Just Give Him Praise!

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Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!  
(Psalm 150)

Steven Cole asks an excellent question, “I wonder how many of us could honestly say, ‘Praising God characterizes my life’?”

Personally, there’s something special about being around people who love to praise the Lord!

Such was the case Tuesday night as a group of us attended the Bristol Revival in Bristol, VA.  This is the first week for these meetings under the gospel tent.  With around 2,500 or more in attendance, the praise did flow!

What a blessed time it was to gather outside the tent with around 200 men to pray before the service. With men crying out to the Lord, hands raised in supplication (1 Timothy 2:8), it was a blessed time in the presence of God asking for the power of God to change hearts and lives through the preaching of God’s Word

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The praise and worship continued as the service began with joyful, full-hearted singing.  Once again, there was shouting, rejoicing, and brighten countenances all around.  These folks were praising God for Who He is and for what He had done!

What stood out to me were the young folks seated around me.  Next to me was a nine-year-old boy in our group who at one point nudged me on the leg and pointed to my hands.  They weren’t clapping with the music, and he did not want me to miss out on the blessing of praise!

In front of me were two young folk, ages 12-15, who seated next to their father, were more than engaged in rejoicing and making connections throughout the whole service.  It was a delight to see them so engaged.

The preaching of Evangelist CT Townsend was powerful and penetrating.  Oh the praise and joy that rolled as we were challenged to consider the blood that has redeemed us, reconciled us back to God, purchased our pardon, and set us free from our bondage to sin (Exodus 12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14-22; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

The praise continued as lost souls walked forward at the invitation to receive Christ as their personal Savior!  As their names and ages were called out, the believers rejoiced with those in Glory (Luke 15).

“Psalm 150 gives us the where, why, how, and who of praise. Praise can be expressed through singing and music (including clapping, dancing, lifting our hands, kneeling, lying prostrate, etc.), through testimony and thanksgiving, prayer, sacrificial service, and giving.” (Cole)

Is your life characterized by praise?  Are you obedient to Psalm 150:6?

God is eternally worthy of all our praise!

A dear friend of mine in ministry is often heard to say, “Just give Him praise!”

Sing Congregation! Sing!!

In Christ Alone

There are many reasons to be excited about attending church on Sunday and one of those is participating in worship with a congregation that sings!

Music has always been a major part of my life.  My mother played the piano for nearly 75 years.  My dad loved to sing.  I cut my musical teeth on children’s records and long-play albums.  The sounds of Jack Holcomb, Helen Barth, Doug Oldam, 16 Singing Men, and many others filled our home every day.  We even had a membership with Word Record Company and received monthly sacred albums.

My mom would play the piano in church and Dad would lead the singing.  I vividly remember as a little boy that small congregation along the river in Dart, Ohio, singing their hearts out to such songs as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Hear Ye the Master’s Call,” and many, many others.

Believe it or not, the first time I led singing in church was at the age of 12, and I led my first choir at the age of 14.

Some of my fondest memories of music are also connected with a packed out Lodge at The Wilds Camp and Conference Center as a teen singing those great camp songs!  Also, how blessed to have attended many, many Southern Gospel concerts with my father-in-law, my wife and our daughters who are musicians.

How absolutely grateful I am that God created music!!  Even more, how awesome it is to sing with other believers on Sunday who are gathered in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, lifting their voices in praise and heartfelt melodies!!

This past Sunday, as I stood at the front row of the auditorium, I could hear the congregation singing behind me.  Having led singing for many years in our church, I could only imagine their countenances as they sang, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone,” “Come, Christians Join to Sing,” and a new song we are learning, “Jesus, the Son of God.”  Many, many times when our congregation sings, I think, “This has to be a foretaste of Heaven!!”

May I encourage you to serve the Lord, to worship the Lord, and minister to all those around you this Sunday by lifting your voice in praise!  Ask your worship leader ahead of time what songs will be sung so you can sing them with your family during the week before the Sunday worship gathering.  Use those songs in your personal daily meeting time with God in His Word and prayer.  Come prepared to Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name  (Psalm 30:4)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

Itty-bitty Christians

This picture says so much! We found these “cute” onesies in a religious bookstore this week. Others said, “Itty bitty _________” (fill-in-the-blank with a church denomination).

I think I understand the “cute” intent of the maker and store owner, but how many of us as true, born-again believers could wear this outfit?

Itty-bitty Christians . . .

  • Are satisfied to stay an infant when it comes to spiritual growth in the Word. Instead of totally immersing themselves in the daily personal intake of the Word (Psalm 119; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20), a quick dose of an internet devotional or a religious song on Sirius XM on the way to work suffices. The outcome is an itty-bitty faith in an itty-bitty God.
  • Are satisfied to stay an infant with it comes to living out all of God’s purposes for you in the body of Christ, the local church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11 – 6:20). Sunday is the Lord’s Day all day, not just for a couple of hours for me to pick and choose how I want to worship. The outcome is itty-bitty participation, connection, transparency, honesty, accountability, body-life, service, praise, fellowship, prayer, evangelism/discipleship, one-another’s, exaltation of Christ, etc. As one lady told me about her church experience, “I like going to the early service because I can go, get it done, and go about my day.”
  • Are satisfied wearing a “onesie” because life is about them instead of glorifying God and serving others. (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 1:15-18) The outcome is an itty-bitty Christian who seldom makes an impact on the world for Christ.
  • Are satisfied being a nominal Christian rather than a genuine, all-out disciple of Christ. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does that passage describe an itty-bitty Christian wearing a “onesie”?

Believers, we are exhorted to grow, to mature in the faith. Take heed to the following and let’s cast off our itty-bitty Christianity!

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

How To Overcome Dull, Lifeless Prayer

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Read carefully Paul’s words in reference to the church at Philippi:  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (Philippians 1:3-5).

Look at those words, making my prayer with joy.  Is prayer a joy in your life?  Do you have a joy-filled time praying?  In others words, is praying a happy time for you?  Is it a time of rejoicing, praise, thanksgiving, and sweet communion with your Heavenly Father?

If you pray in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20), you will be praying with joy because it is a fruit of the Spirit.

For many, prayer is a burden, a drudgery, and/or a duty.  May I encourage you today to find a place to meet with God and enjoy His presence?

  • Praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for how He has shown His character to you through answered prayer. (Psalm 145:3)
  • Thank Him for what He taught you in His Word. (Psalm 19:7-11)
  • Rejoice in a promise that He has shown you; that you can hang onto today. (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • Sing to Him. (Psalm 96:1)
  • Raise your hands in adoration and submission to Him. (1 Timothy 2:8)
  • Thank God in advance for how He is going to answer prayer, save souls, lead you through the day, give wisdom and grace,

I believe if you will make prayer with joy this morning, it will set your day to be one of joy and blessing.  Try it!  (Philippians 4:4-7)

Advance

Ladies Prayer Advance 2  Ladies Prayer Advance 1

There are many words to describe the various aspects of our Christian experience that is our daily walk with Christ in relationship with our Heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some of those descriptive terms include putting off and putting on, retreat and rest, keep on keeping on, press toward the mark, be zealous, and many others.

Last week I saw the word advance come to life.  A group of ladies from our church attended a conference in Roanoke, Virginia, known as Ladies Prayer Advance.  The gathering began on Thursday at 1:30 with a general session which included singing, prayer groups, more singing, and powerful preaching from the Word of God.  This was followed by workshops and then a supper break.

The evening service began at 7:00 p.m. with singing, prayer, choir ministry, and the preached Word.  The first evening session is followed up by one of the most important events of the conference, prayer meetings.  Ladies gather with their group and follow the prayer prompt of what is known as CPR, Confession, Praise, and Requests.  As they go around their circle in at least three rounds of prayer, the Holy Spirit moves in, hearts are convicted and broken.  Honest and transparency abounds.  The conference really begins here.  Prayer meetings have been known to last all night.

My wife returned to her room somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Needless to say, when the Prayer Advance began again the next morning at 9:00, there were some tired ladies.  Instead of listening to their fatigue, they pressed on through a whole day of preaching and workshops followed by another service after supper and more prayer time.  Before lunch is one of the great highlights of Friday’s events called Sweet Hour of Prayer where you find a quiet place and pray for one hour.

Then Saturday morning rolls around with an 8:30 start for a workshop and then the final session at 10:00.

I have attended several Men’s Prayer Advances and have been the van driver for the past two Ladies Prayer Advances, and the same thing happens every time.  By the time the Friday night service rolls around, the conference participants are pumped, excited, expectant, full of praise, clean before the Lord and walking close to their God.

This same spirit escalates into the Saturday morning final session, and my friend, I will tell you, it is a bit of heaven on earth!!!

Why does it happen this way?  One word describes it . . . Advance!  Although our earthly bodies through fatigue, excuses, fears, laziness, and unconfessed sin calls us to slow down, quit, go take a nap or various other backward responses, the grace of God through praise, prayer, and preaching causes you to advance.  As each session and workshop moves along, the ladies are moving closer to the Lord! They are advancing!  And of course, that is the way it is supposed to be as we read in James 4:6-8, But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I promise you, no believer has ever regretted drawing closer to God, advancing toward God and the things of God.

Yes, there are times when we need to retreat and rest, but advance should be a term to describe our relationship with God on a daily basis.  Grace is sufficient even when we are tired, tempted, and tested.

There’s a song we sing in our church that describes what I’ve tried to convey in this blog post.  Listen to it and . . . ADVANCE!

I Run to Christ

(Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” His voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.

I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I too had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto Me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.

I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.

Copyright © 2010 ChurchWorksMedia.com. All rights reserved.

That Dimmed Look

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There she sat, all prettied up, seated in her comfy chair, and a silent stare etched on her sweet face and a dimmed look in her eye.  The TV was playing on old rerun of Gunsmoke. When I entered the room, she lifted her clouded eyes and smiled a bit, but she did not recognize me.

I knelt down on one knee beside her, greeted her warmly, and began a conversation that was mostly one-sided.  She handed me something that was very real to her but only imaginary to me. That dimmed look was one of struggle as she tried to put words together to form a sentence, but she could only mumble a few recognizable words at best.  She called me by another name, “Mr. Gilbert,” which reminded me of the many years of hearing her say, “Well, there’s my pastor!”

That dimmed look, eyes a bit foggy, soon was changed.  As I began to quote Psalm 23, she joined me word-for-word and her countenance was lifted.  Then I began to sing How Great Thou Art to which she chimed in.  Her precious, melodic soprano voice was clear and precise. Our duet continued through two stanzas of Amazing Grace and one verse of In the Garden.

When we finished our mini-concert of praise, I had prayer with her.  She hugged me, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for coming to see her, once again struggling to put words together. As I headed for the door, she returned to her dimmed look with that bit of a silent stare.

As I walked down the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about what came to her mind so readily and caused her dimmed look to be one of hope-filled anticipation. She probably learned Psalm 23 as a child and has sung those songs for years because of her personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.

If I were in her shoes . . . would I have the same response?  Have I filled my mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8)?  Have the praises of God and His Word been my meditation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) while I still have the capability to do so?  Or is my mind filled with worry, fretting, anxiety, fear, lies, lust, bitterness, useless trivia, and “breaking news”?

In time her memory will totally fade unless the Lord calls her Home before then.  But in the meantime, that dimmed looked is brightened when the chords of her heart are reminded of what really matters . . . the eternal things, the Eternal One  . . . the One she will see and know forever when her faith becomes complete sight.  No more dimmed look.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

 

My Savior First of All

When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Chorus:
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

2 Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.

—- Fanny Crosby

A Touch of Heaven

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It is now 355 days away, and yes, I am counting, until we gather again for the Friday evening session of Men’s Prayer Advance!  Every year, I must say that it is a “little bit of heaven on earth.”  There is a genuine spirit of expectancy; a passion to worship in song, prayer and praise; a longing to hear the Word preached again; and an unparalleled unity among men before the Throne of God!

How is it that over 600 men gathered in one auditorium are singing with all their heart and voice, even if they have no musical ability?  How is it that these men are uninhibited in their expressions of love for God and surrender to God?  How is that men are willing to clap and/or raise their hands in praise, shout for joy, and even move to the altar in conviction even during a sermon, pray with such honesty and transparency, and not be ashamed to confess Christ before their peers?

I believe the answer is found in Exodus 14:30-31, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. 

And then note their response to the Lord’s working as recorded in Exodus 15:1-3 and following,

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The Lord is my strength and my song,

    and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

    the Lord is his name.

The Children of Israel had been exposed to the character and works of God!  They saw, listened, believed and then worshiped!

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The Friday night service is a touch of heaven because we arrive on Thursday afternoon in need of a touch from God, a heart-change.  From the very first general session until Friday night, we are exposed to powerful, convicting preaching; many times of prayer with another man or in groups; CPR prayer (confession, praise, requests) in our Thursday half-night of prayer; Sweet Hour of Prayer on Friday mid-morning; breakout sessions that deal with men’s heart issues; and music that magnifies Christ, glorifies God, and lifts the soul!

So, when Friday night rolls around, you have over 600 men who are ready to worship because as we heard this year, “we are not cleaner, we are CLEAN” before the Lord!

You know, Sunday services at church, for instance, should be times of awesome worship, too, if we are being exposed every day to the Word and broken in prayer!  When you have a daily fresh encounter with God Who is your Holy, Loving, Just, Righteous, Awesome, Transcendent Heavenly Father, it will affect your worship!  And as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, worship is 24-7 . . . not just on Sundays or Men’s Prayer Advance.

So, are you giving God Exodus 15 kind of praise today?

Are your co-workers experiencing salt and light (Matthew 5:14-15) and seeing Matthew 5:16 fulfilled in their lives because you have been exposed to the Son?

Will today in your home before your family and next Sunday at your church be a touch of heaven because you are clean?

As we were so challenged this year, we must “keep the clay wet” (Jeremiah 18:6); “shut the door” (Matthew 6:5-15); and “stay in faith” (Hebrews 11:6).

(If you want to watch the services, check out this site as well as the other links: Thursday NIght Service 1.26.17)

Jesus Ministered Again on the Sea of Galilee

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As I prepared my heart and mind for another trip to Israel, the thought of riding on the Sea of Galilee again brought a renewed spirit of great expectancy!

Five years ago as the boat pulled away from the dock, my wife and I stood near the bow and fixed our gaze all around us.  “This is where Jesus spent so much of His early ministry!”  We envisioned Him walking on the water, travelling along the shore, calming the storm, reaching out to Peter, healing the maniac of Gadara, as well as other events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

In a few moments, the owners of the boat began to play over the loud speakers, “How Great Is Our God.”

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Several of us, gathered at the bow, began to sing along, tears streaming down our cheeks.  The calmness of the sea, the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the person of Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) and  the fellowship in worship of brothers and sisters like us in Christ was so absolutely awesome!  Once again, Christ was ministering on the Sea of Galilee!!

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Well, fast forward to three weeks ago, and once again, we experienced the same, but this time on a much deeper level.  How wonderful to sing “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”  With hands and voices raised up to heaven, our hearts overflowed with praise to our great God for His Son, His salvation, and His grace! Then we heard the Word of God preached to us while we sailed along.  The Christ in us ministered once again on the Sea of Galilee to each of us.

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Of course we are back home now, and the same Jesus continues to minister to us as we obey His call recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The same Christ, Who through the Holy Spirit, taught us, led us to worship, and ministered to our hearts on the Sea of Galilee is ready and willing to do the same today.  All you must do is open the Word of God and let Him speak to you from the pages of His eternal, life-giving book of absolute truth!

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So, come along with me today and let’s “ride the boat” as Jesus ministers once again to His redeemed ones!   Go ahead and sing, too!! (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

Been to the Holy Land Twice in One Month

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“Why go to Israel?”  “Aren’t you afraid?”  “You wouldn’t catch me dead over there.”  “This isn’t a good time to go over there.”  These are only an assortment of questions and statements I heard in the days leading up to our trip.

Why did we go?  Because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  He is the most important person in my life and will be for all eternity. He died and rose again for me, and my heart and life is enriched by being in the place where He ministered, suffered, was rejected, crucified, buried and rose again for me and the whole world!

Why go to Israel? God’s Word is the most important book in my life.  His Word is forever alive (Isaiah 40:6-8; Hebrews 4:12), but it becomes 3-D when you have an opportunity to visit Capernaum, ride a boat on the Sea of Galilee, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, sing “Jesus Paid It All” in the prison where He was scourged, stand at the Garden Tomb, and walk the Mt. of Olives where Jesus will return at His Second Coming (Acts 1:9-11).

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My second Holy Land visit this month occurred last Thursday through Saturday as men from our church joined 600 plus other men in Roanoke, VA, for the annual Men’s Prayer Advance (christlifemin.org).  What an absolute thrill to unite with these men in genuine heart-felt singing; multiple opportunities for passionate, honest prayer; listening to soul-stirring, Holy Spirit convicting preaching; and watch God at work in changing lives for His glory!!

Israel and Men’s Prayer Advance, two trips to what I’ll call the Holy Land because these were days set apart to meet with our Lord, to know Him better, to hear His voice, to walk in His will, and to gather at His Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Oh, by the way, I’ll be walking in the Holy Land today, too, because everywhere I go, Christ is there.  He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrew 13:5-6); He dwells within me (Colossians 1:27).