Tag Archives: Praise

Worship Like You’re Drunk at 9 a.m.

“These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
Acts 2:15 (NIV)

I grew up in a very traditional church paradigm for a midwest American Protestant. I, and my family, were expected to dress in our “Sunday best.” Every part of the church routine was carefully planned and orchestrated. The service had a certain pageantry to it. You kept quiet. You sat up straight in the unpadded wooden pew. You stood when you were told to stand. You sang the verses you were told to sing when you were told to sing them. You sat quietly and listened. It was all very proper.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been a follower of Jesus I have worshipped in a veritable plethora of environments across cultures and denominations. Catholic and Protestant, mainline and charismatic, traditional and non-traditional, I’ve had a lot of different experiences. I’ve worshipped in a poor mountain village on Mindanao in the Philippines where chickens scurried around the dirt floor and a dog wandered in to flop to sleep under the rickety table that served as an altar where I was preaching. I’ve worshiped in silence with Quakers and in the raucous call and response of an African-American congregation. I’ve worshipped at St. Patrick’s in Dublin, the National Synagogue in Jerusalem, and with a handful of Arab believers in Nazareth.

I’ve always held an expansive view of worship. There are always things I can learn from different cultures and traditions. I have, however, made a few observations along the way.

I believe that between the Reformation and the Enlightenment, Protestants by-and-large disembodied worship. The Reformation did away with physical gestures like genuflection and kneeling. The Enlightenment convinced us that our brains were the center of the worship experience, embellished by a couple of instances of standing, singing, and maybe a recitation.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think the worship paradigm in which I was raised was wrong, but perhaps I’d describe it as purposefully limited. In my perpetual journey through God’s Message I find that the call to praise and worship is always physically active with repeated encouragements to shout, lift hands, dance, sing, clap, play instruments, lift banners and the like. I have yet to come across an exhortation in the Bible asking me to praise God with my hands in my pockets, to praise God with mumbling, or to rejoice in passive sitting.

I’ve also observed, both in scriptural descriptions and in my own experiences, that when Holy Spirit pours out on a group of people at worship things can get a little weird. In today’s chapter, casual observers thought Peter and the boys were drunk at 9:00 in the morning. When King David was worshipping in the Spirit his wife became pissed off at how publicly “undignified” he was acting.

This morning I’m enjoying dusting off some old memories of diverse worship experiences in which I’ve participated. I’m also reminded by the events of Pentecost in today’s chapter that I can’t think of one description of Holy Spirit outpouring that is described as a quiet affair of public propriety. When the religious leaders chastised Jesus’ followers for their raucous outpouring of praise, Jesus replied, “If they were silenced then the rocks would cry out.”

The further I get in my journey, the less I care about what anyone else thinks. I’ll take an outpouring of Holy Spirit anytime. I’ll worship like I’m drunk at 9:00 in the morning.


Perspective in Victory

david victorius

King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. 1 Chronicles 18:11 (NIV)

It was very common for rulers in ancient times to declare themselves “God” and to force people to worship them. Egyptian Pharaohs were the first to do it and did so from as early as 3000 B.C. until around the time of Christ. Naram-Sim was the first Mesopotamian ruler to do it (2255 B.C.). We read in the book of Daniel about Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon demanding to be worshipped in the dramatic fashion (Daniel 3). The trend continued through history around the globe with Roman emperors, Chinese emperors, and Inca emperors all being worshipped as God.

In today’s chapter, David stands in stark contrast to his contemporaries. Instead of making himself into a god, he humbles himself before the one true God. Instead of taking the glory of victory for himself, he attributes his victories and fortune to the blessings of God. The spoils of war are offered and dedicated to the God. Several of his psalms were songs of victory dedicated to God (Psalm 20).

When things are going well, life seems to be going our way, and life’s victories pile up, it’s easy to feel good about ourselves. David provides a good example of the power of humility, faith, and praise to keep us from pride that, we are told elsewhere in God’s Message, “comes before a fall.”

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Faith and Praise: David’s Personal Relationship With God

David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem
David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. 1 Chronicles 13:8 (NIV)

For the better part of this year, we’ve been journeying through the story of David and before that the psalms which are ancient song lyrics attributed largely to David. In a bit of synchronicity, the group of believers with whom Wendy and I worship on Sunday mornings are starting a series of messages on the life of David next week. It flows out of a five week series in which we’ve been looking at the “chain reaction of praise,” and I’ve been asked to give the lead off message of the series.

The connection between the two series is the fact that, no matter the circumstances, David was a man of praise and faith. David the hero, David the warrior, David the outlaw, David the sinner, David the King, David the victim — no matter which part of David’s life you study you find him seeking God, praising God, crying to God, and consulting God. You can almost always find a psalm that corresponds to a particular episode in David’s life. Throughout his long journey David was always translating his daily life experiences into songs, poems, and prayers of faith and praise.

I thought about that as I read this morning of David the King who was not embarrassed nor ashamed to worship and dance “with all his might” before God and the ark of the covenant. He was not concerned with what it might look like to others. He was not worried about looking cool, kingly, and above it all. He was not one to order others to do his praising for him. For David, his relationship with God was not just “a part of the job.” David’s relationship with God was personal from the time he was a boy until he was uttering his last words on his death bed.

Today, I’m thinking about my own life and David’s example. I don’t want my faith and praise to be a compartment of my life which I take out on Sunday morning and sundry, appropriate occasions. I don’t want my faith to fit neatly into others sense of propriety. I want my praise to be with “all my might” and my relationship to be intensely personal each and every day of my life.

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B.B. King All Star Drummerpraise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
Psalm 150:5 (NIV)

When Wendy and I were on our cruise we had the pleasure of being entertained nightly by the B.B. King All-Stars, an amazing group of Memphis based musicians. One night late in the week the band gave the vocalists a break and played a jazz set. They jammed on one tune that continued to build and build in intensity as each musician took solo turns. Towards the end of the song as things reached a fevered pitch, the drummer took off on a frenzied drum solo. I’ve seen, known and played with many drummers in my life. I have never seen anything quite like we witnessed that night. Cymbals crashed, sticks splintered and shattered as he beat the drums, threw caution to the wind, and lost himself in wild abandon. By the end of the song, he’d broken the snare drum.

In the introductory liner notes of some of the psalms you’ll see the Hebrew word shiggaion. No one knows for certain what the ancient musical term means, but the transliteration hints at a word picture of someone reeling as if intoxicated. Scholars suggest that these psalms were raucous songs intended for people to worship with the same loud, ecstatic, wild abandon Wendy and I witnessed in the musicians and drummer.

Wise King Solomon wrote that there is a time for everything under the sun. Certainly, there is a time for thoughtful, respectful quiet worship music. One of the most important lessons I’ve taken from the psalms is that there is also a time for shiggaion.

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A Ceaseless Offering

art and praisePraise the Lord.
Psalm 135:1 (NIV)
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 135:21 (NIV)

I couldn’t help noticing that the lyrics of Psalm 135 are bookended with praise. I love it when artists layer their work with meaning. The song writer was not only expressing praise, but he consciously chose to start and end with it. What a word picture. Praise is not to be a moment in time but continuous momentum from start to finish. Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. Praise is not a tithe, but a whole and ceaseless offering.

I sit here at the beginning of my day and at the end of a work week…and offer praise.

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My Zombie Garden

zombie gardenLet the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
    Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise
Psalm 96:12 (NLT)

I’m terrible with growing things. I got two mini-rose bushes this spring. I repotted them, fed them, watered them, and they both died. Over the past two years I’ve added three rose bushes to our poor excuse of a flower garden. Only the rose bush that survived was here before we moved in is still alive. The only thing growing in our flower garden is Hostas (seriously, they are zombies of the plant world – you can’t kill them and they keep multiplying). Despite my faithful weeding and feeding, my yard looks like the aftermath of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The bed of the undead. Only weeds and zombie Hostas survive. What can I say. I have a brown thumb.

I do, however, live in Iowa. It is among the most fertile soil in the world (which just makes me feel even worse). Each year I watch the crops spring up, grow, produce  good fruit, and be harvested in the fall. It’s a subtle and beautiful thing to watch the gray and brown fields transform into a sea of lush, living green each spring.

Psalm 96 is an “eschatological” song which means the lyrics muse on the end of time: God is on the throne. Nature takes on anthropomorphic (human-like) properties in praising God. The nations gather to pay God tribute. God judges the earth and the nations.

I love the idea of nature praising the Creator. The trees rustle their praise. The seas roar and pound the shore in praise. The fields of Iowa burst forth (along with the weeds and zombie Hostas of Tom’s garden) with joy.

I have to drive to Des Moines today. The fields of corn are bursting forth with their golden tassels which add this amazing transparent layer of gold across the deep green of the fields. I think I’ll take it all in, and add a my own offering of praise to the Creator (along with an apology for my zombie garden).

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 42

English: Monday Morning :: duo pop & Folk Fran...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!
Psalm 42:11 (NLT)

It’s not only Monday morning as I write this post, but it’s also the first morning back from a week of vacation. Wendy and I did what we hardly ever do, which is to try and unplug from work. Despite a few frantic e-mails and phone calls from work that I couldn’t ignore, I did pretty well at pushing the tyranny of the urgent to the back burner. It was refreshing, and I would be lying to you if I told you that I was really excited about the pile of e-mails, the pressing deadlines, and the dropped balls which I am facing this morning.

The thing that I noticed about today’s chapter is the juxtaposition of the questions “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” with the clear statements of determination “I will put my hope in God. I will praise him again.” The truth of the matter is that life is full of Monday mornings. The “back to work blues” is a familiar emotion.  The important thing is not to exclude God from these moments, but to recognize God within them. When we choose to realize God’s presence in every moment – even a Monday morning back from vacation – and consciously decide to praise God in and through every circumstance, we find ourselves on the path toward both maturity and wisdom.