Strong Leader

Psalm 148: 13 – 14      GW

Let them praise the name of the Lord because his name is high above all others. His glory is above heaven and earth. He has given his people a strong leader, someone praiseworthy for his faithful ones, for the people of Israel, the people who are close to him. Hallelujah!

As we read this passage, we easily think of the strong leader God has given his people as Jesus. When this was written, however, Jesus had not yet come to earth. The people of the Old Testament were no less convinced that God had provided for them in the person of the coming Messiah.

What makes Jesus praiseworthy? This psalmist was full of praise for the Father and called upon all creation to praise the Lord, even the stars, and sea creatures. He called for the sun and the moon and crawling creatures to praise the Lord. What was happening inside this poet that would cause him to imagine whales and centipede would stop and praise the Lord?

While we think of Jesus as praiseworthy, how often do we give voice to those praises? Are you one of those who finds it easy to shout praises to the King? I hope you are but for the rest of us, perhaps a little practice would help. For myself, I like to get alone and sing praise songs. There are praise albums that you can purchase which not only help one to praise but which lift the spirit. They are my secret weapon. Maybe you have a tool which aids you in praising the Lord.

I want you to praise Father and Son because of what it does for you. Praise is an aid to dealing with problems, it helps alleviate stress and it feeds the soul and spirit. When we praise God, we release the joy of the kingdom and the power in praise goes to work resolving issues we didn’t know how to address. Let this be your power tool. Sing, shout and lift up praises to your strong leader. See how it changes your world.

Freak Out!

Lamentations 3: 41

We raise our heart and hands toward God in heaven.

I well remember the first time I went to a Charismatic church. I was the guest of a friend. It turned out that she and her husband attended the same church as someone I greatly respected. I wonder if she chose our seats intentionally because this man that I admired was right in my line of sight as I looked to the podium.

Imagine my horror when, during the praise and worship, my eye noticed movement and turning towards the movement saw that my “hero” had his hand raised towards heaven. I think God must have nailed my shoes to the floor because, though I was freaking out at this rock and roll church, I couldn’t move.

That church shook up my life. There were lots of people who raised their hands or swayed. There was probably even someone dancing somewhere. As much as it alarmed me, there was something there that, though I couldn’t identify it at the time, drew me. That first service mortified me, but you know what, I began driving over an hour every Sunday to attend services there. When the Associate Pastor started his own church, I went with him. To this day, he is the pastor of my heart. His ministry changed my life forever.

It is funny to remember how alarmed I was at my mentor raising his hand in church. From that initiation to becoming a founding member of the Associate Pastor’s new church is an interesting contrast. And yet, it was the most normal thing of all. I am glad my friend took me to church. Even though it challenged everything I thought I knew, I ultimately found truth and freedom, and after all, that is what we all seek. Just be warned, the truth you need may be cloaked in unusual raiment.

Exploding Heart

Psalm 145: 1

I will exalt You, my God, the King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever.

How nice. Then again, how dry, tamed and devoid of emotion. Per usual, I took the verse from the New American Standard Bible. Now, see it from one of my other favorite translations, the God’s Word Translation, “I will highly praise you, my God, the king. I will bless your name forever and ever.” That is a bit better, I would say, but when you know more context for this psalm you might still question the uninspired choice of words. This psalm is a “Song of Praise by David.” It sure does not sound like David. Now, allow me to share the Passion Translation’s rendering of this verse, “My heart explodes with praise to you! Now and forever my heart bows in worship to you, my King and my God!” There you go! That’s better. Those words sound like David.

The NASB is my preferred version, but I use many Bible translations in order to get at the fullness of meaning. Today’s verse is one of those times when the NASB needs some help. It shows our stoic, rather constrained, British Biblical heritage. David wasn’t a western thinker though. He was a man who poured out his heart to God in hundreds of songs. He praised God with his entire being, singing and dancing with abandon. I think David would make me a bit uncomfortable. I quite like the restrained nature of some church’s worship. I must ask, though, is it really worship and can it qualify for praise. I find, too, as time goes by, I find myself less satisfied with it and will even admit it feels a bit stifling. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ready to dance like David, but I do find myself wishing I could.

Many of us would criticize people who praise like David. They make us uncomfortable. We used to condemn them as “too emotional.” I have begun to question myself in this regard because we are discussing praise to an entity who describes Himself as what we would define as an emotion, Love. Maybe Yahweh is emotional. Maybe Jesus is. We seem to have made this verse over in our image. We praise God with our hands in our pockets while David danced so energetically that he danced his clothes off. I am certainly not ready for that, but I bear in mind that God called David a man after His own heart. Then I think about how David praised God and sang love songs to Him. Thus, I begin to question my style. Maybe Father would like for my face to look more like there is feeling behind my words.

David could not refrain from shouting and singing. He couldn’t hold still because his heart was bursting with his love of God. There is no way I can criticize him for that, even if I am secretly glad he isn’t standing right next to me in church. Maybe someday, I will praise like David. Maybe someday the whole church will lose its inhibitions. Then perhaps we will all shout and sing our praises to God!

How Do I Praise Thee

Psalm 135: 1

Praise the LORD!
Praise the name of the LORD;
Praise Him, you servants of the LORD.

Why praise the Lord? How do you praise the Lord? The Bible tells us to; I guess that is reason enough. That usually does not motivate us though, at least not long term. There are other good reasons to enter into praise. One big reason is that it helps us connect with Him. As I wrote last week, it is a way to seek His presence. He inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22: 3).

The reason I am working my way to today, is that it makes you feel good. If ever you are depressed, praise the Lord. You cannot be depressed while praising God. It’s true. Now, it may take a bit of time to get your heart switched over into praise but once you do, the depression will lift. You won’t “feel” like praising God but as you begin, things within you start to release and your spirit experiences the lifting effects of praise.

The next question becomes, “How do you praise the Lord?” This is a personal question. What works for me may not work for you. I knew someone who danced with her hands. I couldn’t make myself do it, but her hands were beautiful in their expression. There are people who dance. I sing. Ultimately, for many of us it boils down to the words, that come out. Perhaps they don’t come easily at first. Perhaps we begin at a loss for words. The secret is in beginning.

What do you say? Start simply. “Father, I praise you.” Praise Him for who He is. Praise Him for His attributes. Once you begin thinking about Him, how big He is, how kind He is, other thoughts begin to flow. Thanksgiving easily becomes part of praise. “Thank you for salvation. Thank you for your son.” If you begin, your spirit begins to lift and your heart finds more and more to express.

May I encourage you today? Even if you have never felt comfortable in praise or perhaps even never engaged in praise before, get alone and begin to envelope yourself in all His goodness. Tell Him all the things you appreciate about Him, how He is loving, kind, gentle, etc. Just keep lavishing praise on Him and observe how good it makes you feel.

Praise Power

Psalm 22: 26

The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

There is no better way to a deeper level of communion with God than by praise and worship. A good song of praise can get you unstuck and free your spirit. When I am really struggling, I sing to God, which, by the way, I learned from Him. Funny story: one day I heard Him say, “Sing our song.” I didn’t even realize we had a song but like young lovers, we did, and it only took a moment to realize which song He thought of as ours. What a joyous time together that ended up being and there was no doubt about His presence in the room with me which is always the greatest of all joys.

This verse says that those who seek the Lord will praise Him. Which comes first? Praising Him is a way of seeking His presence. Some people praise in song, others simply speak. It certainly can be awkward at first. Some people are very good at it. Others, not so much. I am one of those who is not quite so eloquent, so I usually sing a praise song. What I find is that even though I may begin in awkwardness, as I stay with it, I relax. As I relax, I get in better touch with my own spirit. Praise lives in my spirit so once I am connected to my spirit, it becomes easy to pour out words about His greatness and His unfailing kindness.

I hope you will employ this way of seeking the Lord and a deeper relationship with Him.

Relief

Psalm 30: 11 -12

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

This is a picture of a saint who was in mourning until the Lord turned his sorrow into joy. Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning like wearing black. But God removes that deep hurt from us and replaces it with joy. He takes tears and creates from them a dance. There is no hurt so deep that He cannot soothe it; no sorrow so expansive that He cannot bridge it. He is healing and comfort to all who grieve. The wails of the night He turns into the praise of the morning. He causes our hearts to sing with joy. The joy of His presence is greater than the brokenness of our experience and we find healing in Him. Our mouths will open to sing praises to Him, and thanksgiving will be our constant refrain. Great is the Lord; great to behold and worthy of thanksgiving and praise.

Glory and Majesty

Jude 1: 24 – 25

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.

To God be glory, majesty, dominion and authority. Amen. That is enough of a prayer on its own, a really great prayer in fact. Still, Jude paired it with other concepts. He gives us reasons to praise God and exalt Him because of the miracle of these gifts. Significantly, that we might be able to stand in His presence, in His glory, and though that would be enough, there is still more. Because of the great miracle of substitutionary redemption, we can stand in the Lord’s presence perfectly blameless. That’s amazing! Thank you, Jesus,!

So let us meditate on standing in the presence of our beloved savior and our Father seeing ourselves clean and pure, standing there with them in the fullness of joy. Lord, may your kingdom here on earth reflect the glory and majesty of your kingdom in the New Jerusalem and thank you for allowing us to be citizens therein. Amen!