Worship Now

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 9:9-11

Now’s the time to worship Him. Now’s the time to lift up the name of Jesus and praise Him. Now’s the time glorify God for His goodness and grace. Don’t wait until this pandemic is over. Don’t wait until the economy fixes itself. Don’t wait until everyone is healthy and all the hard times have passed.

We have an opportunity to do something now that we cannot do in heaven. In eternity we will not be able to worship the Lord in the midst of hardship and pain. There will be no hardship and pain. In heaven we will not be able to lift up the name of Jesus in the midst of uncertainty and struggle. There will be no uncertainty and struggle.

Right now is when we get to glorify the name of Jesus regardless of our circumstances. Right now is when we get to declare the goodness of God in the face of all the hardship we face. Right now is our chance. Don’t let it pass!

Now is the time to declare our trust in God. Now is the time to declare that He is worthy of our lives no matter what. Now is the time to sing our lungs out about how amazing God is, slow to anger and abounding in love. Let’s not wait for things to return to normal before we lift up His name!

And I’m not just talking about gatherings on Sunday mornings. Yes, we will gather again eventually. But let’s not wait for that. Right now, in our alone time with the Lord, let’s exalt the name of Jesus. Let’s renew our worship of the Only One who is worthy. Let’s sing our song to Him in the secret place as a congregation of one to an audience of One.

We have an opportunity to do now what we won’t be able to do for eternity. We get to worship Him in the midst of this trial. Let’s not miss this opportunity. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around very often. Let’s make sure we take advantage of it!

Worship now Church!

Heaviness

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

When Jesus started His ministry in the synagogue of His own hometown of Nazareth, this is the passage that He read from in the scroll of Isaiah. This passage is the prophetic mission statement for the Messiah. After Jesus read this passage, He told the congregation, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). In other words, Jesus said, “I am the fulfillment of this passage, and I will do all that it says I will do.”

There are so many profound and important truths buried in this passage, but the one I want to highlight today is one from the very last line. Jesus, through the Spirit, is able to give us a “garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” The Modern English Version of the Bible calls it a “spirit of heaviness.”

Have you ever been in a season that felt heavy?

A season of heaviness is often a season of loss. We experience the loss of a loved one, a death in the family, a friend who moves away, a co-worker moves on, a job falls through, a marriage breaks down, an offer gets turned down. In a season of heaviness there is often a combination of losses that begin to pile up. When this happens a spirit of despair–a spirit of heaviness–can weigh down our soul.

Have you ever been there? Are you there now?

The Bible tells us that the antidote to this heaviness is a garment of praise. When we feel the heaviness set in, we need to praise the Lord. We need to worship even when it feels like the opposite of what we want to do. We need to praise Him, not for the circumstances we face, but for who He is despite the circumstances. We need to praise Him for His goodness, His kindness and His love for us. He is worthy! He is worthy!

Praising God in the midst of heaviness is like taking off in a rocket in the midst of a thick, dark, cloudy sky. In order to punch through the clouds we have to keep going. A garment is something you wear. It’s something that stays on you. In order for it to be a garment of praise, it has to be more than just once. It has to be a continual offering of praise. It has to be something we wear.

When we ask the Lord to clothe us in a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, and when we begin to wear this garment of praise all day long, we will eventually punch through the clouds. The funny thing about clouds is that it is always sunny on the top side. Always. The sun never stops shining. Clouds only conceal the truth that the sun is shining, but the sun never stops shining. Praising God because He is worthy helps us bust through to the top side and see the sunshine that has been there all along.

If you are feeling the heaviness today, here is a song that will help you get to that place of praise. It’s a beautiful rendition of the Doxology.

A Grateful Heart

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you…

2 Samuel 7:18-22

This is an amazing example of gratitude to the Lord. King David models for us what our heart posture should be as we pray and contemplate all the Lord has done. What is so amazing about this stream of gratitude that pours out of David is that it comes right after God tells David that he won’t be allowed to build the Temple.

Think about that!

King David made plans to build the Temple of God. But before he could start, the Lord spoke through the prophet Nathan and told David that he’s not allowed to build it. God also told David that God would give David success as King of Israel and that David’s son would build the Temple. God also told David that his house and his kingdom would endure forever (this is a prophetic word about Jesus).

So what we have is a mixture of words to David from God. God tells David what God will do, and He also tells David what He won’t do. But which of these does David choose to focus on? David’s response is pure gratitude. King David doesn’t waste time being upset about what God isn’t doing and instead focuses on what God is doing.

If we are going to be people of gratitude, this has to be our focus as well. So many Christians are only focused on what they want God to do that He isn’t yet doing. They get frustrated and bitter at God, and in the process become completely blind to what He is doing.

We need to release those things we think God should be doing but isn’t. And we need laser-like focus on what God is doing in our midst. If we are able to focus on what God is doing rather than on what He isn’t doing, gratitude will be the natural overflow of our hearts. We won’t be able to help ourselves as gratitude will daily pour out of us as it did King David.

Are you focusing on what God is doing in your life and in your midst? Or are you stuck on what He’s not yet doing? Maybe it is time to shift your focus and lean into gratitude. The apostle Paul gives us clear instructions about thanksgiving and gratitude.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15-17

Sacrifice of Praise

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Hebrews 13:15-16

Why do Christians sing about God’s goodness and praise Him even in the midst of the difficulties of life? To the outside observer, this sort of worship can seem fake. But far from being disingenuous, this is one of the most profound and real things a follower of Jesus can do.

When we praise God during the difficult times of life, when we declare His goodness when nothing around us seems good, when we celebrate His faithfulness when things are crumbling around us, what we are offering is a sacrifice of praise. We are declaring what is true about God’s nature even though our circumstances don’t seem to reveal that truth. We are saying that God is good regardless of our circumstances. This is what makes it a sacrifice. And this is the kind of sacrifice with which God is especially pleased.

This past Sunday in church we were singing about the goodness of God. I looked around the room and knew all the extremely hard situations people were in. And yet, they were singing to God and praising Him for His goodness. Was this them being fake? No, this is as real as it gets. This was them giving God one of His most treasured gifts. This was a sacrifice of praise.

In that moment, the Lord gave me a picture. Imagine you are a servant and soldier to the true King. It is easy to sing the King’s praises while in the King’s court. It’s easy to declare that he is the one true King from his palace.

But what if you had crossed into enemy territory? What if, while you were fighting to expand the one true Kingdom, you got caught and imprisoned by the enemy. Everyone around you mocked the one true King. They beat you and starved you. They asked, “Where is your King now?” In this environment, could you still praise the King? Could you still declare his goodness? Are you willing to offer him a sacrifice of praise?

That is essentially what we are doing when we praise God for His goodness even when our circumstances are difficult. What we are saying is that God’s nature and His goodness don’t change even if our circumstances do. We are declaring that we have tasted the goodness of the King in the past and that we will taste that goodness again in the future even if we aren’t experiencing it right now. In a way, we are prophesying God’s goodness. We are calling the future into the present.

A sacrifice of praise is something we can only give when we are behind enemy lines. In heaven, when we are with Jesus for eternity, we will be completely saturated in the goodness of God. Declaring God’s goodness will be easy. The only time we can give a sacrifice of praise is when things are hard and we decide to declare God’s goodness anyway. This is a special gift that we can only give to God right now. For the rest of eternity we won’t be able to give Him this meaningful sacrifice. We can only do it now and for a limited time.

So if things are difficult in life, that is the time to praise God for His goodness. He is worthy! Being “real” doesn’t mean letting our circumstances dictate our worship. Being “real” doesn’t mean letting our hardships change our confidence in the nature of God as a good and loving Father. Yes, let’s be honest about our struggles and trials. Let’s be honest about our disappointments and frustrations. But let’s wrap our honesty in the truth. The truest thing we can declare is that God is good! He is slow to anger, abounding in love. His kindness leads us to repentance. His goodness knows no end!