Missions

The Power of Praise

worshipWhen I was on the Northstar Project with Cru during the summers of ’85 & ’86, I learned a children’s worship song, that we were encouraged to sing when times got tough during our missionary efforts in the former Soviet Union. The lyrics were so simple, but every time I sang them, I sensed the enemy flee. The song, It’s Amazing What Praising Can Do, simply went like this:

It’s amazing what praising can do,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
It’s amazing what praising can do,
Hallelujah.
I don’t worry when things go wrong,
Jesus fills my heart with a song.
It’s amazing what praising can do,
Hallelujah.

In Psalm 89:15 , the psalmist declares, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord.” In this passage, we discover that there is power in praise. And my experience tells me this is true for when I have personally made the decision to fix my eyes on God, and give Him praise, no matter what’s staring me in the face, I begin to experience the release of those struggles over me.

I have been thinking about the power of praise today, and in looking at the Scriptures, here are some reasons I have found to praise God…

Praising God produces a revived and rejoicing heart when we are downcast and discouraged.

Notice that praising God is a choice we make and how praising God lifts our souls in Psalm 63:1-4, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You.”

Praising God raises an awareness of how we have fallen short, and leads us to confess, repent, and appropriate His forgiveness.

In Isaiah 6:1-5 we read that, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Praising generates triumphant faith.

One of the most striking illustrations of this is found in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat and Judea are about to be attacked by their enemies. Jehoshaphat calls the people to prayer and fasting to seek the Lord regarding how they should respond. The Lord tells them not to worry because the battle isn’t theirs but His. He gives them the battle plan and assures them of His presence and deliverance. Jehoshaphat then does something incredible: he appoints a choir to go ahead of the army, singing and praising the Lord for His holiness. Jehoshaphat demonstrated great faith in God’s plan by appointing a choir to lead His army into battle. In an awesome demonstration of great faith, they marched off singing, praising, and thanking the Lord for His enduring love. And here is what happened as a result: As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated (2 Chronicles 20:22).

Praise invites His presence.

God dwells close to us when we praise Him. He lives there. He looks for it.  As it says in Psalm 22:3, God “inhabits the praises of His people.”

As Christ followers we have a choice every day…To live in the worry and stress of our self-absorbed, fast track world. Or, we can ask God to help us take our eyes off all that may be swirling around us and to look up to Him, the One who holds it all together! And as the classic hymn goes, when we do, we will see that “the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

God longs for us to know the power of His presence. He desires to bless us more than we could imagine. His Spirit urges us onward, calling us closer. And in response to His invitation, may we open our mouths and sing, for its amazing what praising can do!

How to Stay Anchored

anchoredKnowing that life is full of up and downs as the waves of life pound our way, here’s three things we need to do in order to stay anchored in Christ…

  1. Know Your Captain – One of the things that causes us to drift from God, is our own worry/fear or indifference. We have a hard time trusting God, so we take things into our own hands or say that we really don’t care. However, it’s our level of faith and understanding of who God is, that will determine how far we’ll drift or the degree to which our faith will be shaken. As it states in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Therefore, if you want to stay anchored in the midst of life’s storms, you need to get to know the Lord, understand his character and remember his promises.
  2. Know Your Commission – When a yacht or vessel is commissioned, it means it has received and passed a sea trial, whereby a complete and through inspection of the vessel has taken place and determined that it is seaworthy. So a commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service! The same is true in Christ. Once we come into relationship with God…we are commissioned into service (Matthew 28:18-20). Part of knowing our commission, is living out our identify in Christ. Remember, Jesus doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. And because he has called you, he will equip you. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You have been commissioned and knowing that commission will help you not to drift.
  3. Know Your Course – Hebrews 12:1 states, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” What is the course that God has marked out for you? Well the course is part of God’s plan for you. These are the “good works” that Ephesians 2:10 refers to. But if you don’t know the course, you’ll end up never knowing where to go, or how to get there! You’ll drift. In the book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby discusses that if you want to know God’s will, you must respond to His invitation to love Him wholeheartedly. That goes back to knowing your captain! As you get to know your captain and your commission, I believe you’ll discover your game plan. But beware, if you don’t have one, then you will drift!

What Would I Have Seen?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share a brief devotional, along with an incredible team of teachers, on the events of Palm Sunday, from the perspective of the crowd. Each of us got 5 minutes to unpack Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem. It was a powerful service. Feel free to watch the whole service or just dial in about 34 minutes into the video to catch my part.

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick, who lived in the Fifth Century, was originally from Britain. He was captured and shipped to Ireland, which at the time was a violent, dark land of warlords and Druids, and endured six years of servitude as a slave. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer, and he emerged with a strong, unbreakable bond with Jesus. He grew spiritually deep and wise, and gave himself in service to his Lord. He escaped the captors and returned to Britain. Later, God strongly led him to return to Ireland as a missionary. His courageous ministry, braving danger at every turn, ushered Christianity into the entire land. This powerful prayer is often attributed to him…

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

Day of God & American Independence

Back in 1986, I spent the 4th of July in the Soviet Union. I remember that day like yesterday! And for the last 26 years, I have reflected back on it with fond memories. You see, on that day, a Soviet college student named Alex and I met on the streets of Leningrad and struck up a conversation about America and God. Alex so wanted to be an American. He had heard so much about this land of freedom. And despite the Soviet propaganda of the time, he believed America was a land of hope.

Being that he wanted to be an American, I mentioned to Alex that on every 4th of July, America pauses to give thanks to God for their freedom and independence. We talked about how America’s freedom came with a sacrifice; and we eventually talked about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of everyone in the world, in order to know and experience freedom in Christ. It was a long conversation, one that led way into the morning hours. In fact, with the white nights of now St. Petersburg, we were completely unaware of how late it was and almost missed getting back over the bridge, in order to get back to our hotel for the night.

Before meeting Alex, he had never heard of God. But he was so intrigued by our conversation, especially after showing him our American currency, which says, “In God We Trust,” that he was willing to make certain sacrifices in order to engage in a conversation about spiritual things. That night as the taxi dropped us off at the hotel, Alex thanked us for spending the day with him. And as we parted ways, his last words to me where, “Today will always be known to me as the Day of God and American Independence!”

Twenty-six years later, I still remember my day with Alex and pause to pray for him. I don’t know if he ultimately got to America. I don’t know if he remembers our conversation. I don’t know what God is doing in his life. But God does. And I hope that one day in heaven, there will be a man named Alex who taps me on the shoulder and says, “I never forgot the Day of God and American Independence!”

Happy 4th of July!

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