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.

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!

Come Home

Psalm 137: 4

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

I encourage you to read this whole psalm. It is very Jewish, but I think when you ponder it you will appreciate how the Jews feel about Jerusalem and that might even inform our hearts about our own “homeland.” I read a novel in which the lead character is Jewish and visited Jerusalem as part of the storyline. The author conveyed a sense of homecoming in quoting this psalm and it changed my perspective.

This psalm is about the Jewish captivity in Babylon. Their captors wanted them to sing and dance but how could they rejoice when their hearts felt divorced from God. The separation was too keen. As I read this, I realized this sentiment is not so different from what we all routinely experience. How can we rejoice when we sense our separation from the Lord? Conversely, isn’t praise and jubilant worship easy in the presence of the Lord?

When we feel stressed, we often also feel estranged from God. There are other things which separate us from our confidence in His presence. Busyness certainly pulls us away from our intimacy with the Lord. I think sometimes this has more to do with the difficulty in getting our minds to relax enough to sense Jesus’ presence right next to us. It is though we are traipsing through the desert, isolated from Him though He is in the cloud right in front of us. We are the lost tribes, feeling like sojourners in a foreign land.

Here is my advice – come home! Come home beloved! “How do I,” you ask. You get alone in the quiet space. Give yourself enough time to quiet your physiology and then quiet your mind and spirit. If you are challenged in this, don’t worry, so was I. There were few moments in my existence where peace and quiet permeated any aspect of my being. I learned how to quiet myself and as I practiced, I got better and better. It is a process for many of us so don’t lose heart. Coming home means finding that space in your existence where you can connect with the Father. When you do connect, you will know you are home. When you connect you can easily sing the Lord’s song, and I hope you will.

Shout Happily

Psalm 100      GW

Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord cheerfully.
Come into his presence with a joyful song.

Realize that the Lord alone is God.
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people and the sheep in his care.

Enter his gates with a song of thanksgiving.
Come into his courtyards with a song of praise.
Give thanks to him; praise his name.

The Lord is good.
His mercy endures forever.
His faithfulness endures throughout every generation.

Here is an admonition to praise God, sing to Him, serve Him, and thank Him. My question is, “Why?”  Why does this author exhort us to enter into the gates with thanksgiving and the courtyards with a song of praise?

This song is an expression of His joy and thanksgiving for who God is. He had a revelation in his spirit or an experience which caused his heart to move to praise. Finally, at the end of the song he resorts to reasoning. God is worthy of praise because He is good, merciful and faithful to every generation.

Sometimes we need to convince our minds that God is worthy of praise, but I like the notion that we do not need to be persuaded to praise the Lord. We might praise Him just because He is. It sounds like that is the psalmist’s sentiment. Praise the Lord because He is God. He is the Lord and He alone is the great shepherd and our maker. Praise the Lord and glory in that praise. Enter into His presence with joy which erupts in gratitude and praise. Praise the Lord with a happy shout!

Sacrifice

Hosea 6: 6

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

I have been thinking about Lent a lot this year. Often, we think about what we might give up for Lent. Some people give up a particular food. For others it might be giving up a sport or recreational activity or even television for a time. Those sacrifices are about moving things out of the way which may interfere with devotion.

In the same vein, but perhaps the other side of the coin, I have been thinking about what we might pick up rather than what we lay down. I very much believe this is the wind of the Holy Spirit and the calling He is issuing to us. I have had several people speak or write to me about their Lent experience for this year and it is exactly what I have been thinking about. So, let’s think about what we can pick up for Lent this year.

The first thing many of us will think about is an increase in prayer. Prayer not only changes circumstances, it changes us, and I very much believe it is an extremely healthy activity.

Second, maybe in your time with the Lord you feel Him leading you to spend more time in the Word. Oh, hallelujah! You know I love that. I know that when you spend meditative time with the Word, it grows you. Problems receive answers. In fact, you might even find answers to problems you didn’t even know how to pray about. The Word is restorative and invigorating.

Third, speaking of meditative time, I hope you will consider spending some quiet, meditative time with the Lord every day. It is how you hear from the Lord. It is how I find out what to write about and what to write. When you give time to hearing the Lord, it is amazing how loquacious He can be.

How about singing or writing. Journal what you hear the Lord speaking or write to Him your thoughts. It is very fun to record your dialogue. When you begin to write your thoughts, He chimes in and directs those ruminations. Write that down! Sing a song to Him. Did you know that Dad and I have a song? Do you remember when you were young and falling in love? Most couples have a song that became important to them during the courtship. Imagine my surprise when one day Dad told me to sing “our” song. I said, “I didn’t know we had a song.” Immediately a song came to my mind and my response was, “Oh.” If you and Dad don’t have a song together, get one. Which one do you want to sing to Him?

I am sure you can find other ways to pick up something for Lent that will serve your relationship with the Father. As you see from today’s verse, He really is not looking for sacrifice but rather relationship. He wants you to get to know Him better and better so that you can trust Him fully. That is what we can take away from Lent this year.

No Problem

Psalm 40: 1 – 4

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear, and will trust in the Lord.

I found this today while I was searching out another topic and thought it was the sort of good news you may be happy to hear. It is all good and reassuring but what struck me was that the writer, David, waited patiently for the Lord. Maybe that is where I miss it sometimes.

His patient waiting is an indication of his trust in the Lord. Despite the circumstances, regardless of the fear and worry raging in his heart, David learned how to stay at peace and trust that God was going to make an appearance. It worked too. David waited and God showed up and took care of all of the problems. The next thing we hear from David is that he is singing praises to the King.

David’s example can be an example to us all and that is what David expected. Many will read his words and, through him, experience the grace of God. Through this vicarious encounter with God, we can all learn to trust in the Lord.

I know you have struggles. If you are breathing, there are still challenges to be worked out. No problem! We have a God who specializes in problems. We just need to learn to roll the care of all of those situations over onto Him and then in fullness of trust, wait patiently for our savior to work it all out. Our part is to believe, trust and sing. I think I can do this. How about you?

So Glad

1 Chronicles 16: 8 – 9


O give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders.


Now there is a beautiful picture of praise. Here speaks the voice of one who is truly grateful for all the Lord has done and for who he is. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of all that the Lord has done for us so that we can be just as jubilant as was David in the above passage. I have to remind myself but once I get started I find there is an infinite well from which I can draw. Then it becomes easy to speak of all that He has done in your life. His wondrous deeds begin to bubble out of you. Sometimes when you begin to think of what the Lord has done it is hard to get past the blood of Jesus. That alone can fill you with praise. Think on all the things you have and all that God has done for you and then sing praises to Him.