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.

Thoughts… pt1

Thoughts while reading 2 Kings chapter 17
______________________________________________

What a hard pill to swallow; the list of debauchery in Israel.
I can’t help but to think of the current state of America, or even the current state of American Christians; my current state.

How many graven images have we begun to worship?
How many idols have we set before ourselves?
Whose guidance and approval have we intertwined with our pursuit of identity?
How many commandments have we abandoned to look for a better way?
Our own way.

The not-so-wise counsel of the world has not only become our desire, but we claim it to be our truth.
What images have we set before ourselves of our own creation that take our worship and leave us feeling worthless?

Oh how we have let down our children.
Those alive, we have taught to devote their time to distraction and instant satisfaction.
And those no longer, we have sent to the grave to satisfy our own selfish nature.

Is anything holy? Is anything sacred?
Have we so fixated our focus on the pursuit of self-betterment that we have completely taken our eyes off of the only One who can make us good?

Is the LORD angry with me;
or have i brought the anger of the LORD to myself?
Comparison is what we use to save us from the same fate of Israel in 2 Kings 17.
We tell ourselves that the world has changed.
We tell ourselves that we aren’t as bad.
We tell ourselves that Grace abounds.

Grace abounds. Yes indeed; Grace abounds.
Not so we can keep on sinning; but so in our pursuit of Christ, He picks us up when we fall short.

To live is Christ; therefore, we should live.
In order to truly live, our nature must fall.
To truly live, we must live by the nature of Christ. The nature of His Spirit.
It cannot be my power, your power; it must be by His Spirit.

That is when truth begins to live; when we live by truth.
Everything else is a lie.
Everything else falls short.
Everything else leads to broken promises and empty dreams.

Truth is truth because it stands alone in echoes of eternity.
The earth is so tangible to us.
But don’t let tangibility shy you from the truth of its finite nature.
Heaven, as intangible as it seems, exists infinitely.
Beyond that; yes beyond finite and infinite planes of existence lives truth.

For God alone is before all things and after all things.
He begins all things and ends all things.
Nothing lasts longer than our God.
He is love, He is truth.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – Matthew 24:35

Father let me not pass away.
Let my temptation pass away.
Let my desires pass away.
But never let your presence pass away from me.

You asked for the truth and called me a liar?

“…Again the high priest asked him,
‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’
And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with 
the clouds of heaven.’
And the high priest tore his garments and said,
‘What further witness do we need?
You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’

And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

Mark 14:61-64 ESV

Me: What further witness do YOU need?

How about this irony? Wouldn’t you hate to be that guy right about now? I call this quote “the DEFINITION of wrong.” The Man who IS truth is perceived as a liar. I can’t comprehend what I would have done if I were in this situation as Jesus, or even a disciple for that matter. I surely wouldn’t have hid, like Peter. At least we all would say that watching this story unfold in hindsight. If I say that I’ll live and die with Jesus, then I should surely back it up when push comes to shove. But we didn’t have the opportunity…then, at least.

What about the high priest? I mean, we know now that Jesus is God, but if you were in the position of the high priest wouldn’t you have acted the same way? After all he was just defending his God, which just so happened to be the same God that he was condemning to death. Tough break man. But we didn’t live back then.

For us, our opportunity to live or die for Jesus is now. Isn’t it?
Don’t we have the choice to live or die for Jesus in every passing moment?

Here is where we are now. Dying to ourselves, taking up our crosses DAILY. That’s the key. (Luke 9:23)

We are human. We make mistakes. Jesus calls us to push through those mistakes and seek after Him.
If we were perfect, there would be no need for grace and the cross would be null and void. But we aren’t perfect.
We are in need of grace everyday.

Grace.

A concept I will never fully comprehend but I grow in understanding better each and everyday.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

Everyday as I scoot to work (yes I drive a scooter and will gladly take a free car if anyone has one) I get the amazing experience of watching the sunrise. As a west-coast Floridian for most of my life, I grew up watching sunsets. NOTHING to me is more beautiful than a sunset. But I have grown to love sunrises almost just as much, mostly because of that verse from Lamentations. Everyday as I stare into the sun I am reminded that my mistakes of yesterday have been washed away and grace has given me a new beginning. Grace is not something I can achieve on my own.

I’m a daily mess. I screw up daily. We all do. But God, out of HIS love for US, provided a way to gain HIS righteousness. Each and everyday God stretches out His hands and offers us a new beginning. Grace is knowing that you will never ever reach the glory God has planned for you without Him. Jesus became the sacrifice in our place so that we can be made righteous in the eyes of the LORD.

As Jesus was on the cross, passersby took his teachings and threw them back into his face. They would yell out “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three day, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29-30) As I read this I smirked. Knowing the full story makes it easy for me to believe. But even Jesus said, “blessed be the ones who have not seen, yet believed.” (John 20:29) How much harder is it to believe when you haven’t received a revelation from God? Maybe that’s why I’m writing this. Maybe that’s why I write anything. To share revelation, so that you might believe.

I wrote a first draft to this blog and posted it a few mornings ago. I was proud of it. But God wasn’t done with it.
In this season of my life, I currently am apart of 5-7 worship services a week as well as being a full-time history, music and bible teacher for a small Christian school. This is something that I never expected to do. I never wanted to teach, but I have found so much joy in the classroom. Especially in a Christian school. I can stop and have Mr. Feeny moments whenever the Lord prompts AND I get to talk about Jesus as openly as I want.

Today during music class was one of those moments.

One of my students had lost a family member over the past week and began to break down in front of his peers. The room fell silent. I felt the prompting of the Lord to not talk about music today, but to say what He wanted me to say. I asked the room if anyone else had lost someone close to them. Hands flew up. I began to explain that even though God made us all different and we all go through different things, we can still come together as the body of Christ and lift each other up with our shared experiences. I shared about my grandmother passing away earlier this year. (you can read about that experience here) I shares how God gives you strength to get through hard times through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then He asked me to share what that means.

A few nights before this, we took a group of youth leaders and students to the SEU Worship Live album recording at the House of Blues (SO good btw). Special guest Rich Wilkerson, Jr. shared during ministry time with this point.

“We should not let our circumstances determine our faith. We should let our faith  determine our circumstances.”

A point I’d heard him and many others make before, but this time I was urged to action. Faith without works is dead anyhow.

I started talking to my students about how our circumstances (i.e. sadness, loss, guilt, sin, death, lust) begin to cut us down making us feel less than we are worth. Like my student who is in pain and sadness from the loss of a loved one. Those circumstances can look pretty bleak. How am I supposed to feel good when my circumstances tell me otherwise?

Jesus’ circumstances didn’t look too hot either. In Mark 14:61-64, Jesus is before all of the religious leaders of His day who are all condemning Him and accusing Him of blasphemy. But he keeps silent; waiting for the prompting of the Lord. Then Jesus is asked if He is indeed the “Son of the Blessed.”
Jesus replies not with a yes or no, but in the way YHWH would reply. I AM.

Moses asked the Spirit in the burning bush who He was. “I AM that I AM.”

John opens up with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.”

I WAS.

I AM.

I AM TO COME.

I guess the Word of God is never more true when it says “No one can come to the father unless the father draws him in…” (John 6:44) then in this moment.
Jesus basically drops the biggest metaphorical drop-the-mic, turn out the lights, #BOOM I’ve ever seen and the guy he’s talking to has the nerve to call him a LIAR!
In fact, he is so convinced that Jesus is lying that he becomes physically horrified at Jesus’ “blasphemy” and tears his garments off his body. Jesus didn’t let the intimidation of all the religious leaders of the day detour Him from the mission God had. Yes, He could have used the support of His disciples right about now. But they scattered; claiming to not know him. Peter, claiming to have never even seen Jesus before.
Peter.
Jesus’ best and closest friend.
The one who drew a sword just moments before, claiming to defend Jesus unto death.
Where did THAT Peter go?
Could it be that in THAT moment, Peter let his circumstance define his level of faith rather than letting his level of faith define his circumstance? Peter let his circumstance overcome his faith in his best friend. His faith in his savior.

Peter has now abandoned Jesus when He needed him most.

“But what about you?” he asked.
“Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
Luke 9:20 NIV

The same Peter who replied to Jesus, calling Him the Messiah, was now caught in a lie.

I think of Truth as I think of Light.
There is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. You can’t have more darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light. Darkness is simply the absence of light. Light will ALWAYS overcome the dark.
I think of truth and falsehoods in the same way.
Lies will never overcome the truth. The truth will ALWAYS come out eventually. Whether through your boss, principle, parents or the coming of the King. The truth will always overcome a lie. Think about any sitcom you’ve ever seen. Usually the plotline of the episode is based on a lie or falsehood that the main character is working diligently to keep alive by telling more lies. Eventually the truth comes out and the only way for the character to move on and learn a lesson is to give in to the truth, face the music and apologize.

Then what happens?

GRACE.

If we are talking about Boy Meets World (which I always refer to for every teenage life lesson) then Corey and Shawn would have to apologize to Corey’s parents and to Mr. Feeny, then serve detention to make sure the lesson stuck.
But the people involved don’t think any less of Corey and Shawn. They aren’t condemned for what they did. They receive Grace, detention and in turn, growth.

GRACE leads to GROWTH.

Always.

Peter has one more interaction with Jesus. Jesus has risen and Peter is all excited.
Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
If Peter loved Jesus, don’t you think he would have proved it. But he didn’t. Peter essentially “failed” Jesus by denying Him three times. But Jesus isn’t asking for proof. He’s asking for change. He was preparing Peter for what is to come.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you,
and bring you where you do not wish to go.”
John 21:18

Jesus is calling Peter to a life lead by the Spirit.
A life of daily dying to himself, taking us his cross and following Jesus. Everyday walking in Grace and Mercy, following the will of the LORD. Jesus is asking Peter to GROW.

He is asking this of us now. Jesus has given us Grace and we are supposed to take that Grace and turn it into Growth.
Grace isn’t a free pass to do whatever we want. Grace is a mission (should you choose to accept it) to turn away from our old desires and begin following the desires of Christ.

 

As night passes by, let your old self die;

And with the rising of the sun, rise as a new creation in Christ.

 

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'”
Revelation 21:5 ESV

 

gb

#areyoucallingmealiar?