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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.


Worship and the Super Bowl

My family enjoys watching the Super Bowl. I love to watch the game, but for my wife and kids, I think they enjoy the commercials most. Plus, the game itself is not as much fun as the fact that we turn it into an event, complete with lots of yummy food, allowing them to stay up a little later than they would on a regular Sunday, and just hanging out together doing something fun as a family.

It got me to thinking, though, as we’ve been preparing to enjoy the Super Bowl this year, how in many different ways the experience of watching a sporting event like the Super Bowl compares to the experience of worship. Over the years I’ve heard sermons, or read articles or devotions that made this comparison, so I thought I’d share some insights. My prayer is that this exercise is at once light hearted as well as thought-provoking.

  1. The argument for not going to church. Some people say (or think) “I can be close to God in the privacy of my own home, by reading my Bible and praying.” Sure, I can watch at home by myself and enjoy the game.  But if I’m at the game, sharing the experience with thousands of others who are there for the same reason, my level of interest and involvement in the game rises dramatically.  I am much more likely to cheer louder, applaud, stand, etc. when spurred on by the crowd around me than if I were at home by myself or even with my family.  I think the parallel to church is clear: we will have a more meaningful interaction with God as we worship with others.

2. Why hold back in worship? While there are some who will sit quietly reserved through the Super Bowl, many (even in the privacy of their homes) will be led to exuberant expressions of ‘praise’ when the team they’re rooting for does something positive. There are those who believe that worship and praise must be reserved and dignified, in order to be reverent.  Certainly that is one way to worship God, and that may be what comes natural to you. But we learn in 2 Samuel 6:14-22 that that is not the only way.  If one is truly worshiping God with all one’s might, if it is done genuinely, then I would encourage the same exuberant expressions of praise that you would give your favorite team.

3. Excuses for not going to church. Admittedly, this one will be more relevant once the pandemic is behind us and it’s safe for everyone to attend worship without restrictions.

The following is a list published several years back in Moody Monthly,plus a few added by Chuck Swindoll, which illustrated various excuses folks might use for “quitting sports.”  Imagine if someone had the chance to attend the Super Bowl, but used any of these excuses not to go.

  • Every time I went to a game, they asked me for money.
  • The people with whom I have to sit don’t seem very friendly.
  • The seats are too hard and not comfortable.
  • The coach has never come to see me.
  • The referee will probably make a decision with which I could not agree.
  • I may be sitting with some hypocrites – who come only to see what others are wearing.
  • Sometimes games go into overtime, and I don’t want to be late getting home.
  • The band will played sons that I have never heard before.
  • The game is scheduled when I want to do other things.
  • My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
  • Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyhow.
  • I don’t want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.
  • The public address and lighting systems don’t suit me.
  • It’s always too hot (or too cold) in the stadium.
  • An usher offended me.
  • The parking lot was awful; I had to walk six blocks to the stadium.

What would happen if we approached worship with the same enthusiasm we give to the Super Bowl, or other sporting events?

Suffering? Disheartened? Worship!

This weekend I led worship for one of my churches, and their current sermon series is from the book of Job. About a week ago, God guided me to choose music that, turns out, matched perfectly with a portion of Job that was the focus for the day. After everything that has been happening in our country this week, I found that once again, God knew what I (and hopefully others who were there or following online) needed to hear. So I thought it may be helpful to you, too, if you are reading this.

For those who may not be familiar with the book of Job, it begins with a series of catastrophes happening around Job, because God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith. Through a series of attacks by enemies and natural disasters, Job lost all his possessions, and all 10 of his children were killed. What was his immediate response?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 

Job 1:20

The tearing of his robe and shaving of his head could be interpreted as signs of grief, but in those days they were typical signs of repentance. But the next thing he did was not to complain to God, or ask God why He would let these things happen; instead, he worshipped God!

So if you’re suffering, or just disheartened, by circumstances in your life or in the world around you, I would encourage you to worship God. It’s a great way to remember that God is bigger than any circumstance, and nothing happens that He is not aware of. We may not understand why He lets certain things happen, but we ought to trust Him nonetheless. That’s really the message of the rest of the book of Job, by the way.

I’ll leave you with some lyrics from a couple of the songs we sang in worship this morning. If you’re looking for a starting place to worship God, I’d recommend listening to them, and maybe even singing along!

Blessed by Your Name when the sun’s shining down on me; when the world’s ‘all as it should be’, blessed be Your Name.

Blessed be Your Name on the road marked with suffering; when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your Name.

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Blessed Be Your Name, by Matt Redman

I count on one thing: the same God that never fails will not fail me now, You won’t fail me now.

In the waiting, the same God who’s never late is working all things out, You’re working all things out.

Yes I will lift You high in the lowest valley. Yes I will bless Your name

Yes I will sing for joy when my heart is heavy.

I choose to praise – to glorify, glorify the Name of all Names that nothing can stand against.

Yes I Will, by Vertical Worship

Why and How to Worship When You’re Not Feeling It

There are times when I feel spiritually worn down. At these times, I relate to the father of the boy with an evil spirit, who told Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24; you can read the full account here)

God promises that by His grace, He will restore, support, strengthen, and establish me (1 Peter 5:10). The Bible also teaches that Jesus is the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

A lot has happened and is still happening this year that can be disappointing, disheartening, discouraging, or even depressing. In times like these, we can get worn down and feel weak in our faith. When we feel this way, it can be challenging to worship God. We don’t feel like it. We don’t feel like it will be honest or genuine to do so. We may wonder if it’s worth our time and energy.

But as Thomas Watson, a 17th century pastor, once said:

We must distinguish between weakness of faith and no faith. A weak faith is true… Though thy faith be weak, be not discouraged. A weak faith may receive a strong Christ… The promise is not made to strong faith, but to true.”

When I feel weak in my faith, I can also be encouraged by remembering that several times throughout the gospels, Jesus told His followers that they had little faith. Yet, Jesus did not give up on them, and He won’t give up on us.

So, when we are feeling weak in our faith, the thing to do is focus on, and trust in, the strength of Christ. When we worship, what matters is not the strength of our faith as much as the strength of the God Whom we worship.

Praise and Thanksgiving

The Bible makes it clear that Thanksgiving and praise/worship go hand in hand. Just a few examples: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His Name.” (Psalm 100:4) “Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22) And one more:

Oh 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. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

Psalm 105:1-3 (NASB)

In today’s Covid-19 world, it can be hard to be thankful. Perhaps you’re not able to visit with family or friends in order to stay safe. Perhaps you’ve suffered economically, physically, or emotionally this year due to all the changes brought on by the pandemic. Perhaps you’ve even had a loved one die this year, from Covid-19 or something else. Does God still expect us to be thankful? Yes: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

But how can we be thankful and praise God when things are not going well? The passage from 1 Thessalonians gives us a few suggestions. First of all, notice that it says to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Whatever the circumstance you’re in, look for something within that circumstance that you can be thankful for. And no matter how difficult the circumstance, God promises to be with those who know and trust in Him. (Matthew 28:20) Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? God allowed them to be thrown into a fiery furnace, but he joined them in it. Secondly, note that in the 1 Thessalonians passage, between the exhortations to be joyful always and give thanks in all circumstances, are two simple words that help us do both: pray continually. When we pray, we can pour our heart out to God, and if we will listen, He will show us what we can be thankful for, no matter the situation.

Psalm 105 is a great model that shows us not only a way we can express thankfulness, but by doing so, it helps us to be thankful in all circumstances. In verse 1, 2 and 5 of that psalm, we are encouraged to remember what God has done for us in the past and tell others about it. This reminds us of the goodness of God, leading us to worship Him. What is just as important, by telling others what God has done, we glorify God, point others toward saving faith in Jesus Christ, and encourage those who already believe. The psalmist then practices what he ‘preaches,’ by using the rest of the psalm (verses 6-45) to give a detailed account of many of the things God did for His chosen people.

This Thanksgiving, I thank and praise God for all the things He has done for me this year. To name a few: He has allowed the business I work in to not only survive, but thrive. He has kept me and my family healthy, and <relatively> free from cabin fever during months of mostly isolation. God helped me to finish a basement build-out, creating a rec room and office, by placing different people and resources in my path when I needed them. Even when we had some minor flooding in our basement, right after I had finished the framing, it “just so happened” that our plumber was already in our neighborhood and so was able to come rather quickly to replace our sump pump before any significant damage was done.

So this Thanksgiving, I recommend that we all take some time to be thankful, to spend time in prayer, and to remember what He has done for you this year – and I especially encourage you to “make His deeds known among the peoples.”

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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