Praise Isn’t Just a Tune, It’s a Trial

praise!Yesterday, I wrote about the understanding that our trial is to the truth, not to pain, not to suffering. Truth is the trial, and it is walking out in faith what God says about a matter. This is a companion piece to that post, because there is another part that is married to truth, and it is spirit. So, there is the trial of truth, but there is also the trial of praise. Our devotion is tested based on our demonstration of praise to God, despite of–and even in the presence of–our struggles. 

As I started studying about trials, I was surprised to see this verse: “As the refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold [bring forth all of the impurities of the metal], so let a man be in his TRIAL OF PRAISE [ridding himself of all that is base or insincere; for a man is judged by what he praises and of what he boasts]” (Proverbs 27:21, Amplified Bible).

What is praise, anyway? I’ve been in church all of my life, and I can’t say I have heard many teachings on what it really means to praise the Lord. I’ve heard of praise songs. So, is praise a song? Well, praise is a song, but not only a song. It is, however, a sound. Whether our mouths are moving or not, we put forth a sound into the atmosphere.

It is the true sound of what is in our hearts. Our God in Heaven is jealous for that sound that we were made to release to Him. From the beginning of mankind, and in fact before mankind, Lucifer also desired that sound, for worship is that powerful. How that sound of praise is demonstrated is as varied as creation itself. Songs, art, color, dance, words, demonstrations of love, thoughts of life, declarations of blessing, hearts that burst with passion and justice and righteousness. It is a sound that comes from created beings that was made for the Creator and Master Architect of all of Life. It reaches God’s ears through “passports of praise” (as my son, Josiah, has said), purchased and placed in our hands because of Jesus. This sound of praise is seen in the spirit. And we are judged by what we praise or of what we boast.

On the flip side, complaining is just praise to the wrong god. Praise is the language of the kingdom of light. Grumbling and complaining is the language of the kingdom of darkness. Satan has always wanted to hijack the praise of God’s people. Our trial is to “choose this day whom you will serve.” The Spirit of God urges us to choose life! But, how are we expected to be able to choose the right sound when stuff might be turning to crap all around us in every direction?

The Israelites physically faced the same trial en route to Promised Land that we are now in spiritually en route to our inheriting our promises. God wanted a people whose sound of praise to Him was genuine despite the struggle. It is not based on the circumstances. It is based on the truth that has been revealed, and what we are going to do with that truth. Truth mostly engages our minds and wills, but praise engages our emotions. We are whole people, and God wants all of us. But, I am convicted by this verse: “The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord” (Psalm 106:24-25, NLT).

True praise says that we believe God’s promise to care for us. Even if we’re sad. Even if we’re pressed. Even if everything looks broken. Even if it doesn’t look possible. Even if it feels like He brought us out of slavery only to die in the wilderness. Even if obedience means losing security and pleasures that the world offers in order to follow Him. The sweetest praise to God is the one that is a sacrifice. It can come with tears, and pain, and hurt, screaming or joy, delight, or dancing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it is a life song in His direction that says, “I am Yours and You are mine. And it doesn’t matter how I feel, You are always good and You are always worthy. And You care about me.”

Do you know what He does for us with that sacrifice? Isaiah 61:3 informs us of the most magnificent trade ups: Give Him your ashes, and He gives you beauty. Give Him your mourning, and He will give you the oil of joy. Give Him your spirit of despair, and He will give you a garment of praise. But our demonstration of praise understands it is an exchange. I cannot hold on to ruin, mourning, and despair and also receive a total restoration for my life that is to better than it was before. This is the trial of praise.

The process of being purified, of being humble, of belonging to God is not always easy. But the trial is to truth. The trial is of praise. The challenges we face on this earth are so heated sometimes that we feel that we are being destroyed. But the Bible says our mountains will melt like wax before the presence of the Lord. The heat we experience, though, will be to refine us to be loved and cared for by Him. In doing so, He will turn us out into our design and destiny.

In ancient times, this form of refining coins involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a pot being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. It was a dangerous occupation. It was a process. The result was beautiful and worth so much. Are you willing to undergo your trial of praise? He is looking for that kind of worshipper–tested and found to be totally true.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

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Praise: When You Think You Know, but You Have No Idea

Man-Worships-God“Praise the Lord!” This phrase rolls off the tongue often especially in casual conversation between two Christ-followers, but I was thinking one day that when we say that phrase, we mean it more like, “Phew, that was a close one! Thank goodness it turned out okay.”

“Oh, the tests came back and it’s not cancer? Praise the Lord!” Would we ever hear that the tests came back and it was bad only to say, “Praise the Lord!”? And, yet, even if the context is bad, there couldn’t be a better time to praise. David says in Psalm 34:1, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Is that even possible? Why is it so hard to do that when we don’t feel like it, or because things aren’t looking too good?

I could complain and grumble easily, and I don’t even have try! Yet, complaining IS praise–it comes from the same place and with the same agreement between mind, mouth and feelings as praise to God. It’s just praise to the wrong guy. And, our enemy traffics in the complaining of God’s people.

Praise is one of those words that most of us don’t really understand as we go about our Christian lives. Culturally, I would define “praise” as encouragement and thanks; religiously, I’d say it’s an acknowledgement to God through words or a song genre. But, both of those definitions couldn’t be more vanilla. Sometimes, I have to step back, and say, “How would I explain _________ to an alien?” Prayer and praise, for instance, are these expressions to an unseen deity that are supposed to invoke or evoke something through interaction on a spiritual level that will actually have some consequence on a natural level. Logically, that seems somewhat crazy, doesn’t it? So, my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to ask, “Why would I praise God?” For whatever reason, “Because I told you so” doesn’t satisfy me.

Our old English language does us a little bit of a disservice in translating Hebrew and Greek, and in reality, coming across the word “praise” in the Bible would reveal that is talking about only one of seven kinds of praise. I want to address only one of those kinds today. Let’s take this verse for example:

I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people. Psalm 52:9

The word praise there is actually in Hebrew “yadah.” It means “to hold out or hold up the hand; to throw at or away (as a stone or an arrow), to revere in worship with extended hands; to intensively bemoan by wringing the hands; to confess; to thank.”

These are passionate words! By no means is this a mumbled, “Thank you. You da man, God. I am moved to say that because I really like this particular song.” In fact, the root of this word is “yada” which means “to be intimately acquainted with someone; to discern one’s heart; to understand and acquire knowledge of; to know through senses by investigating and proving.” And even more shocking, it means a level of intimacy that is used to describe when Adam slept with Eve to bear a child. I am challenged and convicted that my passion to praise my God rarely reaches up to these definitions.

How interesting that one way to describe praise is to throw it in God’s direction, maybe even pull it back like an arrow shot from a bow. Similarly, the Bible tells us, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Ps. 55:22). Could it be that when we throw our worries and burdens in God’s direction, He receives even those as praise? Could it be when we worry and toss our cares and fears to Satan’s direction, he also receives those as praise to him? Praise thrown in God’s direction makes us strong and steady. Praise thrown in the enemy’s direction makes us weak and victimized.

Praise is God’s language, and He wants us to learn His native tongue. It is what He responds to. It is how we enjoy Him and He enjoys us back in His presence. It is where we make exchanges of our weakness for His strength. If you were going to be intimate with someone who spoke a different language than you were used to, you would start learning their language, wouldn’t you? You would be Rosetta Stoning during your car rides, and whispering sweet nothings to them with the new romantic words you learned.

One day, that language would become fluid and natural for you. Until then, why not practice praise and what it really means? It’s an entire language, not a mere song, nor a sentiment of relief. It blesses the heart of God, and it opens up our lives with flair and gusto through many forms–a tune, a thanks, some art, a confession, a petition, raised hands, a moment to dance a little or a lot with the lover of our souls.