Category Archives: Psalms

August 9 – Blessed Be Our God Who Saves

Here is another psalm, and although it was written years before, it was sung during the time of the captivity.  It describes Israel’s history and it’s also a prayer for rescue.   Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord!   When times are tragic, people call out to the Lord.

The House of Hope Orphanage is an answer to the prayers of crying children left as orphans by the on-going civil war in Burma. Founded in 1999 in the hills of Mae Hong Son, Thailand, House of Hope is home to many children elementary age up through high school.  Christmas of 2004 I joined my Thai language teacher for a nearly seven-hour mountainous drive to spend our holiday at House of Hope.  I was blessed beyond measure by the love this “family” had for one another.  Their hardship brought them together and their reliance on God keeps them together.

With joy, the children and young adults put on a Christmas party for the community complete with hand-made decorations, traditional dancing, and special food.  We experienced God’s adoptive love through song, the Christmas Story was read, and several people shared their own personal stories of His goodness too. There was a lot of thanksgiving going on that Christmas.   Everyone who gathered, from the community to the newest member of the orphanage, was offered the opportunity to know God in His greatness, God who saves in so many ways.   God, we pause to thank You, to bless You our great Rescuer.  O Lord, in the little things, in the massive things, You gather us to You.  You are our Father who adopts us into Your family to live a life of hope.  Thanks be to God! Halleluiah!  Amen.

Psalm 106:47-48 ESV

August 8 – An Appalling Blessing

Even with the hopeful conclusion of Job’s story to encourage those who reflected upon it while in captivity, there was a whole lot of lamenting among God’s people in Babylon, and for good reason.  We may have been taunted at a sports event by the opposing team but God’s people were being more than taunted; their lives were radically turned upside-down by their oppressors.  The Israelites shed tears of pain, hurt, frustration, and great loss.  Some of them wept along a river where their tormentors demanded songs of joy. In the later years of his short life Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley sang about what many of the Jewish captives experienced.  The song By the Rivers of Babylon describes weeping along a river as those in exile remembered their dearly loved Zion.

Oppression is appalling; it has to be in order to consider the last verses of Psalm 137:  O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!  Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!   This imagery is too much for me to take in.  I almost did not include this “blessing” in the book, but maybe we need to be reminded of the awful consequences of evil.  People can really hurt other people.  Sometimes it’s us being hurt, or those we love, or the weak who cannot defend themselves.  And the damage done can cause us to want to take matters into our own hands.  God, help us to hate sin of all kinds and yet love our enemies.  This is not an easy prayer but a needed one. We are blessed, God, to have You as our righteous Judge and Defender.  Vengeance is not ours, it is Yours. Amen.

Psalm 137:8-9 ESV

June 20 – Bless God Who Is Our Hope

Here are a few more praise choruses from the writer of the Psalms to the Maker of it all. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever…  Exalt the Lord, Jerusalem; praise your God, Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you. God blesses His people because that is the kind of God He is! We praise God with all that we have; God blesses His people, which then leads to more praising. This is a good cycle.   Even if He never gives us one more blessing, He is so worthy of our praise.  Exalt Him.  Let’s let our children and grandchildren know that He is Heaven’s Maker and all good things are from Him. We often sing songs about what we believe; may the music from our mouths honor our God.

Psalm 146:5-6 ESV; Psalm 147:12-13 HCSB

June 19 – God Bless You

Psalm 134 is a three-verse song that is dedicated to one major theme: to bless.  Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord! May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth! 

Our family lived in Thailand on and off between 1999 and 2011.  During those years there were many opportunities to use the Thai phrase,  “Khaw Phra-jaow Huay Phawn Khoon Kha” which means, “May God bless you.”  This blessing has been verbalized throughout the ages and in many different languages, and it concludes this ancient song.  Please pray with me for the many people in Thailand who still do not know that the God and Maker of Heaven and earth desires to bless them.  God, Your Word lets us know that You love all people, and we pray that one-by-one all will have the opportunity to bless You back.  May those who leave offerings in Buddhist temples trying to make merit for past sins rejoice when they hear the truth that Jesus is the final sacrificial offering for a life of peace between You and humanity.  Amen.

Psalm 134:1-3 ESV

June 16 – Blessed to Do What Is Right

Under the reign of King Solomon the magnificent Temple was completed and everything was ready for its dedication to God’s glory.  Before Solomon addressed the masses, the people celebrated with trumpets and cymbals, and raised their voices together to sing out praises to God,  “He is good; His love endures forever.”  This familiar chorus shows up in about a half dozen other psalms and is still sung by God’s people today. Reading a little further in Psalm 106 we discover yet another blessing.   Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. 

Justice is important to God.  The Temple was a reminder to the people of their covenant relationship with a just God.  God is faithful, that is without a doubt.  The question is: are we faithful to Him?  Do we value justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God each day?  If so, we are blessed.  Do we practice patience, exercise gentleness, overflow with gratitude?  If not, why not?

Like so many things in life, desired results require disciplined resolve.  We won’t become physically fit overnight.  No matter how much one might dream of being in shape, if we want to see a change in the outcome, we most likely need to change our input. Imagine this cycle: treasure wisely, put off the bad, put on the good, live this out.  Treasuring wisely, in this case a strong fit body, leads us to put off the habits that keep us from achieving that goal, maybe laziness and poor food choices.  We then add exercise, get proper rest and nutrition and repeat the pattern until it becomes the new norm.  In time we enjoy the benefits that come from our disciplined resolve to have a healthy body.

We follow this same cycle to train our minds to master a new language or a musical instrument or a computer program, but what about our most important endeavor, the maturity of our souls?  Are we putting on justice and mercy or are we ignoring those qualities?  Our soul’s health can improve as we put off such things as contempt and pride, and practice living peaceable, pure, humble lives.  God, help us to see that it is a blessing to consistently do what is right.  Help us to treasure this blessing enough to joyfully endure our workouts.  When we get resistance may we see it for what it is, and press on into You.  Amen.

Psalm 106:3 NIV

June 6 – All Praise to Jesus Whom God Has Blessed Forever

One of the explanations of this poetic psalm is that it was written in the time of King Solomon about the Messiah yet to come.  Jesus the mighty Warrior, victorious in truth, humility and justice, will be established on a throne that will never be shaken.  His position and authority are solid. And one day there will be a great wedding as Jesus is united with His bride, the church.

The time leading up to our oldest daughter, Hannah, and her fiancée Andrew’s wedding was full of happy preparations.  Lists were compiled and double-checked to be sure that all of the meaningful details were adequately cared for as we kept a joyful wedding day in our sights.  The morning of the wedding, we gathered in the renovated neighborhood fire station to decorate it for the reception. I love remembering how Hannah and her bridesmaids laughed as they practiced the line dance they would do together later that night.  Evening came, the church filled with guests, and Hannah was a joyful, stunning, composed bride.  Her mind was free to focus on their marriage vows and to savor the festivities of their wedding.

Are we, as the church, the Body of Christ, mindfully preparing for the wedding yet to come?  Do we live in happy anticipation, waiting for Jesus our Bridegroom?  The psalmist writes,  You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.”  God’s blessing mentioned here is to His Son and the poem continues on to show His strength and justice.  The words form a picture of a wedding in which beauty and honor are elevated and joyful praise is the outcome.  May the excitement build as each day brings the wedding celebration closer.

Psalm 45:2 NIV

June 4 – All Nations Call Him Blessed

Solomon was known for his wisdom, a gift he received when the Lord said He would give Solomon anything he chose.  Israel’s new king put this wisdom to great use as he strengthened the kingdom. Along with great wisdom God blessed him with great wealth. Psalm 72 was written about King Solomon, and it foreshadows Jesus, the King of all kings. The psalm begins as a prayer that God would give justice and righteousness to the king so the king will reign fairly.  May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!  After a prayer for the land and the people of the cities, we get a foretaste of Jesus:  May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

There is a day coming when every knee will bow to King Jesus and every tongue will proclaim that He is Lord of all.  What a blessed day that will be!  The world has never seen a king as good as Jesus.  The world’s best diplomats, the wisest fairytale kings, leaders who have brought about the most needed reforms –  Jesus is so much better than all these put together. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!  Amen and Amen!

Psalm 72:15b, 17-19 ESV

June 3 – Bless God by Seeking, Praising, Meditating on and Following Him

When we were newlyweds in 1989, Russell studied at a Bible college in Dallas, Texas and worked at a Christian bookstore.  One day he surprised me with a New King James Version Bible, my new married name etched in silver on the pink leather.  It was my first leather Bible and I loved the way it felt in my hands, and when I wrote in the margin my handwriting was extra neat.  My notes from a sermon on Psalm 63 read,  “Passion for God: Seek Him, Bless Him, Meditate on Him, Follow Him.”   O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You… Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live… When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches… My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.

These timeless truths continue to be a trustworthy compass.  God’s Word is a foundation for marriage and I thank God for the many lessons that I learned at Audelia Road Baptist Church during that formative time in our lives.  Over two decades later, even though the miles separate us, it is a joy to be connected to those from our newly-married Sunday school class, and we continue to learn about new stages of life and closeness to God. May God be blessed with each day He gives as we seek Him, praise Him, meditate on Him, and follow our good and faithful Guide.  Passion for a spouse and passion for God can grow deeper as the years grow longer, especially as we live aware of God’s lovingkindness in each day.

Psalm 63:1, 3-4, 6, 8 NKJV

June 2 – Blessed to See the Light of Life

This song by the Sons of Korah is a serious dirge about the need to trust spiritual insight even more than wealth. Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life. People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.

Is this song about you, about me?  Do we trust wealth rather than God who desires to bless us even beyond the here and now?   Years after this song was written Jesus was teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem.  I love how John recorded Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  Life with Jesus is not stumbling around in the dark, for His words light our path.  He is the only way to see the light of life that Psalm 49 alludes to.  We may have the means to buy tickets for most events on earth, but riches cannot redeem our souls.

Psalm 49:16-20 NIV

June 1 – Bless the Lord, You Who Fear Him

Bless the Lord, O house of Israel!Bless the Lord, O house of Aaron! Bless the Lord, O house of Levi!   This makes sense in a Jewish culture.  Due to their personal connection with God Jews are to praise Him.  But what about those who do not have a Jewish genealogy?  The original blessing given to Abraham promised that all nations on earth would be blessed to be a blessing.  The world is blessed to praise God.  I believe that the psalmist indicated with the next verse that non-Jewish people too are included in the praising: You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord! Do we fear the Lord?  That is good.

We can join in praising the Lord, like the psalmist, for His greatness in creation.  We can sing of His power over the weather and His ability to defeat His enemies throughout time. God is all-powerful and we are reminded that He has no patience for idols or for those who trust in them.  The sooner mankind understands this the better!  Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem!  Jesus came from Heaven to Jerusalem as the fulfillment of Jewish prophesy.  He was God from the beginning and throughout the New Testament we see His greatness and His goodness.  So what is a healthy response to our Lord?  To praise Him!   We were made to know Him, to bless Him, to love Him and to make Him known.   Bless the Lord!

Psalm 135:19-21 NKJV

May 31 – Blessed to Walk in God’s Ways

The intricate acrostic poem of praise we know as Psalm 119 is, in many ways, an expansion of Psalm 1.  Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!… Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!… This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts… Please guarantee a blessing for me. Don’t let the arrogant oppress me! 

Back in 1992 when our second daughter Sophie was just a toddler, she wanted to add her own notes to my copy of Psalm 119.  To this day I smile every time I see her scribbles in my Bible, not just in one but two colors of ink.  Sophie has grown into a beautiful young lady and she has an interest in learning languages.  During a semester abroad her junior year at Rice University, she had the adventure of going to Kenya where she learned Swahili.

I’m thrilled that each of our children embraces a love for learning.  I pray they would continue to grow like the Psalm 1 tree, drinking in the goodness of God’s Word.  May this generation be challenged and strengthened by God’s teachings, walk in His ways, and seek Him with their whole hearts. May they be blessed to bless.  Amen.

Psalm 119:1-3, 12, 56 ESV; Psalm 119:122 NLT

May 30 – From the Rising to the Setting Sun, Bless You Lord!

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”   After living more than a dozen years of her life in Asia, our oldest child, Hannah, began university in the US.  We celebrated her eighteenth birthday together, we toured her college campus, prayed, cried, and took one last photo under the trees that would be her new “home”.  Then our family, now minus one, flew away.

Life in London was a big transition for me.  Our family dynamics had changed, we went from tropical weather in Thailand to the cold wetness of England and from a town surrounded by mountains to a city we accessed by the Underground. There was a noticeable difference in culture too, including how people interacted.  But I have learned from experience that in the midst of change, there is great comfort in the God of the Bible who not only does not change, but is here, wherever “here” is.

Listening to the London rain,  I read this praise song to God in Psalm 113, and thought about how there was once a time when the sun did not set on the British Empire.  Yet, no matter where in the world we go, and no matter where the sun is in its rotation (from its rising to its setting), the Lord is to be praised.  Let’s pray hard for London, now home to people from almost every nation.  May the city hear and rejoice in the good news of Jesus, and in many languages, bless the name of the Lord forevermore!  “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!”

Psalm 113:2-4 ESV

May 29 – Godly Discipline Blesses Us

Why are we to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise”? Why should we, Give thanks to him; bless his name”?  Because “the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”  We know His goodness, and yet sometimes we choose to go our own way.  God loves us too much not to pursue us. Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law…

Thank You, God, for correction so we can with clean hands and pure hearts again enter Your courts with thanksgiving and bless Your name.  Thank You, Lord Jesus, for forgiveness and for the story You told of the prodigal son who went his own way, far from his father’s home, but never too far from his father’s love.  Our Father in Heaven, thanks for welcoming us back with Your steadfast love.  Amen.

Psalm 100:4-5 ESV; Psalm 94:12 NIV

May 28 – Blessed to Sing God’s Praise Songs

Through the years, many meaningful choruses, hymns, and praise songs have moved me.  Now when I sing them decades later, in a different setting, a flood of memories come to mind, when yet again these songs are used to lift up praises and thanksgiving to our King.  Although Psalm 118 was written many generations before the birth of Jesus, it is very likely that Jesus sang it during the Last Supper with His disciples.  One stanza of this song is, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.”  We can read a similar refrain in all four of the Gospel accounts when Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a colt.

Another part of this song says, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Jesus sang this knowing what was before Him.  He endured our sin and overcame His death.  He was able to rejoice and be glad, trusting that God’s good purposes would not be thwarted.  Good songs are meant to be sung forever.  Singing God’s praises is one thing we know we will do through all eternity, so let’s keep on singing now, or as in my case, keep making a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Psalm 118:26 NIV

May 27 – God Remembers and Blesses Us

It is not clear who authored Psalm 115, but I like to think that David wrote it at the very end of his life. It begins by saying that glory does not belong to people, but to God alone. I envision David looking back on his life and thinking about history, all the way back to the creation of the world.  I imagine that David breathed in and out the assurance of God’s goodness and trustworthiness.

The song rings of hope for generations yet to come – including us, and calls all to trust in God’s love and faithfulness.  The Lord remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the people of Israel and bless the priests, the descendants of Aaron. He will bless those who fear the Lord, both great and lowly. May the Lord richly bless both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

God, who originated the whole blessing concept by creating all things good, will continue to bestow blessings on those who live to honor Him.  David reigned over Israel for forty years, then Solomon became the king.  God’s Story records in 1 Kings 2:45,“…King Solomon will be blessed, and David’s throne will remain established before the Lord forever.”

Psalm 115:12-15 NLT; 1 Kings 2:45 HCSB

May 22 – Blessed Be God – He Adopts Us into His Family

The poetry of David keeps flowing like a living river from God’s royal throne.  In some Bibles, Psalm 68 is sub-titled, “God is the Father of the Fatherless”.  This lengthy poem was sung to a tune written by the Chief Musician. Verse 6 says, “God sets the lonely in families; he leads the prisoners with singing.”  May this song give hope to many in our generation; to those who are slaves to human trafficking, to orphans in great need for loving families, and to the lonely and the elderly who long for meaningful connection.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.” I picture those faithful believers with tambourines, singing out, “Bless God in the great congregation, the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”  With a strong finale the song concludes with, “Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!”  The entire psalm is a powerful masterpiece!  All praise and blessing go to God, for He cares for the needs of the fatherless, the oppressed, and the lonely.  We can unload all of our anxieties upon Him for He cares for us and He uses us to be the blessing for others.

Way beyond the normal age for adopting children, two Christ-centered teachers who taught our kiddos in northern Thailand, traveled to Cambodia and began a long and laborious process to adopt not just one, but two young girls. Their story is one of hope and trust, and their lives, as well as the lives of their new daughters, will never be the same.

And the good examples continue:  Colleagues who focused on getting God’s goodness to those in Vietnam adopted a girl from China, and then three years later were able to return to the same overcrowded orphanage to adopt the childhood friend of their new daughter.

A young, single woman who served in a Guatemalan orphanage continues to have meaningful impact.  When a baby was abandoned and not expected to survive, she adopted him, and all praise to God, he is now a thriving teen!

Friends we mentored in China traveled to India to bring a neglected baby boy into their home, making them a happy family of six.

And, long time friends from North Carolina are faithfully parenting their son with fetal alcohol syndrome whom they adopted from Russia in 2001.  Glory to God for this young man’s recent baptism!

One day all who place their faith in God will be united as one big family.  Let us not miss out on living like a family here and now, blessing others as we have been generously blessed by God. In order to really do this well, we need what the psalmist joyfully sings about: power and strength from God.

Psalm 68:19, 26, 35 ESV

May 21 – Full Families Are a Blessing

Families are fascinating.  The same parents in the same environments can bring about very different and unique offspring.  I am so grateful to God for the children He blessed Russell and me with.  Isaiah’s December birthday in 2012 completed our second decade of raising and enjoying three great kids.  They keep growing into interesting and fun-to-be-around adults.  I also love how families are not static.  I’m continually blessed by Russell’s family who took me in as one of their own on the day I became his wife.  And I’m so thankful that my Michigan family loves my Texan husband and extends warm welcomes to us whenever we return for visits.  Hannah’s marriage to Andrew blesses us with a whole new family of in-laws to love as well as our first grandson.

Psalm 127 is a psalm I believe that David wrote to his son Solomon. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”   A man may hold an arrow but it requires dedicated training to make that arrow valuable in the hands of a warrior.  Parents too require training.  In order to effectively teach discipline that is needed to hit godly bull’s eyes in life, it is best if parents are actually living out healthy spiritual disciplines.

It is incredible that although a father wrote this psalm many generations ago, the same sentiment of blessedness is felt today concerning the gift of children.  God, thank You for the heritage of family.  I pray that the children of my youth will always delight You.  May those of us who are parents rejoice in Your good blessings.  God please give us patience and strength and the ability to make wise choices in every season of training children up in the way that each of them should go.  And as You grow our family tree, may it be our desire to actively choose to love each branch You add to it. Amen.

Psalm 127:3-5a ESV

May 20 – Be Blessed and Bless!

Mentorship, apprenticeship, and life coaching are all present day practices that have been around since ancient times.  Someone who has built a chair (or maybe a web-site) can teach someone who has never built a chair, etc.  The same principle applies to spiritual disciplines we need to build.  Being in this type of one-on-one teacher-novice relationship is a huge benefit when we seek to learn a variety of skills.  But let us not overlook the guidance God gives to us through those in His Story.  If we want to grow in our ability to authentically bless God, David is a wonderful teacher.

He never tires of singing God’s praise.  Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”  David seems to suggest that God was his trainer as well as his refuge.  David then lists several benefits of belonging to the Lord and says, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!  Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” 

In another psalm, David encourages us not to worry about the wicked, but instead to trust and take delight in the Lord.  Focus on doing what is right. “Those the Lord blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die.  It is best to be on the team of the godly not the wicked.  So what do the godly do?  Honest and good things. They offer wise counsel and they put their hope in the Lord. “The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing.  Do good, practice generosity, be blessed, and bless. These are skills worth learning and living by, and in doing so we pass them on to others to learn as well.

P.S. As I type, we’ve been living at Harvard House (our home in Houston) for just over three years, and an ongoing blessing has been the boulevard jogging path which is perfect for walking and talking. As I walk with ladies from various backgrounds, mutual mentorship and Christ-like character grows deeper, and we intentionally seek to process and live out godly principles. Praise God with me that His ways are now being shared through these ladies in China, Washington DC, Brazil, Las Vegas, Laos, and another gal preparing to launch out to New York City. Throughout the world, which also includes Houston and where you live too, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!”

Psalm 144:1-2, 15 ESV; Psalm 37:22, 26 NLT

May 19 – Although Others May Curse Me, Bless Me Lord!

David continued to write songs including this one, Psalm 109, about his deceitful enemies.  He asks God to deal with them in very harsh ways because they have repaid him evil for kindness, and hatred for love. Talking about one enemy in particular, David wrote,  For he refused all kindness to others; he persecuted the poor and needy, and he hounded the brokenhearted to death. He loved to curse others; now you curse him. He never blessed others; now don’t you bless him.”  

Then, in the second half of the psalm, David calls out to God,  Help me, O Lord my God! Save me because of your unfailing love… Then let them curse me if they like, but you will bless me! When they attack me, they will be disgraced! But I, your servant, will go right on rejoicing!”  Do we as God’s servants go right on rejoicing regardless of our present situation and circumstance?  Or do we give permission to the enemy to distract us from our goal of living to praise God?  When we are undervalued instead of promoted, cursed at rather than praised, unfairly attacked due to the convictions we hold – do we lash back or take our hurt to God?

Help us, O Lord our God to keep right on praising You, for ultimately You will have the final say.  When our mind shifts to this kind of thinking, we can have the compassion that Jesus talks about to actually pray for our enemies.  When our lives are hidden in Christ we can go beyond the law of  “an eye for an eye”, to showing mercy in the same way that He showed mercy to us.  Father, help us to live like Your Son lived.  Amen.

Psalm 109:16-17, 26, 28 NLT

May 18 – God Blesses the Godly with a Shield of Love

From the time David was a child, war was a part of his life.  Against all odds, he killed the giant combatant Goliath with a slingshot and a stone, and as David reigned over God’s people, he was personally involved in many battles.  The Philistines remained an enemy, and many descendants of Goliath (all were giants themselves) fought against the Israelites.  With this in mind, we can better understand his frame of reference when we read some of the psalms written by David when he was a warrior.

For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.  Warriors value shields.  No matter what battle we find ourselves in, when we picture God’s love as a protective shield surrounding us, we need not give up hope.  His 360-degree surround-shield is what protects us, for our enemy is like a roaring hungry lion whose desire is to devour us.  From which direction will the devil attack?  Because it’s different for each of us we are warned by Peter in the New Testament to be alert and to stand firm in our faith.   We do not battle alone and there have been many throughout His Story who have battled before us.  But God is with us and He continues to bless the godly.

Psalm 5:12 NLT

May 15 – Blessed Is the One Who Trusts in the Lord

God’s Story involves ancient history, yet it lives on in every generation.  In 1999 Hank became the first Christian among a minority people.   Hank and his family live in a village in Southeast Asia.  As a skilled artisan, he was very familiar with idols for he had carved quite a few in his day.  Hank knew these idols could not save him; they were only made of stone or wood and their eyes could not see nor could their ears hear.   Even though his generation, like the many generations before him, bowed before these false gods, deep inside Hank knew there needed to be something more.

When Hank heard of the Most High God, he placed his trust in Him and God gave Hank a new skill: Hank wrote the first worship chorus among his people and it is still sung today.  Let us continue to pray for Hank, his family, his village and the people in surrounding areas.

Father, God, there are many who still need to hear that You are God.  Idols cannot rescue us from death, or give us life—only You can.  Open up eyes and draw people to You so many will see You and put their trust in You alone.  Not You and idols or rituals, or traditions.  But You alone.  Amen.  “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”

Psalm 40:3-4 NIV

May 13 – Blessed into Everlasting!

In this psalm of David’s, two elements stand out: the poor, and our enemies.  In the New Testament, Jesus says we will always have the poor among us, and as we care for those who cannot care for themselves, it is as if we are caring for the needs of Jesus Himself.  We are blessed so we can provide for others, and in providing, we receive blessing.  This is a great win-win situation.  Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land, you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.   We still have the poor, but do we have enemies in modern days?

Some in active military service will face real adversaries. For others, time – too much or the lack of it, can be considered a challenging foe.  Disease and depression are both described as something we need to fight.  Peter, as a follower of Jesus, reminds us that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us. We do have enemies. But we also have hope: God does not give us up to the will of our enemies. This is a great reason to praise!

The thing or situation the enemy might use to bring about fear can be the very thing that leads us closer to God, the One we can rely on at all times.   I love being active.  I thrive while running, walking, riding my bike, and truth be known, I even enjoy cleaning our home.  All these things came to a screeching halt the day of my bike accident.  At the time of this revision I’m into the third month of immobility.  The enemy would win if I allowed my inability to physically walk rob me of my close “walk with the Lord.”  Discontentedness is a slippery slope to self-pity which can lead to all kinds of unhealthy attitudes.  How thankful I am to God who draws me near.  Praising Him for what I do have rather than dwelling on what I do not, keeps me from a pit and it will do the same for you.

No matter what the enemy may try, when we are in God’s family we are blessed into everlasting – forever to live with the God of forever!  Even with real enemies around him, David remained focused on God and concluded this psalm by praising Him.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

Psalm 41:1-2, 13 ESV

May 12 – A Blessed Heritage

Other deep, heart-felt psalms were written during this turbulent time in King David’s life.  A few excerpts that reflect not only the trouble that was presently at hand also include the blessings that come from a faithful God.  Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever. We need honest, strong care.  Based on God’s past faithfulness in his life, David had full assurance that God would continue to carry him and His people.  We should remember the interaction that God has had with us personally and then rely on Him for the rescue yet to come.

God’s enemies will try whatever it takes to throw God down, even causing harm to His children.  They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.  The complications of living in a fallen world originated in the time after Adam and Eve’s rejection of God.  If we are not fully for God, are we even for Him at all?  David reminds us that we are to trust in God alone.  When it comes to God, don’t be wishy-washy.  David continues this psalm like a prayer: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”   My hope is in You, Lord.  Amen.

Psalm 28:9 ESV; Psalm 62:4-6 ESV

May 11 – Blessed by God to Bless the Lord

King David and his son Absalom eventually reconciled over the tragedy that left Amnon dead, but Absalom was bent on rebellion and conspired to overthrow his father and replace King David as king.  David was torn: he did not want Absalom to be harmed yet he wanted to protect the rest of his family too.   King David fled with his family to keep them safe and to focus on his responsibility of reigning over and leading Israel.

Psalm 3 is a prayer of desperation, and David called to God because many enemies had risen up against him. What begins in fear becomes a song of assurance as David proclaims that the Lord is his shield and the One who sustains. By the end, David is singing, “From the LORD comes deliverance. May Your blessing be on Your people.”

Psalm 26 includes a similar theme of thankfulness for deliverance and ends with, “My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.”  In painful times of great uncertainty and betrayal, David found reassurance in the Lord who is faithful.  Do we look for and find reassurance in Him?  May God’s blessing be on His people, and as His people, may we be faithful to bless the Lord.

P.S. It was a normal check-up on a Monday when a newlywed couple heard the happy news that they were expecting a baby. Upon further examination there was not a baby but a potentially cancerous five pound cyst that needed immediate removal. “God is good. We had decided that we would say and believe this statement regardless of the results.” I am thankful to God for Asia and Tyler and their commitment to faithfully trust God’s goodness in times of great uncertainty.

Psalm 3:8 NIV; Psalm 26:12 ESV

May 9 – Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Shortly after Russell and I joined Houston’s First Baptist Church in the summer of 2012, the worship team introduced a new song based on an old psalm, and I was hooked.  I often find myself praising God throughout the day by singing out the lyrics to Matt Redman’s song, 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord).  Read the original psalm with a focus on the blessing verses: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all his benefits…  Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul! 

The morning may start with singing on our lips, but it is only by intentionally reflecting on the many benefits of the Lord that praise can go forward in a non-delusional way, no matter what the day brings. May we still be joyfully singing God’s praises into the evening and beyond!

Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22 ESV

May 8 – One Day All Nations Will Know God’s Blessedness

“May God be gracious to us and bless us; look on us with favor Selah so that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.  Let the peoples praise You, God, let all the peoples praise You… The earth has produced its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”

Be in awe of God.  Said another way, fear Him.  God is more than awesome; He is the ultimate and is worthy of all exhortation, honor, and blessing.  He is gracious and shows us His favor.  He cannot be controlled.  But in a relationship with Him, we can ask Him anything.  We can ask to be blessed, and when we are, may we be quick to thank Him and praise Him, the giver of every good and perfect gift.  May His good ways be known to all, so all the nations may know the God who blesses.

Psalm 67:1-3, 6-7 HCSB

May 7 – God Does Not Reject Me – I’m Blessed!

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip…  Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!  It is an incredible blessing to call out to God and to be heard by Him in prayer. Sometimes, although we know that God’s love is steadfast and faithful, we may not feel it.  Calling out to God does not always come easy, so what can we do when we get off track with Him?   Go ahead and tell God the trouble you face.  David did, and as he did he remembered God’s past faithfulness, thought about why God is bless-worthy, and this lead to praising Him.

When we choose to be thankful for what God has most recently done for us or given to us, (how He has blessed us) somehow our feelings change – even if our situation does not, and we line up with the reality that God is near and He has not rejected us.   Praise Him for one thing, then another.  Don’t let pride, pity, or any other ungodly act or feeling keep you off track, but take it to God.  Near Him is the place where concerns and fears disappear, and goodness, acceptance and abiding peace remain.

David was not always on a mountaintop with a choir surrounding him, but like us, he was at times in the pit of despair.  Why didn’t despair win and hold him?  David chose thankfulness.  Gratitude opens the door to closeness with God.  I pray that as God’s children, we would be thankful kids.  And from our core, we would let the sound of His praise be heard.  Amen.

Psalm 66:8-9, 20 ESV

May 6 – Jesus Is the Blessed Bread of My Life

David’s reflection on challenging times begins the 132nd Psalm, but then he becomes hopeful and his writing reveals it. Faithfulness is God’s desire for His people, and He tells David that his descendants would always be on the throne if they keep His decrees.  God is a Promise Keeper and we can trace the genealogy of Jesus back to King David.  Praise the Lord that King Jesus will forever be on the throne!

This is My resting place forever; I will make My home here because I have desired it. I will abundantly bless its food; I will satisfy its needy with bread.”  Isn’t it interesting that many years later Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life?  Do we see ourselves as needy?  A good perspective is when we recognize that our need for being fulfilled is met by God.  When we feast on Jesus we will never go hungry.  Jesus wants us to have blessed lives, full and satisfying.

Psalm 132:14-15 HCSB

May 5 – Blessed to Be an Upright Generation

Hallelujah! Happy is the man who fears the Lord, taking great delight in His commands. His descendants will be powerful in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.”  Russell and I desired that the descendants who came after us would know that God does bless.  So years ago our family developed a crest.  Instead of seeking the origin of our name and then finding the coat of arms that may have corresponded to that name, we contemplated the values we hold and we drew from those.

This painted and framed crest, given to me by Russell on my forty-first birthday, has hung in five homes on three continents since I unwrapped it, and it is my hope it will continue to go where we go. The background of our crest is a tree with roots, which represent being rooted in God’s teachings and trusting Him for all that we need.  Think about the Psalm 1 tree that is thriving, growing uniquely, and drinking in deeply from the river of God’s Story. That is how the wise person is blessed. The crest has been a good reminder to our family, as well as a visual teaching aid to others, when we share how those who fear the Lord can live happily and fulfilled.

God has created in His people through all generations, the ability to choose.  Let’s choose God.  Let’s choose to live upright even in a world that is upside-down.  Our generation depends on it!  Let’s be eager to learn from God’s good ways and then live out what we learn.  There is great delight in living right. This idea can be enhanced significantly when we’re part of a community that holds the same values.  Ultimately, by advancing the Kingdom of God, good overcomes evil and communities of righteousness can grow.  More and more people, out of gratitude of being rescued from worthless ways to meaningful life, can join in with the multitudes whose joy comes from the Lord.  This can happen –  one person at a time, one generation at a time.  Be a part of the link with one hand holding on to God’s blessings and the other hand reaching out to others who need to be blessed.

Psalm 112:1-2 HCSB

May 4 – Blessed to Have My Sins Covered

What if our sins, the obvious ones and the ones we rationalize, were not just covered up, but covered? Not buried or hidden but brought to light, and paid for in full?  What if all that we’ve done wrong really could be forgiven?  That is what Jesus made possible for us.

I praise God that He opened my eyes and then my heart on a rainy Michigan night back in 1988 when I was twenty-three.  As I prayed to God, the Holy Spirit brought to my lips the sins that I had buried deep inside me, the ones that I had tried to cover up by stacking good works on top.  He forgave me and made me whole. For Jesus this great exchange took place as He hung with the sin of all humanity on a cross; mine included.  God showed that His good overcomes sin when He brought Jesus back to life again.  My awareness of this exchange took place in a car parked along a dark road with windshield wipers swishing away the rain. Not my effort, but His grace.  And then began what I like to think of as “the bonus”: living a blessed life.

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”   When we experience forgiveness, we realize we have the freedom to live blessed, happy, clean lives, and we get to share this simple yet profound goodness with others.

Psalm 32:1-2 NIV

May 3 – Drawing Near to God Blesses Me

Various Bible translations choose different words to communicate the idea of “blessed” in English.  Words like happy, joyful and fortunate are used to describe a person blessed by God.  These scenarios show us a few examples of where blessings are found:

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.  Think of a storm that suddenly appears and threatens to overtake you on your walk home.  While fighting strong winds and hailing rain, relief comes as you approach your home and see a blazing fire in the hearth. In all of our storms, God is a warm, safe shelter.  You are happy and fortunate to enter in.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. Imagine a nation that is so faithful that everyone within its political boundaries honors the Lord.  Oh how joyful that place would be!  See the daily goodness that would be experienced at the family level when love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness and gentleness are lived out, like breathing clean, pure air. Blessed are all whose God is the Lord!

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  In drawing near, you will experience a fortunate, happy, joyful, satisfied blessedness.  It is His promise.

Psalm 2:12c ESV; Psalm 33:12 NIV; Psalm 65:4a ESV

May 2 – Blessed to Be Fruitful, Fresh and Fulfilled

I love listening to Russell teach Psalm 1 because he explains things in ways that make sense.  After reading the first Psalm at a church north of Houston, Russell looked out at the assembled crowd and said, “Blessed is:  Ahhhhhhh, things are right!”   Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. 

The psalm goes on to describe a tree that is planted by streams of water.  If we want to grow fully into our God-given potential and live “ahhhhhhhh,” then we need to stop mocking and scoffing and instead drink deeply from God’s wisdom.  Then we will be like a healthy tree: Fruitful when the season is right, knowing there is a time to work and a time for play.  We will also be Fresh as we breathe out confessions of sin and breathe in God’s peace.  As well as being fruitful and fresh, we will be Fulfilled when we know that we are created to represent Jesus, whatever our individual role in society may be.

This first psalm introduces an ongoing theme that contrasts the concepts of living for God (the righteous) and living for self (the wicked).  There is a difference between delighting in the Lord and living selfishly. God blesses the righteous and He watches, helps, and comforts them; not so for the wicked.

Psalm 1:1-2 NIV

May 1 – Forever Blessed

Psalm 107 is a long song about the Lord’s acts of faithful love.  God’s character as our Redeemer, Provider and Protector is revealed as we read about His people in various situations.  He is powerful yet merciful, and firmly establishes His people who love Him. God gives His people fertile soil to work into a fruitful harvest.  How he blesses them! They raise large families there, and their herds of livestock increase.  Things are going well for God’s people and for the king that He has placed over them.

By this time in God’s Story, King David is well established in Jerusalem, living in his fine house of cedar.  David desires to build a house for God but Nathan the prophet informs David that he will not be be the builder of the Temple, but that his son will build it.   When David heard this news, he shared his gratitude to God and ends his prayer with:  “Now, please bless Your servant’s house so that it will continue before You forever. For You, Lord God, have spoken, and with Your blessing Your servant’s house will be blessed forever.”

Forever blessed.  Whether kings or paupers or somewhere in between when we serve the God of all blessings we are blessed forever.  God is a loving Father who redeems, provides for, and protects His children.

Psalm 107:38 NLT; 2 Samuel 7:29 HCSB (also in 1 Chronicles 17:27)

April 30 – Blessed to Sing a New Song

Declaring God’s glory among the nations and His wonderful works among all peoples is a main theme of Christian missions. For about a decade and a half, from 1997-2011, our family met annually with many other families in a big group setting. For roughly a week we would focus on training which would increase our abilities to share God’s love with those who did not yet know Him who were living in various Asian cultures.  We gathered together to pray and to sing and often we were introduced to new songs expressing honor to our Creator and Redeemer.

This concept of singing new songs to God is at least as old as the Psalms.  Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  The rhythm and melody may change over the years, but the profound need to sing praise to an unchanging God remains the same.  May we wholeheartedly sing out God’s praises and faithfully tell of His goodness to all nations, among all peoples, no matter where in God’s world we live.  Bless His name!

Psalm 96:1-2 ESV

April 29 – Bless God in Private and in Public

In Psalm 24, David writes how everything belongs to the Lord, but then he asks, “Who can go to the Lord’s holy place?” The ones with clean hands, a pure heart and truthful lips will meet up with God. God blesses those who worship Him. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior.  This idea of God’s holy throne is carried further in Psalm 89.  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.  

How can we acclaim God today?  It can make a big difference when we learn to walk with Him daily and intentionally acknowledge, celebrate and rave about Him privately.  Then, when the opportunity comes up, we can tell others how He is worthy of praise.  This is “outside the sanctuary” kind of worship. When we live this way, we are more purposefully in tune with God in the little details (lost keys becoming found) and in the big (lost nations turning to God).  As we mature, our awareness of the scope of life and understanding of God increases our ability to praise the Lord for all things.

Psalm 24:5 NLT; Psalm 89:14-15 NIV

April 28 – My Cup Overflows with Blessings!

Perhaps the most familiar of all psalms is Psalm 23.  I have fond memories of teaching this one to our kiddos when we lived in North Carolina in 1996 preparing to move to China.  They were younger then than David was back when he was a shepherd boy caring for sheep.  David grew into manhood and he learned that people and sheep have at least one thing in common: they go astray.  They both have the need of a competent shepherd’s guidance, protection and care.

Through many generations this psalm has been sung out as a prayer and a reminder of the Shepherd we have in God.  When Jesus came to earth, John introduced Him as the Good Shepherd worthy of our trust and loyalty.  Verse 5 of the twenty-third psalm in the New Living Translation caught my eye because most translations stop with “my cup overflows.”  Ever wonder, “overflows” with what?  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  May the investments we make in children when they are young continue to bless them all their lives.  As a parent, what could be a better blessing to receive, than seeing God’s blessings overflowing in our children, when they are blessing others as they have been blessed?

Psalm 23:5 NLT

April 25 – Sing Blessings Back to the Lord

As God’s Story continues on David and other gifted songwriters pen many more blessings that are recorded in the Psalms.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah[pause, and calmly think of that]!  Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.   What a vibrant  picture the psalmist paints of peace.

 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.  Lord, you poured out blessings on your land! You restored the fortunes of Israel. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.  Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

The blessings continue to flow because God is the giver of strength. He is our trustworthy Provider and He believes in restoration.  He is the One who pours down blessings. The harvest He gives in our lives is a great testimony to His loving care.  Harmony in song and harmony in life are both  blessings that can stream from our grateful hearts to our gracious Lord.

Psalm 84:4-6 AMP; Psalm 84:12 NIV; Psalm 85:1, 12 NLT; Psalm 133:3 NLT

April 24 – Blessed Be My Rock

Psalm 18 has been sung throughout the ages, probably with a variety of musical styles. Michael O’Shields composed a recent tune to the ancient words in the 1970’s as a young traveling minister.  The original author however was King David.  David wrote the song of thanksgiving after he was delivered from the hands of his enemies, again.

It may have been that even in David’s day the men began the song with a catchy echo:  I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” Did the women back then repeat each line after the men, like it is often done today?  No matter what the style may have been, the song’s conclusion is strong and triumphant: The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.”   This good truth is worth repeating so let the chorus ring on and on!

The next time we hear this song, let’s think back to David and the closeness he shared with the Lord who protected him from his enemies.  We can ponder David’s desire as a warrior to openly praise the Lord in song, then sing out loudly to God, our audience of One.  May He be our blessed rock, our firm foundation and worthy of heartfelt praise and adoration.

Psalm 18:3, 46 KJV

April 23 – The Gift of Blessings

Blessing is the theme of many of the psalms that David wrote.   It is great to read these psalms and get a good taste of the Lord’s blessings that David experienced, and then to choose to continue to sing God’s praises today.   Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. David, as the king over all of Israel, rejoiced in the Lord’s strength and blessings.  For You meet him with rich blessings; You place a crown of pure gold on his head.  You give him blessings forever; You cheer him with joy in Your presence. Inheritance, guidance, instruction, richness, cheerfulness and joy are all gifts from the Lord.  When we experience these good fortunes we can count them as blessings, naming them one-by-one.

Psalm 16:5a, 7 NLT; Psalm 21:3, 6 HCSB

April 22 – Bless God’s Name Forever and Ever!

About at the halfway mark during our engagement, Russell and I decided to prepare our hearts for the wedding by reading the Psalms.  He was in Texas and I was in Michigan, and starting with Psalm 1 we began reading a psalm a day leading up to the reading of Psalm 150 on our wedding day in the summer of 1988.  I was a new Christian and by pondering the many reasons God was praised, I learned so much about His faithful character in these ancient songs.

Six days before the Big Day, we read Psalm 145, a tremendous testimony of God’s great acts.  Here are a few of the blessing verses:  I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.   All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. May we continue to meditate on the glory of His splendor and bless His holy name.  Earth is our training ground and years of marriage have provided me opportunity again and again to grow in blessing God and loving people.

Psalm 145:1-2, 10, 21 ESV

April 21 – When to Bless, When Not to Bless

In this song David writes about his enemies who continually attack him.  Since his youth, David was acquainted with military campaigns.  Over the years, men he knew and had great respect and compassion for, had been killed on the battlefields.  And even now as king, there is no lack of adversaries who seek to assault him.  It is about these enemies of Zion that David is referring to when he describes them as becoming like dried out grass planted on the rooftops.   And may those who pass by refuse to give them this blessing: “The Lord bless you; we bless you in the Lord’s name.”  Having God’s blessing means everything.  To not be blessed by God is reason to fear indeed, whether in battle or in day-to-day life.  God, I pray that we would live loyally to You, our Lord, and in doing so receive Your blessing.  May we be alive and growing, not dead, dried out grass.  Amen.

Psalm 129:8 NLT

April 20 – Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the Lord

King David wrote meaningful praise songs, from the heart, and over seventy of them can be found in the book of Psalms.  These songs tell us the story of David’s life and they include timeless themes of praise, rescue, provision and blessing.  The songs were recorded so the whole nation of Israel could reflect upon the message sung during special times of the year. Psalm 128 describes those who walk in the ways of the Lord and it shows the various ways in which those who fear the Lord are blessed.

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!  You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.  The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!  May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

We are blessed when we choose to live life following God’s blueprints.  King David was blessed with children, but it was several long years after this song was written before Israel experienced great peace.  Our choices can affect the peace that we experience.  At times David’s ungodly behavior robbed him of peace and blessings. We can also learn from David’s desire for true repentance that we do not need to remain separated from God.  Confession restores our relationship and we can return to walking in the ways of our Lord who is our greatest blessing.

Psalm 128:1-6 ESV

April 17 – Blessed with Peace to Praise God All Day Long

Although David had many life-long enemies who were out to get him, he also had many advocates.  David was not yet the king but he was a well-followed leader and I have a feeling he had a special way of making those under his leadership know that they were all part of a big team.  They worked together in awareness of God and gave Him the praise for His interactions that led to their good.  And that is the way it should be today.

David sings out, But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, ‘Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!’ Then I will proclaim your justice, and I will praise you all day long.”   What is it that we find ourselves continually saying?  Do we praise God all day long, or just on Sunday as we offer up a song?  Let’s make sure we are on God’s team and let’s be sure to come to the defense of others who wear His uniform too.

Psalm 35:27-28 NLT

April 15 – Blessed before a Watching World

Psalm 31 is another vivid reminder of God’s goodness.  David reflects on this goodness not only when life is going great, but also when he is in need of protection from his enemies.  How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.

Sometimes we forget that we don’t live in a vacuum, nor move through life in a darkly tinted bubble.  Instead, people are watching to see just how we react to challenging situations in our lives.  One gal waiting for help with food and clothing from a ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church, said she was curious to see how the Christian volunteers would respond when the computer holding critical information would not turn on.  When we are squeezed by trials, what comes out? Praise, trust, and hope came out of David, and may that be what others see in us as well.

What about when blessings of various kinds come our way?   Does a watching world see us praise God from whom all blessings flow? The woman at the Faith Center saw that instead of us getting flustered with the computer, we circled to pray and then when the computer began to work, thanksgiving to God was offered up.  As God’s children we can ask Him for all kinds of needs.  At times His reply is right away and when we express our thanksgiving, people around us see His blessing too.

Psalm 31:19 NLT

April 14 – Your Hand of Blessing is on My Head

Omnipresent is a word that when spoken about God, means that He is everywhere; all places at all times.  God’s own Son is called Emmanuel, meaning God with us. This news is good, very good indeed.  David does not write about God as some sort of stalker, but rather His Presence gives comfort, peace and protection.  Oh, the joy of being led by the Lord, to be held by Him, to be blessed by Him.

When my kiddos were ten, eleven, and twelve years old, my dad came from Michigan for a visit to our home in China.  After a great trip to Xian and Beijing and celebrating his birthday, my dad flew back to the US.  Russell stayed in Beijing for meetings, so he put me and the kids on the train with a treasure of Subway sandwiches, and we saw some stunning countryside on our fifty-hour journey to Kunming.

The next stage of the trip home was an overnight bus that would twist through many mountains to our town near Burma.  Exhausted from the trip the kiddos fell right to sleep.  Throughout the long, bumpy ride I found myself checking on them and praying for safety, protection, and God’s peace.  On a stop just before dawn for breakfast noodles and makeshift restrooms, I saw a friend who was also returning to our town and he asked me if we still had our backpacks and money.  Nearly everyone on the bus had been robbed that night and I, as a foreign woman with young children, would have been an easy target.

At that time, our friend Ken did not understand my explanation of God’s protection, but I keep praying that one day he too will trust in God’s goodness.  May we daily know His nearness.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.   I am not alone.  You are not alone. We do not need to be afraid. God is with us, no matter where we go, when we walk with God we go with His blessing.

Psalm 139:3-5 NLT

April 13 – Blessed with Peace

David, a gifted poet and songwriter, wrote Psalm 29, a short song about the powerful, majestic and thunderous voice of the Lord.  Many examples from nature illustrate God’s voice.  Imagine listening to the music of this song – loud instruments, drums beating and cymbals clashing, to drive home the point that God’s voice is powerful.  Slowly, one by one, the instruments stop playing and all that can be heard is a single strum of a guitar and the singer whispers the final line of the chorus: “God bless you with peace.”

The Lord has a range from thunderstorms to a still small voice that whispers: peace.  Jesus told his disciples that He leaves them with peace; it is His peace that He gives.  The Lord rules over the floodwaters. The Lord reigns as king forever. The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.  

Peace be with you.  If I try, I can hear the reply from the congregation in the beautiful stained-glass Catholic Church of my youth, “and also with you.”  Peace with God comes through His Son.  What wonderful joy to be at peace with the reigning King who offers His strength to those who are loyal to Him.  When we are at peace with God, we can extend this peace to those around us as well.  A heart filled with peace has little room for regret.

P.S. The field stones that once held those vibrant 1916 windows in place were replaced by new brick, and a choir member from my teenage years is now the village priest. Change takes place, and yet peace continues to be extended as the church’s front entrance inscription of “Love one another as I love you” is lived out in community.

Psalm 29:10-11 NLT

April 12 – Blessed to Be Freed

David is very aware of where his help comes from.  He writes this song, Psalm 124, to remind God’s people that if the Lord had not been on their side, it would have been a very different story!  They would have been swallowed up alive.  So all praise and blessing go to God!  Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us
 as prey to their teeth!We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Where do we turn for help?  Who is it that we call out to in times of need? God desires that our dependency is on Him alone.  At times I feel He gives us a pop-test, a little glitch in our day, so that we can stop and assess just where it is that we place our trust.  Father, You are the Creator of Heaven and earth and all that is in them and yet You hear us when we call out to You for help.  Thank You, Lord, for helping us when we feel trapped and for freeing us from the sin that would like to keep us in bondage.  May Your name be blessed.  Amen.

Psalm 124:6-8 ESV

April 11- Bless the Lord at All Times

David’s praise and refuge were in the Lord even when Saul pursued him to take his life.  I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.”   It was easy to contemplate this psalm of praise in the spring of 2012 when I was at a weekend silent retreat and the nature surrounding me was majestic.  Brilliant peacocks were climbing deep scented pine trees and it seemed natural to boast in the Lord who created such variety.  But weeks later when I read the verse, copied into a friend’s prayer letter, my head was throbbing with a headache in time with the computer’s cursor.  Yet the same God is Lord of all and like the psalmist I’m called to bless Him at all times.

In Hebrew, David’s language, Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem and each verse begins with the letters of the alphabet in order like A, B, C, etc.  The poem is a wonderful lesson to always praise the Lord and it concludes in confidence that God’s servants will be redeemed.  On the good days and on the days that are harder, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”  

David found this to be true so he shared it with us in song.  Have we tasted the goodness of God for ourselves?  Do those around us get a taste of His goodness from us?  May His praise be in our mouth as we boast in Him alone.   He is our place of retreat, of refuge, and we are blessed when we go to Him at all times.  

Psalm 34:1-2, 8 ESV

January 5 – Bless the Lord All My Days

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live…”

Psalm 104 echoes God’s creation story.  Written many years after the establishment of the world we can join the psalmist in singing praise to God for the wonders of His handiwork and for His provision.  The song starts out with, Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty…” And verse after verse tells of God’s wonderful work in creation and how the earth is filled with goodness because God is a good God worthy of all praise. In many places throughout the Psalms the use of the words “bless” and “praise” are intertwined.  Isn’t it great how we, the creation, can bless the Lord, the Creator?  The author of this astonishing praise song exclaims how he will sing praise to the Lord all his life. “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”

These verses blessed me in January of 1998 as I read them while waiting for the results of an extensive procedure including tests for cancer.  I resolved that no matter how many days were yet before me, my lips would sing praise to God.  Russell and I sat across a worn wooden desk from a Chinese doctor in a Thai hospital to hear, “I so happy, you no cancer.”  My reply: “I so happy too!” From that appointment, we resumed our family vacation on a beach in Thailand.  My senses were newly alive. God’s love was deeper than the salty ocean that we splashed in with the kiddos.  Heavy elephants ambled while horses galloped across the sand under a brilliant blue expanse and all was framed by vibrant green mountains. When I heard my children’s laughter I smiled with thankfulness.  Time transformed day to night and warm air blew through a bejeweled sky.  My gratitude was made complete as I held Russell’s hand, so glad for the husband God gave to me to enjoy His goodness with.  The conclusion to Psalm 104 rings out loud and clear what we as those blessed by God are to do: Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!

Psalms 104:1, 35b NKJV