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.

focus.

“Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?

Selah

And I said, ‘This is my anguish,
But I will remember the years of the
Right hand of the Most High.’
I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And I talk of Your deeds.
Your was, O God, is in the sanctuary (in holiness);
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength amoung the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph.

Selah.”

Psalm 77:7-15

This is why I really enjoy and connect with the Psalmists; David, Solomon, Asaph and the others. In this case Asaph.
He’s real. He’s not afraid to talk about the dark just as much as he talks about the light.
In this instance, Asaph talks about both times of trials and times of blessing.
He’s not afraid to be honest about feeling distant from God. He’s not afraid to question God when he doesn’t feel His presence. This is where I think we go wrong nowadays.

We, as christians, think we have to present ourselves as all together, all smiles or living perfect lives.
We’ve gotten used to the microscope too much.
Now don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me at all knows that it is almost impossible to catch me not smiling.
My face simply just doesn’t frown. I LOVE the Joy of the Lord and want to spread that around as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have hard, sad or difficult times. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t talk about those times. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t question God when I don’t feel him, or understand why it feels like He’s abandoned me. This is where Asaph is in Psalm 77. He starts out with six questions, all dealing with the distance he feels from God.

I’m currently reading through Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis.
Say what you want about Rob, but the man makes you think.
I’m still in the first half of the book, but so far Rob has brought up some really great points about the ever-changing church/culture and how our doctrine should be ever-changing as well. He repeatedly states that we should continue to question our theology and have constructive conversations as a community of believers to try and figure out what God means to us today.

Asaph is caught in a questioning time.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had times that we feel distant from God. Whether it’s because we are slacking in our personal walk or we are busy or whatever. Usually, when we feel distant from God it’s because of a lack of focus on Him; or rather, we are focusing our attention on everything else besides God.

I have currently experienced one of these times last Fall/Winter.
I kept feeling like I was waiting for my life to begin. That God was going to call me up and transport me somewhere where I could do work for Him. But it didn’t come. I felt like He had me waiting on Him. Waiting on His promises.
But then it hit me: Maybe GOD is the one waiting on ME.
That is a very humbling feeling.

Often we think that we deserve the blessings of God. We think we deserve recognition or divine intervention in every area in our life. And when that doesn’t come or not as often as it used to, we begin to question, “Why God have you forsaken us?”
When in actuality,  WE are the ones who have forgotten God.

John 14 tells us that we can “ask anything in Jesus’ name and He will do it, so that the Father may be glorified through the son.”

We know the first part, but we forget the second part. We forget WHY God will grant us what we ask. It is for HIS glory alone. Jesus tells us to ask Him anything in HIS name not so WE can be glorified, but so that GOD can be glorified through Christ IN us. In John 15 He reiterates this by saying that “He appointed us so that we might bear fruit; fruit that will last.”

So what does Asaph do next? He changes his thought.

Selah.

He stops questioning God and starts remembering God. The blessings. The works of His hand.
He begins to fill his thoughts with the memories of God’s faithfulness, of His deliverance and in turn his feelings follow. Asaph begins to no longer feel far from God, but begins to remember what God feels like when He is near.
“Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary (in holiness).”
Now Asaph has completed a 3-part turnaround; in mind, body and spirit.
He changed his thought process and started focusing his mind on God.
Then his change of focus caused a comforting feeling in his body.
And now, Asaph has welcomed God’s sanctuary, His holiness to infiltrate his spirit.

“You have declared Your strength among the people.”

God has not forsaken you. He has declared His strength, His blessings, His power in your life. He has never turned His back on a promise before, why would He now? Remember the promises He has been faithful to throughout history. Remember the areas in your life that He has been faithful to.
Focus on God. Invite Him to infiltrate your everyday life.
Cling to His faithfulness, and He will give you the strength to endure.

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