Tag: love (page 1 of 15)

How can we bless God?

What does it mean to praise God?

“Praise” is a common word in the church world. At this point in my life, it is a word heavy with the baggage of the last fifteen years of my experiences.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name. – Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

On some days, it enters my mind with pleasant memories of mountaintop worship experiences. Other days it comes in quietly, unnoticed in its ordinariness. Still other days, it crashes through with questions about what kind of egotistical God demands adoration from His people.

psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name! – Psalm 103:1 (ESV)

What does it mean to bless God?

For me, “bless” is a lighter word than “praise.” One of the main things it comes with is a question: how can we bless God? Isn’t it He who blesses us?

I was in a yoga session recently that ended with a blessing. We were lying on our backs, breathing deeply, when the instructor came to each of us and tenderly rubbed oil on our foreheads. It was personal, and the perfect close to our time together.

The first time the word “bless” appears in the Scriptures is in the creation narrative of Genesis. After forming humans, God looks at his beloveds, and blesses them. It is an intimate and holy moment.

Praise can sound like it’s more about the receiver than the giver. As if it doesn’t matter who is in the room, or what is going on with them, because the focus is on the worthiness of the Recipient to garner worship.

But a blessing, now that is personal.

A blessing says, “based on what I know of you, and what I have to offer, here’s how I want to show my love and affection.”  In order to bless someone, we have to notice him. Notice what he is good at, notice what he has done for us, notice the beauty of our relationship. Blessings can happen in a group, but their significance is intimately attached to the heart of each individual who is present.

So what does it mean to bless God? Many times, the Bible points to something pretty simple: to remember Him.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits, – Psalm 103:2

To remember God is to stay connected to Him throughout our days and throughout our lives. To notice the way He is with us, to see the way He has blessed us, to understand the goodness of His character being displayed over and over and over again. To bless God is to share these noticings with Him. Not because God is a narcissistic power-monger, looking for His people to tell Him why He is so awesome, but because recounting our gifts is the kind of intimate blessing we can offer to a God we love.

And over, and over, and over, and over again, what the Story of God calls us to remember and recount most often is this:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. –Psalm 103:8

That when God passed in front of Moses to proclaim who He was, that this is how our God chose to describe Himself.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, - Exodus 34:6

We bless God when we notice the ways He shows this description of Himself to be true in our lives. Maybe that’s also what it really means to praise Him.

MATT REDMAN – TEN THOUSAND REASONS (BLESS THE LORD) – OFFICIAL VIDEO HD from Yodo Creative on Vimeo.


That was my reflection on Psalm 103. Link up with your own reflection below. Stop back next week when the Psalms Journey heads to Psalm 104.

Opening my heart to hear what I know

you are loved

Photo Credit: Weird Beard on Flickr Creative Commons

 

Stop fighting with yourself, child.

There is grace for you when your head knows what your heart does not.

You are loved.

I know that you know that. But I also know you need to hear it.

You are loved.

Let me repeat it to you as often as I chose. It sometimes can take a few slices of those words to get through the thick skin of your heart.

You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

Not only that, you are enough.

Right now, in your struggles, you are enough.

You are loved. You are enough.

Is there anything else your heart needs to hear today?

Instead of using your strength to beat it up with attacks about how you should know better, how about simply opening it up to Me?

Receive My grace for you in this moment. I AM here. Holding your hand.

Can you feel it?

Let go of your desire to solve and fix and do something to change. Sometimes you need to simply be. And receive.

Receive My love.

It is unconditional. And it is yours for the taking.

This is not a lesson you have to be done learning. I don’t mind repeating Myself. I will tell you as many times as you need it.

You are loved.

 

 

Commitment: Thoughts on Psalm 101

psalm 101.jpgWhat does it really mean to have a relationship with God?

A “relationship” can be such undefined terminology. I have a relationship with chocolate. We see each other often. Daily, usually.

What puts my interactions with God on a different plane than that?

Obviously it makes a difference that God loves me back. But just try to tell my taste buds that chocolate isn’t filled with affection for me. The feeling sure seems mutual.

One distinction that comes to mind about what a relationship with God can and should mean is something we don’t often talk about.

Commitment.

God is committed to us. His love never lets go.

What does it look like for us to be committed to Him?

I wonder if it looks something like Psalm 101.

Because when I read the “I will…” followed by “I will…” followed by “I will…,” I can’t help but think of wedding vows.

And though I might have chosen different vows than the ones made by David, that doesn’t throw me off too much. After all, we live in different countries and cultures thousands of years apart from one another. And, have very different roles. He was a king after all, and I am not a queen of anything but clumsiness.

But, I hear his commitment and I respect it. He is making promises to God about how He will live.

If this is a contract kind of situation, which is how I have sometimes read it, this doesn’t feel very loving. If David is committing to do these things because of what he will get in return, or out of fear of what will happen if he doesn’t do them, then this Psalm feels like shallow religion.

But what if it is more like wedding vows? What if they are a voicing of David’s desire to please the One he loves? What if David is fully aware that he will fail at some of these things, but wants to try anyway? What if David knows these promises might not be the 100% correct theology, but is more worried about the heart than the accuracy?

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
– Psalm 101:1-3

If I read this Psalm as wedding vows, I can see something in it for me. I can find inspiration to speak my commitment to God, and hear His commitment to me.

We are in this together, God and I. I am committed to Him, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as I shall live.


This will be my last post for a few weeks.I am taking a blogging break. After making it to 100 Psalms (yeah!) I realized that I have been burning myself out on content-creation, and need some space to work on some brewing projects in other areas of my life. Please join back with me for Psalms series and other posts in early June.


Link up with your own reflection on Psalm 101 below.

“Why have you forsaken me?”

Artist: Edvard Munch Source: WikiPaintings

Artist: Edvard Munch
Source: WikiPaintings

Is all this really necessary?
This cross? This consequence borne by Christ?

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Things are not that bad.
Are they?

We can only grasp a fraction
Of the immense weight
Crashing down upon Jesus
That day.

The unimaginable burden
Of not only our individual misdeeds
Or our personal omissions,
But the iniquities
And atrocities
Of generation
upon generation
upon generation.
The entirety of wickedness
Since evil invaded the world.

The sin of human history
Creating a distance beyond our understanding.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Christ is forsaken.
Dropped in the chasm
Of overflowing corpses.
The bodies of those who have been massacred.
The hundreds murdered every day.
Every day.
For years stacked upon decades stacked upon centuries.

Christ is forsaken.
Adrift in the gulf
Of echoing wails.
The cries of those sexually assaulted.
Every two minutes.
Over
And over
And over again.
Shrieking in their violation and pain.

Christ is forsaken.
Standing in the abyss
Between oppressor and oppressed.
Taking the beatings of the millions,
Millions,
Who have been
And are
And will be
Imprisoned, exploited, and enslaved.

Christ is forsaken.
Experiencing the void
Of lost generations.
Entire people groups wiped out
When neighbor turns against neighbor
When former friends slaughter one another
As nations collapse into genocide.

It’s too much.
It’s all too much.

Too much for us to hold.
Too vast for us to grasp.

This is the great burden borne by Christ.
Taking iniquities beyond imagination
Upon the only shoulders broad enough to carry them
And loving enough to be crushed by their weight.

From the chasm of evil,
For the sake of humanity,
Jesus cries out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”


This is another reflection I wrote for my church’s Good Friday service. In honor of this day of waiting, as we sit in the waiting space before the resurrection, it feels appropriate to continue pondering Christ’s death. I hope it helps you do that today.

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