A thankfulness psalm

give thanks to the Lord

This series on thankfulness is going to be a little different to the other blog series I have written, as I’ve prepared some creative ideas for us to utilise. Today’s focus is on spending time drawing out meaning from a range of scriptures that talk about showing thanksgiving towards God. I’ve put some scriptures below to get you started, but do take the opportunity to search the Bible for other verses you may like to use too. Try to become aware of your own personal response to the words as you read them, writing down how you feel and what bubbles up inside you as you read.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Psalm 95:2

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:3

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:4

Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples,
 proclaim that his name is exalted. Isaiah 12:4

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
1 Corinthians 15:57

I often find that writing my own ‘thankfulness psalm’ or song after I have been reading scripture really helps me to express my own personal response to God. If you want to, why not trying writing your own today? You could start from scratch, or put all the response sentences that you’ve written together to create it.

Encouraging yourself in God

 

Reflections based on 1 Samuel 30.

‘David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.’

Encouragement gives us fresh hope, as well as the courage to carry on. David is a great biblical character to show us how to find encouragement in God. At this point in his story (covered by chapters 27, 29 and 30), he had decided to escape King Saul’s pursuit of him and went to live within the Philistines’ land. He ended up serving a Philistine king, which must have been bizarre for them all (as he had previously killed the Philistine giant Goliath)! Indeed, not all of the king’s men accept him and eventually David and his men are sent back to Ziklag, where their wives and children were. While they had been away, Amalekites had raided and taken their women and children captive.

At this point, David’s men begin to turn on him. What was David’s response? He didn’t despair, run or try to plead with them; we are told he ‘found strength in the Lord’ and then asked for the ephod so he could ask God what to do. How did he encourage himself in God? It isn’t spelt out in scripture but, given what is revealed about him in the psalms he penned, I think he probably brought to mind past examples of God’s faithfulness and stood firm on God’s promises. A look through psalms 34–41, for example, shows that David wasn’t afraid to be honest about his circumstances and emotions, and yet he always turned to praise, reminding himself how trustworthy and faithful God is. I love the tone of Psalm 37 – it is as if David is revealing what he has learned over the years: ‘I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken’ (v25). In other psalms he tells his downcast soul to look to God. I think we can learn a lot about how to encourage ourselves through reading the psalms he penned.

Meditation: Spend some time thinking about ways that you can encourage yourself in God today.

Worshipping through suffering

general-background

Reflections based on Acts 16:16–38.

‘After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailor was commanded to guard them carefully… About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.’

One of the Christian women I admire most is my mum. She suffers from lupus and also has rheumatoid arthritis. She finds it hard to breathe and is in constant pain. But nothing makes her faith waver – it may dwindle to a tiny flicker at times but it is always there. I find that incredible. So I don’t write about this subject lightly.

Imagine how much Paul and Silas must have been suffering, and yet they choose to praise God despite their circumstances. The result: their chains were loosed; they showed integrity to the jailer by not running away and led his whole family to the Lord. I’m not saying there will always be such a positive outcome to your pain – just that there could be. My mum has been to hospital countless times, and is usually desperate not to go in. Yet often she testifies to some ‘God-incidence’ where she was able to share with someone who was dying or suffering badly. Each time she is able to say that if she was admitted simply to speak to that person the pain was worth it. Wow. I wish I could lift my head above my circumstances more often. That is what I think the crux of the matter is. It’s a choice we make – to look at our circumstances and the physical reality and allow ourselves to slide downwards, or to acknowledge the suffering, but also choose to remember God’s sovereignty doesn’t change in the light of it.

God knows how you are feeling so be honest – but don’t stay there. The Psalms are made up of 70% laments; take a look at some. Note how, even in the depths of despair, the writers lift their eyes heavenward, speaking out truths of His greatness. For your own sake, ask God to help you learn to do the same.

Prayer: Use what Habakkuk said, even in the light of impending starvation and devastation, as a starting point for your own prayer: ‘yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my saviour’. (Habakkuk 3:18)

God reveals; we respond

sky-and-sun

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.’

Reflections based on Psalm 19:1–11

Going back through the books I have on worship, I was struck once more by how many of them focused on worship as a response to what we know about God. This makes so much sense as it is only out of revelation that we can make a heartfelt response. And yet how often do we try and worship out of a dry and unfed bank of revelation? One writer simply suggested that if we aren’t very good at worshipping it’s because we don’t know our God very well. Ouch. I know there are seasons in which worshipping is harder, and we will look at that specifically later on, but there is a basic truth to what they said.

So where should we go to find out more about God? His Word is the obvious place and a great starting point is the psalms, such as the one we’ve read today. It’s there that we learn of the absolute awesomeness of God and yet, more than that, are reminded that He knows even the number of hairs on our heads and wants a personal relationship with us. What incredible truths!

Spend some time soaking those truths in. The more science discovers about the universe the more we can be in awe of the God who, as Graham Kendrick’s song ‘The Servant King’ so beautifully describes, ‘flung the stars into space’*. And yet He also knows every intimate detail of our lives and wants to spend time with us.

I love the way that Psalm 19 paints such a vivid picture of how God’s own creation literally pulsates with the truth about Him – that everything reveals His glory. It also reveals how God’s laws and commands are ordered and right. That to me shows His care for humanity.

Meditation: Sit quietly and write down some of the things this psalm reveals to you about God. Try and write a response in the form of a prayer, thank you letter, psalm or song.

*Graham Kendrick Copyright © 1983 Thankyou Music/Adm. by Capitol CMG Publishing worldwide excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integritymusic.com, a division of David C Cook songs@integritymusic.com Used by Permission.