Praise

Hallelujah, Dictionary, Page, Light
Pixabay

Praise: the expression gratitude and respect

When upon God we reflect

We salute His greatness extreme

And shower on Him our unbridled esteem

Let “Hallelujah” be our refrain

And let our admiration on Him remain


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Cascade

Seljalandsfoss, Waterfalls, Iceland
Pixabay

It’s Witness Wednesday, and time for a brief reflection. Pastor Vince spoke of the domino or cascade effect of praise this week. God does not need our praise (Acts 17:25), but in our giving it we – are strengthened. The act of praising God cascades back down on us and no matter what the circumstance we may be in, we are better off for it.

No matter how dire seem our days

It is still the time to lift our praise

For when to God ears it goes

Then blessing over us freely flows

God is the giver ultimate

His blessings are unending – without limit

He needs nothing from us

And yet He knows

That our devotion and praise

Cascades and back to us overflows


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Ineffable

Woman, Girl, Freedom, Happy, Sun, Silhouette, Sunrise

Pixabay

Speechless, in awe, too much to take in

Overwhelmed by the glory radiating from Him

So many sights and blessings witnessed each day

In nature, or human kindness

We encounter along our way

Sometimes it’s a sunrise, bright beams of gold

Sometimes it’s a whispered “I love you”

When that’s what you need to be told

Ineffable, in awe, too much to take in

The blessings daily flowing from Him

 

Padre

Weekend Writing Prompt #130 – Ineffable Ineffable in 70 words

 

 

 

 

Yes, In Christ

Rainbow, Beautiful, Devon, Nature, Sun

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

If you are reading this, I can safely assume you are alive today and that you have awoken.  You have life and breath.  It is reasonable to also hold that you have access to the wealth sufficient to have acquired the use of some manner of electronic device, and to a source of electricity.  It is also probably safe to conclude that you have some level of literacy, and some leisure time to read a screen.  Yes, you have blessings today.  But have you said, “Thank you?”

In the words of the old hymn, “Bless God from whom all blessings flow . . . .”  For most of us, in addition to the blessings above, we have some measure of health, and the majority have safe water, and something to eat.  Need I go on?

God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the sparrows.  He cares for each and every one of us.  A care so great, that He took it to a whole new level.  John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  God promises salvation for those who seek it.  He promises His unending love.  He promises us life everlasting.

Back on 22 November ’18, Dianne made a simple entry in her journal, it captured this assurance.

2 Corinthians 1:20
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

God keeps all of His promises.  In Christ they are a “Yes.”  Let us remember to say “Thank you” and “Amen.”

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Tsunami of Fire

Fire, Beautiful, Flame

Pixabay

Pastor Vince this week spoke of a vision of a wave of revival coming over the church and the land.  He noted that for such a revival to come, God’s people need to be focused on Him, not their own agendas.  He went on to say that it is through praise that we can find that focus.  When we offer our praise and thanksgiving to god, He responds with even more blessings.  The pastor on several occasions reminded us that as our praise goes up, His blessings come down.  What a mighty truth!

Psalm 71 reminds us of the place of praise,

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.  I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LordI will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone (verses 14-16).”

Note that in praise we have hope, and as we have God’s mighty acts to proclaim, He will show us even more of them to praise.

But such praise is not a solo act if we want true revival.  A revival that will sweep over the land like a tsunami.  It is an act of praise that is unified, and of common purpose.  Psalm 133 reminds us,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore”

Notice that in unified purpose (v 1) that God bestows His blessings (v 3).   Compare that to the words of Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

So what is the nature of such unified praise?  The Psalmist states it clearly in the 100th,

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;  his faithfulness continues through all generations.”  

It’s as simple as that, praise Him as our creator, our shepherd, our faithful provider.  Praise Him for His love.

 

Such praise will change the land.  It will “sow seeds” of righteousness.  The harvest of which will be of fire, the fire of the Spirit.  As in Acts 2 when the flames of the Spirit came like a mighty wind, not a drizzle but a storm. 

Hosea 10:12 tells us, 

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground;  for it is time to seek the Lorduntil he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

Okay, some mixed metaphor but truth all the same.  When we prepare the unplanted land of our praise.  When we till and prepare the soil of our hearts, then he will shower (even pour down) His righteousness on us.

Do we want revival?  Look at Matthew 13: 18-23,

 

 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.   But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

In our acceptance of God’s word, in our thanksgiving for His gifts, in our praise of Him for His goodness, we prepare the soil.  We break up the hard ground, we remove the rocks and weeds.  We in short fulfill Hosea’s words, and in so doing we can await the tsunami of fire, the revival of the land!

Padre

 

 

Stillness in the House, Stillness of Heart

Dianne as teen

Young Dianne

My wife, Dianne was a talented musician.  She was a classical pianist, played for worship at several churches, and scored and accompanied amateur singing and dramatics groups.  During her illness she continued to practice, but as her energy levels waned, she dedicated herself to making recordings of her work so that I would not be without her “pretty noises,” as I called them once she was gone.

The recordings are precious to me, but as of yet, I have not begun to play them.  But I shall.  For now there is stillness in my house.

Having come from a religious tradition of A Capella music, it took me some time to truly come to appreciate the praise that musicians can shower on the Lord.  Dianne taught me that making harmony in one’s heart is just as much harmony with the glorifying of God as it is with that of other worshipers.

Music is indeed an aspect of our human experience.  It can move us, lift us, humble us, and encourage us.  There is a theological concept called numinous, “having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.”    I have felt this presence of God on several occasions in my life.  The earliest memory was a vespers service at a Benedictine house when I was a teenager.  The Spirit of God sent shivers through my body, and the devotions of the monks were life changing for me.  Later, I had a similar experience during a particularly powerful acapella worship in Tennessee.  Most recently, not long before Dianne’s passing, I again felt it during a Pentecostal service of praise and worship.  Dianne used to sit quietly during such periods of worship, not singing, but mediating upon the Spirit’s washing over her, and through the congregation.   Her praise (despite being a musician) was at those times was meditative, and personal between her and God.

I have come to truly value the act of praise, and I hope that my heart’s reaching out to God is more complete than just what I can offer with my voice.  But I can also, as Dianne taught me through her example, just “be still in the Lord.”

Padre

 

Praise God All Nations

Psalm 117 is the shortest of the tehillim or praises. In the Christian Bible it is the shortest chapter, and centre most chapter in the scriptures. Despite its brevity, it is a powerful statement calling the entire world, and not just Israel, to praise the Creator.

In the NIV version it is worded, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever Praise the Lord [Hallelujah].”

In two short verses, we are called to praise Him, and to recognise His love for us. It further emphasises his unwavering care and concern for us, even when we are less that perfect in our fidelity. To such a God praise should be unreserved. Hallelujah!

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Harmony: A Heart for Worship

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Pastor Joe, our worship leader, asked me some time ago if I could prepare a lesson on worship for the worship team.  So after some delay, here we go.

In the Temple of Jerusalem the devotions and worship of the people of Israel were led by the priests and the Levites. While the analogy is imperfect, we today have a similar arrangement with pastors and evangelists leading the ministry of the word, and worship leaders, choir directors, and worship teams guiding the “praise.”

I will deviate here for clarification purposes. As I have already noted the analogy is imperfect.  While in the Catholic, Orthodox, and “high” Protestant churches, there still is a distinct sacramental role in which “priest-craft” is mandated, most evangelical churches, and those based on the fundamentals of the scriptures hold to a “priesthood of all believers.” It is in this sense that those proclaiming the Word, and those focusing others on praise are all fulfilling the “priestly role” of being a bridge between the divine and the world.

That said, the role of those leading the music, devotional readings, and other outward expressions of faith (dance, drama, and even the decoration and craft of the meeting house) are “Levites” in their duties.

Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, that the believers should “speak[ing] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).”

Speaking in Psalms is an interesting starting place.  A psalm simply put is a prayer set to music.  The term itself is drawn from a Greek root “to pluck.” The book which bears that name in Hebrew is Tehillim “praises,” [but contains hymns and songs as well]. One of these (number 100) encapsulates this meaning wonderfully, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing (verses 1 and 2).”

This 100th Psalm leads us to hymns.  These are odes or songs in praise of God. Originally a Greco-Roman concept in praise of the gods of Olympus or the Capitol, its meaning is still clear – “Singing the glory of the Divine.”  While psalms bear a connotation of praying accompanied by “the twanging of a harp” and thus possibly a solo presentation as well as a communal one, Hymns (and chorales) are intended to be communal.

Spiritual songs are as they suggest musical expressions which uplift the congregation either as individuals or a body.  These may reflect on our Christian walk, on our relationship to the family and to God, or to scriptures. Many of these scriptural ones are powerful.  Two of my favourites which illustrate their application are I John 4: 7-8 and Sister Janet Mead’s  rendering of the Lord’s Prayer.

But much can also be learned in reflection of the final phrase of the Ephesian passage,  “make music (melody) from your heart to the Lord.”  This musicality whether skilled or raw is an act of the heart.  It should never become mere performance!

So, whether congregational reciting of psalms (via Psalters, or more modern renderings), hymns and “songs of praise,”  or reflective spiritual reflections – the praises of a church are an uplifting expression of faith.  Those who lead and guide these efforts are every bit as much “ministers” (servants) of the flock as are the pastors, teachers, and evangelists.

King David saw this and applied the skills of the Levites to further the worship of God, In 1 Chronicles 25 we see,

“King David and the leaders of the Levites chose the following Levite clans to lead the worship services: Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. They were to proclaim God’s messages, accompanied by the music of harps and cymbals. This is the list of persons chosen to lead the worship, with the type of service that each group performed: . . .The six sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah. Under the direction of their father they proclaimed God’s message, accompanied by the music of harps, and sang praise and thanks to the Lord. The fourteen sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. God gave to Heman, the king’s prophet, these fourteen sons and also three daughters, as he had promised, in order to give power to Heman.  All of his sons played cymbals and harps under their father’s direction, to accompany the Temple worship. And Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under orders from the king. All these twenty-four men were experts; and their fellow Levites were trained musicians. There were 288 men in all.  To determine the assignment of duties they all drew lots, whether they were young or old, experts or beginners (verses 1 – 8).

These leaders of worship were also “workers worthy of their hire,” as 1 Chronicles 9: 33 notes, “Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.” I was talking to a brother recently who seemed surprised that worship leaders could do it as “a job.”  Yet, here we have in the scriptures a sound precedent. Even if unpaid (or merely as an expression of their own devotion) these guides to our praises are worthy of our thanks, and recognition.

The body has many parts (1 Corinithians 12), and each has its role and importance.  For those who are called to be leaders in praise, whether in music, word, or dance, do so making the “melody in your heart.” For those of us who follow, let us share in their melody, and together live and praise in harmony.

Padre

Six Quotes and Reflections on Praise

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The Psalms give us the full breadth of human emotion.  The poetic words range from despair and fear to ecstatic joy.  It is not surprising therefore that they provide us with some of the most fervent calls to and examples of praise found in the scriptures.

  1. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” Psalm 100: 1-2

These calls to praise are a reminder to us that we should show excitement and appreciation about those things which we value. C. S. Lewis reflected that,

2. “The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.” 

In fact, these expressions shouldn’t be mumbled or reserved,
3. “I like to hear ‘amens’ out there from the audience. If you go to a football game and don’t yell, then the man next to you asks, ‘Don’t you like football?’ We need to let all of our neighbors know we like God and His Gospel.” Marshall Keeble

These outpourings of our love and appreciation, are reflections of the joy and happiness we experience in our relationship with God.

4. “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.” Jonathan Edwards

Jesus made it clear that these expressions are proper and natural.

5. ” . . .the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’  ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’” Luke 19: 37b-40

All nature, Jesus implied, calls out to God in joy, and Calvin expanded on this by noting that all nature is also a spark and stimulus to our praises.

6. “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” John Calvin

As we regard the works of our Lord today, let us not refrain from praising Him.  Let your heart and spirit soar and your vary being exalt Him.

Padre