How praise is made possible

the-cross

Reflections based on Hebrews 13:11–16

‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.’

I believe that this passage is a great reminder of our need for a saviour, and the ultimate sacrifice that he had to pay. Before He came, communion with God was only possible through a hugely complicated set of rules and animal sacrifices. Jesus’ death did away with such rituals and opened up the way to the Father.

Let’s ponder Jesus’ sacrifice a little more. Remember the agonising struggle that He had in Gethsemane when he thought about what was about to happen to him? Take a look at Matthew 26:36–46. ‘My soul is overwhelmed’ seems like a very apt description but somewhat inadequate too! Thinking about His humanity, Jesus must have been petrified at this point and yet He was still able to pray: ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Wow. But thank goodness He was able to do that, as it is only through what He suffered and endured, and then fought and conquered through His resurrection, that we are able to have a relationship with God. Today we are able to worship God freely, without needing to go through a priest.

While Jesus paid the sacrifice for our sins in a way we are totally incapable of doing for ourselves, God does still ask us for sacrifice. We are told to take up our cross on a daily basis (Luke 9:23). We are also asked to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:1–4). But when each of these things is done from an attitude of thankfulness and remembrance of what Jesus has done for us, they don’t seem like so much of a sacrifice do they?

Prayer: Thank you Lord for paying the price that I could not for my salvation. Help me to live in the light of what you’ve done, remembering to take up my own personal cross daily as well as put on an attitude of thankfulness and praise.

Lips that praise/lips that curse

general-background

Reflections based on Matthew 15:1–20.

‘What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’

Here Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and teachers of the law that had come to Him to try to trip Him up. He closely reflects what is said in Isaiah 29:13: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’

What Jesus was trying to get across to them was that worship is not about just paying lip service. He explains that it is what comes out of a person’s lips that makes them unclean because it is out of the overflow of his heart that a man speaks. This is a sobering thought and prompts me to ask – what are you like when no one is looking? In church, even at work, we can put on a show of behaving like Christians and yet, behind closed doors, the reality can be very different. Ironically, the one that we profess to follow and worship sees it all – and knows us to the very depths of our beings. What He wants from us is a walk of worship that is full of integrity day in day out.

‘Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.’ (James 3:10) This verse reveals to me that part of our daily worship is to keep a check on our tongues, possibly because I know it is an area that I need to work on further! Words of healing but also words that cut and hurt can come out of the very same mouth at various times in a day, but here we are being reminded that there is something vitally wrong with this.

Prayer: Use the following psalm as a prayer. ‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ (Psalm 19:14)

 

God reveals; we respond

sky-and-sun

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.’

Reflections based on Psalm 19:1–11

Going back through the books I have on worship, I was struck once more by how many of them focused on worship as a response to what we know about God. This makes so much sense as it is only out of revelation that we can make a heartfelt response. And yet how often do we try and worship out of a dry and unfed bank of revelation? One writer simply suggested that if we aren’t very good at worshipping it’s because we don’t know our God very well. Ouch. I know there are seasons in which worshipping is harder, and we will look at that specifically later on, but there is a basic truth to what they said.

So where should we go to find out more about God? His Word is the obvious place and a great starting point is the psalms, such as the one we’ve read today. It’s there that we learn of the absolute awesomeness of God and yet, more than that, are reminded that He knows even the number of hairs on our heads and wants a personal relationship with us. What incredible truths!

Spend some time soaking those truths in. The more science discovers about the universe the more we can be in awe of the God who, as Graham Kendrick’s song ‘The Servant King’ so beautifully describes, ‘flung the stars into space’*. And yet He also knows every intimate detail of our lives and wants to spend time with us.

I love the way that Psalm 19 paints such a vivid picture of how God’s own creation literally pulsates with the truth about Him – that everything reveals His glory. It also reveals how God’s laws and commands are ordered and right. That to me shows His care for humanity.

Meditation: Sit quietly and write down some of the things this psalm reveals to you about God. Try and write a response in the form of a prayer, thank you letter, psalm or song.

*Graham Kendrick Copyright © 1983 Thankyou Music/Adm. by Capitol CMG Publishing worldwide excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integritymusic.com, a division of David C Cook songs@integritymusic.com Used by Permission.

Life is short…

Memorial services are great for bringing perspective.

I recently attended one for a dear guy who, at one stage of our lives, was extremely instrumental in our continuing faith journey. He was the first small group leader we had in the church we attended more than 20 years ago. We’ve since moved on from that church, moving home to help start another church in a nearby community.

What shocked us about this situation was that his death was sudden – and he was so young (just four years older than my husband). So there we were, a group of people that had come back together from various corners of the country to celebrate and acknowledge the life of this unassuming man who had had an impact on us.

He had been a somewhat clumsy, awkward guy, but so friendly and gentle. Everyone who paid tribute to him recognised those qualities. But they also talked about his absolute assurance of the truth of the gospel. Although a scientist, he had had no problem marrying his faith with scientific fact, and his faith had been the stronger for it.

As I sat listening to people speaking that day, I suddenly heard a gentle whisper:

What would people be saying if it were you? How would people describe you?

I know that the word ‘gentle’ would certainly not be among the words used. Unfortunately that’s not a natural character trait for me…

But would there be the things I would hope for, such as: kind, loyal, honest, authentic, faith-filled, inspiring, encouraging? Or would there be, as I suspect I’m viewed as currently: over-busy, stressed, aloof, overbearing, difficult to approach, emotional?

I know I’m overstating the case somewhat, but sitting there that day made me take stock:

What is it I’m investing my time and efforts in, and are they worthwhile?

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