Praises

 

Praise the Lord, all nations
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

 
Psalm 117
 
This is one of my current problems: I forget to praise God.
Sounds crazy right? If you know me, you know that I LOVE to worship. 
Whether it’s leading a congregation, in the crowd or jamming out to some UNITED in my car, I am always worshiping God; 
but lately I don’t catch myself praising Him too often. 
Worship comes easy, praise, not so much. 
 
Here’s where you may be asking yourself, What’s the difference?
Let me try to define.
 
Praise is expressing a warm approval or admiration of something or someone; expressing respect or gratitude to a deity.
 
Worship is showing the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity
 
Praise seems to be a word to describe the rejoicing that takes place after something good has happened. We praise God for what He has done. 
When the Israelites were freed from Egypt, they built an altar and praised God. 
Worship takes place out of an expression of adoration or reverence. A more humble approach. A response to who God is. 
 
Again, let me be clear, I have no problem with worshiping or praising God if we leave it to these two dictionary definitions. 
But when I look into the context they are used in scripture, I begin to understand that each of them bring a different element to the entire worship experience, and that I cannot leave these to words separated by how our current dictionary defines them. 
 
As I read Psalm 117, I was struck by how short this entire chapter was. Just two verses, entirely on praising God. 
This praise seems to be a reminder that EVERYONE should be praising God, for His love is steadfast and His faithfulness endures. 
And that’s it. The whole freaking chapter. No conflict. No problems. No asking God to do something. Just a praise simply because of WHO God is. 
A praise reminding us of His love and faithfulness. 
 
This chapter doesn’t seem to stick with the dictionary definition of the word PRAISE. 
Now, if you’re like me, you’re familiar with praising…because you’re a sports fan. 
I love going to football games or watching on TV and praising anytime my team scores. 
I am expressing my “warm approval” or “adoration” of what they just did.
But according to Psalm 117, praise can happen just from a place of worship; as in an expression of adoration for WHO a person is, rather than WHAT they have just done.

 

This philosophy would change the entire game. If this were true, I should be praising and cheering on my team whether or not they do something good or bad.

If they score a touchdown. “YAAAAAY!”
If they throw an interception. “That’s right! Hit them where it hurts!”
The players would be so confused as to who i was rooting for.
 
As confusing as this is when we apply this principle to our world, when we apply it to God it seems to make more sense. 
Go ahead and this about this phrase for me:
 
God is good.
 
Just let that sink in for a moment. 
 
Your definition of whatever is GOOD comes as an extension of WHO God is
There can be no GOOD outside of God and God cannot do anything that is not GOOD.
He is the very definition of what is GOOD. 
 
He is the finest steak you’ve ever had and now compare every other steak to. 
He is the perfect passer rating.
He is the finest espresso.
He is the standard. 
 
And this is what our praise surrounds, the GOOD He has done in our lives, to which I have no problem doing.
I LOVE praising God when He shows up and does AMAZING things. 
In fact, this type of praise is what leads me to my most intimate times of worship. 

I see what God has done, that He has forgiven me, healed me or someone close to me.

Maybe He came through and answered a prayer I’ve had for a really long time and in turn I give Him glory, praise and my thankfulness leads to an intimate time of worship where my adoration for Him has grown now that I have associated the GOOD He has done with WHO He is

And there is nothing wrong with that. 

 
In fact, I think that’s how we keep our faith moving forward. 
Reminding ourselves what God HAS done and that He WILL pull us through. 
 
But I think our praise can go deeper. 
 
I think we can praise out of a heart of worship. 
I think, that I NEED to strive to be able to praise God when He hasn’t done anything at all. 
To praise God when He hasn’t spoken to me. 
When He hasn’t pulled me through and I’m still stuck in the middle.
When my prayers are unanswered and I’m waiting for a response.
 
When an interception is thrown. 
When I’m injured and out of the game. 
Doesn’t God still deserve our praise?
 
This is where I’m stuck. 
I love worshiping God because of WHO He is,
and I love praising God for WHAT He has done, 
but I struggle to combine them both; 
to praise God because of WHO He is and WHAT He hasn’t done yet. 
 
To Praise God is a response for what He has already done, 
but to Worship God in Praise is to thank Him for what He hasn’t done yet. 
 
Praise is your Worship in Faith.
 

Psalm 71:6 says “I’ve hung on you from the day of my birth, 
the day you took me from the cradle; I’ll never run out of praise.”

 

Notice, a reminder of WHO God has been leads the Psalmist to say that “he will never run out of praise.”
This suggests that God is who He is no matter what happens and still deserves to be praised no matter what your life may currently look like.
Praise is the sustenance of God.

 

This is the kind of praise revealed in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

God’s will is for us to give Him praise NO MATTER WHAT.
It’s easy to Praise God when things are good, but what about when things don’t look good.
When we can’t make sense of our lives, or what He’s doing.
Where are our Praises then?
This is where I’m at.

 

It seems like each year my life gets better, it also becomes a lot tougher.
The faith that got me through last year isn’t the faith that is going to get me through this year.
I have to grow. I’m forced to.

 

And I’m very thankful that God’s sovereignty doesn’t want me to be stagnant; but that doesn’t come without walking through some uncertainty in the present.

 

And when I read the book of Psalms, I’m reminded that I cannot just worship God, I must give Him praise;
not simply the praise for completing a request of mine, but a praise centered around WHO He has been this whole time and the HOPE of WHO He will continue to be.

 

“Praise” is mentioned in the book of Psalms over 137 times.
Some of these songs and poems were written in the darkest and most uncertain times of David and the other writers. 
Yet, their main message rings true; PRAISE GOD for WHO He is, for WHAT He has done, and for WHAT He will do.

 

God is good, all the time. 
The time has no affect on when God is good. He just is.
So don’t let the time have an effect on when you let God know that He is good.
He is good regardless of what time it is.
He is good regardless of whether I tell Him or not. 
So why does God want us to praise Him if He doesn’t need it?
God’s praises are for us

 

 
God wants us to praise Him through the uncertainty, through the pain, through the unknown.
This is putting your FAITH into action.
Praise: letting your FAITH be turned into HOPE and your HOPE turned into WORSHIP.
To praise God is to call attention to His glory.

 

Worship isn’t for God. Worship is for you. 
God doesn’t need your worship, but through your worship,
God can shape you;
HIS worth shaping WHO you are by WHO He is.
 

 

Let’s let our Praise be a reminder of WHO God is no matter what time it is. 
No matter the problem. 
No matter the uncertainty. 
Let’s magnify the LORD amidst our problems. 

 

Let’s focus on HIM, for WHO He is, for WHAT He has done and for what HE will do. 
 
Father, teach me to Praise you.

Selah

It’s been a year since I graduated SEU. W O W!
Even though it has been only a year, it feels like more. This year was so jam-packed with different places, jobs, seasons and blessings. I have learned so much in so little time.
Transitions have always been bittersweet.
Leaving a familiar place. Setting out into the unknown.
Exciting but dangerous.

I’ve been blessed with so much in just over a year.
I’ve acted in two feature films.
Traveled to Alaska, Seattle, Montana, Texas, Mississippi, Nashville 4 times, Kansas City, South Carolina twice, Alabama, Georgia.
I’ve led worship for numerous churches, camps and conferences.
And in February I moved up to Clermont with my best pal from SEU to serve at a church together.

I feel so blessed.
There are so many stories that go along with each place I’ve visited.
Stories of heartache and despair as well as stories of restoration and healing.
I’ve witnessed and help lead many to christ.
But I have also seen just as many stay the same.

So many different people in different places, with different jobs, different wages, different dreams.
But the staggering thing is that every time I enter an unfamiliar place I am surrounded by very familiar things.
So many different people in different places, with the same heartaches, the same losses, the same failures.

We as a people like to gloat in the fact that we are all different. And we are. We are each made unique, for a unique purpose and a specific destiny. I believe that wholeheartedly. Part of my calling is to help people find the skills and talents God has given to them that make them unique and to show them how to use that for The Kingdom.

But, we are all connected by one thing. Amongst all of our differences, humanity unites with a fatal flaw.

Sin.

Sin our common ground.

Sin is everywhere.
It’s in our loss. Our pain. Our suffering. Our fear of failure. Our fear of being alone. Our lack of self-worth. Our desire for more of what ultimately hurts us.

Sin is in our humanity. Our DNA. Our nature.

We can be born rich. Poor. Lazy. Talented. Alone. Sickly. Deformed. Having it all. Having nothing.
But we will still all have sin. And that’s what equals us.

Selah

I pride myself on being able to connect with a lot of people. I like people. I like having friends.
Better yet, I like making people feel LOVED. I love to love people. 
So when I meet someone new I try to make them feel as comfortable around me as possible, usually by connecting with them in some unusual way. Whether it be through music, a tv show, a book, or a personality trait, I want that person to walk away feeling loved and cared for even if it was just our first encounter.
Idk, that’s just how I operate.

I call this the emotional connection. (Mind you, I was a music major in college so I have no “professional” knowledge about this matter. This is all merely my observation.)

I like to connect with people. Find their likes and dislikes. Find out what makes them tic.
Once we’ve connected on mutual likes, I like to figure out what makes them unique.
How are we different? What things can you do well that I can’t? What makes you special?

First encounter conversations usually stop there. At least for most people, but not for me.
Recently, I’ve noticed that God will use this point in the conversation for us to openly talk about beliefs. The person I’m talking to will begin to spew out all of their beliefs on faith or lack there of. They change the conversation to be about God. Christian or not. 
This actually comes most unexpected to me, because I started this conversation with the intent of getting to know this person with no ulterior motive of testimony in mind. But over and over again, the person I have just met will be the first one to ask about anything spiritual or God related.
I believe this comes from having a genuine heart and earnestly trying to love everyone you meet with the love of Christ. People can feel true love and genuine kindness.

God uses our genuine heart as a beacon for the lost.

It’s like the Pete Townshend 80’s classic, “Let My Love Open the Door”.
Countless times during my travels in this past year I have been able to share my faith comfortably and unforced when I least expected it, solely because I showed the genuine love of Christ and God opened a door.

God has called us to connect with people. I mean, Jesus was the ultimate connector wasn’t He?
Yes His death was payment for our sins, but also for so much more than that. His death bridged the gap of sin so He could live in us and bring us life and life more abundantly. But we forget to show that part. We often show the tired, stressful side of being a follower of Christ. We boast more about the pains of financial struggle in ministry rather than boast about the joy of seeing so many lives changed.
We’d rather let our worries get to us than stand firm on the solid rock of Christ.

I wonder what would happen if we were all open and honest about our sin? About our struggles? What if we were completely open about how much GRACE we actually need to survive the day?

I am in need of SO MUCH grace.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 says,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Christ’s power through us rests on our deliverance of sin, in our weaknesses. HIS grace is sufficient.
Shouldn’t that be our message?

If we are all connected by sin, then shouldn’t we all be connected by GRACE as well?

Selah

No matter where you are or where you go, you will always find broken people. You will always find sin.
But don’t waste an opportunity to show God’s love to someone through a friendly conversation or a kind act.
Wherever you’re reading this, stop. Take a look around you. WHO do you see? Do you know them? How well do you know them? If you don’t, what’s stopping you from talking to them? Fear? We all know that fear isn’t from God.
Take away your distractions and inhibitions and go LOVE on somebody.

You never know just how bad someone might need that love.
And then, if God opens a door,
share grace.

Because you know how bad everyone is in desperate need of that.

gb

2013: A year of excitement, transition, and the unexpected.

I’ve heard a lot about 2013. For many, it was their best year yet. For others, 2013 was full of bad decisions and regret; but there is good news for either side. 2014 is a fresh start, a way to make this year better than the year before regardless if it was good or bad. For me, 2013 seemed to be the best year of my life; but I really hope it’s not.

2013. A year of excitement, transition, and the unexpected.

I remember in the beginning of 2013, I was writing in my personal journal about the things on my to-do list for the year. I was moving to Nashville to finish school. Graduating from College. Recording an album. Looking for work. Potentially going on a missions trip. There was a lot at stake and a lot up in the air as to how I would financially provide for myself. Basically, this was the year I was to officially become an independent adult and live out in the real world.

Spoiler alert: I’m currently crashing on my parent’s couch.

Back to what I was saying. 2013 was to be the year of my emergence. Into music. Into a career. Into life.
But I was broke. Dead broke. The only way I had made it through college was by racking up as many loans as I could find and the Grace of God stepping in when He needed to so I could eat. (Thanks again Bro)
Anyways, I had no idea how anything was going to work out. So naturally, I put my confidence into the “good hands” of the only person I knew without a doubt wouldn’t let me down. God.
All the things I wanted to do or accomplish. All the opportunities I could see happening. All the ones I couldn’t. I wrote in all down in my journal in this one sentence,

“I want to serve the God that knows how to grab my attention to get me to do what He wants me to do, even when I know I am afraid, He will provide a way.”

And boy did He.

Nashville and the CMC was THE BEST SEMESTER (pun intended for bestsemester.com) that I ever had. Which is really tough to say when you come from SEU. SEU is the bomb dot com. The best University on the planet without a football team (this has changed btw). I absolutly LOVE SEU. BUT, Nashville was the best.
I learned so much through a process called “doing” which is a lot more effective than sitting in a classroom trying to decipher a textbook that you paid approx 2,214 packages of Ramen Noodles for. Nashville made me want to pursue being a musician/songwriter/performer/producer/all-around-entertainer Full-Time. (Life-changing stuff people)

After Nashville I went back to SEU to play my cd release show, graduate, and act in SEU’s feature film. All along I am still wondering what I’m going to do with my life. It’s really hard to explain my philosophy on “jobs”, not careers, so I’m just going to go for it.
I hate them. Whether it’s a supermarket, fast food, selling knives I hate them all. They’re mundane and distracting from what you really want to do. I guess this whole philosophy extends from my year term working for Publix. Its a sturdy job with nice people (for the most part) but then it becomes too sturdy.
Publix is the kind of corporation that tries to get you to stay forever. It’s like a cult that welcomes you in with nice people and free food until one day you trust them too much and they try to get you to stay forever by handing you a cup of Kool-Aid.
Publix is great for some people. But for me it was a dreamcrusher of an employer who’s sole purpose was to make you actually want to work for them for the rest of your life AND make you think that you came up with the idea.

I was not about that.
So I quit back in 2010 when I transferred to SEU: the two best decisions of my life.

Back to 2013.
I didn’t just want an “normal job” I wanted a career. But I’m the idiot who majored in something that is considered to be in the “Entertainment Industry” where it’s all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Other than that, you’re stuck with a hobby until you get lucky one day. So back to the -rents house it was for me.

You may remember (meaning you probably don’t) back in the summer of 2012 I went on a life changing missions trip to Alaska where I met some Eskimo children who changed my outlook on what it truly means to “love like Jesus does”. And I really wanted to go back.

This year (2013) there was another trip going and I hadn’t had any time to raise money. (nashville, music, album, contemplating life. this is time consuming stuff people) So it was a week before the trip and I was hoping and praying for a miracle. And folks, I got one.
A spot opened up and through a string of miraculous events (which I believe I have told on a previous blog, but I could always go into detail sometime over coffee if you’d prefer) God raised me the money and I was on a plane to the Last Frontier before I knew it. This year was the best so far and it wasn’t even half over.

Alaska.
Words don’t describe it well enough without my acting out the stories with my hand motions and pantomiming different situations to make you “feel like you were there”, but take my word for it when I say it was THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFE TIME. I wanna go back, again.

After Alaska I took a detour to Montana to be in one of best friend’s weddings. Montana is beautiful.
(“Libby can’t hold us”)(That’s for Jon or Jake if they read this) (they probably won’t)
Another pit stop in Seattle to sea the beautiful hipster paradise. (sea what I did there) Then it was back to the parent’s house for me after my month-long, adventure-filled, divinely-written trip.

I had experienced God like in no way I had ever before. Adventure in Him was my anti-drug.

Then,

WHAM!!    Hometown normalcy.

My once restful home now seemed like a spiritual death trap. I felt stuck. Like literally stuck in quicksand and the more I tried to escape, the more I couldn’t. I had no where to go.
I had made it through 4.5 years of college, crossed North America twice, climbed two mountains thousands of miles away from each other within a span of 5 days and I couldn’t even go to the store without asking to borrow the car.

this. doesn’t. work.

Then I begin to remember the thing I said to God in the beginning of the year.

“I want to serve the God that knows how to grab my attention to get me to do what He wants me to do, even when I know I am afraid, He will provide a way.”

And I had served Him. I had served Him more in 2013 than I had my whole life. (I was a PK “Pastor’s Kid” growing up, I didn’t think I could serve any more than I already had)
Could this just be a season of rest?
I hate rest. It feels too much like laziness, which I hate even more than rest.
Could this just be a season of waiting?
Which I quickly realized that I’m not the one waiting on God, He’s waiting on me.

Then it begins to hit me.

This is a season of God grabbing my attention.

See, it was becoming very easy for me to follow God when He has me on an adventure. It’s exciting. Fun. Full of places, things, people that I have never met before or may never see again. It became very easy for me to share the love of Christ in the most cheesy and open way when I knew I would probably never see that person again. There was no judgement. No one with prior opinions of who I was or supposed to be. I would simply be that random guy who told a story about Eskimo children and how he watched God change hearts and then, poof. I’m gone.

It’s easy to rely on God when He’s your only option.

There were plenty of times on the road when I simply did not know what I would eat, where I would sleep, or how I would get from A to B. The only option I had was to put it in God’s hands and trust the unknown.
Things are a little different when you’re home in your comfort zone. You begin to think that YOU are the one in control.

Frankly, I think that’s what’s wrong with domestic christians today. When we are surrounded by our comforts. Our careers with our pensions and health care. Our families, the people who will never shun us because we’re blood. Our churches who welcome us every week like we are family because we are healthy tithers. It’s the same thing every day, every week, every year. Where’s the unexpectancy in that?

It’s hard for God to show up in our lives when we don’t leave Him room to do the unexpected.

Now I don’t claim to know God any better than Joe blow on the street. But I can speak from my experiences, and they tell me that God usually works in the UNEXPECTED. God is God and we are not, so we can’t always think that when we ask God for something that He’ll provide for us the very thing we asked or even in the same way we expect that thing to come. And we shouldn’t. We should want God to provide for us and teach us things in the way HE wants to do it, because HIS ways are PERFECT.

I’m not saying quit your job and jump on the next plane to Alaska. (which would be so awesome by the way)
I AM saying that we need to make room in our lives for God to show up and do the unexpected. Keep pursuing Him and allowing Him to change your normal. There should be no normalcy with Christ. The only normality that should come from our relationship with God is the constant fact that He will never leave us or forsake us. God wants to provide for you. He wouldn’t have created you if He didn’t. Ask Him to change your stars. To give you a new perspective.

If you’re still reading this, I hope you are understanding my point. For the most part, I’m writing this for myself to remind me what I’ve learned in 2013 and how to focus that on the things in 2014 to make IT the new “best year so far”.

2013 was amazing. Sitting in this exact seat one year ago, I had absolutely NO IDEA what was in store and I’m glad I didn’t. Right now, I have no idea what will happen in 2014. But I do know that if I put it in God’s hands, He’ll surprise me in the best way.

Maybe last year was the year for my emergence, just not in the way I had expected.

Now I enter 2014 with a plan. It’s not set in stone, but it’s a plan just like I had a plan last year. The difference is that now I know how well plans can change, and I sure hope they do.

Cheers 2014!

gb