April 18, 2009

Praise, A Dwelling Place for God

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 22:3 which says,“But thou are holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" I love words. I keep a dictionary with my Bible and devotional material simply to look up even the most common words to be reminded of their full meaning. Today’s word is inhabit. "To live or reside in." (American Heritage Dictionary). God inhabits the praises of His people. He lives there. He dwells there. He sets up shop there. He makes His home there. Wow! What an awesome thing. If we can grab a hold of that truth, God will transform any situation because he will move right in if we will only praise him in the midst of it. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to be thankful in all circumstances. It doesn't say be thankful in spite of our circumstances but in our circumstances.

I remember several years ago when I was really sick. I had chronic urticaria, which is a fancy way of saying I was covered from head to toe with painful, itchy hives. This lasted every day for a year. I don't want to take up this space right now to talk about the extent to which I suffered or even all that came out of that situation except to say that when all else failed I began to not only praise God in spite of the situation I found myself in, but I began to actually praise him for my illness. I remember thanking God for this terrible skin condition, and I also remember how awkward it seemed at first to thank him for what seemed to be anything but praiseworthy, but it turned my situation into an intimate encounter with God that could have happened no other way.

Temptation comes from Satan, but tests come from the Lord. He can stop them or he can prevent them, but he often uses them to make us into something new. We can and should resist temptation otherwise we will fall into sin. But we should embrace our tests as they are the refiners fire. To come to the place where we move beyond enduring, and begin embracing those circumstances that God uses in our lives to shape us, is to have come to the place where we are at complete rest in who he is. To find joy in pain because it brings you closer to him is to know peace that passes understanding. To accept the path he takes you down because you know what reward lies at the end is to worship him wholly.  As I'm writing this, I have to look up one more word, embrace. According to the American Heritage Dictionary embrace means "1. To clasp or hold close with the arms. 2. To surround; enclose. 3. To include as part of something broader. 4. To take up willingly or eagerly." Tests and trials in the life of a Christian are part of something broader and we should take them up willingly and eagerly. 
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26
 A final thought. In Revelation 13:10 the trials to come are declared an opportunity. Opportunities are something to be thankful for aren't they?

 ". . . But do not be dismayed, for here is your opportunity to have endurance and faith."

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