Exalt the LORD our God,

and worship at his holy mountain,

for the LORD our God is holy!

Psalm 99: 9

 

As a follower of Christ, I can honestly and sincerely do something that most other people would struggle to engage in with the same zeal, for I can truly sing out in praise of my King. The Lord rules the world with mercy and with justice in perfect balance. That is not so easy to do in these days of rampant violence and selfish greed; yet, I can praise God on a daily basis for the love and the grace that He pours out into the portion of the world that I can see myself. I thank the Lord for the love that fills my heart and mind with the presence of Christ, and that thankfulness is overwhelmed by the reality that the most holy God has gifted this poor sinner with the wealth of His salvation and life.

 

In a very real way God’s holiness is what draws me to Him. The Lord is different from the world in every way, and although He stands apart and separate, He is close by and fully accessible at the same time. God’s values and character are above and beyond the changeable nature of those of this world. People turn our hearts toward the enticing call of contemporary culture. We trade away the wealth of eternity for the momentary pleasure of those current practices and ideas. Thus, we restate ancient truth so that it fits within the confines of our desired behaviors. However, the Lord is not influenced or moved by all of this. He remains above it all, and He continuously speaks His word of truth for all who will hear to follow.

 

So, out of His holiness God calls to people. He gives us a path to follow through the days of our lives that leads us out of the world’s ever-shifting morality and values and takes us to His holy place of righteousness. Christ takes anyone who will follow Him out of a life that is ruled by the forces of this world, and He brings us onto God’s holy mountain where righteousness and love reign so that joy and peace can become the state of our hearts and minds. Thus, in Christ, we are lifted up to that holy mountain of the Lord so that the ground that we cover in our days is territory that we can fill with the presence of Christ. It is here and now that our words of praise to the Lord can be used by Christ to bring His salvation to the portion of the world that we touch.

Praise the LORD, all nations!

Extol him, all peoples!

For great is his steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

Praise the LORD!

Psalm 117

 

This short hymn expresses God’s intent and the reality of what will be when His plan is fulfilled. There will be a time when all nations and all peoples will be completely and totally committed to God and when all will sing choruses of praise to the Lord on a continual basis. This is not where we are today. God’s plan for redemption is in motion, and all of us who know Christ are a part of that movement toward this future time. Each of us has a place in the outworking of God’s desire and will in our world now.

 

It seems overwhelming to think in terms of any nation on earth in these days as being one that praises the Lord through its fundamental character and the actions that come out of that character. Nations are self-interested, shortsighted, and generally work to protect and to defend those interests at the expense of peace and justice. Our nations are a hard sell when it comes to righteousness and true love; yet, it is worth our time and effort to promote Godly thinking and Christ-like actions from those who govern our land. Active engagement with the people and the processes of rule in all components of the government are a part of what God calls His people to do.

 

However, I believe that Christ calls upon His followers to be and to do something even more fundamental and foundational than that. The Lord desires for us to be people who think, speak, and act out of our understanding of His unfailing and redemptive love for all people everywhere. We are to live lives that are themselves hymns of praise to the Lord. The words to that song are expressions of love, justice, and peace making. The chorus expresses loudly and clearly the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. A life of submitted service to Christ and to His kingdom come is a chorus of praise that just might awaken a sleeping world to join in its joyous refrain!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150: 6

 

This is the final note of the last chorus of the great choral piece that is the Psalms. Praise is the point of it all. The word praise is defined as, “An expression of approval or admiration.” That is very mild in comparison to what the writer of this psalm had in mind, and it is equally weak in comparison to my own understanding of this idea. When we think about praising God, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is the words that we say and sing. God tells us that He delights in those verbal expressions of our understanding of who He is and of what He does. Speaking about God in public and in private is an important part of our practice of worship. Yet, these spoken utterances are not all that praising the Lord entails.

 

God desires our words and more. He wants us to be people who live our lives as a constant testimony of praise to Him. When we are at our jobs or in school, as we talk with our neighbors and care for our homes, and in our political decision making and joining in causes or crusades we are to engage with life in a manner that speaks the heart of God into our world. There is no time of day or situation that does not already belong to God and that is not a part of His economy. This idea is very sobering to me. Its application to my day causes me to look at my thoughts and responses to many people and discussions with a new sense of their importance and with a different, a Christ-centric, frame of reference for that engagement.

 

In light of the idea that praising the Lord is God’s desired definition for my life and for those of every one of His people, I am not so much a follower of Christ; rather, Christ is who and what I am. This is a wonderful and a lofty concept that I fall terribly short of actually following. So, God says to me that He knows my weakness and He understands my sin. His grace flows over it all in the blood of Christ as God calls me to repentance for that sin and to surrender to His will. Repentance and submission are also praise. The Lord is praised as I do today what sin had prevented yesterday and as I enter into the hard work of restoration of that which has been damaged by my thoughts, words and actions. God is truly delighted by the praise of His people, and He is most pleased when that praise is expressed by every aspect of our beings.

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Psalm 111: 1

 

Sometimes it seems that life just goes along its way. The days come and they go with little regard for just how they turned out as well as they did. Breath is drawn, food and drink are consumed, and joy is found in many places; yet, there is little recognition of who designed it all to be so. As I reflect on this it becomes clear that more of life falls into the category that could be called blessed than that which lands in some other place. There is much that is good and worthwhile in my days. There is much that blesses my day that I know comes directly from the love and grace of God.

 

When I take the time to stop and to speak out my praise for all that the Lord does for me, it is actually helpful to me. There is something very comforting and truly encouraging about taking note of the fact that there is a Creator who has His hand firmly on my life. From the breath that we breathe to the miracle of birth the Lord designed it all. From the covering over our heads to the universe that surrounds us God set it all in place. Even the hard situations, pain, and loss serve to bring glory to His name. There is no relationship or human struggle that God does not want to see healed, and His wisdom, compassion, and love are sufficient to bring about the restoration and healing that is needed.

 

So, it is good to open my mouth and reveal my heart to my Lord and to those who surround me. When I speak out praises for who God is and for what He does in my world, I am opening my own eyes to His glorious presence. As I speak of His works with the community of faith I see those same works multiplied in all of their lives. Christ has redeemed me from a life where the pain and the futility of death were the best that I could have anticipated. Now I am surrounded by life. Through Christ my eyes are opened to the hand of God at work in every corner of my world. Praise God! Let His praises sing out with every beat of my heart today!

Praise the Lord, all nations!

Extol him all peoples!

For great is his steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 117

 

Here is a dream expressed. These words contain God’s desire for His creation. For the Lord has directed the greatest share of His attention and concern toward the realization of His expressed intent to see all people and all of our nations reconciled to Him. Although the world does not seem to be ready for this to happen, God is not deterred from His mission. However, He is restrained; for, the Lord waits and watches and He speaks truth and engages our hearts. Yet, the time for the final reckoning is not here, and God has not yet set in motion all that ensues.

 

For now, people who know God, those who name Christ as Lord and Savior and proclaim the name Son of God, are called to cross over the barriers that define our separation. We can embrace our differences as intriguing and our individual practices of faith as fuller expression of worship. In the body of Christ we can embrace the fact that God’s Word is our common language, and allow His Spirit to be our translator. Christ sees no difference among His people, and He empowers us to see as He does.

 

God’s heart is delighted when we sing our praises to Him. He enjoys the notes of our solitary choruses, and He gets great pleasure out of choirs of voices joined together for this purpose. Yet even more, God’s heart is gratified when the gathered voices are a rich and a deep symphony that is made of people of all genders, races, and nationalities. The Lord loves the rich tapestry of our distinctive clothing and the depth of expression that comes as our various languages sing out together as we follow Christ and shout our praises to the Lord on high!

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised!

Psalm 113: 2, 3

 

This week that leads to Easter is usually a rather somber and reflective one for the Christian world. Quite rightly we look at the cross and the terrible way that Jesus was handled by all elements of His society during the hours of His arrest, trials, and torture. We see the agony of isolation, the grinding hurt of betrayal and abandonment, injustice and cruelty played out on His body and His mind, and that final agonizing execution. Of course we look beyond the events of Friday to the glory of Resurrection Sunday, but it is still hard to look beyond the rest of the week.

 

However, I think that it might be helpful to consider the reason that the crowds and Jesus were in Jerusalem at that time. It was Passover. This was a season of celebration, and one of remembrance of that time when God caused death to become life and when slavery was turned into freedom. The God of Passover is worthy of praise. He is the one who saves His people from all that holds us captive. The Lord calls us to join Him in the feast that is set out at His table of grace; yet, He requires nothing of us for the sacrificial price has already been paid.

 

So, I would like to set out the idea that this can be a week of great celebration. The festive, colorful elements of spring that we display are appropriate for the entire time. Joyous and celebratory words of praise can fill our hearts and spill out from our lips in adoration of our great God! For the Christian world, this is truly our season of Passover, for Jesus stepped into our rightful place as condemned sinner. It is His blood that marks the door to our hearts with a seal of salvation. Praise the Lord from the first waking breath of the day until weariness has gained its hold on us at day’s end. Let each moment be a living expression of that praise.

 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150: 6

 

With a body that is overcome by pain, praise the Lord. With cheeks stained by tears, praise the Lord. In the middle of loss and soul searing grief, praise the Lord. Every phase and each aspect of life shows me the praise worthy nature of God. There is nothing that comes along that does not point to His love, grace, compassion, might, and glory. In fact, as I gain in my knowledge of Christ through the way that He engages in life with me and with people that I know during these challenging times, I more fully understand the many ways that the Lord’s hands are involved with shaping my life for my benefit.

 

In response to Christ’s great love for me, I desire to make even the most basic elements of my day into festivals of praise for my Lord. I can use my words, and I can choose to express my thanksgivings in the sorts of songs that have filled the hearts of God’s children throughout the ages. However, it is even more striking to others and more pleasing to God when I think of all people with kindness, acceptance, and concern. Also, the Lord is delighted when I turn these thoughts into acts of humble submission to His will and to His purpose by tangibly loving others.

 

In times of triumph and joy, I can praise the Lord, and in times of defeat and bitterness, I can continue to praise the Lord. His gifts are beyond counting, and His love is complete and never ceasing. Praise is a life that is lived in honest expression of grief and of glee, for Christ goes with us in and through all that we experience and feel. Praise is expressed in trusting my Lord to take me through every experience in life with His loving arms holding me up and giving my soul security. Praise is the love song that my heart sings in response to the eternal love that Christ has pledged to me.