Poetry Saturday—Praise II

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King of Glorie, King of Peace,
      I will love Thee:
And that love may never cease,
      I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request,
      Thou hast heard me:
Thou didst note my working breast,
      Thou hast spar’d me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
      I will sing Thee,
And the cream of all my heart
      I will bring Thee.

Though my sinnes against me cried,
      Thou didst cleare me;
And alone, when they replied,
      Thou didst heare me.

Sev’n whole dayes, not one in seven,
      I will praise Thee.
In my heart, though not in heaven,
      I can raise Thee.

Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears,
      Thou relentedst:
And when Justice call’d for fears,
      Thou disentedst.

Small it is, in this poore sort
      To enroll Thee:
Ev’n eternitie is too short
      To extoll thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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The Incomparable Jesus

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C.S. Lewis, like many atheists, wondered if the God of the Bible might be an egomaniac because He is always encouraging people to praise Him. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis wrote a thoughtful response to this after he had become a Christian: 

“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ … I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. … This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise even such things to perfection—utterly ‘get out’ in poetry or music or pain the upsurge of appreciation which almost bursts you? Then indeed the object would be fully appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be.” 

His phrase, “our expressions are inadequate” is especially true when we are attempting to appreciate and praise the Infinite, the Eternal, the Omnipresence, the Omnipotence of our God and Savior! But the biblical authors call for Christians to mature in this—we want to keep praising, keep expressing, until we finally find the perfect fulfillment in His presence. 

Paul talks about the maturing nature of love—when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child (1 Corinthians 13:11)—but then he prays for us to grow in both our understanding and our expressions of our Savior’s love (Ephesians 1:17-19). 

I like the wording of Ephesians 1:19 in the King James Version: the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward. The word “exceeding” means God pours out in a way that is beyond human imagining. The Greek word that Paul uses for “greatness” is only used here, and it reinforces the truth that God is beyond our full comprehension. And then Paul adds that this overflowing, incomparable power is directed “to us-ward”! 

Paul then prays for us to be able to understand ever-increasing new dimensions of this transcendent power and ability that God directs to us through His Son Jesus, and for us to be able to express it (Ephesians 3:14-19). In other words, we are to grow in our experience of Jesus so that we can grow in our praise to Jesus. 

The incomparable Jesus means at least four things for us. It means Jesus is…

  1. …beyond comparison. Isaiah, God Himself, and the psalmists ask rhetorically, “Who is like God? Who could ever compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:13-14, 18, 25; Psalm 89:5-8).  
  1. …matchless in His power. Isaiah 40:12 says God holds the waters of the world in the hollow of His hand. How much water is this? Scientists estimate the Earth’s water supply to be 326 quintillion gallons of water (that’s 326 followed by 18 zeros)! Not only does God hold all of the water, but He directs its activities on behalf of His children (Exodus 15:11-13). 
  1. …unequaled in knowledge. Isaiah 40:12, 26 tell us that all of the stars in our universe fit onto God’s outstretched hand, and that He knows all of the stars by name. How many stars is this? Astronomers calculate the heavens to contain 10 septillion stars (that’s 10 followed by 24 zeros)! Not only does God know each star by name, He knows each human by name, and the smallest of details about each of them (Isaiah 49:16; Matthew 10:29-31). 
  1. …inimitable in His care. We humans can get to the end of our strength, but God never does. He cares for us unlike anyone else or anything else ever can (Isaiah 40:28-31). The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17). 

Knowing we have a Savior like this, why would you ever settle for anything less The Genuine?! 

Our incomparable Jesus wants us to pray in His incomparable name so that our incomparable Father can answer in a way that brings Him incomparable glory! We’re helped, He’s lifted up, and others are drawn to Him. 

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If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on prayer, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—All For Jesus

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All for Jesus! All for Jesus!
All my being’s ransomed power;
All my thoughts and words and doings;
All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform His bidding;
Let my feet run in His ways;
Let mine eyes see Jesus only;
Let my lips speak forth His praise.

Worldlings prize their gems of beauty,
Cling to gilded toys of dust;
Boast of wealth, and fame, and pleasure;
Only Jesus will I trust.

Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside—
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.

Oh what wonder! How amazing!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings. —Mary Dagworthy James

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Hope-Fueled Praise

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Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. (Psalm 71:12) 

This is the middle verse of this psalm and the heart of this psalm’s message. This verse speaks not only of God’s omnipresence and His omnipotence, but it also speaks of a lifelong, increasing awareness of His presence and power. 

What a blessing to know that I have a sure Rock to which I can always go (v. 3), and a Savior whom I have had as my confidence since my youth (v. 5). This hopeful assurance causes me to praise God—the more I hope, the more I praise. As a result, my praise grows from an occasional response, to a daily practice, to a moment-by-moment lifestyle. 

Listen to these words from the psalmist: 

  • I will ever praise You
  • my mouth is filled with Your praise, declaring Your splendor all day long 
  • I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more 
  • my mouth will tell of Your righteousness, of Your salvation all day long 
  • I declare Your marvelous deeds 
  • my tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long

My hope fuels my praise. My praise strengthens my hope. The more I realize hope, the more I praise God, and the more I praise God, the more hope-filled I become! 

My friend, there are more reasons to praise God than you can possibly count but go ahead and start counting them anyway. As the words of the old hymn remind us, “Count your blessings, name them one by one … and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” 

May our tongues be continually telling of God’s blessings, and may our praise be continually filling us with renewed hopefulness of His future blessings! 

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Global And Personal

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You who answer prayer … You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior…. Shout for joy to God, all the earth! (Psalm 65:2, 5; 66:1). 

Psalms 65 and 66 tell of God’s awesome involvement in our lives. He is both globally involved and personally involved. He’s not too big to care for my needs, and He’s not so preoccupied with me that He is unaware of global events. 

Look at the grandeur of our Creator—

  • You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness 
  • You are the hope of all the ends of the earth 
  • You formed the mountains by Your power
  • You stilled the roaring of the seas 
  • You care for the land and water it; You enrich it abundantly 
  • Your carts overflow with abundance 
  • all of creation shouts for joy and sings praise to You
  • all the earth says, “How awesome are Your deeds!” and bows down to You in praise 
  • You rule forever by Your power, Your eyes watch the nations 
  • how awesome are Your works on man’s behalf! 

And yet He is not just God of global events, but He is intimately involved with each and every person. He notices me! 

The psalmist says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.” Then he tells how God…

  • forgave my sin
  • listened to my prayer
  • honored my prayer 
  • has not withheld His love from me 

Oh, come and see! See how awesome God is that the earth trembles before Him. See how awesomely loving He is that He stoops to listen to me. He is indeed a global God but He is also an intimately personal God. 

The more we know our God in both His majesty and His intimacy, the more we will praise Him.

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(Im)Patiently Waiting?

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I waited patiently for the Lord … You are my God, do not delay (Psalm 40:1, 17). 

These bookend verses—the first and last verses of the 40th Psalm—are humorous to me. I wonder: Is David saying something like, “I’ve waited long enough, c’mon, God, let’s get moving”? 

Not exactly.

The first part of this psalm is a backward look that recounts all that God has already done for David: He heard me, He lifted me out of a pit, He set me on a firm place, He put a new song in my mouth (vv. 1-3). While the end of this psalm is David’s anticipation of what is still to come: the enemies of God turned back, and the saints of God rejoicing in His deliverance (vv. 11-17). 

The backward look in gratitude fuels the forward look in expectant hope.

In the meantime, in the middle of this psalm—between the backward look and the forward look—David is living as a testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness:

  • many will see how God has delivered me and put their trust in Him 
  • I speak of Your deeds 
  • I listen to You and proclaim what You speak to me 
  • I do not hide Your righteousness 
  • I speak of Your faithfulness (vv. 3-16) 

This is a good lesson for us: Our continual praise and proclamation of God’s goodness is what connects our gratitude to our hope!

So in looking at these bookends verses again, I think that what David is saying is something like, “Father, I have so many good things already to say about how You have provided for me, so do not delay in moving again so that I have even more to share with others! Let many see Your hand on my life so that they too may learn to fear and trust You. Amen.” 

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Poetry Saturday—Easter

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Break the box and shed the nard;

Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ‘tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day. —Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Soul-Calming Peace

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…the Lord blesses His people with peace (Psalm 29:11). 

Please forgive me for the use of so many exclamation points in this post, but it’s the only way I can even begin to come close to portraying the awesomeness of our God!  

What brings peace to God’s people? David says it is the glimpse of God’s awesome power—

  • the God of glory thunders! 
  • His voice is powerful! 
  • His voice is majestic! 
  • His voice splits cedar trees! 
  • lightning and thunder cannot compare to His voice! 
  • His voice shakes the deserts! 
  • His voice twists oak trees and strips forests! 
  • He is enthroned as the King over all forever and ever!

Count all of the ways God is awesome! Give Him praise that is equally great! Tremble at His weighty, majestic holiness! Be filled with the awe of His strength! And let this bring you peace.

Why? 

Because this awesome, glorious, omnipotent, majestic, powerful, unrivaled, holy God wants to be in a relationship with you! He cares about you! He will unleash His power against any enemy that comes against you! What brings peace to your trembling soul? A glimpse of this awesome God! 

The awesome strength of your God IS your soul-calming peace! 

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The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—How Good Is The God We Adore

How good is the God we adore!
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend:
His love is as great as His pow’r
And knows neither measure nor end.

For Christ is the first and the last;
His Spirit will guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past
and trust Him for all that’s to come. —Joseph Hart

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