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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Start The Year Right, Start It With Praise

There’s a superstition that what you do on New Year’s Day you will do for the rest of the year. Well it’s not New Year’s Day but this is just the second Sunday in 2018 so it’ not too late. If that superstition is right if we started praising God right now we will be praising Him all year.

This is the manuscript of a sermon preached at Christ Church in Los Angeles on Sunday January 14, 2018. 

There’s a superstition that what you do on New Year’s Day you will do for the rest of the year. Well it’s not New Year’s Day but this is just the second Sunday in 2018 so it’ not too late. If that superstition is right if we started praising God right now we will be praising Him all year.

There's a Doxology we all know and have probably many times before:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

That’s very nice and we sing very melodically and sweet. Now let me read the first two verses of Psalm 95 from the Message Bible:

Psalm 95:1-2 The Message (MSG) Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!

Praising God - The First Thing!

Praising God is the best thing to do before we do anything else. Think about the good times. What do you usually do during these times? You praise God. Now think about those difficult times in your life when you don't know what to do? How about Praising God then?

Praising God at those times doesn’t minimize or deny the difficulties but it changes our focus from the difficulties to God and who He is. He never changes. He promised never to leave us, so we can count on His presence, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

What exactly is praise?

Here’s a good definition of praise:

  • to express warm approval or admiration 
  • the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something

A definition of Christian praise is the joyful thanking and adoring of God, the celebration of His goodness and grace.

From the Holman Bible Dictionary

Praise comes from a Latin word meaning “value” or “price.” so to give praise to God is to proclaim His merit or worth.

Many terms are used to express this in the Bible, including “glory,” “blessing,” “thanksgiving,” and “hallelujah,”

God is the Object of our Praise

It's not just human beings who praise God praise come from His entire creation starting with the angels;

Revelation 5:11-13 (NKJV)11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,12 saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!"13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

The Bible tells us that all things praise God;

Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.,

Psalm 148:10-13 (NKJV)10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying fowl;11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth;12 Both young men and maidens; Old men and children.13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.

Isaiah 55:12 (NKJV)12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Luke 19:40 (NKJV)40 But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."

Man the crowning jewel of creation is to praise Him;

While the Bible tell us about the angels, the animals, the mountains, and the rocks, it is primarily concerned with the praises offered to God by us humans.

Psalm 150:1-6 (NKJV)1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

Praising God is not a feeling. Praise is conscious admiration and thanks for who God is and what He does. It is an act of the will to praise Him by thoughtfully celebrating His goodness, His greatness, His majesty, His love, His grace, His mighty deeds on our behalf.

Why Should We Praise God ?

Praise gets the focus off us and puts it on God.

We praise God because;

● He’s worthy

2 Samuel 22:4 (NKJV) I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

Revelation 4:11 (NKJV)11 "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."

● He’s full of glory

Psalm 138:5 (NKJV)5 Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD.

  • And He is great
Psalm 145:3 (NKJV)3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.

● He’s wise and powerful

Daniel 2:20 (NKJV) Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.

● He’s good

Psalm 107:8 (NKJV)8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

● He’s merciful and faithful

Psalm 89:1 (NKJV)1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.

● He saves

Psalm 18:46 (NKJV)46 The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

  • He provides
Psalm 136:25 (NKJV) Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever.

● He keeps His promises

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

● He pardons sin

Psalm 103:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,

To try to list all reasons to praise God is impossible, let’s just say we should praise God because of who He is and what He’s done.

There Will Always Be Problems

Life will never be problem free. Look at what happens in the world during any given week—wars, terrorist attacks, threat of government shutdowns, natural disasters, horrific accidents, violent crime. Individuals are faced with job loss, serious illness, and family tragedies. Problems are a fact of life.

Some deny that problems exists. Others run away from their problems. Still others look for someone else to blame. When people are faced with obstacles or problems, they might respond positively, or they might respond negatively, but they will respond.

The Best Response

There are plenty of ways to respond to problems and handle the stress in your life. You can respond by yelling or by throwing something. You might turn to alcohol or become addicted to social media and the Internet. But let me suggest that you respond with praise and thanksgiving.

Praise changes the spiritual climate and can result in a change of the situation

There is something that is recorded in the Bible the 16th chapter of Acts that proves my point.

Paul and Silas were in Philippi and the were put in jail. If you start reading at verse 16 you can find out why they were jailed but I'm going to start at the place where they started praising God

Acts 16:25-26 (NKJV)2
5 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.

That was a big change after praise.

Job is another example. In the midst of his suffering he said;

Job 1:21 NIV ... “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Now we have to go to the end of Job to see what happens,

Job 42:12 (NKJV)12 Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys.

He was blessed with double of what he lost.

Ways to Praise God

Like the reasons to praise God are endless so is the list of ways to praise Him. We can praise by singing songs and hymns, clapping our hands, even jumping for joy etc. We can praise God with the use of our physical limbs, our hearts and minds, and our deeds. Although there are many way to praise God, they should all result in acknowledgement of His power, love and grace.

● Praise Him with Sacrifice

Before Jesus the offering of sacrifices was a way to praise God.

Leviticus 14:12 (NKJV)12 And the priest shall take one male lamb and offer it as a trespass offering, and the log of oil, and wave them as a wave offering before the LORD.

Today we offer a sacrifice of praise

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

We can also praise God by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

● Praise Him with movement (dance)

Remember David praise dancing before the Ark of the Covenant when it was returned to Jerusalem?

2 Samuel 6:14 (NKJV)
Then David danced before the LORD with all his might..

● Praise Him with silence and meditation

Psalm 77:11-12 (NKJV)11 I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.12 I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.

● Praise Him with testimony

Psalm 66:16 (NKJV)16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul.

● Praise Him with prayer

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

● Praise Him with music

We know that Psalm 150 talks about praising God with music and with dance.

With all these ways to praise God there is one very important thing to remember.

To Praise God You Have To Really Know Him

There is no shortcut to really getting to know a person. Just as a newly married couple must spend hours, days, and years with each other if they are going to hope to really know each other, the Christian must spend lots of time interacting with God, listening and speaking to him in prayer and reading and meditating in His Word. We praise him because we know him and know what he can and will do. This kind of praise declares who God is, what he has done in the past, and our confidence in him today. When we know what He has done in the past we will then know how he will respond to any situation in the future.

In other words, when we spend time with God in prayer and in His word we learn who He is and what His plans for us are.

Jeremiah 29:11‭ NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Paul put it this way;

1 Corinthians 2:16 NIV for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

In other words, we have some understanding as to how God thinks.

Praise involves knowing who God is in your life and what He has done for you and then expressing it.

We can say things like:

“Lord, I praise you because you are so faithful, and you have never let your people down.

Lord, I praise because you created all things.

Lord, I praise You because You are the one that came into this world in the midst of darkness and despair and defeated sin, death, and hell.

Lord, I praise you because you always meet all my needs.

Lord, I praise you because you have given me everything that I need for life and godliness.

That's Praise with Substance

Praise is more than catchphrases, like “Praise you, Lord! Praise you Lord—hallelujah! Glory to God! Thank you, Jesus!”

Although these words are part of praise, biblical praise is more than that. Biblical praise describes who God is and what he has done. Praise is descriptive, based on truth, and from the heart. Knowledge of God and the way to describe it only comes from spending time in His Word. Our praise should be filled with Scripture and truth.

Praise is to originate in the heart and not become mere outward show.

Jesus talked about that kind of praise.

Matthew 15:8 (NKJV)8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.

Seeing Life from God’s Perspective

When we praise God, we also make a declaration of who we are in light of him. That means that when we begin to praise him, we move from our limited power to his unlimited power. We trade our limited wisdom for his infinite wisdom and our limited experience for his unlimited experience. We move from our perspective to his perspective. We begin to see life through his eyes.

A Life of Praise

Everyone, well almost everyone, agrees that praise is good. When we’re happy we praise God but, when we’re not happy we don’t praise….. we pray We should do both. We don’t feel any responsibility to praise God when things aren’t going good. We think that praise is just a response to what has happened.

That’s not true.

Praise is not what happens afterwards it’s what happens before.

Remember the Paul and Silas story that I mentioned before about what happened after they praised God?

Your faith in God is actually enhanced with praise. Praise touches everything and every part of your life. A lack of praise affects you in a negative way because praise takes the focus off you and places it on God. Lives that are not constant with praise and thanksgiving are not spiritually healthy.

So in summary;

• Praising God is more than merely using superficial catch phrases.

• When we understand who God is and what he does, our praise vocabulary grows and becomes descriptive.

• We praise God because we have complete confidence in Him because He never changes.

• Biblical praise engages our minds, bodies, and our heart.

• Praising God enables us to see life from his perspective

Praise is not the thing that comes when everything's going right in our lives; it is the driving force of our lives. When we start praising God in the middle of our problems, our problems become so small that we hardly remember them at all, they become an afterthought in the wake of our praise. Always remember,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)16 Rejoice always,17 pray without ceasing,18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There is a song that I really like and it says what I have been talking about today.

Praise Is What I Do
William Murphy

Praise is what I do
When I want to be close to You
I lift my hands in praise
Praise is who I am
I will praise You while I can
I'll bless You at all times

I vow to praise You
Through the good and the bad
I'll praise You
Whether happy or sad
I'll praise You
In all that I go through
Because praise is what I do
'Cause I owe it all to You

Praise is what I do
Even when I'm going through
I've learned to worship You
Though my circumstance doesn't even stand a chance
My praise outweighs the bad

I vow to praise You
Through the good and the bad
I'll praise You
Whether happy or sad
I'll praise You
In all that I go through
Because praise is what I do
'Cause I owe it all to You