Applaud God Loud and Often
Scripture Reading – Psalms 138, Psalms 148:1-7
Recently, one day, while having my devotion, I was just praising God, telling Him all the good things about Him. And I could actually hear God, breaking into a kind of giggles and He seemed to be saying, ‘some more’. It was like when you are talking to a person and the person is holding his mouth and giggling. That was how I felt about God. He was flattered and in a way happy and he was actually encouraging me to go on in the praises of Him, asking what more did I have to say about Him. I was surprised. I felt He was pleased with my praises of Him and wanted to hear more of what I had to say about Him. Recently as I read my bible, I could feel God telling me to praise Him, praise Him and praise Him. I read passages like Psalms 138 that says ‘I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praises unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou has magnified thy word above all thy name.’
Worship is synonymous with praise except that it is on a higher plane. The Holy Temple is definitely the house of God. We are to worship God in the house of God. That is what I feel God wants his people to do lately in our church. Why does God want us to praise Him?
(1) Praise Causes Us To Refocus
Apple Company has come up with amazing gadgets in the last ten years that swallow up every other gadget along its way. There was one time we were crazy about Sony walkman, then Sony walkman disc. Then MP3 player. It was so cool, especially for young people to have an MP3 player attached to your waist belt or pocket and with two earplugs in your ears and you were in a world of music, oblivious to any surrounding. Then in comes the IPod. It changes everything. People talk about nothing but iPod. The word iPod erase walkman from the face of planet earth. Then in comes the iPhone.
I remember that when my children were just in elementary school, they got so excited over the purchase of the Nokia 3810. Now, people talk nothing but the iPhone. Do you know that I can browse the internet, with the same speed as I do on a laptop with an iPhone; receive and send e-mail; skype my two children in Singapore free with my iPhone? Yes free! Then in comes the iPad. It is said that laptop will be replaced by ipad which actually is not impossible. But there is one thing that Pastor Lily highlighted about all the apple gadgets. It is the letter “I”. And it is true. It is all about the big “self”. All these gadgets bring you into a world of yourself. Nothing else but “I”. My purpose in citing the Apple Company and all its gadgets is the letter “I”. I call it I-sight. Not eye-sight but I-sight (self).
I-sight is an opinion of oneself. We suffer from wrong I-sight. Wrong I-sight blurs your view, not of the world, but of yourself. I notice in my life that I really have this problem of wrong I-sight; wrong view of myself. On the one hand one sees self too highly. Have your ever encountered a person that as you talk to them, they have their arms folded and they look at you from the side of their eyes. Well maybe their husband is bringing in a lot of money. They used to be poor. But things have got better now. Children are fine. Some are working abroad. They have become successful. Or maybe it is because they have a PhD attached to their pedigree. Maybe they have someone that is a registered nurse. Whatever the cause, the result is the same, ‘Finally things are fine in the family. We kind of made it. We have so many gifts now. We can do so many things now.’ They have become self-assured and utterly self-sufficient. The I-sight has entered the state of self-confidence to a point of cockiness. They have an ‘air’ when they move around. The “wind” follows them when they enter the restaurant. The “wind” also follows them out when they leave the restaurant. Well honestly many of us falls into this category. We do plead guilty to some level of superiority.
Then we have also some people that fall into the other extreme of wrong I-sight. These are the people that say ‘I can’t do anything’. Surrounding them is the aura, or air of self-defeat. They literally feel smaller than roaches and earthworms. Roaches have higher self-esteem than these people. Earthworms stand taller than these people. To be honest with you, there is one period of my life when I felt like the roach and earthworm. I had lesser self-esteem than the roaches. I felt smaller than earthworms. No wonder David said, ‘but I am a worm.’ This group of people says, ‘I am a bum. I am a scum. The world would be better off without me’. Why are they in such conditions? Well, it could be due to the threat of divorce or rejection by spouse. The threat of divorce brings your self-esteem to rock bottom. Shame, unworthiness surrounds you. Self-defeat and thinking of yourself as a bum, a scum occupies your poor I-sight. What about other causes of this poor I-sight? Diseases, job dismissals and guilt are some of these causes. They blame themselves for any mishap. People with disease and sicknesses think that the world has come to an end. They don’t have faith for the future. They are caught up with their sicknesses. They have poor I-sight. Blame them for everything and they won’t object. They’ll just agree and say, ‘I can’t do anything right.’ In the Philippines I would say that most of us fall into the second category of poor I-sight and that is self-deprecation. We have such low self-esteem. Joel and Cheng were telling me that when Pastor Bernard was having furlough here, a provincial pastor was the interim pastor at Pastor Bernard’s church. Well Joel and Cheng, dressed well and definitely looked very professional. They wanted to go to church to receive something from God. But when the interim pastor, who pastors a small barangay church, saw the congregation, especially Joel and Bernard, he behaved so abnormally on the pulpit that Cheng thought he was “buang”. He was holding the mike, with non-stop amen and frequently at every sentence, he would turn his head. Why? Low self-esteem.
Now these two extremes of poor I-sight are wrong. Self-loving and self-loathing (self-hating) are both wrong. We swing from one end to the other. Promotions and demotions bump us back and forth. One day too high on self, the next day, too hard on self. Neither is correct. Self-elevation and self-deprecation are equally inaccurate.
I look at my life and I realize that I too fall into these two categories. When Evangel Iloilo grew faster than many churches in this city, then the ‘I’ came in. When we planted a lot of churches, faster than any other regions, I was lifted up. I despised those regions that struggle. I can do no wrong. I have no patience for defeated people. I drank in all the accolades and praises. It has become ‘I’ that has done it rather than God. Then I made the mistake of getting the land from my relative. I was confronted and wow, how I was brought down on earth. Honestly I entered into self-hate. I felt like a bump and a scum of society. That is what I was made to believe I was. I was worse than a worm. I entered into self-pity. Boy there was a lot of self-examination and self-humbling. But it was also wrong.
What then is God’s cure for these two groups of people? What is God’s cure when you have self-love or self-hate? The answer is Worship. Praise. Praise is the cure for wrong I-sight. Honest worship lifts eyes off self and sets them on God. The Bible says ‘Give honor to the Lord, you angels, give honor to the Lord for his glory and strength. Give honor to the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Psa 29:1-2). That is what God wants me to do and He is telling me to let his people know this truth. Maybe you are in the first category of self elevation or maybe you are in the second category of self-deprecation. God says to us today. Refocus. No more on the I-sight but God-sight.
Worship gives God honor, offers Him standing ovations. Worship can happen every day in every deed. I was telling you that God is prompting me to thank him for every little thing. And honestly it helps me a lot. We must make a big deal about God on Sundays with our songs. I am happy that we have re-organized our worship team. It is to make a big deal about God with our worship. Each time we must practice to do our best to thank God for everything. Thank God for electricity. Thank God for helping your children to pass his or her examination. Thank God for financial supply. Thank God for bringing success in whatever you are doing. Thank God for good health. Thank God for everything. One day I just woke up and this song rings and rings in my mind. I recorded it in my journal and I sing the song that I have not sung for so many years. A simple song but so meaningful and sweet. It is entitled ‘He is my everything’. It says He is my everything. He is my all. He gave His life for me and makes everything new. He is my everything. Now how about you? Then it leads to another song. Like honey in the rock. Sweet honey in the rock. Oh He tastes like honey in the rock. O taste and see that the Lord is good. For He tastes like honey in the rock.” Bro and Sis, when the self-elevated person and the self-defeated guy, begin to worship, they place God on center stage and them in proper posture. Worship humbles the smug (haughty, self-satisfied), dismounts him from his high horse and sets him into reality that without God he is nothing. By the same token worship lifts the deflated. Psalms 27:10-11 says ‘Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will renew me. Teach me your ways, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppression. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’ Psalms 27:10-11 will strengthen the weak. Maybe your father and mother have really forsaken you. They did not really take care of you. They have not set an example. But you are still confident to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That is enough to lift up a hanging head. It is enough to straighten a back that is bending down. They say that when I am down I have a certain kind of posture. My head will be bending down, my shoulder tilt to one side and I walk in a defeated way. But when you begin to focus on God, you will realize that it is not the end of the world for you. Because this defeated person will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. It would turn a face toward God. Worship does that. Worship adjusts us, straightening the back of the burdened. Praise tells us that ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.’
Max Lucado a famous Christian writer took his daughters on a snorkeling trip during a summer vacation. They were on a yacht. He also tried a sailing lesson. But he was puzzled by the difference in leeward (moving toward the direction in which the wind blow), starboard (the rudder) and stern; all parts of a yacht. Now sailing a ship is no easy matter. After a while the captain offered, ‘Would you like to sail us home’. Max Lucado reminded the man that no West Texan has ever won the America’s cup (world known sailing competition). Then the captain assured him that he would have no trouble and pointed to a rocky mountain on the shore. He said ‘Target that cliff. Set your eyes and the boat on it.’ Max Lucado found the instruction hard to follow. Because other sights invited his attention: the rich Mahogany of the deck, his giggling daughters beneath the sail, the rich foam cresting on the waves. He had wanted to look at it all. And looking at these others too long, he risked losing the course. The ship stayed on target as long as he set his eyes beyond the vessel at the cliff.’
Praise and worship help us to do this in life. Worship sets our eyes on God. Worship targets at God. It lifts our eyes off the world with its toys and people and sets us on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.
(2) What Constitutes a Praise or Worship?
The Bible also mentions about ‘to sing praise’. It means to make music. And it is translated as ‘psalm’, which is where we get the book of Psalms in the Bible and where most of the Christian songs have their lyrics from the book of Psalms. It comes from the Hebrew word ‘Zamar’ which focuses on the use of instruments of music in praising God.
Now I want to show you something powerful involving praise and worship. Christians can be grouped into two categories – marbles and grapes. Marbles are ‘single units that don’t affect each other except in collision’. I have played marbles when I was a young boy. Truly the marbles don’t affect each other except in collision. Marbles only come together when there is a confrontation or a collision. Many Christians are in that category. Grapes, on the other hand, mingle juices: each one is a ‘part of the fragrance’ of the church body. God wants us to be grape Christians. The early church didn’t bounce around like loose marbles, rocketing in all directions, fighting with each other. They are a cluster of ripe grapes, squeezed together by persecution, bleeding and mingling into one another. Do you know how powerful it is for Christians to gather together and worship God? When believer worship in the church, sing praises, make music with use of instruments, we will taste not only the sweet fellowship, like grapes, but also bring down the person who wants to join us in that fellowship and that is God. God is worthy of our praise. Worship is a celebration of God. When we worship God, we celebrate Him: We extol Him, we sing His praises, we boast in Him. The believers, singing, the instruments, the music, the gathering, the church put together constitutes a powerful praise to God. This morning we have all the ingredients that constitute a powerful worship. We have the people here, the music, the instruments, this church all put together. Psalm 150 says ‘Praise ye the Lord in the Sanctuary… Praise him with the sound of the trumpet, praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.’ Psalm 149:1 says ‘Praise yet the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints.’ Let us release the powerful worship to God. Coming to public worship of God’s people is one of the most important aspects of any Christian’s life. All believers need the psalmists to come to God’s house and give praise to God with other like-minded saints.
Of course there is also the personal worship. Charles Swindoll shares this story. He says ‘When I was overseas, I was working with a man who was under great stress and great pressure. He was a maverick sort of a missionary. He didn’t fit the pattern or the mold of what you think of as a missionary. His ministry was in great part to the soldiers, who happened to be on the island of Okinawa by the thousands – in fact, it might be safe to say tens of thousands. Charles Swindoll went to his house one evening to visit with him (they were supposed to do visitation together), and his wife said he wasn’t there but was probably down at the office. The office was downtown in a little alley area off the streets of Naha. It was a rainy night. And Charles Swindoll decided that he would get on the bus and travel down to be with Bob. The wife had mentioned his stress and pressure, so he expected to find the man folded up in despondency, discouragement, and depression, and just ready to finish it off. He got off that little bus and walked down the alley about a block and a half and turned right, down a little smaller alley, to a little hut with a tatami mat inside. As he got away from the street noise, he heard singing, ‘Come, Thou fount of every blessing/Tune my heart to sing Thy grace’. And then that next stanza, ‘Prone to wander –Lord, I feel it, /prone to leave the God I love’. Quietly he eavesdropped on his private praise service. As he stood in the rain and looked through the walls of that little cheap hut, he saw a man on his knees with his hands toward heaven giving God praise, with his Bible on side and an Intervarsity Christian hymnal on the other side, his little spiral notebook, worn from use. And he saw him turn from page to page, where he would read it to God, then he would find a hymn and he would sing it to God. That night, Charles Swindoll witnessed a personal worship of a man toward his God. And the remarkable thing is that that pressure that he was under did leave him and that praise service alone before God absolutely revolutionized his life.” That constitutes a private praise and worship. That is the beauty and wonder of private worship.
I can identify well with Charles Swindoll’s story of that missionary because I was also under pressure. I could say that I did fold up in despondency, discouragement and even depression for quite a while in the past years. But it also brought me many times in my private room, with the Bible on one side. And as I turned from page to page and I would read the word to God, lay my hand on that many passages that became my prayer to God, with tears and prayer. Those passages spoke directly to me and I would lay my hand on the passages of the Bible and believe it. Songs would flash into my mind frequently and because I could not remember the total lyrics of the songs, I would somehow be able to find complete lyrics, through some source, sing them unto God, write them on a notebook. And I would come out of that prayer closet, with a peace in my heart that all is going to be well. The pressure, despondency, discouragement and depression would slowly creep away and in place a peace that passeth all understanding return and a faith and hope rise to levels in my life that was not possible before those personal worship.
(3) The Uses of Praises
I believe God wants us to boast about Him. Well when our children do well, we are so proud and we go around boasting about them. God wants us to do that. When He has done well and we are deeply satisfied with His wonderful acts, we boast about Him. I believe God also wants us to commend Him. It is commending God for Himself, His qualities, and His works. It comes from the same word used to commend people. It is to speak well of Him. Praise is to applaud him, loud and often. Because He deserves it. I know that writers will encourage you to praise God because He deserves it. Because of His power – How He created the universe, the sun, the stars, the whales and everything. But I would like to personalize the reason why He deserves my praise. I should praise Him because I grew up from a very poor family, with no goals in life and purpose in life. Then one day when I wasn’t even a Christian and I knew that I did badly for my Mathematics paper 1, I entered a Catholic Church and prayed to this unknown God to help me to pass my paper two. He not only helped me to enter college but came into my life. I praise Him because He helped me to get into university when I shouldn’t pass in the first place. I praise Him because later He saved all my entire families and gave everyone of them without exaggeration, 4 sisters and 4 brothers, each a beautiful home to stay in. I can praise Him because He brought me to the Philippines 24 years ago. I should praise Him because we started just with five members and the church grew to 1000 today. I should praise Him because we started with one church and today under Iloilo region we have 209 churches. I should praise Him because He blesses me with a lovely wife and two special children. I praise Him because He has guided us all these while. Oh I can praise Him because I have failed him so many times but He picked me up and moved me on. Actually I should boast about Him. I should commend Him. Actually I should worship Him. Because if I don’t do, then even the rock would break out in praises of Him. We can praise him for restoration. We can praise him for provision. We can praise him for protection.
(4) Praise Releases the Power and the Presence of God
Psalm 149:6 says ‘Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.’ It is in praise that the believer implicitly acknowledges creaturely dependence on God and explicitly acknowledges God’s greatness and goodness.
Honestly I have gone through a lot in the past few years. But I believe that God wants me to praise Him because He wants me to acknowledge that I am just a creature that is totally dependent on Him and explicitly I recognize Hs greatness and goodness. I told you in the beginning that when I was praising Him and God was laughing and asking me for ‘some more’, I believe God is about to perform some miraculous, powerful works in my life and the only way to spark that performance of God is my praise and worship of God. Praise takes first place in the vocabulary of worship, as God comes first in the life and thoughts of believers. Nothing so deepens our awareness of His power and presence in our lives as to praise him. If you want to bring the power of God into your life and the presence of God into your life, praise him.
I shared with you that the most powerful Azusa Street revival was during those services where saints in the church started to worship God in tongue. I did not say pray in tongues but sing in tongues. Praise will bring you the breakthrough in your life that you so desperately need it. When we start to praise, God will open the door of heaven and the glory cloud from heaven will come down and filled the place and people will be overcome by the great cloud of the glory of His presence. When Israel was being attacked during the time of Jehoshaphat, God said, “You won’t need to fight in this battle because I’m going to create a different kind of an army for you, an army of praise. And when this army of praise began to praise the Lord, God will discomfit all our enemies.” What about the apostle Paul when he was in prison there. Remember when he was in prison with Silas? They could have complained. When we get into trouble we complain; we say ‘I don’t have anything to praise God for’. Maybe you are imprisoned by life. You seem restricted in your movements spiritually because circumstances and situations are all against you, and you ask, ‘Why praise the Lord when everything like is going wrong?’ But at midnight Paul and Silas sang praises to God. They were singing for He is good, His mercy endures forever. And as they were singing, God said, ‘Somebody is praising down there.’ I can feel the key turning. And God came down and He sang bass. Really had a trio. And those old foundations began to shake when He sang and the rocks fell off and the cuffs fell off their hands. They were liberated through praise.
Men and women are liberated when they praise the Lord. Sing unto Him a new song from your heart, one that’s never been written. Lift your voices right now and sing. Yes, applaud your God loud and often and you will regain your right focus and release the power and presence of God in your imprisoning situation. There cuffs and locks will be broken off for you and you will emerge liberated. Commend your God. Boast about Him often. Give Him your standing ovation for He deserves it!
End of Sermon