Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Good

It is good to praise the LORD, and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.

Psalm 92.1-2

Morning, Noon, and Night

Most Pentecostal congregations worship twice on Sundays. The morning service is typically more formal and reverent, adhering to a standard order of worship and keeping an eye on the clock. Evening worship tends to be freer and livelier. While it follows an outline similar to the morning service, the relaxed atmosphere encourages worshipers to spend extra time in impromptu, celebratory praise. There’s a lot more singing on Sunday nights, with morning hymns replaced by catchy, up-tempo songs sung from memory, repeatedly and at length to unite the people in praise.

My favorite of these is “Praise Him,” a real toe-tapper that says, “Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him in the morning; praise Him in the noonday. Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him when the sun goes down.” As I’ve witnessed many times, something mystical transpires as the song buoys the congregation’s spirits with its ineffable joy. By the third or fourth iteration, worshipers begin reflecting on God’s goodness, morning, noon, and night—mercies greeting them at dawn, provisions and grace following them through the day, and peaceful rest attending them at sundown. Its simple reminder of our daily blessings transforms “Praise Him” from a swift-paced ditty into a rapturous anthem, the musical equivalent of an oft-repeated Pentecostal statement: “God is good all the time.”

Good for Us

The composer of Psalm 92 earmarks it as a Sabbath song, suggesting it’s appropriate to sing it any time of year, as opposed to certain seasons or festivals. And what’s most striking about his/her lyric is its framing perspective: “It’s good to praise the Lord.” The psalmist wants us realize God ordained praise as much for our benefit as His honor. That’s why praise is never inappropriate. It needs no occasion. God expects our praises. In Isaiah 43.21, He refers to us as “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Yet, like everything else He asks of us—obedience, trust, commitment, and love—praise ends up being good for us. Honestly? Whether or not God receives praise is of no consequence to Him. Ingratitude, forgetfulness, negativity, and anything else diminishing our praise can’t diminish Him. He remains as loving and powerful as ever. Heeding Psalm 92.2, proclaiming God’s love in the morning and His faithfulness at night, helps us. It fills our days with the reality of His goodness. When we don’t make praise a habit, our days are full of doubt and anxiety. The less we praise, the bigger our problems seem and the smaller we feel. Diminished praise diminishes us.

Perpetual Praise

The psalm’s fourth verse reads, “For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.” Perpetual praise keeps us constantly aware of wonderful things God has done and continues to do for us. We marvel in joy at His wisdom and way of working things out. Praise that keeps God’s goodness always before us keeps our faith in Him alive and strong. We know without a doubt He’ll help us with each day’s turmoil, just as we know He’s helping us deal with ongoing struggles one day at a time. Praising God for what He’s done invites us to praise Him in advance for what He is doing and will do. In Philippians 1.6, Paul concludes offering thanks to God for the believers at Philippi by saying, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Past praise leads to future praise. It changes how we view what’s happening now and what’s coming later.

My grandfather passed away when I was 10. Yet no one rivals his influence on my life and faith. He was larger than life in every sense and came by his nickname, “Big Daddy,” physically and spiritually. When we visited him, I stayed at his side. Randomly through the day, he’d whisper little praises. They flowed as naturally from him as his laughter and kindness. One day I asked, “Big Daddy, why are you always thanking and praising God?” His answer imprinted itself forever in my heart. “Well, it’s like this,” he said. “God has done so many good things for me, they just keep bubbling up in my mind. When they do, I make sure I praise Him right then and there so I don’t miss doing it later. It makes me happy when I tell Him how wonderful He is.” I’m convinced Big Daddy’s determination to praise God morning, noon, and night explains why he was the happiest person I’ve ever known. And he died happy. God called him at the end of a Sunday morning service as he joined the congregation in one last offering of praise. God is good all the time. It’s good to give praise to the Lord.

God ordained praise for our benefit as well as His honor.

(Image courtesy of Lisa Ellis, a tremendously gifted creator of worship quilts.)

(Tomorrow: Willing Spirits, Weak Bodies)

Postscript: “Praise Him!”

For those who are curious about the song, “Praise Him”—or fondly recall it from their upbringing—here’s a little taste. (It’s somehow perfect a Catholic choir from France performs the best video rendition of it I could find.)

Chorale la Villanelle (Beaugency, France): "Praise Him"

3 comments:

Luke said...

I totally agree with what you have here. Sometimes praising God is the best thing for me. Prayer is great but praise can be just as powerful. At the end of a long hard day at work I get in my car to go home. I am stressed, maybe angry, tired, and have to deal with traffic. It's good to be going home but it has usually been a rough day. I pop in a praise and worship cd and sing to the Lord. Nothing makes me happier or lifts my spirit more. Sometimes I cry or pray or laugh. Either way it cleanses me from the day so that I don't bring work troubles home to my loved ones. I love praise and worship music more than any kind of music because it is so powerful. No matter how awful I sound its always beautiful to Him. Thank you for writing. I don't always comment but I read your blog every single day.

Tim said...

Luke, Psalm 22.3 says God inhabits our praise--they form His throne and give Him sovereignty over our situations... our problems, our moods, our hassles, our emotions--all the things that can get us down when we leave Him out.

You're so right, there's cleansing in praise. It refreshes our spirits and reminds us Who's really in charge.

There's a great old hymn that says, "When waves of affliction sweep over the soul, and sunlight is hidden from view, if ever you're tempted to fret or complain, just think of His goodness to you."

Praise turns our thoughts in the right direction. When we start thinking of God's goodness and then express it, whether audibly or inwardly, we recognize His goodness far outweighs our struggles.

God is good all the time!

Thanks so much, Luke, for your witness and kindness. Knowing you're there (whether you comment or not) is a great source of inspiration to me.

Blessings of joyous praise,
Tim

Tim said...

Don, a longtime S-F friend, sent the following via email. It's quite lovely.

"I came across this in one of my poetry magazines of which I am a member. I thought it was noteworthy to pass it along."

PRAISE IS A BEAUTIFUL THING
PRAISE THE YOUNG
AND PRAISE THE OLD.
PRAISE THE ONE WHO
NEVER GETS PRAISED.
I RELATE PRAISE TO BLESSING.
TO PRAISE IS TO BLESS
THE GIVER OF LIFE."

Thanks, Don. Blessings always,
Tim