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!

When the Wait Is Over

JohnStudy1

 

The pain of infertility runs deep and cannot fully be understood unless one has experienced it. I suppose that’s true of anything we face, be it tragedy, joblessness, illness … Last week in For the Love Bible study, we talked about how to stay strong when it feels as if our prayers fall on deaf ears, and Chaka Heinze shared an incredibly powerful testimony revealing how this plays out in her life. You can read that HERE. Then, Monday, Maria Morgan talked about choosing faith over doubt. You can read that HERE. Today those two messages come together in a celebratory post by my sweet friend Susan Aken.

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:7

“LORD, Please hear my prayer! You know my heart and how I long for a child. I want to shy-863056_640hold my own baby and know the joy of motherhood. I desire this with all my soul. Will You give me a child? If not, help me bear this pain and find contentment with empty arms. If it is Your will, please show me what to do. Help me to trust You.”

The cry of a childless woman runs deep. This longing is confronted at every turn with a woman who is a mother. The new babe who smells so sweet. The woman lovingly caressing her swollen abdomen. The toddler who runs around on chubby legs. On and on.

Living in a culture where being childless was a sign of God’s displeasure added to Elizabeth’s pain. Maybe she asked herself, “What did I do wrong?” Sympathetic and condescending smiles mocked her.

“Look at poor Elizabeth! I’m glad it isn’t me.”

Elizabeth’s one recorded quote after becoming pregnant is telling,

“’The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” Luke 1:25 (NIV)

Why can’t I have a child Lord? Why do other women get this blessing and not me?

I felt that pain. I always wanted a husband, children and the American dream. But things didn’t happen the way I hoped. I found myself single at the age of twenty-nine. Not the way I’d have written my story. Then I met my wonderful husband, got married and prepared my heart for children. I soon discovered he wasn’t ready (he was younger than I) so I waited.

Years went by. He decided he didn’t want children. I won’t share the whole girl-926225_640story here but I found myself at the age of thirty-eight hoping to get pregnant by means of insemination. Month after month nothing happened. After a year of special treatments, I faced the truth I might not ever be a mom and my prayers were similar to the one I began with. Similar to what Elizabeth may have prayed.

Then came a phone call about a baby boy who needed a mom and dad. Twenty-two hours later I was holding our son! Like Elizabeth my miracle came. The wait was over.

Euphoria! Grace in the form of a newborn baby. A love letter from God. Grace in every cry and squeak. Grace in arms filled with a sweet baby boy. I knew that I didn’t deserve the miracle God

Week 3 memory verse

Week 3 memory verse

gave. We made several decisions along the way that should’ve taken us off the miracle list. I hadn’t even been seeking God with my whole heart.

child-337540_640Did Elizabeth feel that euphoria? I’m certain she did! Did she see grace in the face of that newborn boy? I believe so.

She went from shame to rejoicing.

I wouldn’t change one thing about how our son came to us. I imagine Elizabeth would say the same. God’s timing is always perfect.

In that moment, when the waiting ends, God’s grace is painted in living color and all we can do is bow and give thanks.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27 (ESV)

***

Amazing Hope:

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s amazingdevotion 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.

***

susanakenSusan 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!

Connect with Susan on her web site and Lulu.com.

Let’s talk about this! When our prayers aren’t answered on our timetable, when our waiting takes years, even decades, we may assume God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t plan to answer our prayers at all. But Scripture tells us God is always working on our behalf. That doesn’t mean He’ll grant every one of our desires, but it does mean He will always and only do what is for our best.

This brings me to this week’s memory verse: “From ancient times no one has heard or perceived, no eye has seen any livingbygracepic-jpGod besides You, who intervenes for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4 NET).

Can you share a time when it felt as if God wasn’t listening only to find out later He’d been working behind the scenes, setting things into motion, on your behalf? How might focusing on His promise to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28) help you maintain hope and spiritual strength during a time of waiting?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace or For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Feeling Entitled? Irritated? Justified?

Susan Aken’s title says it all, summing up our greatest cause for praise:A Call to Praise icon 2

Please Don’t Give Me What I Deserve!

“Hey! I have a right to be in this lane. Get out of my way!”

“Why is my pizza cold? I have a right to receive it hot and fresh. I paid for it.”

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“Why isn’t my cable operating? I have a right to good service.”

We love to talk about rights in our culture. We feel entitled to many things. We deserve to be happy. We believe we have the right to everything from unhindered access while driving to being first in line at the grocery store to having our family the way we want them. After all, we have the right to life, liberty and the

Photo by Susan Aken

Photo by Susan Aken

pursuit of happiness. Don’t we?

But do we deserve all that? To “deserve” means to be worthy, to have a claim to or be qualified for (reward or punishment), to be entitled to. It implies that we have earned this right.

What have we earned the right to experience?

The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10 and “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a

Since we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death, what we have “earned” the right to is death. What each human being “deserves” is eternal separation from God. This truth is what makes Psalm 103:10 some of the most wonderful words ever written:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Praise God He does not give us what we deserve!

Why not? He is perfect and holy. He has the right to punish our sins.

Instead He chose to rescue us. He sent Jesus, His perfect Son, as a baby who would grow up, suffer and die for us as hopeless

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

sinners. Why would He do that?

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him.” Psalm 103: 8,11

His great love gives us what we don’t deserve.

I have brief moments when I think I am good. Than in an instant I am filled with envy, jealousy, unkindness or selfishness so much that I know I don’t deserve His grace. My heart apart from Him is wicked.

Those moments help me realize that I don’t “deserve” anything but I am given grace in everything.

That He could love me in spite of knowing what my sinful heart is like overwhelms me.

     Father, thank you for loving me so much you were willing to send Jesus to die for my sins. Thank you that you do not give me what I deserve. Thank you that I am free from the penalty of my sin. Nothing can compare to you! I cling to your grace. I rest in your abundant love.

Susan013Susan 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

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.

For those following our Call to Praise Blog Hop Posts, visit the following:

April 2: Marji Laine hosted on Asslyson Carter’s blog, discussing what it means to live anew in God’s grace.

April 4: Susan Aken will visit Delia Latham’s blog to share her thoughts on Psalm103:14, discussing the what it means when Scripture says God knows we are weak

April 9: Carol McClain will post right here, on my blog, discussing God’s sovereignty and power.

April 11th I’ll tie up our series on Ginger Solomon‘s blog, calling each of us to be fully present when we praise.

And before you go, to help us truly appreciate what Christ did for us, fellow Faith, Friends, and Chocolate blogger and biblical fiction writer Carole Towriss wrote a powerful story on the resurrection, told through the eyes of one of Jesus’ executioners. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Are You Teachable?

“I’ll do it myself!” the two-year-old cries, stomping his pudgy food with fisted hands. ID-100284325

“I know what I’m doing,” says the stressed-out teenager who’s convinced they have a strong grasp on reality–and that we, the adults in their world, don’t.

“That editor just doesn’t get me!” says the writer who’s convinced their book is the next big seller, even though others have alerted them to major plot holes.

And so, they dig in their heels and continue on their way… further and further from the finish line.

ID-100260522Early in my writing career, my skin was thinner than a pears and as easily bruised. But before long I learned, if I truly wanted to grow, I’d need to allow God to develop within me a teachable spirit. This realization has helped me in every area of my life.

Are you doing the same? Today my sweet friend and fellow ICD writer shares her thoughts on teachability.

Are You Teachable by Susan AkenSusan'sheadshot

     (Read Ruth 3:1-6)

How do you react when someone gives you advice that is scary? We don’t know all of Ruth’s motivations and reasons for choosing to go with Naomi but we do know she was determined to stay with her and was deeply attached to her. Ruth had great respect for Naomi. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth devoted herself to taking care of Naomi and providing for her. She always listened to Naomi and followed her advice. In chapter 3, verses 1-6, Naomi asks her to get all dolled up and go to the threshing floor where Boaz is sleeping. She tells her to uncover his feet and lay down there. Verse 6 tells us that Ruth “did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.”

She took a great risk here. She risked being rejected and embarrassed. She couldn’t know without doubt how Boaz would react. I think Naomi was sure of his reaction but there was no guarantee. Naomi asked Ruth to take this risk because she knew that Boaz (as next of kin) was her best hope for a future and she knew that he had taken an interest in Ruth since he told her to only glean in his field and instructed his workers to leave extra grain. When Naomi told Ruth to lie at his feet and then ask him to spread his garment over her, this was a custom of the time to let him know she was interested in marriage. You can read more about this HERE:

Ruth allowed Naomi to guide her and trusted her advice.

BeyondIDocover In Beyond I Do, Ainsley also has a mentor who gives her advice. Her friend, Deborah, who led her to Christ is also her coach and friend. Deborah encourages Ainsley to stay open to her mom and to forgive her even though she would prefer to just shut her out of her life. Deborah asks her to take a risk by opening her heart to her mom. Her mom has hurt her so many times over the years and she is afraid of being hurt again. But Deborah keeps gently prodding Ainsley to reach out. She remains open and teachable with her mentor. In one beautiful scene, when Ainsley realizes that she is not sure what is next in her life, Deborah asks her, “If you could do anything, knowing God would stand behind you 100 percent, what would that be?” When Deborah asks that question, Ainsley knows immediately what her answer is. She has known it in her heart but Deborah helps her voice that desire. She helps Ainsley find her ministry to hurting families.

If we want to grow as Christians, we must remain open and teachable. When we think we know it all or that we don’t need advice, we’re headed for a fall. When someone speaks into our lives what feels like criticism or makes a suggestion that would take us out of our comfort zone, God uses it to help us to grow and become more mature. I am experiencing that in my life. My good friend, Jennifer, has become a writing mentor (though I am older than her) and she has recently given me some challenges as a writer that would take me out of my comfort zone. She is also helping me realize that I need to be open to advice and constructive criticism in order to grow as a writer. We need each other!

Some questions to discuss, pray over, and ponder:

First, if you haven’t already done so, read Ruth 3:1-6

  1. How do you react when someone offers advice that scares you?
  1. Are you cultivating a relationship with a mentor? (I don’t think it has to be someone older than you, just someone you can learn from) Is there someone you could mentor?
  1. Would you be willing to share about a mentor relationship and what you learned either when you were mentored or when you mentored someone else?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below, join the discussion in our email loop, or at our Facebook Group page Beyond I Do Bible Study Group. 

***

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. Find out more about her writing or pick up one of her devotionals here.

Fleeing Sin Part 2

Today’s reading: Proverbs 5

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:8 Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!

Today’s Focus: Guarding against sin

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

 

Susan'sheadshotToday’s devotion, focusing on Proverbs 5, comes from one of my sweet friends and a Yahoo Proverbs study member, Susan Aken. When you think of God’s commands, do you feel slighted? Deprived? In the following devotion, Susan challenges us to think differently, realizing God’s loving and faithful and always has our best in mind.

God’s Plan for sex by Susan Aken

The wisdom shared in this chapter concerns immorality. Various translations refer to the woman in v. 3 as adulteress, immoral woman, strange woman, forbidden or loose woman. Obviously it is about being tempted to have a casual sexual relationship, and I think the principle would apply also to a woman being tempted by a forbidden man. Her lips “drip honey” and her (or his) speech is “smoother than oil”.

These verses apply so well in today’s world. Our society is so saturated with sex. We are not even surprised or shocked by casual sexuality anymore. But wisdom warns here that though he or she looks so appealing, “in the end she is…sharp as a double-edged sword”. Regret will come. (v.12) God’s wisdom is spurned in our society. “Drink water from your own cistern” v. 15 sounds archaic to most, it seems. The truth is that God’s ideal for us, one man and one woman committed to each other, is the best for us.

Jesus took it further when he said that even looking at a woman lustfully is like committing adultery. The abundance of pornography, graphic TV shows and movies, books that promote depravity, all these are like the woman whose lips drip honey. They promise a thrill that sounds so good. Keeping pure in heart sexually is a challenge for everyone in today’s world. Our flesh faces the sweet lies of sexual immorality everywhere we turn. But, in the end, we will regret that we did not listen to wisdom. God is not trying to steal our joy by calling us to purity; he wants to give us true joy that is free of regrets.

***

Susan Aken and her husband, Russ, will celebrate their 30th anniversary in May. They have one son who just turned 20. She was a school media specialist for 17 years. She quit when their son was 2 to be at home with him. She returned to work as a substitute teacher when he was in 5th grade and is still working as a sub. She has two books she self-published some years ago and has a blog she neglected in 2012 but wants to do better with it this year. She grew up knowing about Jesus and personally acknowledged him as Lord when she was 13. She’s had many ups and downs but He has been her solid rock. She used to think that by the time she was this age she would be this spiritual giant who would have figured things out. Instead she’s learned that we are all on a journey. Sometimes we move forward and sometimes we slide back, but we won’t reach full maturity until we see Jesus face to face.

Visit Susan online at: http://aken53.wordpress.com

***

So how do you guard your heart from sin? Not to sound cliche, but I suggest to you the best defense is a good offense. 😉 Or, in other words, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT).

Let’s talk about this.

What are some ways to guard our minds and hearts against sexual immorality?

We all know the physical dangers of sexual immorality–unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But how does sexual immorality affect us at our core?

How might memorizing and meditating on Scripture help insulate you against temptation? (And yes, that was sly nagging that translates as: You are working on memorizing this week’s verse, right? How’s that going? Because tomorrow begins a new week with a new verse. 🙂 And yet another opportunity for us to set our hearts and minds on the things of God.)

I’d love to know your thoughts! You can share them in the comments below, at Facebook, or through our online Bible study. If you’re looking for a cyber-study to join, it’s not to late, and we’d love to have you!


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