Tag Archives: Universe

Strength in Praise

Strength in Praise (CaD Ps 148) Wayfarer

And he has raised up for his people a horn,
    the praise of all his faithful servants…
Psalm 148: 14 (NIV)

There is a story in the book of Acts in which Paul and Silas were imprisoned the dungeon of a town called Philippi. About midnight the two of them were singing praises and hymns as they prayed. Suddenly an earthquake struck, loosening their chains and breaking open the prison doors. Talk about dramatic. Sometimes our praise has a miraculous, dramatic effect.

In his book, The Philippian Fragment, Calvin Miller tells the fictional story of a first-century pastor in the same town of Philippi who happened be imprisoned in the same cell along with one of his elders. The pastor sees, scratched on the dungeon wall, the names “Paul and Silas.”

Remembering how Paul and Silas sang at midnight as God sent an earthquake to open the doors of the jail, we took courage. “Do it again, God!” cried Coriolanus near midnight. He began to sing a hymn in monotone, and I joined in. We praised God at full volume with some of the great songs of the faith. Ever and anon we stopped to see if we could hear even the faintest rumblings of a quake. By three in the morning we still had not raised a tremor and decided to give it up. There seemed so little to rejoice about.

Suddenly a jailor who had heard us singing sprang into the cell.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he asked.

We told him in great joy.

“I can’t do that,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

As he left, he yelled over his shoulder, “Would you cut out the noise. It’s three in the morning.”

Still, I felt better for simply having praised Him. Praise clears the heart and dusts the mind of selfishness. It lifts the spirit and transforms the prison to an altar where we may behold the buoyant love of Christ.

It is not jailors who make convicts. It is the self-pitying mind that makes a man a captive.Praise frees us. The jail cannot contain the heart that turns itself to attend the excellency of Christ. “Gloria in excelsis!” deals with stone walls and iron bars in its own way. When morning finally came, I was elated. I found a flint rock in the cell and scratched our own names above the etching of Paul and Silas: “Eusebius and Coriolanus—We sang at midnight and felt much better the next morning.”

Today’s chapter, Psalm 148, is at the center of the final five songs of praise in the anthology of ancient Hebrew song lyrics known as the Psalms. As we’ve discovered on this chapter-a-day journey, ancient Hebrew songs often put the central theme of the song smack-dab in the middle. The central theme was in the center holding the core. When the editors of the compilation put the last five songs of praise together, they placed today’s song smack-dab in the middle. It holds the core of the final theme of praise.

Praise is a central theme throughout the Great Story. When rebuked by the religious leaders for His followers shouting His praise, Jesus replied that even if they were silent the rocks would “cry out.” Today’s psalm speaks of all creation praising God, and in fact all matter does continually resonate at frequencies we can’t hear. The universe itself perpetually resonates at 432hz. When John was given a vision of heaven’s Throne Room in his Revelation, he describes it as a scene of endless praise.

Along my life journey, I have learned that praise sincerely offered whether in word, song, or thought is a spiritual activator. To the ancients, a “horn” was a metaphor of strength, and the lyricist of today’s song made clear that there is strength in praise. When I choose to offer up heart-felt praise from the prison of my own circumstances, there is a shift that occurs. It might be a miraculous shift in the tectonic plates of life as Paul and Silas experienced. It might be simply a shift in my faith and spirit as Eusebius and Coriolanus experienced. I’ve learned not to worry about the results and to simply let my praise hold the core in the moment. Whenever I sing praises in the darkness, I always end up feeling “much better in the morning.”

Starry Thoughts

DM Register Man Walks on MoonHe determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Psalm 147:4 (NIV)

I was a child of the Apollo missions. Born in 1966, I was a toddler when Apollo 11 landed man on the moon and came to age at a time when being an astronaut was top on every boy’s list of what he wanted to be when he grew up. In fact, the front page of the Des Moines Register from July 21, 1969 is framed and hangs in the hallway just outside my office.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve alway had a fascination with the stars. As a child I loved it each year when the family would vacation in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota far from the lights of the city. I would sit with friends on the end of the dock at night and stare up at more stars than I’d seen in my entire life, occasionally to the eery glow of the Northern Lights. Even last week as Wendy and I cruised the Caribbean we spent part of each evening out on the verandah looking up at the stars and marveling at immensity of God’s creation.

It became news last week that scientists have discovered a host of new planets, a handful of which they believe to have similar life-sustaining properties as our Earth. I thought about that this morning as I read the lyrics of Psalm 147 and the thought of our Creator God knowing each star by name. Whenever I contemplate the enormity of the expanding universe I find myself feeling very small and insignificant. It helps to remember that not only does God know all of the stars by name, but Jesus said even the number of hairs on our head are known (of course, in my case, God spends less mental energy on that number as time goes on!).

This morning I find my heart humming the words of a modern psalm: “God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

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Chapter-a-Day Colossians 3

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Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Colossians 3:2 (NLT)

Wendy and I love movies, books, and the arts. We talk about them all the time. A friend of ours has told us on several occasions that he likes to watch movies with us. “You see things in the movie I don’t see,” he said. “And, you talk about the movie when it’s over; really talk about it. Most people I know don’t do that.”

Wendy and I tend to look at movies from different perspectives. We think about themes, the writing, the way it was directed and shot and edited. We talk about what the writer and director were trying to say about life, or death, or relationships, or whatever piece of world view they happened to address. The river of our conversation will often flow out into little tributaries of related conversations about all sorts of things.

Some people find it annoying. I know. “Cant’ you just watch a movie?” I’ve been asked on several occasions be different people. I could. I guess.

Wait, scratch that. No, I can’t.

As I observe people and talk with people in different avenues of life, I see those whose thoughts and motivations rarely, if ever, stretch beyond their natural appetites. Get to the next paycheck. Get to the next party. Get to the next major purchase. Get to the next meal. Get to the next sexual experience experience. The journey appears never to exit the interstate of base human appetite.

I have found that Life is so much more than simple appetites. We live in an ever expanding universe made by an infinite Creator. We are eternal beings on an amazing sojourn through this world that is a miniscule dot on eternity’s time line. I don’t want my life to be confined to the dot, I want it to expand toward the entire line. I don’t want to spend the journey a zombie wandering thoughtlessly to my next instinctive need never giving thought to Life which is happening all around me in a million different ways. I want to spend the journey reaching out expansively to fill my mind, my heart, my spirit with Life.

So, to me a movie is more than a two-hour nap for my mind and soul. It’s a leaf from the tree of tales that is unique and fascinating and waiting to be explored and understood in the context of Life. I know it seems weird to some. Hey, what can I say? That’s how we roll.  Come on over to the house sometime for a little wine, a nice dinner, some of Wendy’s fabulous cheesecake, a movie and a little late night conversation (along with another piece of cheesecake). You might just leave feeling fullness in more than your stomach.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 45

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“These are the words of God, the God of Israel, to you, Baruch.” Jeremiah 45:2 (MSG)

The world’s problems seems so huge. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Buck up, Baruch.

Today’s little chapter stands as testimony to Jesus’ words, which would be uttered some 500 years after Jeremiah dictated his prophecies to Baruch. In the midst of the vastness of the universe and the epic scale of the world’s issues, God still cares intimately for each lowly individual, each hair on your head, every sparrow that falls, along with every grain of sand.

God cares for you.

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 147

Celebrity visit. He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and assigns each a name. Psalm 147:3-4 (MSG)

Many years ago I was at a Minnesota Vikings game in Minneapolis. It was back when star wide receiver, Randy Moss, played for the Vikings. I remember watching him catch a touchdown pass. On the side of the field was a severely handicapped boy in a wheelchair. After running, leaping and making a spectacular catch, the famous player ran immediately to the boy who, in this life, would never know the joy of running, leaping and catching a football. Moss bowed down and gave him the football.

I am always glad to see when celebrities and big name athletes take the time to make the day of children who are sick or soldiers serving their country far from home. I was reminded of it when I read the third and fourth verses of Psalm 147 and was struck by the contrast. The God of the universe who creates the stars and names each one still has time, love and energy to heal the broken hearted and bandage their wounds.

It's quite common to feel lost and alone in this crazy world. How comforting to know that the all-powerful God of creation, whose exhaustive presence knows each star by name, also cares for me so much that he intimately knows each hair on my head.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and kawetijoru

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