Moments in the life of a Pastor

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 43 The Power of Praise – Part 1

Philippians 4:4-7 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Unable to go to the Philippian church in person because he is in prison, Paul writes and calls them to a life of continual praise. That means praising in the problems not just when everything is going well. But this is the challenge how to keep a perspective of praise during the difficult times. Our human tendency is to stop worshipping and start whining when things don’t go our way. As you look back on this challenging year how much were you focused on praise and how much on the problems? Paul understood problems, his situation was more than just a pesky predicament, its prison, the loss of his friends and his freedom. But for Paul his focus was not on the problems but the praise, as he used the words joy and rejoice over 15 times in this short letter. Praise is the filter that lets us see our past or present predicaments and focus on the joy instead of the junk. How you might ask? First:

  • Praise sees the Person of Jesus not the pain

Paul reminds us that our rejoicing is in Christ not our circumstances, rejoicing is a result of relationship not religion. The peace of Christ is greater than any predicament we may face. Paul’s Prison cell didn’t limit the Lord, Christ was not chained down because of Paul’s circumstances.  I love Corrie ten Boom response when she was released from Ravensbrück concentration camp after being arrested and imprisoned by the Natis, and later learning that her release had been a clerical error, “God does not have problems — only plans.” Today many have replaced the joy of relationship with ritual, stuck in a rut, or wrapped up in the rules of religion. We have traded following Christ for a formula, but relationship is not a recipe we religiously repeat. It’s not about measuring and mixing the right stuff, it’s about the Savior and living together in His light and love. We have traded communion with Christ for convenience, buying into a ready bake religion instead of a relationship. Surrounding ourselves with comfort and preferring a problem free life over the present peace of the Lord. In this life we will have pain, but Paul reminds us of a powerful truth, we have a choice to rejoice. We may not be able to remove the chains of our current circumstance, but we do not have to be bound by the bars of bitterness. This is a call to choose Christ over the crisis, to be motivated by the Master and not the misery. Christians are the victorious not the victims, we are His royal priesthood not raged paupers, we are the redeemed not the ruined. We need to stop living like losers; we need to look to the Lord, to believe in God and let Him guide, not fate, or some uncontrollable force. This is not a seasonal summer joy that is stolen away and swallowed in the snows of winter. No this is a lifestyle of joy, a chorus of choosing Christ. The choice to rejoice is ours every day and to refuse to choose is in itself a choice. Our greatest work is worship, praise that proclaims the power of our King, so we must go to work regardless of the weather. Seasons come and seasons go, circumstances change, but our praise should persist. What are you currently focusing on the problems or the person of Jesus?

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 42 Making Praise a Priority – Part 2

Psalm 150 

1 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! 2 Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! 3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! 4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! 5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. 6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!

As we look at Psalm 150 we see that the greatest number of words between any two “praises” is four and that only happens one time. The rest of the time there are only two words between one praise and the next. It reveals the hurry that the writer was in to praise and the enthusiasm to express what the Lord had done in his life. What if as believers in Jesus Christ we were eager to show that same type of excitement over being a child of God? When was the last time you were out of breath telling someone about Jesus Christ? When was the last time you could hardly complete a sentence because you were talking so fast about Christ? It’s time for us to get excited about God and to be enthusiastic about what He has done for us. After looking at the Call to worship and the Cause of worship we now find ourselves engaged in the: 

•          Concert of Praise – Verse 3-5

Praise should be a concert where we join together, and the psalmist now tells us to praise God through music and includes several instruments. 

Ram’s horn was used to signaling the start of a battle or the successful conclusion and so it indicates not only the start of the worship services but the victory of worship. 

Harp & Lyre are instruments that require skillful hands to play them properly. Our praise of God is not confined to words but should also come through the skill of our hands.

Tambourine and dancing remind us that worship is an active experience and not something that we encounter passively. Today we have become passive in our praise, holding back in our worship because we worry about what other people might think. We have mistaken being reserved as being reverent and in so doing we have lost the point of worship which is to become lost in the worship of God. Getting to that place where nothing and no one else matters because in that moment it is all about God. Do you let go with God, do you praise with abandon?

Strings & Flute give us the picture of a large group of instruments, much like an orchestra which is made up of many different individuals worshipping as one. God loves diverse worship with different ways of expressing praise, lots of participants but one recipient. The most important part of praise is that you have a part to play in worship. What would happen to the orchestra if the pianist stopped playing or if the violin section didn’t show? You are a part of God’s church and your part of the praise matters. Praise requires participation and when we don’t show we are stealing His praise. We don’t just rob God of reverence we rob ourselves from the opportunity to lose ourselves in Him.

Cymbals reveal the intensity of worship, the clashing and crashing that creates emotion and depth to our praise. What if we praised God with all of the intensity that we could muster? This list of instruments represented everyone that they had available to them to be used and we must praise God with everything that we have. Lastly we see the:

•          Crescendo of Praise – Verse 6

Crescendo is a musical term that refers to the building of a musical piece to its climax or its finale. This seems to fit the purpose of this psalm and the priority of praise. This is the last psalm and the call is for the whole earth to give praise to God. It calls every living thing in the universe to worship the one true God. Praise calls the world to a choice, worship God or worship self. What will be the crescendo of your life, the crowning achievement, what you accomplish or your adoration? Today we have drifted away from worship on the waves of self-praise whose current carries us far from God. The psalmist’s last cry is one of praise what will your life and lips reveal, your love for the Lord or something else?