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.

Let me tell you about the LOVE of my LIFE

love is patient, love is kind. love keeps no record of wrong.

11406312_10153949140739951_6562481135921478156_o

when i finally got to that place where my destiny lied solely in the hands of God, it was unlike anything i had experienced before.
i moved to Clermont, Fl with no car, no money and no job.
i followed a spark in my spirit to move in with my college room mate and best friend to do ministry together at a church.
little did i know that God was going to stretch me in ways i didn’t know that i could be stretched. i reached the point to where i didn’t care if i ever make a dime, God would be my provider.

over the next year and a half, i watched as the things i had been diligently praying for for years begin to surface in my life. i prayed for housing, a car, the ability to begin paying my student loans, a full-time job and a place in a church where i felt like i was making a difference.
God showed up in my life and began putting the pieces of my destiny together. i was burning on all cylinders and it felt good.

except, i began to feel alone.

i began to wonder why i hadn’t found the love of my life yet. why hadn’t God answered that prayer?

and if it’s not bad enough, people kept coming up to me literally asking me “where’s your wife, Greg?”

believe me, if i knew, we’d be married by now.

i began to pray. i knew from past experience that if i try to search for the girl i wanted, she would stop short of who God wanted her to be for me.
so i waited. and waited.

and waited.

one day (Dec 6th to be exact), i was in a rom-com-grab-me-a-pint-of-ice-cream-and-a-blanket-and-leave-me-alone mood; i began to write a song cleverly titled, “where are you now?”
maybe i thought that somewhere around the world my future wife’s spirit would hear the words of the song and come running into my arms.

11692603_10206945889589383_3246431417684537947_na few days later (Dec 10th actually), i hear a knock on my classroom door.
(i have been serving as a teacher at a small christian school in central Florida for the past year and a half. never thought i’d be a teacher, but when you submit to God, He puts you in places that you never thought you’d be….and for good reason this time).
in walks the principal and her 20 year old daughter.

now, i’m a respectful guy. my parents taught me good manners, so i stood up and walked right up to this beautiful woman i see before me and shook her hand.
“nice to meet you”

(ugh. that’s it bro? that’s all you got? you blew it).

later she’ll tell me that she thought i was the cutest thing but she’ll never settle down with someone who was called to be a school teacher……..(i swear God, come on man).

3 months later she shows up in my classroom, AGAIN.
me, still single….still very, very, VERY single.

this time i work up the courage to tell her that if i had her number i could arrange a hang out while she was still in town. (going for it!! honestly, i was only focused on being a good friend…..for now).
in a very cute and romantic way, she leaves a note on my desk computer which included her phone number and the first joke i made to her earlier in the day in hopes she took some kind of pity on my failed humor and thought i was cute enough to receive her attention.

we meet up two days later and have the best 4 hour long conversation about everything.
i mean EVERYTHING.
the stuff you don’t share with someone you’re crushing on. the insider information.
the hard lessons of life and faith.

 

i realized that i had finally made a choice in my life to always be honest no matter what. to not hold back on areas of faith or truth, but to stand up for what i believe in no matter what. if someone can’t deal, then they aren’t worth the time or investment. i was going to be true to myself no matter what anyone else thought.

this philosophy i began to live by brought me pure joy. i had never been happier in my daily decisions, but i was still alone.

i ask her a question about something i can’t remember and she gives me this response that seemed repeated or stolen from how other people view the topic.
i sensed that she probably felt differently, but wanted to not look over the top.
i began to tell her why she was wrong and why i believed a different way, backed up with scripture references and points from my faith.
and then i FROZE.

i had let my inside voice out.

i had shown just how much of a Jesus nerd i was to this girl on the very first time of hanging out and i was now 100% certain that she was going to run for the hills.

she took a pause, almost taken back because she didn’t expect such a passionate and truthful response.
(i know it’s hard to visualize, but i don’t actually remember the topic because what was happening around the topic was so much more memorable to me).
she stared down as i saw the wheels behind her eyes turn as fast as they could.11823098_10154087911559951_5767376592079766902_o

she stops and says, “actually i agree with you now, i like your answer better.”

i didn’t even realize it but i was holding my held breath as i waited for her response. i try to exhale without her knowing just how long i was holding my breath.
for the first time, i was fully myself in front of a complete stranger and didn’t hold back.

i guess i needed 25 years of life in order to truly find myself and not apologize for who i am.
and i guess i needed 25 years of life to find the person who would never ask for me to become someone that i’m not.

the next 3 and a half months fly by.

honestly, the story of our first date (after this first encounter) answered all the questions i would ever have about Kristen and if we were right for each other or not. (but that’s for a different post)

this woman that i’ve prayed for my whole life.
an independent, self-assured, driven woman to support my passions and my beliefs.
to kick my butt when i’m wrong and cling to me when i’m right.
to walk beside me as a partner.
to be as beautiful on the inside as she is on the out.
and to have a drive and passion of her own to change the world one life at a time in her own way.

this woman was real and she was now in my life as the truest experience of the human condition.

because of the honesty.
because of our faith.
because of our openness and humility towards each other, the question of marriage came up before being boyfriend and girlfriend did.

and the rest is a growing piece of history.11873416_10207200910924757_681185981412168696_n

everyday i find a new piece of Kristen that i realize i had prayed for long ago.

she pushes me. makes me better. she’s not afraid to be strong and even less afraid to show weakness.
she feels pushes herself but also knows when to fall into my arms and ask for help.
she’s a companion. a beautiful soul.
she’s not afraid to grow old with me, to take every challenge as it comes and learn WITH me along the way.

neither of us know it all and neither of us knows what lies on the road ahead.
but if and when times get tough we will cling to God and we will cling to each other.
HE will pull us through.

God really does answer prayer and i’m forever grateful that He answered my prayers on HIS timeline and not mine.
any moment sooner and i would not have made the same decision that first day of contact to be who i am and not try to impress.

she is meant for me, and i am meant for her.

i am getting married to my best friend.

and WE are meant to bring the LIGHT where it doesn’t belong.

this is faith. this is love. this is the love of my life.

*Kristen and i are very excited to be getting married on May 28th, 2016 and we will be moving to Miami, Florida.
*to track our wedding craziness and locate our registry go HERE
*wedding day festivities and times are still subject to change

i have found the one my soul loves (sos 3:4)

Cotton Candy Fields Forever

there’s always that moment,
somewhere between take off and right before passing through the clouds.

the moment where your heart is in the pit of your stomach
and you’re praying to God for your soul to be in His hands,
while thinking about your family and your loved ones.

a near-death moment.

a moment when you are face to face with your own mortality,
because all of the sudden you realized that for the next few minutes,
your life
your death
your future
and whatever comes next is out of your control.

the scary thought is when you remember that the last possible choice you had inside of your own control was whether or not to turn your phone all the way off like they ask you to or to be a rebel and switch it on airplane mode so you can drown out the safety procedure mumbo jumbo with your favorite selection of music.

airplane mode. play. here we go…..

you tense up, buckle the seat belt a little tighter, take hold of the arm rests so that you win the elbow war before it even starts and you look out the window. you focus on the ground as it races underneath you, hoping that as you lift into the air you won’t see it again in the next 30 seconds.

lift…….

it’s a euphoria really.

i’ve been quite fond of it, flying. at least it’s feeling, weightlessness.
soaring up, up, up.

flying. my favorite super power of my favorite super hero: Superman.
and i’m finally starting to understand why i’ve always loved it.

when you’re flying, you are limitless.
nothing can hold you back. not even gravity.
laws of physics not longer apply when you can fly.
flying is the ultimate relever of pressure. of stress.
the sky is literally the limit. better yet,
the sky is your playground and it never ends. space continues on and on and on. forever.

but i, myself, cannot fly. (yet)

we as humans must rely on machines. on planes and spaceships.
but even those vehicles themselves cannot break the laws of physics,
but actually use physics to their advantage, directed by a pilot.

but i, myself, am not a pilot. (yet)

i am at the mercy of the pilot.
his skill, experience, sense of direction.
you’ll never catch me as a passenger on a plane with a first time pilot.
i need an experienced pilot.
i’ll pay good money for an experienced pilot who knows where my destination is,
or knows what to do when something goes wrong.

cotton candy2

so here i am in seat 30F, window seat (of course).
i feel my body lifting from the earth, my gut sinking in my stomach.
the ground distances below me
and all i can imagine is the plane slowing it’s ascension to a halt mid-air and begin to fall back towards the earth.

crashing. (the opposite of flying)

what’s the first thing they teach you before you take off?
…..what to do in case of a crash.

you’re reminded of it constantly.
how can you not think about certain death when they explain to you that you could possibly need to put on an inflatable vest and detach “raft b” over “wing a” so that you don’t drown in the “sea”.
i’m convinced that there isn’t a person on the planet that can fly on a plane without visualizing the crash.
(i have no actual facts to back up that statement)

the screams. cries. prayers. death.

at least for me, flying forces me to face my own mortality.
(and probably everyone)(again no actual facts…its an opinion piece, i can say whatever i want)

but i LOVE flying. even if it scares me enough to visualize my own death.
i wish i flew all the time.
every week. new places. old places. i just love traveling, especially by plane.
flying forces us to step outside of our own control.
it forces us to face our own mortality.

it forces me to realize, if only for a brief moment, that i do not in fact run the universe.
it forces me to realize that i can do nothing to save myself from the eminent departure of this life into the next if the plane suddenly falls out of the sky at 36,000 feet.
i am at the mercy of something much bigger than myself.
something much more suitable for the situation.
something built especially for flying.

and that’s exactly where God wants to meet us. in that moment.
holding on for dear life. thinking about who and all we care about.

when we are faced with our own mortality, we are forced to realize that there is something or someone bigger than ourselves, and we are at the mercy of it.

we call out for help,
“God, please don’t let me die.”
“God, if i die, take care of my family.”

why should it have to take a face to face encounter with death in order for us to see God?

or turn to Him?

while i was in line waiting to board, a thought hit me. so i tweeted it. (a social media “last words” if you will)
if i died on the plane, this tweet would be the last thing the world would ever hear from me.
(lets be real, i’m talking about my mom here)

“if God never allowed bad things to happen to you, how would you ever know how to call on the power of His name?”

a thought that i certainly could not have penned out of my own wisdom, but it solves a lot of issues people have with an omnipresent God who lets tragedy happen in the world.
clearly, i wanted to make people think long and hard about their life and the meaningful things that happen to them.
as well as let my family know that hope is on the horizon.


i’m currently at 36,000 feet. the feeling of lift-off-euphoria has long and gone, but i still hold my gaze out the window staring at the endless blue sea above and the cotton candy fields below.
i’m home.

i, myself, do not have the ability to reach these heights on my own, but alas
i
am
here.
seeing sights, beautiful paintings of creation i can only imagine from my former position on the ground.
i am comforted by the peace and beauty
all the while,
every second,
i am at the mercy of the machine and the pilot allowing us to fall back to earth.

i am terrified and at peace, all at the same time.
that is what i love about flying.
and that is what i love about Jesus.

i’m terrified in the uncertainty of what’s next.
where will i go? live? sleep?
what will i do? eat? love?
will i be safe? die?
but then i remind myself of who i am at the mercy of, of who is in control.

a loving, caring father.
a gracious, merciful savior.
my God.

someone who knows it all, who created me.
who knows what i need. who knows the condition of my heart.
someone who will never fail me.

Jesus,
who speaks to me through clouds, the sun, and the sky.
through turbulence and visions of death.

here i am. last row. (window seat, duh)
a little closer to heaven than i usually am.
enjoying the journey, not worrying about the destination.

sometimes we aren’t always headed in the direction we’d like to be.
sometimes our flight gets rerouted. or delayed. or crashes.
but God knows where you ultimately need to be.
He promises to be with us along the way.
and His airline always arrives on time.

 

gb