As I read through the hundred-plus verses of Psalm 119 in sections over several days, one verse in particular stood out for me. Verse 164 reads, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” I immediately wondered if that was possible. It sounds simple, but to take time out my hectic day to praise God and his law seven times each day suddenly sounded difficult to accomplish. As it was, i could barely manage a set devotion time each day.

So the question remained in my head. Could I actually make it work? That’s when I came up with a strategy. I divided the roughly 18 hours I’m awake each day by seven and came up with about two and a half-hour intervals between the seven praises in a day. Then I created seven alarm settings on my phone with that interval between them. The goal was to praise God and his “righteous laws” each time I heard and/or felt my phone vibrate.

I started this approach on a Monday morning. I programmed the alarm on my phone for 6 am, 8:30, 11, 1:30 pm, 4, 6:30 and 9 pm. I used a praise song as the alarm sound to set the mood. This was an intentional way to move toward daily giving praise to God. An effort to, as Hebrews 13:15 tells us, “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, to “openly profess his name.” I would like to say this approach worked, but I soon found it became more forced with each passing day. While the interruption reminded how distracted from God I would get during the day, it tended to become just another routine — another “to-do” to check off the list.

What I learned from this experiment is that our worship and praise of God and his laws needs to come from an outflowing of our heart. Our love for God should overwhelm us to the point that it is a natural outpouring into our lives each day — a frequent praise of God as we experience him in the moments of each day. Disciplining our lives to align with God and his laws is good, but we must be careful not to force it to the point where it loses its meaning and purpose. 1 John 5:2-3 reminds us that God’s commands should not be a burden: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

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The silence is overwhelming, it pierces my ears

I hear a light wind rustle through the evergreen trees

The snow gently swirls downward in the cold air

In this temple of God’s creation, I feel his gentle hand upon me

I feel his gentle grace, his love surrounding me

It is a moment of solitude away from a turbulent world

A world where a storm rages within humanity

A world where people deny your existence, yet secretly hope you truly exist

Outside the noise and confusion of that worldly place

I find this escape into your creation

It fills me with your spirit of hope, love and truth

Against the cold chill of this world

I see your light piercing the darkness; it warms my soul

Your light gently touches my face, it tells me to trust you and your way

The trampled snow ahead seems the way to go

But God you tell me this is not so

“The path I’ve put you on is full of troubles and struggles.”

He points toward the deep snow, pure white

I do not know where this unmarked path goes

But I do know its ultimate destination

There we will bask in the presence of God’s glory

But for now I must press on, clinging to his hope, trusting him

Letting my faith in God guide me along this uncharted path

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth — the Lord God Almighty is his name.”

— Amos 4:13

A dear friend shared this in an email during a particularly trying week. With her permission, I now share it with you.

These verses encourage us to T.R.U.S.T. Him: His unfailing love and His mighty power…

T—TELL HIM EVERYTHING!

Psalm 86:5-7…You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to You, because You answer me.

Ps. 34:17-18…The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Matt. 20:29-34…As Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him. (Lord, we cry out for insight in the current need for decision-making!)

R—REMEMBER HIS PAST FAITHFULNESS!

Ps. 77:5-14…I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples.

U—(Be) UNAFRAID!

Deut. 20:1-4…When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

S—STAND FIRM!

Ps. 20, especially vs. 6-9…Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the Name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!

T—TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD!

Ps. 86:11-12…Teach me Your way, Lord, that I may rely on Your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your Name. I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your Name forever.

Isaiah 30:19-21…People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. (Praying for vision to determine “who” or “what” those righteous teachers are this week.) Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Praying and trusting with you.

There was seemingly no end in sight as the trials continued to pummel us. I lost count of the times that I cried out to God to spare us; to rescue us and others experiencing the excruciating emotional pain each week. But it just continued, the trials were relentless with seemingly no end in sight. Yet there were times when the eye of the hurricane would pass; times when God would remind me of his grace and his love. There were frequent times when dear friends would lift us up in prayer and the peace of God would suddenly be evident In the storm.

There is no doubt the suffering of the last few years has changed me. I cannot go back to the person I was before the storm blew through my life. Certain passages in scripture now resonate with me like they never did before my trials. When Paul writes about the thorn in his side in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, I can feel the piercing of the thorn and the torment that shook his confidence. I understand more fully Paul pleading for God to remove it. And I understand better that the Lord’s grace is sufficient, that God is made perfect when we are weak.

I have found that when I come to the end of myself and my arrogance, God can begin a new work in me for his kingdom. I am better able to rely on God for my strength to see me through the trials in life. Where once I did not understand James 1:2-4, I now know that the trials I face help me to persevere in my faith. The more I draw closer to Christ Jesus, the more I mature in my faith.

I feel I am only beginning to understand perseverance and how it is shaping me in my faith In Jesus. I am only beginning to appreciate how Christ can meet all my needs. Perhaps I am getting closer to the point where I can thank God for blessing me with trials.

As the woman approached me in the aisle of the store I noticed her long face. I did not know this woman, but the next moment she passed me and I had this sense that she was burdened by something. I took a few more steps and then I felt the need to pray that the Spirit of God would fill her with hope; that she would feel the presence of Jesus Christ easing her emotional load. After that short prayer I turned to look back and she was no longer in the aisle.

This brief encounter made an impression on me. It made me think about how God looks at people — about the love and grace he offers us in the midst of our struggles. To see people as God sees them is to feel their burdens and pain; to experience the hopelessness people feel in life without Jesus Christ. When our heart is oriented toward God our desires become God’s desires. We share a longing for others to know Christ Jesus and the hope he brings.

We see Jesus modeling this compassion in Matthew 14:13-14. In this passage Jesus had just learned about the beheading of John so he climbs into a boat to seek a place of solitude. When he reaches shore he is greeted by a large crowd. He wanted to take time to grieve, but scripture tells us “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

God knows our hearts and he knows our needs. Jesus reminded us of this in Matt 6:8: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God knows when we need someone to touch our lives to ease our burdens and he knows when we should reach out to others in need. He uses the Spirit to nudge us to help one another whether it is a short prayer, a conversation or helping with a need. As a community of believers in Jesus Christ we need be attentive to the Spirit’s leading to help us see people as God sees them.

I recently gave my friend a multi-tool which included a level. After he unwrapped it, he immediately laid it on the kitchen counter to ensure the level was accurate. It may sound strange that he checked the accuracy of the tool against his counter, but I knew that most everything in his house was level. As a craftsman, he would not accept anything less. He was checking this tool against what he knew to be right.

Life in Christ is the same way. Each day we are bombarded with many different belief systems and ideas not always aligned with Christian values. If our life is on the level of the Word of God and aligned with Jesus Christ, we can check the accuracy of these beliefs and ideas. We will quickly know if they are correct based on how they align with God’s truth and avoid using something misaligned as our benchmark.

We should take to heart God’s truth and be vigilant about letting it guide our life. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (NIV). Proverbs 3:5 also reminds us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (NIV).”

As I look to a new year, I wonder if I have grown closer to God in the past 12 months. I examine my life and contemplate if I am any better at truly having a heart for God; any better at truly trusting him. The struggle remains in how much I am willing to follow the Spirit of God over my selfish desires.

Psalm 119:1-24 is instructive as I look at how to align my life more with God’s desires. Verse 2-3 encourages me to “keep his statues” not just out of compliance, but because I desire to seek God with all my heart — to follow his ways. That desire is expressed in verse four, “Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!”

Verses 9-16 give us practical advice to guide us to “the path of purity (9).” This passage encourages us to live “according to your word (9);” to seek God with all our heart (10); to hide the word of God in our heart (11); to be open to God’s teaching (12); and to not grudgingly follow God’s decrees, but to rejoice “in following your statues (14).”

Verses 17-24 remind me to be teachable and to learn from my mistakes. Asking God to “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law (18);” to seek to be “consumed with longing for your laws at all times (20);” to not just read the word of God, but to “meditate on your decrees (23).”

I praise God that he is a loving God filled with compassion and grace. I am thankful that he continues to pursue me as a counselor (24), pointing out my faults and working to shape me according to his laws. I pray we can all be resolute in the new year to seek God with all our heart.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”. It touches me because it captures the yearning of God to restore us to him through his son Jesus Christ. Likewise, I think it captures the longing in our hearts for someone to save us from the hopelessness of this world.

Ever since sin created a chasm between us and God in the Garden of Eden, we have been exiled to this world full of temporal hope. The song reveals the deep desire of our heart to ransom us from the captivity of sin, to “close the path to misery.” It expresses a longing for a savior to save us from exile in this land that is not our true home. The song reveals a deep desire to put “death’s dark shadow” to flight, and a longing for “sad divisions” to cease.

Yet there is a hope that resonates from the yearning within this song. It leads us to contemplate the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ, our “King of Peace”. Amidst the despair that cries out in the lyrics, there is a joy that sings out. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!”

This Christmas may our hearts yearn for Christ Jesus who was born as a baby in a manger and will one day come again to save us once and for all.

The man stands on the street corner holding a sign that says, “Hungry and Homeless, please help!”

Tomorrow he will return with the same sign.

Innocent people are gunned down in the streets in a violent act and war wages on throughout the world.

Tomorrow the violence will not cease.

Computer hackers from the other side of the world empty the bank accounts of people struggling to earn a living.

Tomorrow the stealing will not stop.

In a hospital bed cancer ravages the frail body of a child as he clings to life.

Tomorrow the cancer will remain.

In the midst of all the suffering, the overwhelming and endless need, sometimes I feel helpless to change anything.

All is not right with the world.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:17

Some day the world will be made right.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Rev. 21:4

But today I can bring hope to the hopeless.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15

There are people in my life that I have know for years, but who are no closer to experiencing redemption through Christ. Month after month I pour myself into their lives, but I feel as if I am trying to create a lake by pouring one bucket of water each day onto a vast desert. It’s discouraging to watch the dry sand quickly soak up the water as if it was never there.

Then I read Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” This verse is a good reminder that even if I do not “perceive it,” God is still at work “doing a new thing” in the lives of these people. The process of a heart change has begun, even if I do not notice.

On the surface, each bucket of living water I pour out quickly disappears into the dry sand, but below the dry surface the moisture continues to collect, creating the beginnings of a stream of life-giving water. While it seems my efforts to build Christ into the lives of these people is futile, the love of Christ is at work healing past hurts even if I cannot see it. My faith in God tells me he is making a new way, a stream of living water in a dry and parched land.

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