Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “praise

Pleasing God

It’s never too late to start walking with God

God’s message in Malachi’s day was, “I am not pleased with you” (Mal. 1:10 NIV). What an indictment to people claiming to follow God! Their behavior was unacceptable; it dishonored God. So, how can we please God today?

Enoch Pleased God
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years … Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:21-24).

It is mentioned twice that “Enoch walked with God.” This phrase replaces the word “lived” in the other verses and reminds us that there is a difference between walking with God and merely living. It’s figurative for saying he was going the way God was going. They had an ongoing relationship. It means not letting sin rule in our life, moving at God’s pace and seeing things as God sees them. It seems like Enoch started walking with God after the birth of a baby; a new life caused him to remember the author of life (Gen. 5:22, Acts 3:15).

We learn more about Enoch in Hebrews: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away … he was commended as one who pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). Like Elijah, he did not experience death; he was transported to heaven. Two reasons are given: he was faithful, and he pleased God. Enoch pleased God by his faith which was shown by his walk with God. What an example for us!

Jesus Pleased God
“As soon as Jesus was baptized … heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’” (Mt. 3:16-17). God proclaimed that He was well pleased with Jesus. One of the reasons was because Jesus chose to do the Father’s will and not His own (Mt. 26:39,42; Jn. 6:38). He was not selfish; He obeyed God instead of pleasing self (Jn. 5:30). He had a lifetime desire to finish His mission and said, “I brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do” (Jn. 17:4).

This message was repeated at the Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John saw Jesus’ appearance change so that His face shone like the sun and His clothing became dazzling white. “While He was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’” (Mt. 17:5).

God’s message to the disciples was to listen to Jesus. On one occasion He told them to do God’s work while there was opportunity (Jn. 9:4). On another He stressed obedience to Him (Jn. 14:15,21,23; 15:10). He is our best example because He followed His Father’s commands “exactly” (Jn. 14:31).

We Can Please God
So how can we please God? First, we can become a disciple like Peter, James and John, and follow His guidelines in the New Testament. The Bible says “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 8:8). Second, we can offer our bodies to God. “I urge you … to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom.12:1). A sacrifice is an offering to God. The greatest example is Christ offering His life on the cross. Third, we can offer praise to God. “Through Jesus … let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16). God loves worship from those who “confess His name.” Fourth, we can offer our possessions to God (Heb. 13:16) by sharing our resources with those in need – the opposite of accumulating things for ourselves.

Let’s walk with God like Enoch, do God’s will like Jesus, and offer to God our bodies, our praise and our possessions.

Published, September 2008


DIVINE FAVORS AND GIFTS: Are You Enjoying Your Spiritual Blessings?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV

These verses from Ephesians 1 summarize what God has done for believers. They were written by Paul to believers in Ephesus, but they also apply to us today. What a wonderful record of favors and gifts! Here we see that God the Father is the source of our salvation (1:3-6), Jesus Christ is the means of our salvation (1:7-12) and the Holy Spirit is the proof of our salvation (1:13-14). Each believer’s blessings are associated with each member of the Godhead. We are very rich in the invisible spiritual dimension of life.

His Blessings
Before the creation of the world, God the Father chose us to be part of His holy people (election). He did this by adopting us as children into His family (adoption). As slaves were freed from captivity by the payment of a ransom, Jesus paid the ransom for our sins by His death (redemption). This means that our sins are now forgiven (forgiveness). God’s plan for the universe – to bring everything in the material and spiritual world under the authority of Christ – has been revealed to us (dominion). The presence of the Holy Spirit within the believer is our mark of divine ownership and security (sealed). He is a deposit or guarantee of all that God has promised (inheritance). These blessings can’t be bought with money and they can’t be taken away by tragedy.

It is clear that the Lord Jesus is the center of God’s plan of salvation. Eleven times in these 12 verses of Ephesians 1 we read: “in Christ” or “in Him” or “in the one He loves” or “through Jesus Christ.” This is also expressed in song by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty: “In Christ alone my hope is found.” These blessings are our source of security, joy and hope. Are you enjoying them?

Our Response
God deserves all our praise for His wonderful kindness (1:6) shown in the many spiritual blessings He has for those who trust Him (1:14). The believer’s purpose in life is to praise God, and He has given us many reasons to do so (1:3,11,12).

Published, May 2008


Is it right to sing a song that says “I will bless the Lord”? Isn’t it God who blesses us?

The Greek verb eulogeo which is translated “bless” in the Bible – means “to speak well of.” Although the one doing the blessing is often God, it can also be a human being. Christ blessed His disciples before He ascended into heaven (Lk. 24:51), and He blesses all believers with a spiritual inheritance (Eph. 1:3). Jesus told his followers “bless those who curse you” (Lk. 6:28). Christians are told: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” which means being kind to one’s enemies by not retaliating (Rom. 12:14; 1 Cor. 4:12). In these contexts, “eulogeo” is usually translated in the Bible as “bless.”

“To bless” can also mean “to praise.” It is done with our tongues (Jas. 3:9). Instances of this in the New Testament are: Zechariah after the birth of His son, John the Baptist (Lk. 1:64); Simeon when he took the Christ child in his arms (Lk. 2:28); and the disciples after Christ’s ascension (Lk. 24:53). In these contexts, eulogeo is usually translated in the Bible as “praise.”

Jesus blessed the boy’s meal (Lk. 9:16), and the bread at the Lord’s supper (Mt. 26:26; Mk. 14:22). It is evident that this involved giving thanks (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24). So to bless the Lord can also mean to give thanks for what He has done (1 Cor. 10:16; 14:16-17).

According to the dictionary, the most common meaning today of the word “bless” is “to consecrate by a religious rite” or to “make or pronounce holy” or “to request a divine favor,” while “to praise or glorify or extol” is a minor meaning of the word. So, “I will bless the Lord and give Him glory” (Frank Hernandez © 1981, Sparrow) would be better understood as, “I will praise the Lord and give Him glory.”

Published, February 2008


Worship Like The Thankful Samaritan

Jesus healed many people while on earth. Once ten men with a skin disease like leprosy sought His help (Lk. 17:11-19). They stood at a distance and called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Jesus rewarded their faith by telling them to show themselves to the priests. In Jewish society, the priests confirmed when someone was healed of an infectious skin disease (Lev. 14:1-32). As they went towards the priests they were miraculously healed.

Then one of them returned to Jesus. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet, thanked Him and praised God in a loud voice. He was humble, grateful and thankful. This is surprising as he was a Samaritan, and despised by the Jews (Jn. 4:9). Jesus called him a foreigner (Lk. 17:18), a term also used to describe rebels (Jn. 8:48). Before He responded to the Samaritan, Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine men who were healed?” They didn’t return to thank the Lord.

Likewise, Jesus pitied humanity and came to rescue us from our sins (Mt. 1:21). He said that sin was like sickness (Mk. 2:17). Using this illustration, believers have been healed of the consequences of this disease. What is our response? If we have trusted in Christ’s miraculous work, are we like the thankful Samaritan or like the nine who forgot the Healer?

Christians should be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). This means being thankful in all circumstances and “overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:7; 3:15; 4:2; 1 Th. 5:18). We should also praise God for the transformation in our life (1 Pet. 2:9). This is to be offered to God as a continual “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).

Published: January 2005


Prayer And Praise In Times Of Trouble

God’s servants depend on God

It has been said that “life was never meant to be easy.” And I believe we can all testify to this. We all face trials, troubles and difficulties from time to time. To help us through them, the Bible contains many examples of how God’s servants responded to their troubles. Let’s consider just two of them, one from the Old Testament and one from the New.

David’s Troubles
In the Old Testament, King Saul was jealous of David’s military victories and his popularity. Jealousy developed into hatred, and Saul pursued David to kill him. During this period before he became king, David lived as a fugitive, seeking refuge in various places and moving around to avoid Saul and his men (1 Sam. 18-30). He feared for his life.

Saul tried to kill him at least three times with a spear, and then he attempted to have him killed in a battle with the Philistines. After these attempts failed, Saul “remained his enemy for the rest of his days” (1 Sam. 18:29 NIV).

Saul then asked his son Jonathan and all his attendants to kill David, and even sent men to his house to kill him, but David escaped. David told Jonathan, “there is only a step between me and death” and Jonathan knew for certain that “his father intended to kill David” (1 Sam. 20:3,33).

David kept moving from place to place, as Saul and 3,000 men searched for him. He fled to Nob and then to Gath; he hid in the cave of Adullam and then in Moab, Judah and in the desert. Finally, he settled among the Philistines in Gath.

David’s Response
David prayed for guidance and God answered and protected him. He consulted with men of God such as Samuel, Ahimelech and the prophet Gad. He “found strength in the Lord” in difficult circumstances (1 Sam. 30:6).

David’s experiences as he fled from Saul are described in Psalms 7, 18, 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59 and 142. These are characterized by both earnest prayers for God’s help and songs of praise recognizing God’s goodness. Consider these examples.

After pleading “save and deliver me from all who pursue me,” David said, “I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” In distress he cried for help; when he was rescued he praised God (Ps. 7:1,17;
18:6,49).

David was always ready to praise the Lord, and sought to be delivered from his fears (Ps. 34:1,4). After criticizing a traitor, he said he would praise God forever (Ps. 52:2,9). After seeking God’s mercy, he praised God’s promises (Ps. 56:1,10).

David prayed for protection in times of danger, and was ready to sing hymns of praise for God’s love and loyalty (Ps. 57:1,9-10). He asked to be protected from his enemies, yet he sang of God’s strength and love (Ps. 59:1,16). When he laid all his worries and troubles before the Lord, he looked forward to being able to praise God for His goodness (Ps. 142:2,7).

Paul’s Troubles
As a Jewish leader in the New Testament, Paul persecuted the early Church by punishing its members, trying to get them to give up their faith, putting them in prison and even supporting their execution (Acts 26:9-11).

After his conversion to Christianity, Paul faced all sorts of persecution: expulsion from Pisidian Antioch; ill-treatment and stoning in Iconium; stoning and being left for dead in Lystra; arrest, flogging and imprisonment in Philippi; a riot in Thessalonica; abuse in Corinth; being publicly maligned in Ephesus; plotted against in Greece; and being arrested, flogged, struck in the face, and having more than forty men plot to kill him in Jerusalem (Acts 13-23).

Paul said of his hardships and sufferings, that he had “been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers … from bandits … from my own countrymen … from Gentiles … in the city … in the country … at sea and … from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

His sufferings in Asia were so horrible and unbearable that death seemed certain (2 Cor. 1:8-9). He also experienced a “thorn in the flesh” that tormented him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Paul’s Response
Paul persevered with the mission to which God called him despite his hardships. For example, when he faced opposition from the Jews in Corinth he protested to them and moved on to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6-8). Like David, under God’s guidance he was courageous and was able to escape many threatening situations.

Paul’s response to difficulties is illustrated by his time in jail at Philippi. Having been severely flogged, placed in the inner cell and fastened in stocks, Paul and Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God” in the middle of the night (Acts 16:25). So, like David, prayer and songs of praise characterized his life. This would have included prayers for those who persecuted him (Mt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14).

Our Response
Although we may not face life-threatening situations as often as David and Paul did, we can learn from their experiences. We will all face hardship, trials, troubles and difficulties while serving God in this sinful world. On such occasions it is important to realize our dependence on God and express it through prayer and praise.

In difficult times and at critical moments in life we should bring our needs to God in prayer. Then as we realize God’s power, love and goodness this should lead to praise and thanksgiving. Only those who see the big picture, God at work even in our trying times, can suffer gladly (Rom. 5:3).

Published: June 2000

Also see: Responding to personal problems
Responding to external problems