Praise and Worship


Psalms 134-136 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: “His faithful love endures forever” 

@ Psalm 136
Psalm 136!  The perfect Psalm to read during the Thanksgiving season. Thanksgiving is the day we commemorate the early settlers of our great land who paused after a bountiful harvest to celebrate and give thanks to God for their blessings.  Unfortunately, we would be hard pressed to discover to whom they were giving thanks if searching through our current history books. The honoree is seldom mentioned.

Abraham Lincoln, the President who proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving, had no qualms about giving thanks where thanksgiving was due:  “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863)  Amen!

The writer of Psalm 136 was proclaiming thanks with an overflowing heart of praise and gratitude, and there is no doubt he knew who should receive the praise and thanksgiving as well, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.” (1-3)  His praise, too, went to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

In verses 4-9, God receives thanks for the miraculous creator that He is. Verses 10-16, He is honored for His faithful guidance through the challenges of life.  His protection and powerful rule are praised in verses 17-22.  And in verses 23-26, God receives thanks for His personal blessings to our lives – His mercy, salvation and provision.   Each word of thanks is followed by yet another attribute of God for which to be thankful, “His faithful love endures forever.”

Our early pilgrims had survived a year of hardship and trials, but when they came through it, they were grateful to the One who had blessed them with His faithful provision.  In the midst of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln paused to give thanks to His beneficent Father.  And we, regardless of the struggles we may be facing should offer praise and thanksgiving to the One who will see us through to victory.

As we express our thanks for our country, our family and our friends, let’s thank Him for being our miraculous Creator. Let’s thank Him for His faithful guidance, His protection and His blessings. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below…” (Doxology) 

Moving Forward: Blessed beyond measure and so very thankful for His faithful love, I praise Him today, tomorrow and every day!

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 9-10

Ezra 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Styles come and go, but He never changes

My laptop PC had served me well for several years.  I understand most of the nuances and foibles of my Windows PC, and I’m comfortable with it, like a pair of well broken-in shoes.  It was with reluctance that I accepted the necessity to buy a new laptop, but it was time. Voices were encouraging me to make a change, a change for the better they said, change to a…Mac.  Help! They promise no viruses, user-friendly computing, amazing video editing and on and on.  I like things the way they are, and who needs change?  Maybe…no…well, I just don’t know…but it may be the way to go…but it’s just not me…I could learn to like it…to Mac or not to Mac. Hmmm… 

@ Ezra 3
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets…With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (3:10,11-13)  Change can be difficult.

I am almost positive I have heard the “joyful shouting and the weeping mingled together” in some of our church services throughout the land.  Church just isn’t the same as it was years ago.  Newer music, relaxed style of dress and quicker paced services are just a few of the changes that many churches have grown into over the past few years.  Many seasoned believers feel disconnected from the church where they had experienced so many wonderful moments with the Lord – the new Temple is just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

History reveals quite a shake-up in the church world when the now somewhat disconnected believers were younger.  Coming out of more liturgical services, they started to accept gospel songs, clapping, raising hands to God and even shouting at times.  I’ve read that the elders from their former churches thought they had lost all respect and reverence for God; but of course, they had not.  Their new-found freedom in the Lord was in keeping with the day in which they lived, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the church.  But to some, the new Temple was just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

After 40 years in youth and young adult ministry, I can say that the current generation, with very few exceptions, does not really understand the style of the past.  As a rule, it doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t reach them and without some new wineskins for the new wine God is pouring out today, they may be lost for eternity.

When I worship in church today, beyond the music and the style, I am most blessed by seeing people’s lives changed by the power of God, and that is really the bottom line for me.  If I didn’t see this taking place in my church, I would find a place where it was happening.  Methods and music style, whether new or old, without the touch of God are simply entertainment.  The temple may not look anything like the temple of my youth, but I’m not going to weep because too many young lives are finding the Savior.  Hear my joyful shouting!

Moving Forward:  I’m rejoicing today over lives being changed by the power of God.  It may be a different approach, but it’s the same God and the same power. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 131-133

Zephaniah (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  With purified speech, we will worship Him one day with one voice

It’s a thrill for me to worship in some of the International Churches of Europe.  It’s like enjoying an appetizer to the feast we will have when all nations and all tribes worship and praise the Living God together in Heaven. The worshipers who attend International Churches are from every continent, representing dozens of language groups with English as their second language.  Their proficiency in English varies a great deal, and I quickly learned to cut out the American colloquialisms, slow my speech down and make every word count when I speak with them.  These precious people are patient and responsive; and at the end of the day, God’s presence touches our lives. Zephaniah prophesied that one day, and probably one day soon, language will no longer be a barrier for us. 

@ Zephaniah 3
“Then I will purify the speech of all people, so that everyone can worship the Lord together. My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings.  On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed, for you will no longer be rebels against me. I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you.  There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain. Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.” (9-12)  Many scholars believe that this passage only references a reversal of the language division at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, but I tend to agree with others who believe that this purification of speech has an even greater meaning.

The Israelites at the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy had tainted their speech with the worship of many idols, as did all the nations of that day.  But a day is coming when the Israel and all others will come through the fire of purification where the speech from their lips will only worship the Living God in humbleness and unity.

One day we will not be concerned about language barriers.  All who love Him will worship the Lord around the throne in one voice, one tongue and one heart.  “He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20) 

Moving Forward: I will be certain that my speech is pure today and that it gives glory and honor to the true and living God and Him alone.

Tomorrow @ Acts 11-12

Psalms 114-116 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He alone deserves our praise and worship

I have never been a big American Idol fan. There I’ve said it! I realize I’ve opened myself up to much ridicule and rejection; but that’s alright, I can take it.  From the limited Idol I’ve watched, I’ve mostly heard very bad singing and mindless pontificating from semi-qualified judges at best.  Due to its vast popularity, I’m assuming very few share my viewpoint.

Moving past entertainment, I don’t really understand the whole idol thing in general.  The worship of icons, statues or any tangible thing seems so limiting.  Would something I could hold in my hand or control in any way really deserve my worship?  I don’t think so.  The writer of Psalm 115 didn’t get it either. 

@Psalm 115
“Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.  They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (4-8)

The one thing these idols can do, and do very well I might add, is collect dust.  But idols come in many different shapes, from long sought-after objects to individuals who require much of our attention.  The reason we’re drawn to the tangible to give our respect and devotion is due to our humanity, our desire to touch and to hold.  But any person, place or thing that we can hold or manipulate in any way disqualifies itself of receiving our worship and devotion.

Although these counterfeits scream for our attention and affection, the One who deserves our worship cannot fit in a box, on a shelf, in a room or…anywhere.  “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!  All who delight in Him should ponder themEverything He does reveals His glory and majesty.  His righteousness never fails.” (111:2-3)  “He hears my voice…He bends down to listen…The Lord protects…He has saved me from death…The Lord cares deeply…” (116:1-5) “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?” (113:5)  He hears, He protects, He saves, He cares – just to mention a few of the limitless attributes of our living God.

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!  He is to be feared above all gods.  The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens!…Give to the Lord the glory He deserves!…Worship the Lord in all His Holy splendor.” (Psalm 96:4-9) Worship the Lord, worship the Lord alone! 

Moving Forward: Let idols and counterfeits entice all they want, I will give my devotion today to the only One who is worthy, the true and living God. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 26-27

Psalms 108-110 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His goodness fills us with songs of praise

We’ve all heard the old joke, “Did you wake up grumpy this morning?”  “No, I just went ahead and let him sleep.”  So often God puts together a night owl and a morning person in marriage – challenges right from the start!  We all know that chipper morning person who jumps out of bed ready to take on the day, and then we know the night owl who considers morning totally unnecessary.  Some of us are both, and we burn the candle at both ends never getting enough sleep.  I love the morning, but I really don’t want to talk about it until I’ve had at least one stiff belt of coffee.  Regardless of our mindset about morning, we can open our eyes each day with a confidence in our hearts that only God can give just like David did.

@Psalm 108
“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!  Wake up, lyre and harp!  I will wake the dawn with my song.” (1-2)  In Psalm 108, David repeated these verses from Psalm 57, and I think this passage bears repeating as well.  (See May 17@Psalms 57-59)  I must admit I’ve started some days with my joy being tested.  Negative thoughts and feelings have overwhelmed me and trying to kick-start the day is like biking uphill – it’s hard work.

David expressed the right way to start the day.  He woke up confident, not in himself but confident in the One who gave him the day, “This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  We certainly had nothing to do with the making of this day, and if He found it valuable enough to give it to us, then we probably should be thankful for it.  David woke up thankful, “I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.  I will sing your praises among the nation.”(3)  And he woke up praising, “For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.  May your glory shine over all the earth.”(4-5)  There’s just no room for gloom or doom when we’re focused on Him.

It’s impossible to wake up grumpy when our first thoughts are on the Lord and His goodness to us, as well as taking care of our last thoughts before we fall asleep.  I often find myself singing a song I heard a few years ago, “I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus…I saw the sun rise and I felt the gentle breeze blow.  I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus.” (Jordan) The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in my cup – it’s Jesus on my mind. 

Moving Forward:  Confident, thankful, praising and with my mind on Jesus – it’s going to be a great day! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 23-24

Psalms 96-98 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is great and worthy of all praise! 

@ Psalm 96
Sing a new song to the Lord!”(1)  One dimension of this verse has come to life today in our church services and worship music.  Creative young souls are writing songs filled with a heart of love for the Lord, and I enjoy their expressions, their rhythm and their passion.  Their anointed songs are new and represent their understanding of who God is as well as their experience with Him. But then, I also enjoy the old songs of the church, the hymns and gospel songs of long ago when creative young souls wrote songs filled with a heart of love for the Lord.  The new songs and the old are all wonderful testimonies of God’s presence in our lives.

However, I believe the writer is not really intending new to mean a song that is different or newly written, but more so one that is a fresh and up-to-the-minute response to God’s goodness and greatness in our lives.  It may be a newly written song or an old one, but regardless, it is a song that is fresh from our hearts to Him.  Sometimes when He displays His power and majesty in my life, it causes me to burst out with a spontaneous new song that no one has ever sung before, fresh from my heart.  It’s for His ears only and that’s probably a good thing.

When a new song is vibrant in our hearts and minds, the Psalm goes on to tell us what to do with it, “Each day proclaim the good news that He saves. Publish His glorious deeds among the nationsTell everyone about the amazing things He does.  Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!”(2-3) 

Each day

1) proclaim – publicly state or make known

2) publish – print, distribute, circulate, announce

3) tell – inform, advise, enlighten.

Share about His salvation and the amazing things He does with everyone, everywhere. How are we going to do that along with all our other responsibilities?  If the song is there, the fresh song, we will find a way!

For 40 plus years, my friends Jim and Della found a way to share their song with at least one person every day, everywhere they went.  Jim was quite the rascal before he found the Lord, and he never forgot the freedom that came to his bound-up soul the day he accepted Jesus as his Savior.  His eyes always filled with tears when he shared his 40 year-old-song because it was fresh in his heart, and he wanted everyone to experience it.  Jim and Della led hundreds of people to the Lord by sharing their song each day, one soul at a time, everywhere they went.  If the song is fresh, we will find a way to share it.

“Publish His glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” (3)  If God has allowed us the privilege, and I do mean privilege, of going on a mission’s trip or outreach, we understand the great need, the great opportunity and the great sacrifice of sharing our song to the nations.  For most, the going and telling the nations each day is impossible, but God has appointed those to serve as our representatives, our hands and feet if you will, to go to the nations – our missionaries.

Because their song is fresh and up-to-the-minute, our representatives leave family, friends and comforts to go share the good news of His salvation and good deeds with everyone, every day.  Their tools include Bibles, books and lessons that our monies publish or announce through wonderful mission’s groups like Wycliffe, Life Publishers (Book of Hope) and Light for the Lost.  Our missionaries represent new songs proclaimed, published and told to the nations every day!

If our song is new, fresh and up-to-the-minute, we can’t help but share the good news of God’s salvation and greatness with those we meet each day.  And if our song is new, fresh and up-to-the-minute, we can’t help but support our representatives who take our song to the nations.  It’s time to sing a new song!

Moving Forward:  The song is new and fresh today – I can’t help but sing!

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 17-18

John 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth

It’s difficult to communicate with people when we’re not on the same page as them, so to speak.  Our focus may be different, perhaps our understanding of the thing we’re discussing is not the same or maybe attitude is an issue.  Regardless of the cause, we’re well aware when we lack agreement and harmony in a dialogue.  In John 4, Jesus gave some powerful advice to the Samaritan woman about successful communication with our Father

@ John 4
The Samaritan woman at the well approached her conversation with Jesus with many issues regarding her race, her lifestyle and her worship. Jesus introduced her to the Living Water and answered her question about the proper place to worship with a powerful key to communicating with God. “The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (23-24)

Jesus put to rest the dialogue about where to worship and focused on how to worship.  It was a new time, gone were the old traditions and typical ways of Old Testament worship, and now was the time for true worship – His coming changed everything!

Through the acceptance of Jesus and His salvation, we are no longer confined to a certain place or tradition of worship, but we have access to Him anywhere, any time because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  But how do we worship Him in spirit and in truth?

True worship is not done out of obligation or tradition, but it is offered out of sincerity and a genuine desire to express love and adoration for God – this is truth.  Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8 when He quoted Isaiah regarding the Pharisees, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Worship in truth comes from a heart so full of Him that there’s little room for anything else, when our lips express what is truly in our hearts.  At these moments of true worship we are not thinking in the back of our minds about the errands we need to run or the roast in the oven or the next appointment because our thoughts of Him have filled our hearts and minds.  It’s not as though we can fool Him.

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17)  My most genuine spirit worship comes when I worship Him for who He is in relationship to who I am not.  It’s difficult to worship Him for the immensity of His greatness and goodness when there’s even an ounce of pride in any great or good in me.  “Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.  You have done such wonderful things.  Who can compare with you, O God?” (Psalm 71:19)

When the magnitude of His greatness shakes me to my knees in humility and brokenness, my spirit, my inner man, can truly worship in spirit the God who is Spirit.  Same focus, same understanding, same attitude – on the same page, so to speak.

True worship is sincere, attentive, heart-felt and spirit-humbled communication with the Father that can take place anywhere and anytime because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  Because He has to look for it, apparently true worship isn’t something that flows easily from His children, “The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way,” (23)  Oh, that He will find in each one of us what He is looking for today! 

Moving Forward: I join with David, a true worshiper, and pray, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

Tomorrow @ I Timothy 1-3

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