have so many reasons to praise our God. Find your own way(s) to express it to him, both in public and private worship.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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You are encouraged to share your own comments on ways you have found to praise the God of the universe.

1 O LORD, you have searched me
     and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
     you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
     you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
     you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in–behind and before;
     you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
     too lofty for me to attain

Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

This Psalm has been a favorite of mine for years. Today we are focusing on the first six verses. How well does God know me? He knows every detail of my life, every place I go, everything I do, everything I say – even before I speak it. What a net of safety! I can never be lost from God. And not only does he know me fully, he hems me in to protect me from harm. How marvelous and wonderful is our God.

This knowledge is so reassuring, except for one who might be inclined to behave in secret in ways he/she knows God would not approve. How foolish is the person who thinks he/she can “get away with …” (fill in the blank) as if fooling people is the same as fooling God. The saddest part with this kind of thinking is that this person has such a small picture of who God is – the God who created him and knows what would make him/her a complete, whole, and satisfied person.

But we who know and love God (Jesus) would never behave in such a way, now would we? We always write the exact time on the time sheet when we sign in and out at work, we always drive the speed limit or lower, we are always report every dollar of income we receive on our income tax, we are always quick to overlook an offense … What??? Do we have a few little secrets of our own?

God does know us completely, even the shady details of our lives, but the best part is he still loves us!!! He died for us before we even tried to live for him. And he protects us – often from our own folly, it is sad to say. “This knowledge IS too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Emphasis mine).

Lord, you are so good to us, more than we could ever deserve. Help us to be more sensitive in our spirits so that we would never willfully choose to do anything that would displease you or hinder our witness. And when we do fail, help us to quickly confess our sin so our fellowship with you will be fully restored and complete.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
     
2 Sing the glory of his name;
     
make his praise glorious!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
     
So great is your power
     
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
     
they sing praise to you,
     
they sing praise to your name.”
Selah
5 Come and see what God has done,
     
how awesome his works in man’s behalf!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
     
they passed through the waters on foot–
     
come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
     
his eyes watch the nations–
     
let not the rebellious rise up against him.
Selah Psalm 66:1-7 (NIV)

Have you ever felt so thrilled with what the Lord has done that you wanted to shout and sing? This scripture encourages you to do just that–wherever you are, let it be known what the Lord has done for you. Give him the praise by telling him how you feel; and give him the praise by sharing your joy with others.

The writer of this psalm is doing just that. He is rejoicing over the many ways God has blessed the Israelite nation, how their enemies had to bow down to God’s strength in defending the Israelites. He continues to elaborate the many ways God displayed his power on behalf of his children.

And God continues to do so today. When is the last time you whooped loudly because a crisis had suddenly ended when God intervened. Or perhaps it was something more subtle–God gave you something you had wished for but hadn’t even stopped to ask him. Sometimes it is these little blessings that warm my heart the most–to know he cares about the little things in my life, to know he knows my heart and wants to tell me he loves me.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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     17  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 

     18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

      Isn’t it thrilling to experience being used by God and seeing positive results? There is nothing like it in the world. But oh, how easy it is to let a little success go to our heads and make us proud.

     That must have been how it was with the disciples when they returned to Jesus and gave him their report on their first mission assignment. “Even the demons submit to us…” they must have said over and over in astonishment. The danger comes when we take our eyes off of Jesus to look at what “we” did as if we deserved some of the credit. I dare say none of those disciples could have caused one demon to budge one inch without Jesus’ intervention.

     Jesus shared with them an even greater experience–Jesus had seen Satan when he fell like lightning out of heaven. He reminds the followers that he was the one who gave them the authority to do all the miracles they had done; and he was the one who protected them in it. Therefore, they should not rejoice that they bring the spirits into submission. The most important thing that they should keep their eyes on is that their names are written in the book of life,

     Lord, help us to discipline our spiritual eyes to always focus on you and what you have done, instead of looking for our own credit for our insignificant input. Make our joy complete as we remember what you did for us on the cross.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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