By John Tompson
Psalm 98:1 begins with the admonition to “Sing to the Lord a new song.” I believe this new song is a song of praise, of adoration, of awe, of love. Too often when I pray, it is not a new song. I find myself using the same old tired phrases. Even more often what I would like to pass off as worship is simply a recitation of what I want God to do for me.
The theme of these advent lessons is rest. I need to concentrate on the person of God—to rest in Him and in His providence. He knows my desires and my needs. He really doesn’t need me to remind Him. I believe he would rather have my praise and heartfelt worship than my begging prayers.
We should sing and praise God with a new song because He has done marvelous things. For ancient Israel, the marvelous things were in the exodus and occupation of the land. It was in the deliverance from the exile in Babylon [depending on when this was written]. For us His marvelous things are given to us in, and through, Jesus our Savior. He is the strong right arm that has given the victory to God. The right hand is the place of honor and authority. Stephen says: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Through Christ, God has made His victory known more powerfully than the psalmist could imagine.
In verse 3 we read of his faithfulness to Israel. Christ came as the fulfillment of all that God had promised in the law and the prophets. He came in such a way that all the earth has seen His victory. Further, He came to those who were not included in the covenant with Israel. Christ extended His new covenant to all men—for which we should give thanks and praise and worship. And…we should rest in the sure knowledge that we are secure before God: John 10:28-30: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand .” This should be reason enough to offer unending praise to God and rest in His love.
By Lori Tyler
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas carols. They are what make the Christmas season so special and memorable. They remind me of growing up, singing these very same songs at the candlelight service with my family. Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas carols? Wouldn’t it be a tragedy if the first Christmas had no music to announce Christ’s coming?
Another beautiful song of this season is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. I am thankful Luke included this song of Mary for us to read. It is sometimes referred to as the Magnificat, which is a Latin term meaning, “to magnify.” Even though Jesus Christ has not been born yet, Mary wants to sing His praises and magnify His name. She reveals here that true worship of God begins with the spirit. It is the understanding of who God is, what He has done, and all that He has given us. This alone should cause us to sing. You may not have a good voice. You may not have a poetic way of saying things. That doesn’t matter because God made you and He loves to hear you sing and give praise to His glory. So this Christmas season, what do you give to the God who has everything? You give Him praise and thanks.
As you offer this gift of praise to God, in return you will be filled with the same peace and rest within your heart that Mary experienced when she trusted God’s magnificent plan for her life. She could easily have wept and mourned when she learned that she had been chosen for this humanly impossible responsibility. Yet she turned her sorrow into gladness and rejoiced in God’s overwhelming love for her. Trust God’s plan for your life this Christmas season and rest in the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. You will experience a peace that passes all understanding.
By Lance Mayes
The first two verses in Psalm 105 encourage us to give thanks and sing praises to God and let the whole world know the wonderful things God does.
Thanks, praise and Good News. We can do that!
It is easy for us to give thanks and praise to God when things are going well: the birth of a healthy baby, a good doctor’s report, getting a driver’s license, winning a game against your biggest rival. It is much more difficult when things are not going so well: a miscarriage, the cancer is back, failing the driver’s test, losing the big game.
It is good to stop and reflect when things are great and when things are bad. Make a list, write it down and thank God. In The 5 Minute Journal gratitude is defined as “the feeling that embodies the word ‘Thank you’. It is the unexpected reward of a kind deed that is magically produced by your brain. It is the cute, tingly feeling in your body that makes you smile at strangers.” Thank God for the day God has created for you. Thank God for every beat of your heart and breath you take. Thank God for the good and the bad (James 1:2-4).
Most of the time when we think about singing praises to God, we think of Sunday morning worship. It is good to be with other Christians and raise our voices in praise as one. It is good to listen to and enjoy a concert of praise and be spurred to join in their worship of God. It is also good to have private times of praise. You see a beautiful sunrise and speak a word of praise to God. You hear the story of your neighbor that their grandchild is getting the mental health help they need and you whisper a song of praise in your heart to God.
Sharing the Good News. Telling others about the wonderful things God is doing in your life and in the lives of others. What story is in your heart that is just waiting to get out? Please share! Tell your family and your friends. Tell your neighbors and coworkers. Tell your church community and your acquaintances. Write your story and post on a blog or on Facebook. Record your story on video for Youtube.* We all have so much we can tell about the wonderful things God does.
*We encourage you to record your story and we want to help. We can help you by posting on the Woodland Blog and/or in our print publications like our missions newsletter “Harvest Tree.” We can also record your story on video.
By Nate Newell
King David writes in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, oh whom shall I be afraid?”
When people remember King David they often remember his great feats, and his courageous faith, but no one ever brings up how scared he must have been … I look back at the things he had to face: lions, bears, giants, and even entire nations waging war against him. I think to myself, if I was alive back then, would I be as brave as David? Then I go on to think, what dangers do I face? Are they even remotely as dangerous? While we might not have to do battle with a 9 ft warrior we do have to battle traffic on Loop-1604. We don’t have to wrestle lions and bears to protect our flock of sheep, but we do have to worry about the mergers on I-410.
We should take our cue from David and put our trust in God, not our GPSes. In Psalm 27 David says the Lord is his stronghold, the bible also says God is an ever present help in trouble.
Put your trust in God, pray, sing praise! For he is our salvation, we need not fear anything. Psalm 27 puts into words the thing that everyone wants to hear, salvation from sin, and defense from danger. God protects us from all things and all he asks in return is that we talk with him. Pray before a meal, thank God for a friendship, for “The Lord is our salvation.”
By Daniel Zamora
Today’s passage is known as the Song of Mary, the “Magnificat,” a spontaneous hymn identified through the centuries as the first canticle recorded in the New Testament. It contains the praises that Mary expressed while being with her relative Elizabeth, once the angel had told her about some strange and incredible announcement.
Mary was overwhelmed. First, she was visited by a heavenly being, the angel Gabriel; second, the angel’s message was that in spite of her not being married, she would have a baby and his name would be Jesus, the Son of the Most High; third, when the angel was gone, she ran to another town the tell Elizabeth the shocking news. She was pregnant and her baby jumped out of joy after listening to the awesome tidings. After that, Mary began singing full of joy and gratitude. In this canticle, Mary worshiped for what God is, for what He had done for her and the many blessings and mercy extended to generations to come.
How do we react when receiving wonderful news? Our responses may range from simply smiling to deeply crying out loud and, including but not limited to, shouting, screaming, jumping, hugging, calling loved ones to share with and thanking those who made it possible or were involved closely in the message received.
At over two thousand years of distance, let us praise God this Advent season by singing Mary’s words “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
By Ed Twedt
This beautiful psalm is the story of Israel’s history, beginning with Abraham, and God’s promises to him, and God’s covenant with him. In this poignant psalm, the author asks the offspring of Abraham to remember God’s promises and God’s covenant. The author speaks of God’s covenant as a word God commanded for a thousand generations and as an eternal covenant.
Both of those things caught my eye and my heart as I read through this psalm. Imagine a thousand generations and an eternal covenant. Of course the “thousand generations” is a metaphor intended to reemphasize the eternal covenant. And what, after all, could this have to do with lent? This season should remind us of the promises of God, a season of looking back and looking forward.
The psalmist closes by reminding us that God remembered God’s holy promise, AND God’s servant Abraham as God brought God’s people out “with joy”, “his chosen ones with singing.” We look back on our lives and the history of the church, our church – the church universal – and are reminded that all of that history is our shared history with Israel, and lent points us forward to being brought out with joy and with singing as we anticipate the glory of that Sunday when we will all greet one another with those ancient words of the Church, “He is risen”, and the answer will come back strong, “He is risen indeed.”
It is no accident that the author closes the psalm with that powerful phrase, “Praise the Lord” or Hallelujah, a transliteration of the Hebrew which means literally, “Sing praises to” or “Praises to” and ending with the short form “Jah” for the personal name of God. So let us all sing praises to our God as we remember God’s everlasting covenant with us which points back to God’s promises and forward to God’s finishing of God’s work.
By Barbara Higdon
Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45
In the Christian calendar, Lent is generally a time for solemn reflection on God’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from ourselves. Beginning with the marking of ashes from the burned palms similar to those that once waved at the Messiah as he entered Jerusalem, we are reminded that this was a road leading to a terrible death. How quickly the hosannas turned to hisses and boos.
Throughout Lent, many Christians give up favorite foods or activities to suffer symbolically with their Christ. Churches do not sing hymns of hallelujahs, waiting until Easter Sunday. It is a darker time in our calendar.
The passages from Psalm 105 seem to ring wrong as we journey to the cross. These words from David are filled with praises and reminders of what God has done for his people. Action verbs recount how a faithful God has time and again provided for His people. “He IS the Lord our God.” “He remembers his covenant forever…” “He confirmed…” “He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold…” “He spread…” “He brought…” “He fed…” “He gave…” These strong statements remind us of how strong and faithful our God is.
Yes, it is important to remember Christ’s suffering and supreme sacrifice. Yes, that sense of our unworthiness isn’t inappropriate. Yes, that sadness is legitimate.
However, I don’t think God wants us to wallow in sorrow. Even in the Last Supper, when Jesus asked the disciples to remember Him, I think he wanted them to remember the good things, too. Our pastor once reminded the deacons who were serving Communion that we needn’t look like we’re at a funeral. Every meal is a gift of God that we should recall with gratitude and happiness.
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” This is a command to be filled with joy and share the great news. Laugh and sing, for we are the children of a loving God who welcomes all and provides abundantly. He remembers His covenants; let us remember ours with Him.
By Lori Tyler
I love to sing hymns and songs of praise on Sunday morning. Sitting in a beautiful sanctuary with my family and friends, I am drawn into worship. However, how fervent and majestic is my worship on Monday morning when the alarm rings at 6:00 am? Do I live a life of praise when I am stuck in traffic or rushing to another appointment? Most of all, how am I doing with praise in my home? What response to God does my family see when I am lamenting about the dirty laundry or the sink full of dirty dishes?
I was struck by the words in the last two verses of Psalm 22. The psalmist ends with these words, “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn. He has done it!” Amazing! My genuine and continual praise to God will be a testimony and influence in the future as well.
As I demonstrate a life of praise to my boys, Benjamin and Luke, they will learn to live their Christian life in the same way. And in turn they will teach their children and generations to come.
But praise and adoration of God does not always come quickly or easily. Often, my first response to difficult situations is to complain. It is fun to vent and feels good. But I have learned that complaining is contagious and springs from a heart of ingratitude.
One way to overcome grumbling is to cultivate a thankful spirit. I have so much to be thankful for and I want my entire life to be an offering of heart felt worship. I want to say “no” to complaining and instead take my complaints and frustrations to the Lord. He is the only one who is able to answer and help. He has not despised my suffering nor hidden His face from me.
Only when I live a life of gratitude for all God has done for me can I find those words and actions of praise no matter what circumstance I am facing. It is my prayer that my gratitude and praise will be reflected in the lives of my children and family.
By Mike Neely
This portion of Psalm 22 instructs those that “fear the Lord (to) praise him”. It also reminds us that “dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.”
As we prepare during this Lenten season to celebrate Easter– the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus– we should reflect on the majesty and glory of God. In spite of world conditions of chaos, persecution, war and uncertainty, the Lord “rules over the nations”. God cares about every detail of our lives.
I heard a story on the radio this past Saturday on KLOVE which really touched me. It is an amazing story of God’s caring for details and of his love. Operation Christmas Child distributes millions of shoe boxes at Christmas time to children all over the world. A young girl in Mexico, about twelve years old or so, was waiting to receive a shoe box. Each time a box for her age group was unpacked, it was given to another child. It was uncertain if she would receive a box or not. Finally, the last box was for her age group and it was given to her. She opened the box joyfully and looked inside and began to weep. A translator came over to her and asked her if something was wrong. The young girl had found a picture in the box of a girl and a boy. She was crying because she knew this girl and her brother as she used to live in Birmingham, Alabama before moving to Mexico to take care of a relative that was ill. This girl was her friend who she had not expected to see again. Out of the millions of shoe boxes that were distributed, God appointed this box to be given to her.
God is truly worthy of our praise and honor. As we prepare during this Lenten season for Easter, let us remember to praise and honor God in everything that we do.