The Sacrifice of Praise

Praisegiving

On the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving depositphotos_170113010-stock-photo-family-having-holiday-dinnerAmericans celebrate Thanksgiving. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Praise serves us as both a verb and a noun.

  • Verb: to express warm approval or admiration of
  • Noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something; the expression of respect and gratitude as an act of worship.

Thanksgiving 1It is interesting to note that President Lincoln proclaimed that thanks and praise be directed to God.  He recognized that it wasn’t enough for us to just voice our thanks for each other and for things, but it needed to be to our Creator Father who gave us life.  We need to remember to be thankful to, not just thankful for.

Sacrifice Is Proportionate To Worth

In Bible times, believers gave up the use and enjoyment of a spotless animal each year to have it killed and offered up as a sacrifice to God.  Pleasing God was “worth” the personal loss.  Sacrifice expresses worth-ship.  Typically, we make “sacrifices” only if we place high value on someone or something.

  • An African girl will give up playing with friends and trudge through a river collecting beads to sell to local crafters so that she can save up money for school shoes.  Shoes are worth the sacrifice.
  • A man from Alabama will miss work, drive a hundred miles to pick up friends and go to a stadium to sit in seats that cost $200 each to watch a single game played by their favorite sports team.  The thrill of the game is worth the sacrifice.
  • Family will spend time, money, and energy to get together for the holidays. Why? Being together with those with whom we have deep soul-ties is worth the sacrifice.

By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Hebrews 13:15

pray-e1542815779682.jpgHebrews says that praise is a sacrifice. Jesus’ work enables us to take our sacrifice into the very presence of God.  In having the opportunity to praise God, what would you say?  If you have a small view of God, the sacrifice of praise will bother you, and you will back out of His presence.

pray-e1542815816969.jpgOne day, people from every ethnic group will join together around the Throne and lift up their praise to the One who is worth it, far above all other people and things (Rev. 7:9-10; 19:1-8).  How cool to get a head start here on earth. 🙂  So whether it is thank you, tusen takk, Ngibonga, do jeh, grazie, merci, danke, khop khun, or arigato, let’s give praise and thanks to our God!

Hallelujah

You might even consider uttering this word at Thanksgiving.  Let me take the word apart.  “Halal” literally means “to shine” and figuratively means to boast, make a show, to rave, to be loudly foolish, and to celebrate.  Jah is short for the amazing and unequalled name of God.

The middle part of hallelujah is lu, meaning you.  The only thing standing between raving praise and God is you.  Will you be the conduit or the barrier?  Hallelujah is an exhortation – Praise you the Lord!

Structure Jumpstarts Impulse

I think we – even you introverts out there – need to go ahead and shine a little. You need to boast a bit, and maybe even carry on foolishly about our God this Thanksgiving. :-).  Many Christian families find that structure jumpstarts impulsive thanksgiving, so they have a specific time to go around the table and say one thing they are especially thankful to God for this past year.

Being missionaries abroad, we are not in the US during Thanksgiving, but we have found that foreign Christians have fallen in love with the holiday.  So we do our best to find similar foods, tell the old Plymouth story, and offer up the sacrifices of praise to our God.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”   Psalm 150:6

thanks

Encourage ~ To Pour Courage Into

 

Encourage ~ Pour Courage Into

Have you ever looked for ways to encourage others, maybe your own children, to be thankful? I love these definitions of encourage: to give support, confidence, or hope to; to help or stimulate (an activity, state, or view) to develop; to infuse courage; to pour courage into.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is sharing about the great suffering that he faced on a continual basis.  He comes to the last few verses of that chapter and pours courage into his readers by reminding them of the purpose of his difficulties and their difficulties.

  • Those trials were causing the progressive death of the Self and allowed Jesus to live through the shell of Paul’s body (v. 11);
  • Those difficulties created a “fellowship of the resurrection;” we do not call this earth “home” but look forward the coming better life (v. 14)
  • Those hardships provided an opportunity for God’s grace to sustain us during suffering, which will increase our thanksgiving to the glory of God (v. 15).
  • Those afflictions will eventually result in rewards that are ridiculously disproportionate to the suffering (v. 17)

2 Cor. 4:15-17.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Grace Turned On

There is a grace (supernatural help) that God releases when His people give thanks.  When we purposefully choose to think thanks and express that thanks orally or in a written form, we create a space where God loves to dwell, where He delights to touch us.  Psalm 22:3 says that God “inhabits the praises of His people.”

Have you ever noticed at mealtimes that Christians sometimes call giving thanks for the food “saying grace?” It is intriguing to think of the connection that grace has to giving thanks. Strong’s Concordance gives an interesting definition for the Greek word charis, normally translated grace: “the divine influence upon the heart and its refpouring 3lection in life; including gratitude and thanks; benefit, favor, gift, grace, liberality, joy, pleasure.”

Amazing! The Greek word for grace can also be translated “thanks!” What if our charis to God turns on His charis to us? What if we turn on the faucet of grace every time we are th(i)nkful?! What if our whining and complaining spirit, or just saying nothing, turns down or turns off the flow of God’s grace to us?

Being Spirit-Filled Is A Choice

We know that God’s Spirit dwells within us from the moment of salvation – we have all of the Spirit we will ever get or need.  We choose, however, how much His Spirit has of us. When Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit instead of wine, he is telling us that there is a choice we can make in pursuing the Spirit’s filling.  The description of a person filled with the Spirit is that they speak to themselves with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord and they give thanks always and for everything (Eph. 5:18-20).

I am seeking to encourage you to be th(i)nkful in this blogpost. I am seeking to pour courage into you to begin to purposely cultivate thinking thanks. I am seeking to inspire you with obedience to the commands of I Thess. 5:18 and Eph. 5:20, but also trying to motivate you to dream of the grace that is released when we follow hard after God and seek to do His will.  He blesses righteousness.

Could you think of one other person in your life that might need to have some courage poured into them to become th(i)nkful?

Dan Has Poured Courage Into My Life

Josh and Dan HainesDan Haines, a dear friend of ours, has encouraged David and me so many times. This photo is from his wedding in which our oldest son Joshua was a ring-bearer.

Many years have passed since that day.  Many trials have come along the way, such as the trial of Dan falling from a tree-stand while deer hunting and losing all feeling from the waist down. He pushed through the despair, extreme life-change, and loss of dreams by God’s grace alone, and continues to praise the Lord.  He has chosen to think thanks and reflect Christ even in the severe testing ordained by our sovereign God.  Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

I dedicate this post to you, Dan. Thank you for your example of thinking thanks and thirsting after our God who never disappoints.  How I long to see your body restored one day when we stand side by side and see our Master and King. Proud of you.

Th(i)nkful – Producing Grace

A Gratitude Journal

Nick and Julia 1This is a picture of our son, Nicolas, and his beautiful Julia.   They gave me a special present this year for my birthday –  a Daily Gratitude Journal! In this journal there are only blank pages divided by a line in the middle and a space on which to put the date. You could use really any kind of notebook to do the same thing. The idea behind it is to get into a pattern of writing down your th(i)nkful list. At the end of the day you take a moment to reflect on what you were thankful   for that day.

IMG_2253I started doing that after getting this book from Nick and Julia. Some entries are not so full. Some entries can barely fit all that I want to record. But the beautiful thing that I find happening to me is that, as I go through my days, I make mental notes of the things I need to remember to record that evening. This goes for easy days, as well has hard days.

In the Valley of Shadows

Recently, I have been hit with a lot of opportunities for wisdom. So many people I know personally have been ushered into a valley of shadows – getting better acquainted with cancer. I see in my own behavior that, although I know what the truth is and know my responsibility to act in accordance with it, I still can be overwhelmed with sadness and heaviness in my heart. I chide myself for not being stronger. The truth is, when I cannot understand God’s ways, I must hold on to His character. I must simply “hold on to Jesus.” Let me illustrate.

Song of the Orphans

A few years back, David and I had the privilege of interacting with some precious people in Shongwe Mission, South Africa.  This neighborhood was filled with orphan-led households.  In other words, both parents were gone and there were children caring for each other.  One home with 6 children was led by a 12-year-old named Lalif. I remember being struck with such admiration and yet sadness and hopelessness.

IHold on to Jesus learned a gem that afternoon. Our group sang songs for them and in return they wanted to sing for us. They did a much better job. 🙂 One of the songs they sang was “Hold on to Jesus, Hold on, Hold on, Hold on.” I thought to myself that wow, that doctrine was so shallow.  They should have been taught deeper truths.  However, the gem I discovered was that the most important thing to do when going through horrendous difficulties and challenges is to “Hold on to Jesus.”

“Trust in Him at all times, you people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).

I just can’t give way to the temptation to begin to doubt the Lord’s goodness and purposes.  Trust.  He is writing a bigger story that I could even imagine.  He asks me to be filled with the Spirit in Eph. 5:18. A description of what that filling looks like comes in verses 19-20.  I am to speak to myself in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  I am to sing and make melody in my heart to the Lord.  I am to give thanks always for all things to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord” Isaiah 63:7

When faced with difficulties, these are the things I can recount:

  1. God is God and I am not
  2. This life is a vapor and we are headed to a much better place if we have trusted in Jesus alone for our salvation
  3. God’s promises hold fast
  4. The Lord will never leave, nor forsake
  5. Somehow good will come out of pain and suffering
  6. My job is to respond to hardship with thinking thanks; like for example,  just yesterday a music therapist came into the hospital room of my loved one and played her guitar and sang “Amazing Grace”
  7. God is trustworthy; He can deftly handle all my trust
  8. God will not test me above what I am able and will answer my cry to be Spirit-filled right in the trial
  9. God hears our cries for healing and will do what is best; teaching a myriad of lessons along the way
  10. I can be edified by singing; some good selections are Chris Anderson’s song, “I Run to Christ,” or Getty’s, “Still, My Soul Be Still, or Matthew Decker’s “Fullness of Joy” (Psalm 16)
  11. I can look for God’s fingerprints of grace and kindness along the way; they are there

When I choose to be th(i)nkful – a determined choice to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance that comes my way and express that thanks orally or in a written form – grace starts to spring up in my heart. It may just be a little trickle at first, but as my thoughts begin to meditate on all the Lord has done and is doing, it bubbles more and more.  Being thinkful produces grace.

 

Th(i)nkful In The Storm

Sarah's tree storySince the Bible is the most published piece of literature in human history, and because I personally trust in it explicitly, I decided to do a thorough biblical study of the word “thanks” in all its various forms (such as thank, thankfulness, thanksgiving, thankworthy).

Let me summarize what I found and then connect it with the event in this picture that took place just last week.

Out of the 135 references I found in the Strong’s Concordance, 67 came from the Old Testament, and 68 from the New Testament. Let’s hit a few highpoints.

The references in the OT begin with the Lord’s thanksgiving offerings which were voluntary and were to express thankfulness to God in Lev. 7:11-21. God designed giving thanks as an essential part of the way His chosen people should worship Him.  As the years and the prophets went by, we can also see that whenever there was a revival, a time of cleansing and restoration in Israel, thanksgiving was an integral part.

The Psalms have the most references to thanks of any book in the Bible – no surprise there. When the psalmist was in distress, discouraged, or overwhelmed, he often poured out his heart to God.  As he began truth-thinking about God’s character and promises, his perspective changed and his thoughts were filled with thanksgiving toward God.

Moving to the NT, Colossians has a verse dealing with thanks in every chapter.  In fact, chapter 3 has three verses in a row (3:15-17), where three Greek words are used that are each connected to being thankful.  Check it out.

The strongest verses, Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18, actually command believers to give thanks in all circumstances.

  • “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20).
  • “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:18).

This is just a small sampling of all the verses I found, but such a strong foundation for pursuing being th(i)nkful.  I am cultivating thinking thanks not just for His glory, but also because my Creator has designed this thinking pattern for my benefit.  He wants me to look for the things that I can be thankful for in every situation that comes my way.

There will be times that are heart-wrenching and stretching in my life. I am to think thanks right then, even through the tears. There will be times when I feel like dancing because I am so happy.  I am to think thanks then, but that will be easy.  However, most of life will be in between these extremes, the vast stretches of mundane, everyday life, but even then, all the time, when I wake, and when I go to sleep, I am to think thanks.

I want to end this post with a story from a former student named Sarah.  She and her husband Austin are very precious to David and me. She had an eventful birthday on May 4th, a stormy day just last week.  This is how she described what happened after she left work that day:

I feel that I need to proclaim God’s grace and goodness. After not being able to leave due to trees down on the road, I came back to the house. I had just walked into the living room when we heard cracking and a massive crash. Walked outside to see this [picture above] where I had been only moments earlier. We don’t always know why God spares us from things like this, or why he doesn’t at times. But like Austin says, there are no other alternatives. No “what if’s,” or “if only’s,” we can only trust that if we knew everything He does, we wouldn’t change one thing (used by permission).

Sarah was being th(i)nkful.  She was thinking thanks in the middle of a very frightening and difficult thing.  Rather than bemoaning the destruction of her car, worrying about insurance claims, or how she would get to work, her thoughts went quickly to giving thanks to God.