Blessings: Have You Counted Yours?

countWhen was the last time you paused and counted the many blessing that you have?  Have you taken the time to heed the old hymn and “name them one by one?” These are the questions I asked myself after reading Psalm 68:19: “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!

A survey of the Psalms will reveal several verses that remind us of God’s many blessings:

  • Psalm 1 speaks of relationship: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
  • Psalm 2 speaks of faith: Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him
  • Psalm 28 speaks of prayer: Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
  • Psalm 31 speaks of God’s kindness: Blessed be the Lord, For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
  • Psalm 32 speaks of forgiveness: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
  • Psalm 33 is a promise: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

I’ll close with this link to Count Your Blessings. I hope the song will become a symphony as you reflect on the times God has blessed you.

Beating the Blues

HopeDid you awaken this morning feeling more down-and-out and less up-and-at-it? If so, you might identify with the “woe-is-me” mentality of Jeremiah who said:

“I’m the man who has seen trouble, trouble coming from the lash of God’s anger. He took me by the hand and walked me into pitch-black darkness. Yes, he’s given me the back of his hand over and over and over again. He turned me into a scarecrow of skin and bones, then broke the bones. He hemmed me in, ganged up on me, and poured on the trouble and hard times. He locked me up in deep darkness, like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.” ~ The Message

The sure cure for a case of the Monday Morning Blues is a long sip from this energizing Cup of Hope:  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

When Jeremiah began to focus less on his problems and more on God, his perspective changed.  He began to realize that the high tide of God’s hope has a rhythmic presence that’s just as certain as the appearance of the moon in the night sky.  He also concluded that the faithfulness of God is as cool and refreshing as an artesian well that never runs dry—it’s new every morning.

In the Psalms, David learned that the riddles of life are never solved through the emptiness of the world, but through the fullness of God’s blessing. He said: I did not understand until I went into the sanctuary of God; and, He offered this conclusion: God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever . . . it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.

As you work your way through today, remember that God is full of compassion, generous in grace, slow to anger, and boundless in loyal love and truth.  ~Psalm 86:15

Refocus

blueeyerefocus-e1402765750552One of the great men of the Bible was David, and he reigned as King for over thirty years. His path to the throne wasn’t an easy journey, and his years as a monarch were often times of great difficulty.

One of the more trying moments of his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 30:6: David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Even though David was greatly distressed, he didn’t allow the trial, the heartache, and the grief to define the rest of his life.  Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord.

David refocused his emotions, turned his thoughts towards God, and remembered: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

It’s also likely, that David rehearsed the many times that God had intervened in his life:

  • God once delivered him from a lion and a bear
  • God gave him a victory when he faced Goliath in battle and beat him
  • When jealous Saul tried to kill him, God always provided safety.

Today may be one of those days that you’re feeling distressed.  Whatever your Goliath may be, God can bring your giant to his knees.  Find strength in knowing that what God did for David, He can also do for you.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Sing A New Song

simonOne among the many things that I lack is the ability to sing well. This is why I like the words of Psalm 96; it encourages us to sing a “new song to the Lord.”

Due to my inability to harmonize and sing on key, songs always have a new and different sound when I sing—I can carry a tune; I just can’t unload it.

The songs of David are replete with sweet praise for God’s love and faithfulness:  For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds (Psalm 108:4).

Love is the expressible and essential attribute of God that is one of His cohesive characteristics. God’s attributes never detract from or diminish another of His characteristics—God is both just and merciful. He is also self-existent, eternal, and holy; therefore, God’s love has no beginning; it has no end, and, it is holy and pure. God’s love has always existed and it will never end.

Love is that attribute of God that defines the Substitute who died for the spiritually destitute on the cross of Calvary. And, as John said: We love God, because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

Hatred’s Fertile Soil

Hands Holding a Seedling and SoilEach year at this time, my interests are directed towards my garden. I visit it often to watch the yellow flowers become tomatoes. I also add a little fertilizer to stimulate the growth of the plants, and put a fence up around the garden to keep the cats out; I don’t like their soul-enriching methodology.

The vegetation in a garden is much like the thoughts in your head.  Some can bloom and produce a beautiful crop of beneficial thoughts and productive ideas; others are weeds that are detrimental to your mental well-being and they can make a blooming idiot of you.

To live a well-ordered life, a life that’s more fruit than folly, you must manage your thoughts when they first appear in the garden of your mind.  Winifred Gallagher says, “It’s about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson recognized the power and potential of a person’s thoughts when he said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

The more you think about something, the more it becomes a part of who you are. Whether it is positive or negative it will take root in the subconscious control center of your mind.  An incident that occurred yesterday is evidence of this. The actions of James T. Hodgkinson at the GOP’s congressional baseball practice, is evidence of a mind overgrown with the weeds of hatred.

The mind should be a weed-free zone; and, the only way to accomplish this is to take your thoughts captive.   If you fail to manage your thoughts and to take them captive, they will captivate and control you.

Yesterday, we witnessed both good and evil; Hodgkinson, was the personification of evil, and the good was seen in the heroic actions of those who stood in harm’s way to eliminate the threat and those who rushed to treat the wounded.

I can think of no better words to summarize my thoughts than these: Jesus said, The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil (Luke 6:45).

 

The 4: Can You Say YES?

apollo11Can you answer yes to these four questions?

  • Are you a citizen of the United States?
  • Do you have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math?
  • Do you have at least 1,000 hours of seat time piloting a jet?
  • Can you pass a NASA physical which also requires 20/20 vision?

If you replied in the affirmative to each of the four questions above, you are among the 3 million U.S. residents who meet the basic requirements that could qualify you to become an astronaut. Of these number, there were 18,300 people who applied to join NASA’s 2017 astronaut class.

A panel of 50 people reviewed each of the applications and narrowed the list to a few hundred. After more scrutiny, the applicant list shrunk to 120 candidates, and eventually the list was winnowed down to 50 who were called back for a week of interviews and more medical testing.

All in all, this 18-month process culminated with the selection of 12 individuals out of the 18,300 who applied. This means that only .00065574 of the people who applied were selected. I would be without hope, if God’s selection process were this stringent.

However, God does not extend an invitation to you on the basis of your IQ or physical condition; He invites you to join Him in spite of these:  For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8)!

Don’t worry about the odds or the percentages of being good enough to be part of the teams or to accomplish the mission ahead of you. When God calls you, he also equips you: God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).

As you think about this, I also encourage you to think about John 15:16:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

A Precious Name

nameWhen I reached for a book on a shelf of my library, I grabbed the wrong book.  I have to admit, I find myself doing this more frequently since I started wearing trifocals.

As I placed the mistakenly retrieved book on my desk, it randomly opened to and old hymn: Take the Name of Jesus with You.  I know the words of the song by heart and find pleasure in its joyful refrain of Precious Name Oh How Sweet.

In the Old Testament, names were declarations that characterized a person, a promise, or a relationship with God. Here are a few of the many names of God:

  • EL SHADDAI: God Almighty (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5)
  • YAHWEH-JIREH: The Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14)
  • YAHWEH-ROHI: The Lord Our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
  • ELOHIM: God, Creator, Mighty and Strong (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33)
  • YAHWEH-RAPHA: The Lord Who Heals (Exodus 15:26)

David may have been meditating on the names of God when he wrote Psalm 9:10: Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

As you contemplate the week ahead, I encourage you to do two things:

  • First, use this post as a Monday through Friday mediation; and, focus on one of these names of God for the next five days.
  • Second, read Psalm 33:20-21 at least once a day and use it as a prayer of thanksgiving:

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.