Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Praise Him! Encountering God Through Psalm 150 - Introduction

I am so excited that you’ve decided to join me on this thrilling journey of praise! When you truly open your heart to praising God, your life will never be the same. I encourage you to approach each day as a gift from Him specifically to you. I challenge you to look upon each situation and circumstance and try to find His hand in it. Experience your world with the eyes of a child, full of wonder and passion and awe at what your Daddy is capable of! Hallelujah!

Before we read through the scripture that will anchor our time together for the next few weeks, I’d like to go over the guidelines for this study.

The “Guidelines”

If you joined me in the study “Living the Blameless Life,” you’re already familiar with the guidelines. We previously called them ground rules, but, in honor of the Captain Barbossa line from my favorite movie of all time in the whole wide world, Pirates of the Caribbean, I’ve renamed them “guidelines”. If this is our first study together, please forgive my rambling and the plug for a great film. Here are the “guidelines”:

First, don’t take for granted that, just because the cover of the book says “Bible study”, it contains the whole truth. People make mistakes, so check up on me. Take what is written here and test it against the Word of God.
Second, you will get out of our time together what you are willing to put into it. So, be as generous with your time as you possibly can.
Third, don’t let this book become a crutch. I’ve allowed that to happen in the past and it can cripple you! Look some things up on your own. Use my endnotes to see what sources I’ve used and try them out for yourself.
Fourth, look at different translations of the scriptures for clarification.

So, if you’re ready to get started, I have a couple of questions to kick off our study.

What is praise?

You may praise your child by complimenting her behavior. Your boss might praise your work by giving you an award. Perhaps you praise your dog with treats and petting when he obeys you. Maybe you think of praise to describe singing in church on Sunday. What is your definition of “praise?”

I define praise as an expression of approval or admiration. It can be worship and exaltation. When I praise God, I am open and vulnerable and waiting for Him to touch me. Sometimes I lift my hands, other times I weep with my head lowered. There are also times that I dance.

How do you praise?

Are you a hand-raiser? A kneeler? A dancer? A singer? Do you pray? Or make music? Do you write songs or poetry or stories? Or maybe you have a totally different way of expressing praise – like doing your job to the best of your ability. Or maybe you clean up after yourself at the local fast food place. If you’re doing what you’re doing to honor God, you’re praising!

One of my pastors once said that we should leave a place better than we found it. He used the example of being kind to a waitress and improving her sour mood. Ever since he taught me that, I’ve wiped down the bathroom sinks after washing my hands at work. It may not seem like much, but I do it to worship the Lord. And there’s a practical bonus to doing this, it eliminates someone becoming irritable because they leaned against the sink and got water all over their work clothes. Now, I practice this everywhere: movie theaters, restaurants, church.

Ready, Set, Go

Now that we’ve established what we’re going to discuss for the next few months, let’s lay down the foundation for the rest of this study. Are you ready to study the final psalm? Get set. Go. Read Psalm 150.

What is your first reaction to Psalm 150? Does the psalm inspire you? Encourage you? Confuse you? Make you want to know more? Pull out a dictionary and look up any words that are unfamiliar to you.

At first glance, which “instrument(s)” do you think you resemble most? Why? (We will look up “lyre” in a later lesson, but you can do so now if you wish.)

It appears that praise is a pretty important activity. To punctuate the book of Psalms with such instruction on praise tells me that this is something we should all be doing. In fact, the word “praise” appears 13 times in these six, short verses. Wow! That strikes me as ironic. Perhaps the word was written once for each of the 12 tribes of Israel and once for all of the gentiles? Maybe not, but in any case, this simple song gives us the complete low-down on praise: who, what, where, when, why and how!

I absolutely love the psalms because they show an active and real relationship with God. They contain crying out and complaining and begging. They are full of declarations of love and honor and thanks. This last song of the psalmist, some believe Psalm 150 to be written by David, is full of nothing but praise! It’s as if the order of the psalms themselves is indicative of a healthy walk with the Lord. It begins with statements of fact and basic instruction and progresses through the ability to level with God honestly and finishes up with praising Him in all circumstances! What a beautiful picture this book paints for us.

Our ultimate goal should be to behave like this. No complaining. No fear. Just absolute trust in our Father with praise pouring from us simply because He is! After all, this is what we’ll be doing for all eternity, without a break or a need for one, once we arrive in heaven. So, how is your practice going?

Recommendations for Praise

Music: Sonicflood, Casting Crowns
Devotions: Daily In Christ by Neil Anderson, Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler

That’s Praise?

Keeping God in mind, do one or more of the following as an act of praising Him. Or come up with ideas of your own. What did the Lord teach you from the experience? (Weed your garden, Take out the garbage, Prepare a meal, Drive your child to school, Vacuum your carpet, Get up early to pray)