“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
Psalm 34:1 (ESV)
It’s cold here in Northwest Iowa. The minute you step out the door and face -10 degree temperature, a blowing wind, and an inch of snow on the ground, your nose hair’s freeze, your toes go numb and you think to yourself, “Is (whatever I have to face today) worth this?” Between work and the kids’ busy schedule we always have somewhere to go and something to do. It’s a little hectic, but it’s a good thing too. Otherwise, we’d make like bears and hibernate through these long, cold, and dark winters.
There are some who have learned to deal well with the winters. Either they were raised here and are accustomed to the climate, or the cold has done something to their heads and their just blissfully unaffected.
That’s not me; not yet. I’ve given up the compulsion to have my drive and sidewalk perfectly cleared every time it snows. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” is no longer my favorite winter song (it is now Ella Fitzgerald’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside”). And I have been seriously considering attending a Pastor’s Conference in Florida and just extending the stay.
I’m also finding that some long-time Iowan’s aren’t responding well to the long-cold winters either. People, and this is a very generalized and broad-sweeping statement, are grumpier than usual. I honestly think it’s the cold that brings this out in us. The chill in the air creeps into our hearts; we become as icy and cold as the landscape around us. Cabin fever has set in and all of a sudden “Jack Torrance” from the Shining gets a little more sympathy than before.
Here’s the thing, though. There is nothing we can do about the weather, so what we must work on is our attitude. I shared the following devotion from Charles Spurgeon the other night at our Church Meeting Night:
Others may do what they please and murmur and complain and be filled with dread and apprehension of the future, but I will bless the Lord at all times. I can always see something for which I ought to bless Him. I can always see some good that will come out of blessing Him. Therefore I will bless Him at all times. “And this,” says the psalmist, “I will not only do in my heart, but I will do it with my tongue. His praise shall continually be in my mouth,” that others may hear it, that others may begin to praise Him, too, for murmuring is contagious, and so, thank God is praise; and one man may learn from another – and then begin to praise God with him. “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” What a mouthful! If some people had God’s praises in their mouths, they would not so often find fault with their fellowmen. “If half the breath thus vainly spent” in finding fault with our fellow Christians was spent in prayer and praise, how much happier, how much richer we should be spiritually! (From Strengthen My Spirit, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.)
To further drive the point home, our men’s Bible study this morning focused on James 3:1-12. Remember verses 9 and 10, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” The study guide offered this,
The right control of our speech takes a concerted and disciplined effort, and we cannot do it on our own. Taming the tongue takes time, and the process is tested and proven through trials and challenges in our lives (like a long and cold winter)… If you examine your pattern of speaking and you change it, you can turn yourself in a new direction, opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and acting.
Praise is a matter of choice. I could choose to be consumed by bitterness and chilled of all love for my brothers and sisters in Christ, or I could choose to praise the Lord and be a blessing to those around me. Really, there isn’t much of a choice. If I claim to be a Christian, if I know the love of God and His grace for me in Jesus Christ, if God’s Spirit has made me alive, then I will choose praise. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34).
So I choose praise. I choose not to be nudged along by the nattering nabobs of negativism, but to follow the prompting of God Holy Spirit. I choose the warmth of the love of God rather than the cold world around me. It is not hard for me to come up with reasons to praise God. I’m still writing, still talking, still walking. I’m standing six feet over not six feet under. I woke up next to my beautiful wife this morning, got hugs and kisses from my wonderful kids. I get to do a job I love with people I love. I have every reason to be thankful, so I will choose praise. Hopefully, what Spurgeon said was right, just as murmuring is contagious, so, thank God, is praise. Let us praise God together. Let us praise God forever!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless, His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits.
(Psalm 103:1-2 ESV)
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