What to Do When the Bible Is Hard to Understand

Confusing Bible verses, after prayerful meditation, can ultimately reveal more than expected.

by Rick Hamlin

Ever trip over a passage in the Bible, scratching your head? Sometimes I’ll skip a verse rather than deal with it. Then sometimes a bit of prayerful meditation will reveal more than I expected. Take this verse:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

Why would Jesus ask us to hate anybody? After all, his message is one of love. And doesn’t one of the 10 commandments say to honor your father and mother?

He seems to be talking about disciplehood, leaving behind all the baggage you want to bring with you. Indeed that can mean letting go of old patterns you’ve accumulated.

love my own children dearly, desperately, but loving them means giving up all my “I’m sure I know better” ideas. The dreams they have are bigger than any I could ever devise.

I was fortunate to be raised in a wonderful, warm, loving home. But to become my own person I had to leave that all behind. In fact, I picked a college (or did God pick it for me?) that was thousands of miles from home. I still live thousands of miles away.

We each can load up the idea of “family” with so many expectations that it can lose all resemblance to anything that Jesus said. Here Jesus gives us a chance to shake off all that stuff.

Jesus often shocked his followers. His words still have that power. Do I fully understand this verse? No, not at all. But I believe it’s there to shake me out of my complacency. To help me love more and hate less. By loving the right things.

Any verses that trip you up? 


A Prayer For A Better Tommorrow

In the midst of confusion, she found delight in the beauty of nature. by Marci Alborghetti

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” —Jeremiah 29:11 (RSV)

Everything had gone wrong today. The vacuum broke in the middle of my housecleaning frenzy. The wraps I’d planned for dinner hadn’t curled snugly around the too-bountiful fillings, and the result was an unappetizing mess. I’d pulled a muscle in my shoulder and was worried about it stiffening overnight. My mother called to express her displeasure at the infrequency of my visits. A trip to San Francisco loomed, and I hadn’t begun to pack. It was just one of those days.

It took all my willpower not to shriek with the tension that pressed down on me as I darted around the house picking up the lint that the fractured vacuum cleaner had missed. Then my friend Charlie shouted at me from outside to come and see the wondrous sunset. “Hurry up, Marse, or you’ll miss it!” he yelled. I gritted my teeth and trudged outside.

Charlie took me out to the dock that extended into the harbor. I looked up and caught my breath. The western horizon was vivid with streaks of magenta, rose and indigo that lit the entire sky as twilight crept up to meet the intense colors. I was mesmerized. And then I remembered an old saying: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” Tomorrow would surely bring smoother sailing.

Father, help me remember that Your constant gift is tomorrow.

How to Make Deep Winter Feel Like a Gift

 Embrace the positive on these cold days, and connect with your inner sources of warmth. by Holly Lebowitz Rossi

As January comes to a close, the reality has set in for most of us—winter is not going anywhere anytime soon. By now, the magic of first snowfalls and the warming sweetness of hot cocoa might be giving way to shovel-sore backs and wistful reminiscences of coat-free summer walks.

If this feels like the apex of the winter doldrums for you, it’s all the more powerful a moment to turn an eye toward walking a positive path through the deepest part of the season. Try these techniques for embracing the gifts of winter—with the knowledge that spring isn’t far behind.


Get Cozy, Scandinavian Style

Scandinavians have a word for a deep state of blissful winter hibernation—hygge (pronounced “hoo-geh”). In Denmark, hygge is a lifestyle, a process for creating an environment conducive to emotional well-being. Embracing hygge means intentionally surrounding yourself with nourishing objects and activities, like low light and lots of flickering candles, warm, fluffy blankets, thickly knit socks and sweaters, warming foods from tea to cakes to stews, and comforting, loving company. Your winter days might be filled with errands and work, but if you dedicate your evenings to hygge, you may find yourself thinking far more positively about the cold that waits outside.

Dive into a Project

If winter puts us inside more than usual, we might as well turn our attention to making that time productive and meaningful. That is best accomplished by choosing a winter project you can work on over days, or even weeks. Paint a wall in your house a fresh accent color to wake up a tired room. Tackle your stacks of old photographs, organizing them into a new system that is easy to access and maintain. Or go through your kitchen cabinets, donating cake pans you no longer use—and filling those you want to keep with cake! Not all winter projects need to be “productive” in the traditional sense. Get out a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and chip away at it over a couple of snow days. The feeling of accomplishment you experience will warm you right up.

Tend to Your Health

Winter coziness is no excuse to set aside your healthy lifestyle practices. If getting to the gym is tough in wintertime, look for a free exercise app you can do through your smartphone. Or, if the sun is shining and the snow is beckoning, get outside for a snowshoe hike or trip to the skating rink. Keeping your body moving will protect your overall health, including your mood, and having a flush in your cheeks can help boost immunity, protecting you from the cold and flu germs that aren’t part of anyone’s positive winter plan!

How do you embrace the gifts of winter?


How to Move Forward in Faith

When the future is unknown, remember that God is known, so let prayer guide you. by


Do you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward in your work or personal life? If so, you are not alone. Many people find themselves in this situation at one time or another. This is especially common in the beginning of a new year. Everyone is in such a rush to better themselves this time of year, that when no progress is made, we feel discouraged and fixed in place. There are many reasons why we can feel stuck, including: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

New York Times bestselling author and public speaker, Tim Sanders, says, “If you risk failure, then you also risk success.” The only way to succeed is by trying, and if we fail, we must try again. Therefore, we must not fear taking risks in life.

Sometimes, the uncertainty of what lies ahead prevents us from moving forward. Yet, ironically, none of us know what tomorrow will bring. During World War II, Corrie Ten Boom’s family harbored hundreds of Jews to protect them from the Nazi authorizes. Betrayed by a Dutch citizen, her entire family was imprisoned for their actions. Corrie survived imprisonment and went on to share her story with the world. She wrote, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

In addition to fears and uncertainty holding us back, doubts can too. We must have faith in ourselves and in what God can do for us and through us. “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable and receives the impossible,” said Corrie. When in doubt, pray. Your prayer can push through the muddy waters of doubt and lead you in a new direction.

Lord, help us face our doubts, fears and uncertainties and move forward in faith.

Life Is a Continual Christmas

A beautiful reminder that all things are possible in this Classic Daily devotion.


Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things… Psalm 119:18 (NIV)

It was Christmastime and my office-mate Roger had one request on his gift list that he’d lost all hope of finding: an old-time aluminum Christmas tree like the one his fiancée Paula had adored as a girl growing up in the fifties. Knowing how I haunt flea markets and junk shops, Roger asked for my help. I searched everywhere and called everyone I knew who might know of one for sale. My leads led me nowhere.

Then on Christmas Eve, a friend and fellow nostalgia buff telephoned to wish me a Merry Christmas. “Sorry I couldn’t find you one of those old silver trees,” he remarked. “I’ve put out at least fifty feelers, but they’re scarce as hen’s teeth this year.”

In the background, I heard his sister holler, “Someone wants one of those dreadful silver Christmas trees? I have one in the attic just taking up space.” I was off to her house like a horse charging out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby.

That evening when Paula came through the door, the house was dark except for the glowing wheel of lights. When Paula heard the sound of the grinding motor, she threw down her purse and ran toward the tree like a five-year-old.

Roger and I love to recount that story whenever we need a shot of Christmas spirit at work. It never fails to put us in an “all things are possible” frame of mind, despite the pressures of the workaday world. But even more than that, it’s a wonderful year-round reminder that life is a continual Christmas. For God has placed what we need all around us, though sometimes hidden in the most ordinary places.

Thank You, loving Father, for opening my eyes to Your wonderful gifts.

5 Ways to Welcome Newcomers to Your Church

It’s the one place where everyone should be greeted with open arms. by

Arthritis had crept into her joints and the years had caught up with her, but that didn’t stop Macie Bailey each Sunday morning. She’s gone home to be with Jesus for quite a while now, but I can still see her so clearly, her white hair in a bun and a sweet smile as she made her rounds through our church. 

She’d greet newcomers with “Welcome, I’m so glad to see you’uns!” as she gave them a hug. It didn’t matter if they were from low-income housing, wealthy or a big-name politician, all were made to feel welcome. I always enjoyed watching the reactions. Some would be taken aback, unused to such exuberant hospitality, but they always walked away with a smile. None of them ever left our church feeling like they hadn’t been warmly welcomed.

So you can understand why it made me so sad to read a friend’s Facebook post recently. She and her husband have moved to a new state and they’ve been trying to find a church home. 

Here’s what she posted:

We’ve gone to this church about eight times. It’s like we’re ghosts. I started going to the women’s Bible study. I can’t imagine sitting with a new person and sharing like you do in Bible study, and not trying to connect. Every single week after the study, ladies figure out where to go to lunch. And I’m right there and not one person invites me to join them. The retreat was yesterday. A lady asked if I was going. I explained that we have one car and that Gary needed it for work. Talk about a perfect opportunity to offer to give me a ride. Nope. She walked away.

Folks, that’s so sad to me. That’s not how church should be—yet I’ve experienced it myself when I’ve been out of town and visited churches. What broke my heart was thinking about all those hungry souls—about people who were desperately searching for God’s love—who might have finally worked up their courage to go to church…and then no one spoke to them or made them feel welcome.

How to fix that? Here are 5 ways:

1)  Make sure that everyone who walks through the doors will feel welcome and wanted. A simple “I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll come back!” goes a long way.

2)  Instead of jetting out the doors as soon as the “Amen” is uttered from the closing prayer, take a few minutes to talk to the newcomers. Invite them to Bible study. Tell them about the activities for their children.

3)  Be an extension of God’s loving hands. Take a casserole, send a card or provide help as needed. 

4)  Ask newcomers how you can pray for them. 

5)  Introduce them to other church members and your staff. Help them build a community.

It takes so little to make someone feel welcome—and it takes so little for someone to feel so unwelcome that they will never enter the doors of a church again.

Every church needs a Miss Macie to make folks feel welcome. Could you be the Miss Macie for your church?


7 Lessons from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

A military mom shares how a favorite family television special brought home some important truths about the season.


The first Christmas our son was deployed proved challenging. Every winking light, glittering ornament or wrapped present reminded me of him. Surprisingly, one of the hardest parts of the holidays was watching television. Our family always loved viewing Christmas specials together. 

I did my best to join in the fun with our two youngest sons, but everyone could tell my heart just wasn’t in it. So I sent up a quick prayer one evening, right before we sat down to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, asking God to help me through. And did He ever! He used that specific show to teach me some lessons about Christmas and having a son deployed: 

1)  Feeling down during Christmas isn’t unusual
Early on, Lucy reminds Charlie Brown that he’s not the only one who gets down during the holidays. God reminded me that it’s normal for military families too—especially when someone they love won’t be home. 

2) Turn to your friends
Charlie Brown did exactly the right thing. He told his friends how he was feeling. And sure enough, one of them came up with a suggestion to help him out. Likewise, when I reached out to my friends while our son was gone, they helped me come up with ways to lift my spirits.

3)  Get involved
When we take our focus off ourselves, our problems shrink. By having something to do that benefits others, we find purpose and blessings for ourselves.

4) Avoid the commercial side
I don’t think there’s anyone out there who isn’t aware of the commercial side of Christmas. It’s often too big to fight, but we can learn to avoid it. Find ways to work around the spend-spend-spend of the season and stay connected with friends and family.

5) Look for magic in unexpected places
Charlie Brown found it in a tiny, scruffy tree. I found it that year in an abandoned bird’s nest. Our youngest son brought it inside to me—so proud of his gift. Now, every year it nestles in our Christmas tree beside the blown glass and handmade offerings. 

6) Trust your instincts
Yes, Charlie Brown found the tree, but he lost faith in what it could be. It took his friends to remind him that his instincts were spot on. Don’t lose sight of what you feel in your heart.

7) Don’t forget why we celebrate
Ultimately we need to remember why we celebrate Christmas at all. When we honor the love God showed us through a tiny baby, it puts everything in perspective. 

Yes, the holidays are tough on military families who are in the midst of a deployment. But there is still hope and a reason to celebrate. So dust off your family traditions and ask God to give you some new ones as you think about what makes Christmas so special.

10 Beautiful Descriptions of Heaven from the Bible

By Jennifer Waddle

I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed some of the most breathtaking views on earth. From the Rocky Mountains outside my back window to the jungles of Belize, God’s creation is marvelous. But there is a future place—an eternal dwelling—that far exceeds anything we could ever behold.

Heaven is not a mythical place. It is the holy dwelling of the Lord Most High. And although we cannot even begin to comprehend its splendor, the Bible gives us beautiful descriptions of the place in which those who have received Jesus will spend eternity.

Here are 10 beautiful descriptions of heaven from the Bible:

1. John 14:2-3

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

From my back window, I can see impressive-looking homes dotting the landscape of the foothills. Considered mansions by the world’s standards, I know they don’t even come close to the mansions prepared for the saints in heaven. 

Before His death, Jesus comforted his disciples with the promise that he would go and provide a place for them. The most beautiful part was His assurance that He would return for them and receive them unto Himself.

No matter how spectacular the mansions in our Father’s house, dwelling with Jesus will be the most beautiful habitation of all. Welcomed into heaven by the Way, the Truth, and the Life, will be the culmination of the hope we have in Christ.

2. Hebrews 12:22-23


But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:22-23).

This Bible passage is rich with beautiful and detailed descriptions of heaven. The “city of the living God,” will be a spectacular place according to God’s perfect design. And, as one writer put it, the heavenly Jerusalem will be “a place of unimagined blessing.”

Those registered in heaven, having been made perfect by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, will assemble with an innumerable company of angels before their most holy God. To try and picture the multitudes spread out before the Living God is amazing, and altogether incomprehensible.

Mount Zion, the city of David and the eternal possession of God Most High, will be the holy city where all will assemble to worship Him.

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts” (Jeremiah 3:17).

3. Revelation 7:9-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10)

The triumphal entry, mentioned in the Gospels, portrayed Jesus riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem. The Jews had lined the streets with their cloaks, waving palm branches and praising God for the miracles they had seen Jesus perform (Luke 19:37).

“…when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’” (John 12:12)

However, as Jesus saw them, He wept, For He knew they did not truly understand who He was. 

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-42)

In heaven, there will be no confusion about the Prince of Peace. Every saint, from every tribe and tongue will be clothed in robes of white, waving palm branches of genuine praise.

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

4. Revelation 7:15-17

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).

Those who have come out of the great tribulation will remain before the throne of God forever.

With pure joy and adoration, they will serve Him night and day. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will lead them to fountains of living waters, never to thirst again. Every tear will be wiped away by the merciful hand of God and they will rest in the shade of His presence.

I imagine the saints will have just as much joy, after ten thousand years of serving God, as they had on the first day. Just like the old hymn says…

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”

5. Revelation 11:19

“Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” (Revelation 11:19). 

There is something absolutely majestic about watching a storm from afar. The intensity of lightning and deep rumbling of thunder reminds us of God’s matchless power and sovereignty over all of creation. Beyond our human understanding, the thunderings of heaven will be unlike the most powerful storm we’ve ever experienced. God’s majesty will be proclaimed throughout the entire universe. His voice will thunder throughout the heavens.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is over many waters.The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:3-4).

At last, the temple of the Lord will be opened and the ark of the covenant will be seen again. For His covenant is everlasting and His kingdom will have no end.

“…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).

6. Revelation 19:11-14

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses” (Revelation 19:11-14).

Rider on a white horse, Faithful and True … the Lord Jesus will ride from heaven with His armies dressed in white. The King of Kings, wearing many crowns, will ultimately come to judge the nations. With eyes like flames of fire, His righteousness will penetrate every single heart.

There will be no mistake about who Jesus is or what He has done. His robe, dipped in blood, will be a testament to His perfect sacrifice on the cross. And every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

7. Revelation 21:9-11

“‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:9-11).

An incredibly rare gemstone called taaffeite was discovered in Sri Lanka in 1945. Since then, only a handful of these gems have been found. This rarely seen beauty makes them highly sought after and valuable.

In heaven, the light of the great city of Jerusalem will be like a glorious stone, shining pure like crystal. Its radiance will outshine any precious gem on earth and its value will be immeasurable. Covered in the glory of God, the holy Jerusalem will descend with brilliance.

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth” (Psalm 50:2).

Every treasure man holds valuable will pale in comparison to the magnificent city of heaven. Precious stones will lavishly adorn the walls of Jerusalem.

“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst” (Revelation 21:19-20).

8. Revelation 21:21

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21).

I recently read a historical account in my son’s History book that described what the early colonists discovered on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. Giant oysters, so numerous they covered the ground like stones, were waiting in abundance for the weary travelers. Many of them contained pearls—much to the colonist’s delight.

To visualize the pearly gates of heaven, being formed out of ONE pearl, is unfathomable. Streets of gold, so pure that they are transparent, will extend from the twelve gates. What a beautiful description!

Revelation 21 goes on to say that in heaven there will be no more sun or moon. The glory of God and the light of the Lamb will be its illumination.

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there)” (Revelation 21:23-25).

9. Revelation 22:2

“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

In a world that is riddled with sickness and disease, the description of the tree of life in Revelation 22 is a beautiful reminder that there will be no more suffering or pain in heaven.

The fruit of the tree, which will line the center of heaven’s golden street, will be continuously available in abundance. There will be no more searching for the cures of diseases known to man. Every ailment will be remedied by the leaves of the tree, and the nations will be healed once and for all.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God”’ (Revelation 2:7).

10. Revelation 22:4-5

“They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:4-5).

The widely popular song, “I Can Only Imagine”, by Mercy Me, beautifully describes one man’s awe, as he finds himself side by side with Jesus. Surrounded by the magnificent glory of God, shining brighter than the sun, these lyrics inspire us to try to imagine the beauty of finally meeting Jesus face-to-face.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to meet the Savior! To receive His name on my forehead, as a stamp of approval and acceptance, is unimaginable!

Forever and ever, we will rule and reign as joint heirs with Christ. Every beautiful description of heaven will come to fruition and far exceed our greatest expectations.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)



Expect a Blessing This Thanksgiving

Start a tradition of thanking God for gifts to come.

bySabra Ciancanelli

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

—Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

The turkey is on the table, my favorite green bean supreme casserole is beside it and, best of all, my extended family rounds our dining room table. It’s a little crowded, I have to admit. Sometimes elbows rub and we’ve had to use every chair in the house, but we all fit—and the amazing aroma of Thanksgiving fills the house.

In a few minutes we’ll share what we’re thankful for, but this year, as the host, I’m adding a new twist to our family tradition. I suppose it all started at the beginning of the year when I was trying to think of a word to focus on. The phrase “Expect a Blessing” kept coming to mind.

I tried to shorten it to

expect or blessing. I even looked for something else altogether. But again and again it came back to me. Browsing a cute little gift store in town, the same three words greeted me on a hand-painted sign, and I said to myself, Okay, okay, I get it.

I wrote “Expect a Blessing” on the inside flap of my journal and vowed to mean it. I said it whenever a worry came into my thoughts. Instead of going over the worst of any given situation, I countered it with the best. Even if a blessing didn’t follow, I felt at peace.

So, in line with my theme for the year, and in addition to sharing gratitude for what’s already happened, I’m asking everyone to give thanks for a blessing that’s on the way—a goal they want to accomplish, a vacation down the road, maybe a raise at work, their hopes for tomorrow.

Dear God, on this special day of Thanksgiving, thank You for the amazing gifts You give us, most especially the ones to come.


Reclaim The Lost Art Of Praise

In a season of giving thanks for what you have, don’t forget to give praise for what God offers.

by Bob Hostetler

Every autumn, people in the U.S. and Canada celebrate Thanksgiving. We give thanks for health, safety, prosperity, freedom and more. It is good to express our gratitude to God for our blessings—and even our challenges. But in all our “thanksgiving,” we may tend to neglect praise. Praise is different from giving thanks. In fact, some (such as me, for instance) might say that praising God is becoming a lost art in our lives, homes and churches.

Giving thanks focuses on our blessings; giving praise focuses on God’s attributes and accomplishments. Both are expressed directly to God and both may reflect on what God has done, but praise may be a bit larger and higher than thanks, because it is not confined to what He has done for us. Giving thanks comes fairly easily to most people, but praise can seem less natural. If that’s the case for you, try reclaiming the lost art of praise by following the examples of the psalmists. Praise God for: 

God’s Name/The Names of Jesus
“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name” (Psalm 18:49, NIV). See also Psalm 54:6.

God’s Might
“Be exalted in your strength, Lord; we will sing and praise your might” (Psalm 21:13, NIV). 

His Kingship
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises” (Psalm 22:3, NIV). See also Psalm 47:7, 146:10.

God’s Deeds
“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 26:6-7, NIV). See also Psalm 72:18, 75:1, 105:2, 106:2.

God’s Attentiveness
“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy” (Psalm 28:6, NIV). See also Psalm 68:19.

His Holiness
“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name” (Psalm 30:4, NIV).

The Wonders of His Love
“Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love” (Psalm 31:21, NIV). See also Psalm 66:20. 

God’s Righteousness
“My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long” (Psalm 35:28, NIV). See also Psalm 48:10.

God’s Greatness
“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain” (Psalm 48:1, NIV). See also Psalm 145:3.

God’s Word
“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise” (Psalm 56:10, NIV). See also Psalm 112:1, 119:164.

His Creation
“Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them” (Psalm 69:34, NIV). See also Psalm 139:14.

His Faithfulness
“From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you” (Psalm 71:6, NIV). See also Psalm 89:5. 

God’s Beauty and Splendor
“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long” (Psalm 71:8, NIV). See also Psalm 104:1. 

His Promises
“Then they believed his promises and sang his praise” (Psalm 106:12, NIV).

God’s Goodness
“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good” (Psalm 135:3, NIV).

Those themes are just the beginning, of course. But they are a beginning. Why not focus some of your prayers these next couple weeks on each of these themes, praising God, for “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1, NIV).  

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