October 6: Praise You
Pity us poor present-day humans in industrialized cultures: we have it all figured out. We’ve been to the heavens and the depths of the sea. We’ve climbed the highest mountains so much that there are literally traffic jams on Everest at certain times of year. We push every limit and challenge every boundary in order to feel the exhilaration of our own capabilities. We have harnessed the power of the atom, gathered the wind to light our cities, and conquered the savagery of the seas to make them global highways of commerce.
Mankind has become so great and mighty in our own eyes that we strain to set apart God in our minds as the true embodiment of power and majesty, glory and honor. We may say the words, but do they impact us? What does it mean that power and majesty belong to Him? What does glory mean? When we say these words, what pictures do they conjure in our minds? Do their meanings grip us with awe? I ask because in my own experience, if I don’t fan the flames of wonder, if I don’t remind myself and dwell on the truths of who He is and what He’s done, I end up going into a sort of cruise control or auto-pilot where I give mental assent to the facts about God’s status without any real experience of awe, wonder, and worship.
It is fairly safe to say I’m not alone in this struggle. It is such a hazard of human nature to become inured to the presence of God and for the flesh to become desensitized to the spiritual world that, in Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly warns Israel to “never forget,” “remember,” “consider,” and “keep in mind.” It is a serious theme in that book because the Lord knew that, once the Israelites got established in the land and there were no more daily miracles of provision, no elders left who had witnessed the sea parting and the mountain smoking, they would be in danger of forgetting not only the details but a sense of the experience.
That is just human nature. We have a propensity to compartmentalize as “old news” those things we aren’t currently experiencing. This fuels another component in human nature, our desire for new experiences—especially the pleasant kind (we generally don’t desire to repeat that sticking-our-fingers-in-fire experience like we do the eating-cheesecake one). In fact, the need for the novel can be so great that those very elders who went up on the mountain with Moses to meet with God were the same ones who joined in with the debauchery and idolatry of the golden calf not long after. We need to keep our encounters with our living, loving, almighty God current if we hope to have a firm and enduring grasp on the wisdom and majesty, power, and glory of which we sing.
Awe and wonder, love and adoration, a responsive, worshiping heart—these all need to be cultivated. If we want to reap a harvest of praise and sit down at a feast in the abundance of His presence, we need to:
- Till the ground: Breaking up the stony places of our hearts through allowing the Word and Spirit to convict us, causing us to confess and repent, leaving soft and receptive soil for what comes next.
- Plant the seeds: Filling our minds and hearts with truths about who God is and what He’s done. We need to have many thoughts and many truths in place in order to make sense of what we experience and to have the building blocks necessary to give language to those experiences. We need these seeds of truth to sprout deep roots to hold us in place when adversity arises and we are tempted to doubt or fear.
- Irrigate: The seedlings will dry up without regular watering, which comes from soaking ourselves in the Word, in the presence of the Spirit, and in the very necessary component of a thankful heart. Even though we often consider praise and thanksgiving as separate things, true praise cannot arise out of a heart that is not grateful. If there is any such thing as a shortcut to the deeper life in God, it would have the trail marker labeled “gratitude.”
- Have sunshine: basking in the glow of His presence, experiencing the warmth of His love, exulting in the radiance of His glory, and even enduring the intense heat of His holiness are all vital for growth.
- Allow time: Few fruitful crops spring up overnight. It takes time to develop an ear of corn or an apple, and it takes time for any relationship to mature to a place of trust and intimacy. We can’t expect to experience lasting fruit of praise, or deep enduring joy and adoration if we haven’t invested the time and intention necessary to obtain them.
If we will do these things, we will begin to experience the deeper meaning of these words because we will begin to have deeper encounters with the One of whom we sing. And whether in song or conversation, we will have a discernible authenticity in our praise because we will know more of Him!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries