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

 

 

 

 

 

“What Could Be More Natural?”: 8 Quotes on Prayer

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I recently spoke (and posted) on the topic of ceaseless prayer. Today, I am continuing on the theme by looking at what some great Christian thinkers have said on the seamless, continual place of prayer in our lives.

  1. “Prayer is not a hard requirement – it is the natural duty of a creature to its creator, the simplest homage that human need can pay to divine liberality.”  Charles Spurgeon

The act prayer and praise directed to our creator should be natural, and is the outpouring of thankfulness. This “natural” outpouring is cited in our next two quotes.

2. “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”  Martin Luther

3. “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” Jonathan Edwards

But, if our prayer is natural, we need to be as well.  We need to remember that the Father sees us as we are, and any attempts on our part to be artificial disrupt the pure communication.

4. “We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.” C.S. Lewis

Not only this, but prayer should be organic.  While it may be scripture referenced, or mentally constructed (after all it is communication), it can also be from your heart and spirit.

5. “Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.” John Wesley

Ultimately prayer is more than about our desires, it is about our love of Him who provides. This “love song” of the heart, need not even require words.

6.”Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed.”   Teresa of Avila

And as an act of love, we should focus less on what we need, but on the relationship (first), and thanksgiving for what we have already been blessed with.

7. “… so our customary practice of prayer was brought to mind: how through our ignorance and inexperience in the ways of love we spend so much time on petition.” Julian of Norwich

Yes, it is about love.  Not just ours for Him, but His to us.

8. “Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.” Augustine of Hippo

Prayers are words of love.  What could be more natural?

 

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I’m Serious Folks

Emerine Hunt Mitchell

My Great Grandmother looking Serious*

There are many who hold that the relationship we have with God should be solemn and at its “heart” cerebral. We are “to know God,” an His ways. This has led some people to question the validity of any “uncontrolled” demonstrations of their faith.

There is a rabbinic story entitled, “The Dancing Jews” which is recorded by Eliezer Steinman. It reads,

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of the Chassid movement, was once asked: “Why is it that Chassidim burst into song and dance at the slightest provocation? Is this the behavior of a healthy, sane individual?” Baal Shem Tov responded with a story:

Once, a musician came to town — a musician of great but unknown talent. He stood on a street corner and began to play.

Those who stopped to listen could not tear themselves away, and soon a large crowd stood enthralled by the glorious music whose equal they had never heard. Before long they were moving to its rhythm, and the entire street was transformed into a dancing mass of humanity.

A deaf man walking by wondered: Has the world gone mad? Why are the townspeople jumping up and down, waving their arms and turning in circles in the middle of the street?

“Chassidim,” concluded the Baal Shem Tov, “are moved by the melody that issues forth from every creature in G‑d‘s creation. If this makes them appear mad to those with less sensitive ears, should they therefore cease to dance?”

 

Such ecstatic displays of connection with God are, according to the tale, manifestations of a linkage to His presence. This story however reflects a biblical account in which the same issue seems to arise.

Second Samuel 6 reads,

12b, So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart . . . .

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’

21 David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.’

David wasn’t concerned with decorum or solemnity, but with praise. There is much to be said for scholarship and Bible study. But “knowing about God,” is not the same as “knowing Him.”   Many today (just as with Michal and the “Dancing Jews”) question the authenticity of charismatic or Pentecostal expressions of faith.  But, is this any different than the stories above?

My wife and I have a running joke about our respective backgrounds and spiritual  journeys.  “She is a Pentecostal who can think, and I am an Anabaptist who can feel.” But each of us as children of God should do both.  We need to open our minds to His word and know Him personally not just academically.  And we need to be open to His Spirit’s leading with “‘Lov[ing] the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind.’ (Matthew 22: 37).”

I am serious folks.  But I am also praise-ful!

Padre

* Cousins, I am not suggesting anything about her personality, I just liked the stern look in the photo.

 

 

 

Motivating People

Last night I gave a presentation at Toastmasters on motivating people as an aspect of excellence in leadership. Different people are motivated by various things such as money, personal growth, love, fame, or praise.  For many of us it is money that makes us get out of bed in the morning (well we do have to pay the bills), it is seldom the thing that drives us to “do our best,” however.

In my years as an educator I have learned that the most effective motivating factors have been praise and appreciation. People like to be liked.  Giving praise for their efforts is a great motivator. In education assessment takes two general forms: Formative (that which shows a way forward), and Summative (that which evaluates the finished product).

Praise and encouragement can follow the same pattern. When we see someone beginning to develop we can encourage them by noting it.  These words of praise should be deserved, however.  Praise for praise sake is flattery and really doesn’t advance people.  It is kind of empty.  As a leader we should look for opportunities to congratulate progress.  Formative praise need not stand alone if we want growth to occur, but when instructive criticism is given, it should be sandwiched between points of success.

Summative praise and reward can take several forms.  Recognising the accomplishment of a task is a great reinforcer of motivation.  Success leads to success.  If we acknowledge and reward in tangible ways the successful completion of a project, our team(or charges) will be more likely to seek to replicate it in the future.

Recognition is not the only motivating factor that we can bring to our leadership skills.  We can also motivate by creating challenge.  Most people when given incremental challenges, will seek to rise to them.  It is up to leaders to see the strengths and skills of people in order to best place them for success.

So how do we motivate others?  Encourage and praise developmental successes. Give more challenge as skills and competences are mastered. Position people where they are most likely to succeed. Then reward in a tangible way the successful outcomes.  It may not be rocket science, but it is good people skills.

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