Everyone here misses our oldest child. They keep asking about him and how he is doing. (Our son returned to the States and he enlisted in the military.) One of the questions that they often ask is what would happen if our son decided he didn't want to be a soldier anymore. We tell them of the serious consequences of going AWOL (absent without leave). Our son made a commitment to the military for a certain amount of time, and he is obligated to fulfill that commitment.
Psalm 65:1 "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed."
The children of Israel, including David, also made a vow. Their vow was to praise the Lord for His goodness, blessings, and provision. This Psalm goes on to tell of how good God had been to them and how worthy He is of praise.
Do we have a commitment to praise the Lord? We should. He certainly is worthy. We should commit to praising Him every day, and we should take that vow seriously. Too often, though, we are AWOL in our praise. Circumstances are tough or we are tired or our day didn't go as expected, so we decide to skip praising the Lord. We take a day or two (or several) off from singing and shouting His praises. Isn't He still faithful and good even on days when we don't feel like praising Him?
One day last week, I saw a picture of my son online. His platoon was doing their physical training (PT) at 5:30 AM in the winter... outside. I bet he wasn't feeling like being a soldier at that time in the morning, but he manned up and broke a sweat with the rest of his platoon. My boy doesn't like to be cold, but he made a commitment and even at 5:30 in the morning he was determined to keep that commitment.
Some days, we just aren't going to feel like doing our PT (Praise and Thanksgiving). On those days we need to remind ourselves of our commitment and God's worthiness. We need to be sure we don't go AWOL on our worship and praise. God never goes AWOL on His grace and mercy!
If anyone knows anything about Basic Training in the Army, they know that push-ups are a way of life. They do push-ups for anything and everything. Contraband items in their possession, taking too long to do something, getting letters in the mail, waking up in the morning... time for more push-ups.
Right now I am waiting for a phone call from my son in the Army. It is getting late and I am concerned that his platoon lost phone call privileges this week. I bet if they did, they also had to do push-ups. It is possible that as a group they failed at something, but more often than not they lose privileges because a handful of people got into trouble. I am sure no one minds doing push-ups for getting letters in the mail. After all, they are getting mail! It's like Christmas! They will take the push-ups for the letters! But when they have to do push-ups, or worse... lose phone privileges, for another person's stupidity, that's frustrating.
The question then is posed: Why do they all have to pay the price for one or two people's mistakes? Can't they just punish the ones who did wrong?
Of course they could! But then that would be missing out on the valuable lesson. What in the world could a Drill Sergeant be teaching by punishing everyone? The lesson is simple. Our mistakes impact everyone around us. I would rather those soldiers in training learn that lesson over a Twinkie in a footlocker than an overlooked detail that gets several killed!
Psalm 69:5-6 "O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel."
David didn't want those who were faithful to the Lord to face reproach or to be confused and frustrated because of what he was facing. Not only was David a sinful man, but he was also facing reproach without just cause. His enemies hated him for no good reason. David was facing hardship from them that was undeserved and unjustified.
1 Peter 3:14 "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;"
Just as those soldiers in training would happily endure push-ups for letters, there are times when we suffer persecution and reproach for righteousness. It should be something we endure happily for Christ. He has a purpose in it. He, too, suffered persecution for righteousness.
What is frustrating is suffering for someone else's sin. Let it always remind us that our own sin always impacts others.
Update!!! Got a call just now!!! Yay! Love that boy!
There is a practice here in this country that is heartbreaking. Often families are split apart because the husband decides to go off to work in another country, leaving the wife to raise the children alone. Sometimes it is the mother who goes. And even more tragic is when both parents leave the country to work, leaving the children with a grandparent. These children grow up not really knowing their parents. The parents chase dreams of making a lot of money, when in actuality they end up in worse financial shape than they were in the beginning. In their new country of employment they are often abused, neglected, and taken advantage of. Some fall for employment schemes that give great promises of money, only to discover they were tricked into being a mule for drugs or illegal goods. Those people end up in prison in their new country. Their lives are ruined and the family is torn apart. My heart breaks for the whole family, but even more for the children. You see it in their eyes. They hunger for love, security, and affection. They hunger for the home to be what God designed it to be, yet none of them know what is missing in their lives. It's like walking around in darkness, groping for something you don't know is out there.
There is another story, too. Sometimes the fathers/husbands are in the home, but alcohol plagues their existence. Women come into our church toting their small children along. They request prayer for their unbelieving husbands who get drunk and then beat them. No, the husband will not be prosecuted in this culture. Often the family is seen as the father's property. How he wants to tend to his family is his business. You can see the age and the wear on the faces of these women. My heart breaks for them.
Not even half a mile from our home there is a park. Elderly women often walk there. They go to the temple to do their idol worship and then walk in the park to get fresh air and exercise. The story of these women, more often than not, is that they live in a home for widows nearby. They usually have adult children, but these women are neglected and unwanted. Because they are aging, they are cumbersome to the family. If the family can afford it, the family puts these women in a home to get them out of the way. These elderly women are not valued. As I sometimes sat and talked with these women at the park, tears would well up in their eyes when I asked if they had family.
We live in a broken world. Sin has devastated the home. These people are bound by sin and circumstance. What is the solution? We must give them hope.
Psalm 68:5-6 "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land."
Our Saviour, Jesus, is the answer to the longing in their hearts. He can fill the empty gap. He can satisfy their hearts' desires. He is the solution to mend the broken heart and the broken home. A Father to the fatherless, He also takes care of the widow.This world needs Christ whether they realize it or not. I need Christ. You need Him. The things of this world will leave us empty and broken. He, however, satisfies our every need.
You know what the difference between a funnel and a bowl is? It seems pretty obvious. One has a hole in it and the other doesn't. One captures and keeps everything, and the other directs everything to a different location. Both are blessed recipients of things, but only one willingly "spreads the love."
Psalm 67:1-2 "To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations."
The Psalmist was praying for God's mercy and blessing. He wanted God's face to shine upon his people. Why? So they could hoard the blessings? So they could show off to the world how blessed and awesome they were? So they could get so much stuff that they had to build bigger barns to store it all? According to verse 2, he wanted God to pour on the blessings so that the world would know the one true God, His goodness, and His salvation. He wanted the whole world to praise the LORD. For the psalmist, God's blessings were not about him and his people gathering great bounty like a bowl, but it was about being a funnel. He knew the blessings of God in his life could impact the lives of others.
What does this mean for us today? How does this apply in modern times? You know that blessing you received recently? Did you pocket it or did you seek for some way to use it for God's glory and to reach others with the Gospel? That income tax refund you are expecting, are you pretty excited to buy a new gadget or toy? Or are you seeking how you may invest in eternity? That paycheck you receive, do you spend it selfishly serving all your own needs or do you give tithes, offerings, and missions money? Do you help those in need?
If God has your heart, He will have no problem having your pocket book. Your eyes will be focused on eternity and the trinkets of this world will not have the glimmer and sparkle they once had. You will learn to be a funnel instead of a bowl because you will realize how temporary things are on this earth and that eternity matters forever.
Luke 12:34 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
I love watching my children grow. They transform from these tiny humans who need diapers and can't even walk into grown adults. I remember my oldest child when he was little. He was the cutest little boy you ever saw! Now he is a grown man in the Army. My younger son is just about to hit his main growth spurt. Just as his older brother changed before my eyes, I am witnessing it happen all over again.
In our Christian lives, there are many areas that grow and develop as we mature spiritually. When I read Psalm 66, I was confronted with one area of my Christian life that still seems to be in its infancy stage. I thought I was doing well, but as I dig in God's Word, the Spirit is revealing the truth of where I am. What area is lagging behind in its growth?
Psalm 66:2 "Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious."
This last year or two, I began dabbling in cake decorating. At first I made cakes that were quite hideous, but they were colorful and creative. As a friend took me under her wing to teach me a few things, my cake skills blossomed a little more. They were at least photo worthy. Now I am no expert, but at least I no longer blush at my attempts. But I have a friend online that is a professional cake decorator. He makes elaborate cakes that are magazine worthy. They truly are glorious to behold. They are worthy of being presented before a bride and groom or for a milestone birthday or anniversary.
As I read Psalm 66, I am struck by the phrase "make his praise glorious". When I look at my praise to my God and my Saviour, I think my praise more resembles my first attempts at cake decorating. It isn't very beautiful, though it comes from a heart that desires to worship. Just as my cakes tasted good in spite of their appearance, my praise even in its infancy stage makes my Father smile. He is pleased. But isn't He worthy of glorious praise?
Even more than I desire to develop as a cake decorator, I desire my praise to grow and be fit for the wonderful Saviour and Lord that He is. Just as I needed my friend to teach me cake decorating, I need God to teach me how to praise. Psalm 66 is a great place to start.
How do we make His praise glorious?
I have many times had my children bring me something they made for me out of love that didn't look very beautiful. I smiled and accepted it because I know they did their best. Their "cakes" were precious to me. I often picture my praise before the Father being the same way. As pitiful as it looks, He smiles at me and accepts it. As I grow as a Christian, though, I want to learn to make His praise glorious. He is worthy of the best and so much more.