Choosing to Praise

Whatever we focus on tends to dominate our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our emotions. Is it any wonder then that our misery grows when we obsess over the issue or difficulty? And yet, when we choose to praise … Today my sweet friend, photographer, and gifted devotional writer, Susan Aken shares some thoughts on how we can choose to praise God, no matter our circumstances, and why we must.

Choose to Praise by Susan Aken

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (Psalm 108:1-4 ESV).

God called King David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). There are many reasons God said this about David but Psalm 108 shows us one clear reason. David was fixed on praising God. He was fixed on praising God not because things always went his way. Not because he never suffered. Not because he was perfect. It was a choice he made. He told God, “My heart is steadfast!” To be steadfast is to be firm, stable, established, fixed. He was set on praising God and nothing would sway him from that. He said:

I WILL sing and make melody with all my being!

I WILL awake the dawn!

I WILL give thanks to You, O LORD!

I WILL sing praises to You among the nations.

David determined to sing for God with all his being. He chose to start his day praising God. He made the choice to give thanks to Him. He was set on praising God in his heart and also chose to praise Him among the nations.

Why? Why would he praise Him in spite of trouble and oppression? Why would he praise Him in spite of his own weaknesses? Why would he praise Him in the midst of daily struggles?

For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:4-5)

Why would he praise Him? Because God’s love is great above the heavens! His love never fails. His love is everlasting! Because His faithfulness goes on forever!   

He deserves all praise and all glory! His love and faithfulness will never fail us.

Like David, I can choose to praise Him. I can say with David:

I will sing and make melody with all my heart!

I will wake up in the morning praising Him!

I will give thanks to you, O LORD!

I will sing your praises to those around me.

It’s a choice I can make. I can praise Him in spite of circumstances because He never changes. His character is firm in spite of my problems and struggles. I can praise Him because His love for me never fails. He will never love me any less. I can make the choice to sing and make music in my heart. I can thank Him everyday for all He does for me. I can also choose to praise His name to those around me. I can tell them how great He is.

God’s love for me is steadfast. It will never change. His faithfulness goes on forever. He is worthy of all my praise.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD! I will sing your praises to others. Praise your Holy Name!

This is a choice we can make every day! It’s a gift we give to our Lord.

Let’s talk about this! Choosing to praise isn’t always easy, but man, is it important. It draws our hearts closer to Christ and helps us appreciate all the abundant blessings He’s provided. When life is going well, it’s easy to praise. But when life is hard, what can we do to really fix our thoughts on Christ and praising Him, remaining steadfast in our praise? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

 

Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her inspiring photos at SusanAkenInspiringPhotos

And be sure to check out her wonderful devotional!

Amazing Hope: Reflections on Hope in the Midst of a Crazy World:Amazing Hope - cover sunrise and sea

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s devotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

You might also enjoy:

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

When There Are No Answers by Tara Johnson

As I’m linking to all these great posts, I’m reminded that I haven’t shared some of my devotions, written for Wholly Loved Ministries, with you. Sorry! For those of you who would like to check them out:

Fearless When Ill-equipped

The Freedom of Living Wholly Loved

And on Crosswalk:

Five Ways to Destroy Your Marriage

How to Develop the Mind of Christ

Also, if you’re in the Omaha/Bellevue/Papillion area, I’d love to see you Saturday! Stop in at Divine Truth Christian bookstore and grab an autographed copy of my latest release, Restoring Love! Reviewers are calling this my best novel yet, and I’ve been told it’d make a great witnessing tool. Plus, it’s set in Omaha, which is crazy fun!

He’d been betrayed by one he’d served, then by one he loved deeply–his own son. Would he become bitter? Feed his wounds with negative thinking until they festered into a darkened heart?

I’ve been following the life of King David, from the time he slew his first giant, Goliath, to when the most destructive giant of all, sin, almost slew him. And as I read, one question dominates my thoughts: what must it have felt like to have your son turn on you? Not just turn on you, but raise up an army against you? That had to hurt deeply, deeply enough to lead to all sorts of anger and bitterness, if David let it.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe someone you love deeply, someone you’ve trusted completely, has betrayed you. Betrayal hurts, but it doesn’t have to destroy us.

DSC_8889Today Katie Clark, author of Vanquished, shares some tips on forgiveness.

(For those of you participating in the Beyond I Do Bible study, visit Beth Farley’s blog tomorrow for lesson two.)

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her novel to one reader randomly selected in the comments left on this post. 

FORGIVE AND FORGET

By Katie Clark

It’s so easy to hold a grudge—especially when someone has truly, deeply wounded you. That feeling of hurt can last for days, months, years, and it can be especially hard around the holidays.

That is, unless you accept the all-encompassing forgiveness offered through Christ. Easier said than done? I don’t think so.

So, how does one do this? How does one forgive? Life is a struggle, and the process may be different for everyone, but here are a few tips that may help along the way.

  • Realize it is okay to forgive. I held a grudge against someone for a long time. I held the grudge because I thought that if I forgave, it meant I condoned what the person had done. On the day I realized that my forgiveness didn’t mean I agreed with that person’s choice, I felt like I had been set free!
  • Realize it’s healthy for you to forgive. Focusing on the anger is a sure way to neglect your other duties. Forgiveness allows you to go on with what God has intended for your life. Leave God to work on the other person’s heart.
  • Realize that prayer is your greatest weapon not your last resort. Pray for the person who has wronged you. Love the person who has wronged you. There is no surer way for your own joy to be restored.

And always remember that your Heavenly Father is full of mercy and love, as well as forgiveness toward you. He loved you so much He sent his Son to be born in a lowly manger. May we all live to emulate Him!

Katie Clark has been telling stories since she was seven years old. When she grew up and realized people liked hearing the stories, well, she was hooked. She spends her days telling tales to her two wee daughters, and she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Katie’s published works include her upcoming YA novel, Vanquished, the first book in the Enslaved series, as well as numerous children’s books. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Vanquished_ws11576_680Vanquished:

When Hana’s mom is diagnosed with the mutation, she is denied the medication that might save her life. Fischer, a medic at the hospital, implies there are people who can help—except Hana’s not sure she can trust him; Fischer is involved in a religious group, and religion has been outlawed for the last hundred years. Hana embarks on a dangerous journey, seeking the answers Fischer insists are available. When the truth is uncovered does Hana stick to what she knows? Or does she join the rebellion, taking a stand against an untrustworthy society?

Buy it here!

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Is there someone you need to forgive? As you read today’s post, did one person come to mind? Forgiveness rarely comes easy, but it is necessary–for our own emotional and spiritual health. But we don’t have to forgive alone. God will give us the strength to daily turn our hurts over to Him, and in time, He will align our feelings to match. Because forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion. 

If you’ve walked through the valley of forgiveness and are now standing, emotionally free, on the other side, share your experience with us. Was it hard? Was it a battle you had to fight daily? How did God help you through it? Share your thoughts here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other posts you might find helpful:

How to Trade Bitterness for Blessings

Taking a Stand to Forgive

Fighting to Forgiveness

Freedom in Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

 

Though You Trip and Fall

The other night, my husband and I were talking about the state of our marriage, and we’ve noticed a surprising trend. SteveandIWhen times get tough, we grow closer. Now, I know, according to the oft spoken clichés, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, right? But I suspect it doesn’t always. During times of trial, families either grow closer or farther apart. In my opinion, the deciding factor is whether or not they have God’s holy, wise guidance and ever-present hand. Well, that and whether we honestly give Him an obedient ear. Because God is about unity. Peace. Love. Intimacy. And when you have God-given intimacy with those around you, an amazing thing happens. Though you fall, though you trip seven or seventy-seven times, you will get up again. Though it feels as if the world is spinning ruthlessly around you, you can and do endure.

I’ve shared, and will share again, this has been a rough year for our family, perhaps the most difficult we’ve faced instorm some time. For a while, it felt like the storm clouds pressing around us would never lift. But they did, and we’ve stepped out of our storm shelter stronger, closer to one another and to God, wiser, with one more wound healed and one more emotional layer peeled back.

The other day, as I was walking through our neighborhood, the sun bathing my face in warmth, the temperatures a pleasant fifty degrees despite the fact that we are in the middle of winter, I realized I was joyful. At peace. It’d been a while since I’d truly felt joy. And in that moment, I realized my storm had lifted, and reminded myself that storms don’t last forever. While we’re in them, they feel as if they will never let up, or as if they will tear us to shreds. But they won’t, because God won’t let them. And one day, they will lift and we will again feel the soothing warmth of the sun on our face.

Because though we trip, though we stumble, though we slide backward, we will get up again.

This morning I was reading in Psalm 18 and was reminded afresh of my heavenly Father’s ever-guiding, training hand.

Psalm 18:32-36

praiseGod arms me with strength, and He makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; He strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You (God) have given me Your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; Your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping (NLT).

Scholars believe King David may have written this psalm toward the end of his life, during a time of peace. If you are familiar with David’s life, you will remember, much of it was anything but peaceful. In fact, he spent a fair amount of time in caves, hiding from King Saul who tried to kill him. And during his times of hiding, David cried out to God in despair. I imagine it felt as if his storm cloud would never lift.

But it did, and upon looking back, David was able to see God’s hand in every hurdle, storm cloud, and heartache.

If you are standing on the mountain top, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness, pause to remember some of the more difficult times in your life. How did you feel during those times? Did it seem like your struggle and pain would never end? But it did, right? Because God brought you through. Look at that/those experience/s through a God-lens. What did He show you about yourself? About Himself? Who did He bring alongside you during that tough time?

If you are still sheltering a storm, look up and look around. God is hovering over you, watching you, loving you. He friendswill bring you through. And, I would almost guarantee, He’s brought you someone to come along beside you. Are you accepting their aid and support, or are you building barriers around your heart, barriers that may seem protective–safe–but in essence, are blocking the very love and care you long for?