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.

Religion & Relation: The War of Control

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 ESV

We are supposed to be imitators of Christ, right?
His mission became our mission when He ascended into Heaven. We know we are to win souls. We know that we are to “save.” But we often forget to “seek.”

We’ve created a full force for “saving.”

We build our churches.
We pack into them on Sundays.
We even give our money to help ministries “save” the so called “lost.”
But rarely does any of this “religion” make it’s way into our daily lives. Rarely does any of this practice help us in our “seeking” of the lost.
And I’m going to boldly claim that it’s not meant to.

Our lives are full of “religious practice.”
We “religiously” support our favorite sports team or we “religiously” watch American Idol or our favorite reality show just so we can feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Then, we sit in church on Sunday. We pay our diligence.
We seem to enjoy the worship as long as it doesn’t last too long or feel forced.
We “Amen!” the pastor so that he feels better about his sermon and might end church early.
We greet with other church members but engage in a broken-record conversation that we say out of pleasantry but rarely do we build those relationships outside of church walls.
Our supposed worship experience has become a church visit full of religious practice.

I started teaching middle school this year. After 5 years of college and a year off from any sort of routine job, I began to experience a phenomenon that I haven’t felt since my days of adolescence.
Every Sunday night I get this sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach which sounds the alarm to the end of the weekend. It’s back to work on Monday and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
I know I’m not alone on this. Our lives become routine. We have our set schedule we follow each week/weekend.

Whatever your job may be. School teacher, banker, lawyer, accountant, grocery worker, landscaper, plummer…we work these 7-4, 8-5, 9-6 lives each week praying for the weekend and then when it finally arrives, we are already dreading Monday morning. I’ve noticed something very odd about our behaviour towards this lifestyle.

For a society so bent on routine, and hating it for that matter, we don’t like to break from it very often.

Think about any red light you’ve ever caught, or a train that made you late. How about a delayed flight?
Maybe they were all out of skinny non-fat no-foam white-mocha lattes extra whip at Starbucks this morning. When we find our routine, although it keeps us at work more than at home, we will do anything to stick to it and not break our cycle. We keep it inside our control. It becomes our religious practice.

Sadly, I also find this pattern in our relationship with God.

Sure, we love the message of God. We love to hear stories about how God has changed the lives of those we prayed for or those charities we gave money to. We even enjoy sharing about how God has changed our own lives. We didn’t use to go to church or pray every once in a while, but now we pray because we are supposed to. We don’t like it when God finds a way to throw a wrench into our plans…do we?

We like our religious routine; our 8-5 lifestyles. It may not be perfect but it’s the best we could come up with. If we had to change our schedule to adapt to something new that might make us feel very uncomfortable. After all…

We are only comfortable when we are experiencing something inside of our own control.

For example,
let’s say you’ve been going to church for a while and you start to feel like God has birthed a desire in your heart to reach out to teenagers. This desire has now affected your prayer life. You find yourself unexpectedly praying for teenagers in your church and your community. You have the love of God in your heart and you aren’t really sure how to use it just yet, but this is where you are gravitating towards.

You finally reach a point where you want this passion inside of you to burn and be put to good use. You decide to become a volunteer at your church’s youth group on Wednesdays. The only problem with this plan is that your current job (that you’ve worked at all your adult life) schedule’s you to work every Wednesday. You pray. You ask your boss to switch your shifts around so you can have that night off. That doesn’t work. You plead your case because you really feel like this is the right thing to do. You pray some more. You believe that God has ordained you to do this. Your boss says, “Well if you want Wednesdays off, you’ll just have to find yourself another job.”

Another job?
But you’ve worked there for 10 years. 20 years. Maybe you even went to school for this career, but now you aren’t too sure that this career is what you were meant to do.

Find another job? At this point, that would mean changing something that has defined you for the last “x” amount of years of your life.

The way you live your entire life is being put into question. This doesn’t not at all feel comfortable.

For argument’s sake, you play both outcomes out.
Stay at your job. Keep the income you’re comfortable with. The routine you know. The controlled lifestyle you’ve always had; after all, this is who you are.

or

Quit. Find a new job. Chase after the new desires that God has placed inside of your heart. This is an uncomfortable vanilla sundae with a huge dose of uncertainty sprinkled on top. But God’s promises remain true; He will provide.

What do you do?

May I remind you  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2 NIV

But why God? Why did you have to mess up my routine? Why did you have to change who I am?

Actually, I don’t think God did this to you at all. I think you did this to yourself. We all did really.
Remember when you got saved? When you asked Jesus to come live inside of you?
Usually the prayer includes something along the lines of, “I give you my life, make me more like you.” Or “Help me to live my life pleasing to you. I give you my dreams. My life is in your hands.”
The dilemma you are facing right now is really just God’s answer to your prayer.

Now, I’m not suggesting you up and quit your job right this instant in order to accept the calling that God has for your life.  What I AM suggesting is that you ask yourself, “Why not?”

You are perfectly capable and qualified by God to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever you are working at. And if you’ve tried and failed, pray and try again. If you are not being edified by your workplace, change it up. You can’t complain for the world to change if YOU aren’t willing to change.

The fallacy in our practice of faith is the same fallacy we have in our everyday life, and that is we are entirely too religious in the way we operate.

God is a relational God. He doesn’t need our “religious practice” in order to love us. He satisfied that with the cross. Our lives are to be relationally driven too. Too often do I see people, myself included, walking around in the store trying so hard not to get in each other’s way, like the earth is a place where we are all supposed to coexist just as long as we don’t talk to each other. How can we save the lost if we don’t know who they are?

or better yet…

How can we save the lost if they don’t know who WE are?

The world has seen enough of the “religious christian” and they are turned off by them. Religious practice never saved anyone. Religious practice doesn’t give someone eternal hope. Love does. Love is only transferable through relationship.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins to that we can repay Him with religious practice.
Jesus died for our sins because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.
Jesus sacrificed Himself so that His love can stretch out through us and change the world that we live in.

Jesus didn’t go to church and stay there. He brought His message into the homes of those who needed it most (Luke 19). He sought after the ones who were outcast by everyone else (Matt 8). He died to break the barrier between Himself and us (Eph), not for us to create a barrier between us and the rest of the world.

Can we start being the relational disciples of God who invite ourselves over the tax collector’s house for dinner? Can we start being the hands of Jesus stretching out to touch those deemed by our society untouchable? Can we start being the feet of Christ who go outside of our routine to share the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost; and now He sends us to do the same (Matt 28).

Surrendering our future is scary though. It means stepping out into the land of uncertainty. A land outside of our own control. I’ve tried to control my life in the past and have failed miserably several times. Now, it seems a lot scarier to go it alone instead of letting God lead the way. God WILL NOT fail you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Let us let go of control and seek the true desires of our heart. The desire to share the love of Jesus in this world by being the hands and feet of Christ.

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