There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me.
One of my favorite psalms is the One Hundredth Psalm. I love to listen to it, meditate on it, soak in it. I want David’s attitude to affect my own attitude. I need to be renewed by this psalm and its encouraging display.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(Psalm 100 NIV)
Theses Psalms were the original hymnbook of worship for the Lord. This is truly traditional music. All else is, by mere turn of time, contemporary. When we want to know what worship is or what it should look like, we need only turn to the Psalms. Here the Lord’s relationship to man is made clear and our necessary relationship to Him is also made clear. He is our King, our Creator, our salvation and our only hope and refuge. He is the tower to whom we run for protection. We on the other hand are His servants. We are called to worship Him for who He is not for what He does.
The psalmist begins “Shout for joy to the Lord.” But what if I don’t feel joyful? What if I have a cold or I was up too late last night or do not really want to be here? What if I don’t care for the people around me? What if my day is filled with trial or sorrow? What if I am overwhelmed with grief? But this isn’t about you and what is happening to you. This is about the Lord and what you should be doing for Him. The instruction is clear, shout for joy to the Lord! You are to look inside and outside and where ever else you think you must for your source of joy and you are to lift that joy to the Lord.
It is true that we cannot always choose our emotions. Life does some wonderful and some terrible things to us and our emotions respond with what seems to be a will of their own. There are day when sadness will prevail because we are struggling with painful losses and other days we will be happy because something good has happened. Our emotions almost seem to choose us. But out attitude is something we choose. Our attitude is the way we respond to events in life and we have some measure of freedom in choosing those attitudes. This Psalm instructs us to choose joy!
During the past two months I have received some wonderful compliments regarding my faithful practice of obedience to God and making Him the first priority in my life. I would be a liar if I said that did not mean something special to me. It brings me great joy to know that the way I have been living my life lately has had a positive affect on others. It brings me great joy to know that what I have said or done causes other to think on the Lord. However, it was also during this time that I found out that my sister had died in a car accident. She was involved in a car accident on July 5 and died on July 6. I have prayed for her every day for years, but I have no idea if my prayers were answered. When I received the news of her death and the great grief of her children, I felt empty. It was as if all my strength had been suddenly removed from me.
Now this is my testimony. The happiness was really nice and the sadness was and is painful, but through it all there is a kind of joy in the promises of God and the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ that was present in every circumstance. As I thought of my sister, my brother called me to share his sense of grief and to let me know that he was now attending a primitive Baptist church n Virginia. Gods let me know that He had heard and answered that prayer. I was overcome by the realization that we are truly surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, all those saints who have lived before and live still. As I think of them all there are tears, but beneath those tears is an unspeakable joy in the Love of God. Then and always it is possible and necessary to choose joy.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” To the Lord: We are instructed to give our full attention to the Lord. Give your joy to the Lord. And like a friend who sees a friend across the way, we are instructed to “shout for joy.” We are invited to let our exuberance, our joy and our hope show. We are called to worship God in joy, because He is God. If I were preaching in one of the small churches I knew thirty years ago, I would expect to hear an “Amen.” Today’s church is more muted and that is alright, but hopefully there is great joy in our hearts when we come together to worship. We are to worship in joy, no matter what our circumstances.
As I read this Psalm, I am forced to recognize that even if my lips do not shout, my heart should burst with joy in anticipation of worshiping the Lord, the one and true living God. Notice this: the whole world is invited to participate. How inclusive do you want to be? Everybody and everything is invited to shout with joy before the Lord. Put away your pouting. Silence all your whines. Choose joy as you meet the Lord in worship, whether alone or together in corporate worship. Join me in saying, “I love you, God.” This is the beginning of worship. Worship is the act of saying to God, You are the One that I love most and the One who is more important to me than anything else.
“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.” Worship the Lord! Worship with joy! Worship is giving your full attention to the presence and Spirit of God. It is praying, “God, you promised to be here and I am listening for the sound of your still, quiet voice.” You are inviting God to speak to your soul and to inform your soul with God’s wisdom and love. “Here I am, Lord. Make of me the person you would have me be.”
Worship is standing in awe before the author of the universe. There have been times when I have been so struck by God’s creation that I could only whisper, “My God!” I have listened to the sound of the ocean or watched the sun rise above the Sierra mountains and could only whisper to the One who created all these things. That is worship.
“Know the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” The apostle Paul sometimes began his letter by saying something like, “Paul, a slave of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul, a slave—that is saying that he has invited Jesus to be his master. He belongs to God. I am reminded of the day that my son, Alex, realized he was adopted. He was overwhelmed that we had chosen him for our son. He was a choice not an accident. He was here because we wanted him. None of us caused our own birth. Our existence is totally dependent upon the act of someone else! Ultimately we are only here because of the generous creativity of God. Our stay here is short. While we may improve our chances for staying here longer, the fact is that our time is temporary.. The reality is we do not decide to enter this world and we are not in charge of when we leave it. Our lives are entirely dependent upon another. “We are His people.” Good news. The one to whom we belong is none other than God. We belong to God! Hallelujah.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Thanksgiving and praise. Choose your attitude. Look for the blessings and life and give thanks. Look for the wonderful things He has done and praise God for them. Choose your attitude! Our instruction is simply this: begin your day with thanksgiving and praise, worshiping the One who created you. Find something good to talk about. Find that joy that is your gift through Christ Jesus and give to our God and Father as His due. The bad will find you on its own. Look for the good and say thank you.
Walk around your neighborhood and look at all there is to see and say thank you. I sit on my porch and watch the barn swallows build their muddy nests and I say thank you.. My children play in a wading pool laughing and squealing their delight and I say thank you.. My wife’s arms encircle me in the night and I say thank you.
“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” God’s love endures forever. As Paul wrote, nothing can separate us from the love of God. The psalmist knew it long before Jesus came, but Jesus made it even clearer. The one word that summarizes God’s character better than any other is love. More than anything in this world, God wants us to be whole. More than anything else, God wants for us to have the things we need for a strong and fruitful life.
God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die for us. There are no limits to God’s love. He will give us all the resources we need to fulfill our destiny; the destiny for which we were created, to worship Him. His love endures forever and our love should be a reflection of that love. Thus we can choose joy. We must choose joy, praise and thanksgiving. In doing so we express the love God has already given to us by His grace. We return the love He first gave to us. We give Him the worship that is His due and our responsibility.
God loves you. Let Him love you today. Give Him the joy He first gave to you. Whether in time of joy or in time of grief, we can find the joy that is God’s gift to us and return to Him in worship. Come, let us worship the Lord together.