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The Value of an Individual’s Praise

Psalm 30 is one of crying out to God for help. David, who wrote this psalm, had issues of dealing with enemies (v1), with sickness (v2), with depression (v7) or anxiety, and even believing he was near death (v3). In the middle of the psalm, David offers God an interesting reason for God to save him from his troubles (v8-10).

Basically, David asks God to save him because if He doesn’t, David will not be able to praise God any more. God is deserving of our praise, yes, but He also appreciates it. Does God need our praise? No. Jesus once said that if the nearby crowds were to stop praising Him, even the rocks would cry out in praise (Luke 19:37-40). God’s word tells us that creation itself declares the glory of God; that is, it praises Him (Psalm 19:1-4). So, is this passage from Psalm 30 contradictory? No, I think it shows that even one person’s heartfelt praise of God is precious to Him. David was saying that if he died and returned to dust, he couldn’t praise God. He was essentially telling God that he was valuable to God alive and well because he would praise God. Then David made good on his promise (v4, 11-12).

Are we as dedicated to praising God? Would it make a difference to God, and the worship and praise He deserves, whether we were alive or not? Let’s cultivate a life habit of regularly praising and worshiping God, so that in times of our distress we may, like David, cry out for mercy and appeal to God based on the honor and glory we have shown Him through a life of praise.


Appealing to Jesus for our Nation

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Jesus, in Luke 22:32 (NIV)

Jesus knew Simon Peter was going to deny him (v34). Not only did Jesus pray that the denials would not cause Peter’s faith to completely fail, but He also knew that Peter would repent and turn back to God. And when he did turn back, God would forgive him, and use him to strengthen the church.

This makes me think of the United States. As a society, we have denied the true God, turned away from God, removing God from public schools and other institutions. And our society is suffering the consequences. But God is faithful – if we as a country (led by His church) would turn back to God in repentance, He will forgive us and restore us. I went into more detail about this in a previous blog a couple years ago – if interested, you can read it here.

Dear Jesus, as You prayed for Simon, please pray for us, these United States of America, especially Your church and our leaders, that our faith may not fail. Lead us to turn back to You, that Your great name, O God, may be restored to respect and prominence in this nation. For the building up of Your Kingdom, Amen.

Is it Important Where We Worship?

If you are looking for a resource to help you study the Bible, may I recommend Thru The Bible with J Vernon McGee. It is a systematic and thorough study that takes you through every chapter of every book of the Bible in 5 years. It is broadcast on half-hour segments on the radio, or you can access the program on demand through their website; you can even download mp3s of the study for free.

Anyway, as they were going through Deuteronomy 12, verses 5-6 were pointed out, in which God tells His people that when they enter the Promised Land (after they have settled) that they were to seek the specific place God Himself would choose to “dwell,”, and only there were they to worship. McGee then tied that passage into Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42); there, the woman questioned the importance of where to worship (v20). Jesus’ response was that the time had come (v21) to have a different focus, because He had come. No longer was the place of worship important; now, what was important was the person you were worshipping: the Father, in spirit and in truth (v23). Because Jesus has identified Himself as the truth (John 14:6), one could interpret the statement in John 4:23 that Jesus is pointing to all three persons of the Trinity.

In the Old Testament, God placed restrictions on the people of Israel as to where to worship, so that they might not be enticed to follow other gods or even to worship the true God through the ways the other nations were worshiping false gods. Why? Because they were doing things in the name of worship that were detestable to God, like burning their children as a sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).

So, what changed in the New Testament? Jesus established His church. God no longer limits His ‘dwelling’ to a single place like the temple in Jerusalem, but through the Holy Spirit, Jesus dwells in the heart of every believer (John 14:15-16,23; Matthew 28:20). Now, the location of worship doesn’t matter, but only that we are worshiping the one true God.

There ought to be a oneness today among believers… Today we don’t meet in one place, but we meet around one person, and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ… It doesn’t make any difference what the name is in front of the church… the important thing is, in that church do they meet around the person of Christ? If they don’t, may I say then, they’ve got an idol there, because they’re meeting around something. Sometimes, it’s entertainment. Sometimes, it’s nothing in the world but to socialize, and that’s the thing that draws them together. Those things are wrong. The thing that’s to draw us together is the person of Christ.

J Vernon McGee

I don’t think that the aspects of socializing or entertainment are necessarily wrong, in and of themselves. But we have to be careful not to let those things (or anything else) become our focus, our reason for going to worship, because then they do become idols.

Regardless of where we worship, may God bring about a oneness in His church today, through a focus on Jesus Christ.

You Don’t Have to Be a Rock Star to Lead Worship

I enjoy leading worship. I believe it is something God has called me to do, created me for, purposed for my life. At the same time, no one would mistake me for a professional singer. I would not get very far on the The Voice or American Idol. Yet, it is because of my less-than-stellar talent that I believe I am effective as a worship leader. How?

Paul, in many of his letters to the early churches, acknowledged that he wasn’t the best speaker. He referred to himself as a jar of clay, contrasting his personal worth compared to the “treasure” of the message of the gospel. He recognized that God often uses ordinary people with ordinary talents,”to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Now, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best or think too lowly of myself or my talents. No, the Bible encourages those who lead worship to do so skillfully (Psalm 33:3, 1 Chronicles 25:6-7). In fact, whatever we do, we should work at it with all our heart, as though working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Even when we are striving to do our best, though, we should rely on Christ’s power – not our own – to work within us (Colossians 1:29).

So, it is fine to feel less than adequate to serve God. It reminds me to depend more on God and less than myself. It keeps me humble, lest I be tempted to draw attention to myself and away from God. When God uses me (of all people) to lead others to a meaningful worship experience, to an encounter with God, then the praise and glory goes rightfully to God Himself.

God Isn’t Safe, But…

Recently I finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with my kids. It is a series of fictional books written by the great Christian author and apologist, C.S. Lewis. I’ve owned my set since I was a kid, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read them, even as an adult. Though they were originally written for children, the simple yet fascinating stories are full of Biblical truths and references that perhaps only adults would pick up on; some subtle, others more obvious.

In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, one of the main characters asks someone if Aslan (the Christ figure) is safe. The answer: “Safe? … Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Putting it another way, many times throughout The Chronicles, characters are reminded that Aslan is not a tame lion.

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks, among believers and non-believers alike, is the fact that God is not ‘safe’ or ‘tame.’ That’s what many people want: a god they can manage or tame, a god who won’t tell them to give up something they want to keep (possessions or habits) and won’t ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Many Christians choose to focus on God’s love, while ignoring His justice or His wrath toward sin. Then there are those who have a hard time understanding how a good God can allow bad things to happen to ‘good’ people, especially when the bad things are the result of the forces of nature, or ‘acts of God.’

But we must remember that God’s ways are often very different from ours (Isaiah 55:8), and God’s perspective is so much bigger than we can understand. Of course God isn’t safe! He has shown throughout the Bible and history that He can cause, or simply allow, all sorts of things to happen that are not safe. But He is good! No matter what happens, God is able to make it work out for good, to those who love God and who follow Him (Romans 8:28).

I believe our worship of God will become richer when we understand and acknowledge that: 1.God isn’t safe, so He deserves our awe and reverence, and 2. God is good, so we can trust Him in all circumstances.

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