Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reasons for Praise

On Sunday the Lord spoke to me (and to us as a church) about praise and worship.  He led us to several examples in scripture, specifically in the Gospels and Acts, where praise rose when Jesus, and then later, the Apostles, touched the lives of the common people with Holy Spirit powered kindness.  You can listen to Sunday's worship and message at this link:  sermon.net/crossroadsdc/sermonid/1199990396.

We began by enjoying the wide open unquestioning praise of children.  We celebrated with palms and balloons and enjoyed a clip from the almost 40 year old movie Jesus Christ Superstar...  youtu.be/OXDmfAB42z0.

Children teach us, or remind us, about how much fun we can have praising God!  Every Palm Sunday we hope kids will enjoy themselves like they did on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem.  You can read the story as we shared it at Crossroads in Matthew 21:1-16.  One of the sweet things about that story is that the praise goes on even as there is misunderstanding and conflict.  Hosanna!  Blessed is the One who Comes in the Name of the Lord!

Children praise freely.  Adults, however, are slower to join in the celebration.  Adults need reasons for praise, and that was something we focused on during the message on Sunday.  It is the Holy Spirit powered kindness of God at work in this world, in powerful, miraculous ways, in ways that touch the real hurts and pains of people--it is that Holy Spirit powered kindness that brings praise out of adults.  Through miraculous and practical acts of kindness, we are healed and we turn and praise like children!  Glory be to God!

The particular scripture that began to open this for us in a clear way was the one where friends carry a paralyzed man to Jesus.  Jesus first words to the man are "your sins are forgiven."  Those words contain the core of the gospel message and there should have been great rejoicing at that point.  But instead, there was only doubt and unbelief.  Jesus then said this: “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” -- then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men."

It took a practical touch of kindness, Holy Spirit powered kindness, in order to bring the skeptical adults to the point where they would with all honesty praise and worship God.

We looked at other examples of this including Matthew 15:30-31 and Acts 3:6-8.  And then we were challenged us in this way:  "...Usually, praise comes after God gives a reason... praise comes after God does something for us… after someone is healed, after someone is given new life, after a miracle or a gift of love or grace or peace… after someone does something for you in Jesus’ name, because they are a believer.  So, if praise isn't flowing, it could be that we are holding back some of the resources God has put at our disposal to bless others..."

In Acts 3, when the Holy Spirit filled disciples meet the lame beggar at the temple gate in Jerusalem, they (Peter and John, with Peter as the spokesman) say this: "Silver and gold I do not have."  They did not have the financial means to help that man.  Instead, the gave him what they did have, the Holy Spirit empowered gift of healing.  Peter spoke in the name of Jesus, put out out his hand, helped the man to his feet, the man's feet and ankles became strong, he jumped to his feet and began to praise God, walking, jumping, acting like a little kid right there in the temple courts.

But what if they DID have the financial means?  What if they would have had silver or gold coins to share?  What is the call to you and me when we come across practical needs in our community?  Should we say "no" and just share spiritual goods and prayer and expect God to act with his power when we hold back what we have?  I don't think so.  Peter said "What I have I give you."  If we desire that praise and worship flow in our community, can we do any less than give what we do have and not hold back?

Would you join me in prayer about this?  Would you pray with me that God would reveal to each one of us, and to each family, in what ways we might be holding back the flow of praise?  Pray that God would reveal any lack of faith in us and any stinginess when it comes to kindness and love.  Pray that the Lord would show us what is needed so that love, faith and praise will flow with life-changing power among us and beyond.


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