Recently, some friends and I have been discussing the role of Praise and Worship in our daily lives, and how much that role is a natural response from being children of God. Doing that brought back memories of a newsletter I had written in September of 2006. Its subject was ‘praisers’. I read it again this past week and was reminded of how necessary worship is to our Christian experience. I’ve re-written much of it but used it as the framework for this letter. The original letter was written at the time we were required to relocate the station. Even though we had put much time into looking for a location since the early part of that year, by September we had no apparent studio location in sight. Privately, while we steadily moved forward, we still were very aware of a December 31 deadline to move and how vulnerable we were to things not going well for us. An unknown future stared us in the face daily. That environment produced that letter with a few re-writes for this one.
For twenty years we have called this station an encourager. In fact, that’s the single most common way we describe this ministry. Certainly, encouragement is the end result of what we do. But, I’ve discovered that what we do to receive and experience that encouragement is ‘praise.’ Throughout scripture, biblical praise is shown to be a powerful experience for believers. For example, in Ezra 3, they ‘praised’ before they laid the foundation of the Temple. Joshua was quiet for six days before being instructed to shout (or praise) and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. In 2Chornicles 20, ‘praisers’ were sent before the Armies of God. There are many other events and times where praise played a significant role. I don’t think it is so necessary for Him to receive those praises, but more importantly for our sake, it is absolutely necessary for us to give them. It may not even be so important that we understand why we praise, but doing it is necessary just the same.
As I mentioned earlier, we like to use the word encourager to describe this ministry. Encouragement is present in the biblical text. The Hebrew meaning is consistent each time it is used. Encouragers are associated with ‘cheering’ (my word) people on. It is a word used when imploring people to be strong, to hold fast, to withstand, to repair and to recover, and in each case to be courageous. I think that pretty well describes what we do on WBVN. At least that is our hearts’ desire for this ministry. We do not challenge listeners to a new doctrine, but instead we cheer our listeners on in their own personal Faith, no matter the specific doctrine.
It seems that praising was ‘easier’ or at least more common two thousand years ago. There are many scriptures that instruct us to ‘praise’ in all kinds of situations. For some reason, praising is not as natural for today’s believers as it seemed to be for the early Church. I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown up feeling a little too ‘self aware’ at times when I was in the middle of simple praise. Seems that praising God today needs to ‘be given a defined time’ for it to take place. For us to feel comfortable to express biblical praise, we, more often than not, need a meeting designed especially for praise rather than a spontaneous event of praise. I think in the future we are going to see more ‘spontaneous praising’ as God manifests His presence in our routine daily lives. Maybe our living rooms or back yards will become centers of Worship and Praise.
The environment provided over WBVN seems to elicit that kind of private praise response. The music ministry here seems to hold some real importance for our listeners. I’ve told friends of a few times when my Sonoma pickup was ‘a house of praise’.
Today, for the most part, praise gets all bundled up and packaged as ‘singing praises.’ Now, we do plenty of singing here. And, as I mentioned above, it is encouraging. It brings a confidence and an awareness of God’s love and provision. But I think just as importantly, the opportunity for the station to just simply say praises is good for all of us. I think what we say about Him and what we play about Him is all part of one expression of praising God.
As believers, many times we may not know exactly what to do. Maybe there are no words, no action that can be done, but we always know that it’s powerful to praise Him. If in doubt of anything, you can always be sure on this one thing: praising Him is always appropriate in any situation. It brings to mind the over used, and too much quoted, but always appropriate scripture from Habakkuk, “although the fig tree may not blossom, neither shall fruit be on the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail; and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in the God of my salvation.” And, while He is worthy of that praise, we, because we are worshipers by inclination, need to praise Him for a complete expression of our Faith. It doesn’t take being a believer to worship. Just look around you and you will see all people worshiping something or someone. The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart is also. That’s true of believers and unbelievers. If we will not worship Him, we will find something else to worship. We were born to worship if you will. When we worship, we are ‘at home’ because the Creator created the creature with a need to worship. It’s the object of the worship that makes the difference: things, them or Him.
What we have to say about the Father, what we believe about Him, is so critical during times such as these. The world, and specifically the Christian community, sure needs to know what to say and we need to be saying it with confidence right now! Praising Him does that for us. It’s in times like these, times when the world seems to overwhelm and discourage, that we can discover how important ‘praise’ is for us!
I kind of look at it like this. Any day could be our last day. I have one general rule for the last or any day of our lives: We should just praise our way into His presence. If it isn’t our last day, let’s praise Him anyway, expecting the Father to follow up with His presence and evidence of His manifestation in our daily lives. We may not understand every scripture. We may not have memorized each verse. We may not have prayed each morning this week. We may not feel God’s presence at all. We might feel all alone. Maybe things are falling apart all around us. But each day, whether we feel like it or not, we can praise Him. I think that what happens here encourages all of us, binding us together, listeners, radio and Spirit of God, in one unity of praise.
We’re very grateful for you being in this partnership of believers known as WBVN. It is always a pleasure to gather together each day so that we are able to Praise God over FM 104.5. Thank you for your prayers, concert attendance and financial support to keep this ministry relevant in our lives each day.
I like quotes. I guess I like them so much because I don’t have to read a lot of material to get the meat. They provide the shortest distance between ignorance and wisdom. One of my favorite quotes is one we have on the wall at the station. It’s from a Bible teacher by the name of E.W. Bullinger:
‘What is prayer? Our hymn says truly, “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath.” Or, it may be more accurately expressed by saying “Prayer is the breath of the new nature.” Just as the natural breath is the sign and evidence of physical life, so prayer is the mark and sign of the possession of spiritual life… Natural life commences with breathing and the breathing produces a cry. It is so with the New Birth… From that moment, breathing continues as the spontaneous outcome of the New Life. No knowledge of Physiology is required for the one, and no knowledge of Theology is necessary for the other… The moment it becomes the subject of discussion—its essence is gone. We are such formalists by nature that we need nothing to encourage formalism in our prayers. The moment we reason about prayer we make it artificial. But true prayer is spontaneous. Our business in natural life is to breathe and not to think about it. Our business in spiritual life is to breathe (to pray) and not to think about it. The moment we begin to think about our prayer we are occupied with the means and lose the end…’
I have another on my desk that goes like this: ‘beginning empty handed and alone frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them’. I like a quote once stated by Curly to Moe of the Three Stooges: ‘every time you think you weaken the nation’. I know many of you don’t even know who the Three Stooges were. Let’s just say that they were cultural philosophers and leave it at that.
Another quote that has caught my attention over the years was typically seen rather than heard. It was from someone I disagreed with some of the time but someone I also admired most of the time. Rich Mullins used to sign his compact disc and photos with a simple: “Be God’s”. It’s just two words long; six letters, but that was as effective as a 45 minute sermon. I have mentioned a story a few times years ago. I found myself in a glass elevator with Rich while on a trip to Nashville, Tn. He and I were alone there. I watched the city of Nashville as it descended behind Rich as we were rising from the ground floor. Rich just stared at the floor much of the time without saying anything except a quick hello. As we continued on the ride he looked up at me and said “………..” Well, I can’t tell you what he said. You see what he said has always been the part of the story that I have not shared with people. It was so specific, so unique to my personality and life that I made a promise to keep it that way, very personal, very profound for me. My bad! It was so on target for why we started the station and why we lived our lives the way we have. The intimacy of the quote was just so right on. I’ll save that quote for another time. But it illustrates the power of how just a few words can encourage and make such a difference in our lives.
‘Be God’s’, if taken and thought about very much, sums up so much of the thousands of attempts we make to try and explain our Faith. Somehow those two words take up so much space in our hearts in spite of not taking up much room on the paper he used to write it on. They seem to encompass everything we need to know about the relationship between God and man. I’m not sure we do that all that well. Einstein once said that we use about 10% of our intellect leaving the other 90% never exercised. Our spiritual life resembles that, I think. But to ‘be God’s’ covers much more than 10% of our lives. To ‘be God’s’ is to listen, to follow, to learn of Him, to check our thoughts and intents through Him. It is patience, kindness, encouraging, gracious, and merciful and thinking on those things. Being God’s has to do with what we do when people are around to watch and what we do when we are by ourselves and no one knows what we are doing. What do we hope for, how do we think before the day begins. Are we content or complaining? Do we do our work at work because others see us or do we do our work no matter whether we are being observed or not.
‘Being God’s’ is more than one day a week; it’s twenty-four seven. It produces a common bond between us even when our unique beliefs may be different. It affects our career, our relationship with friends, our marriage, neighbors and children. Being His can make obvious to us things that might be indistinguishable otherwise. It levels out the valleys and the mountain tops. It opens our eyes to appreciation of the smallest and the largest. It heals hurt feelings and permits successful relationships with people we may not agree with some of the time but find much in common to share and to be excited about.
Just to make us think a little more, here’s another quote I’ve always liked, and one you might find interesting for this day and time:
”A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess (gifts) from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:
from bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependency;
from dependency back again to bondage.”
That was not written yesterday, it was written by Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813).