A Praise Progression

Man playing a guitarGenesis 8

Those of you who play an instrument or who are into music theory already know what a “chord progression” is.  But for those of us who can only play the radio a quick definition might be in order.  A chord progression is “a series of musical chords, or chord changes that ‘aims for a definite goal’ of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord and that is based upon a succession of root relationships.” (source: Wikipedia)

Okay… if you aren’t musically inclined, that probably meant absolutely nothing to you!  So why bring it up?

Because I see in Scripture a “praise progression” that also “aims for a definite goal” and establishes a “tonality” in life… that is… if we follow the progression all the way through to praise!

The progression is:  Waiting, Being Heard, Hoping, Being Rescued, Praising.

The most obvious praise progression is Psalm 40:1-3 – “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”

The progression goes like this:  I waited; God heard me; I hoped (this is the patient part); I was rescued (He brought me up.); I sang a song of praise.

I have read a lot of books on prayer that say you should praise God for being who He is, not for what He has done for you.  That sounds great in theory… but how can you not praise Him for all He has done for you?  He PUT that song in your mouth… you cannot help but sing it!  The natural result of the progression is that “many see and fear and trust in the Lord.”  Harsh chords of pain and waiting and patience are resolved in the end and the sound is so sweet!  It is enticing!

What does this have to do with Genesis 8?  This is first “praise progression” of the Bible!

Noah was caught in a waiting period. – “The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.” -Genesis 7:24

God remembered Noah. – “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark..” (8:1)

God sends hope.  – “The dove came to him toward the evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf.” (8:11)

God rescues Noah. – “Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you.'” (8:15-16)

Noah praises God. – “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord…” (8:20)

Maybe you are struggling to praise the Lord today.  Your life is cooped up in a smelly old ark.  You may feel bitter or angry at your circumstances.  Praise is more difficult at different stages within the progression.  How difficult it is to praise Him with your heart in discord!  But remember this:  The chord WILL be resolved… whether in this life or the next.  Right now, your praise will just take a different form depending on where you are in the progression.

So pray:

Lord, I’m waiting.

or Lord, remember me.

or Lord, I sense you are sending me hope.  (I see the olive branch!)

And if you have found your chord resolved… if God has rescued you… Sing the Song of the Redeemed!  And if for nothing else… praise Him for Calvary… praise Him for the cross… praise Him for the hope of resurrection!

John McArthur once referred to Jesus as “the harmonizer of all discords.”  What an apt description for the lover of music theory… and for this rest of us…  who know a good song when we hear it!

Blessings!

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Remembering Him in the Midst of Life’s Storms

storm at seaPsalm 42:6-10
6My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

The Psalmist isn’t where he wants to be.  He is on Mount Mizar… (a peak in the Mount Hermon range… miles north of what eventually would be called Galilee)  He is extreme North.  Where he wants to be is on Mount Zion (43:3)  Mizar means “littleness.”  The author of this Psalm feels small due to the storm in front of him.

Deep calls to deep… the water is surging… he is being swept away.

Physically, perhaps.  But most certainly psychologically.

He is going under.

Have you forgotten me, Lord?

I heard of a pastor in the midst of a period of church conflict who went into his backyard one day and waved a handkerchief toward the sky and said:
“Did you forget where you put me?”

Ever feel like that?

The lesson in the storm is:  Remember Him…. Even When You Feel Forgotten

 (New Living Translation7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
8 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.

1)   Remember that God is still in control.  Nothing has happened outside his notice.  They are His waves and His tides that sweep over you.

2)   Remember back when His love poured into your life.  When you went to bed singing.  When prayer was a second language.  Remember and be thankful.

Author Don Everts once wrote:  “I am a slave to my own personal weather systems.  If it’s been a good week, I have an easier time feeling good about what Jesus has done for me on the cross.  But if I am a little depressed or frustrated, my soul is anything but thankful.”  –  Don Everts  (God in the Flesh, p. 121.)

But thanksgiving may be the very thing you need to lift your depression or frustration.

“Devastated by a series of personal crises, Sean Coxe spent his last $300 to visit his father in Florida.  Feeling helpless and alone, he wanted nothing more than to be with the man who had so often been able to put life’s disasters in perspective when he was a child.  Perhaps he could now.  On the last evening of his visit, the two men stood at the end of a jetty and watched the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico.  Coxe was seething with bitterness.  He said, ‘You know, Dad, if we could take all the great moments we experience in our lifetimes and put them back-to-back, they wouldn’t last twenty minutes.’  Keeping his eyes fixed on the setting sun, his dad responded simply, ‘Yup.’  Stunned, Coxe turned to him.  His father then looked steadily into his eyes and added softly, with the wisdom of Job, ‘Precious, aren’t they?’”  –Ben Patterson (Waiting, pp.21, 22.)

Thanksgiving or Thanksreceiving?

Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Wanted to share a little thanksgiving humor today from another blog titled “Turning Thankgiving into Thanksreceiving” by Paul Johnson.  It is a tongue-in-cheek (I hope) look at people that do their best to impress at the Thanksgiving feast.  He suggests hosting the meal because “Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for you to leave subtle clues around your house about being an impressive person.”

He suggests:  “Making your medicine cabinet as impressive as possible.”  “…removing the embarrassing products, why not replace them with all your trophies, college transcripts showing your outstanding GPA, and a solved Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle?”

He also suggests leaving “complex scientific notes lying around.”

He also says to :  “Hide tools around the house so people will think of you as handy and masculine.” “Why not leave a drill under a couch cushion?  When a guest sits down he’ll immediately jump back up to pull the drill out from under him.  “I was wondering where I left that drill,” I nonchalantly tell him.  “I totally forgot it was under the cushion when I finished building the couch.”

He also suggests leaving an open datebook in the bathroom that looks like this: 

Check out the entire hilarious blog:  http://thegoodgreatsby.com/2011/11/23/turning-thanksgiving-into-thanksreceiving/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-5

As I read this I can think of some gifts we can give the guests at our feasts today:  the benefit of the doubt, their point, their moment in the spotlight, our forgiveness, our attention… our love.

Be a Thanksgiver today!

Thanks a Lot!

Psalm 95

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” 

I love the brute honesty of author, Don Everts, who wrote;  “Thanksgiving has been difficult for me because so much of the well-being of my soul tends to depend upon my day-to-day circumstances.  I am a slave to my own personal weather systems.  If it’s been a good week, I have an easier time feeling good about what Jesus has done for me on the cross.  But if I am a little depressed or frustrated, my soul is anything but thankful.”  (Everts, God in the Flesh, p. 121.)

We don’t mean to be fair weather friends, but how we express our gratitude reveals our heart.  Sometimes when things are going wrong we will look up to heaven with a sarcastic:  “Thanks a lot!”  We step over blessing after blessing in our race to get to what we want in life, yet at the sign of our first obstacle we forget about all that which has come before.

In Psalm 95 we have a contrast of grateful hearts and ingrates.  Verses 1 through 7 are crescendo in praise…  for the mountain, the sea, etc.  We are told to praise God for all of creation.  We are told to bow before him and worship him.  We are indeed a flock under his care.

Verses 8 through 11 contrast this picture of trust with the negative example of the Israelites during their desert wanderings.  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.” (95:8-9)

What had they seen?  The parting of the Red Sea.  The budding of Aaron’s staff.  The provision of food and water throughout the journey up to this point.  And yet facing a new wasteland withoutwater they begin to quarrel with Moses and Aaron.  But it wasn’t leadership they were really arguing with at all… according to Psalm 95, it was God they were testing and trying!  Fairweather gratitude indeed!

As we enter this season of thanksgiving, let’s take inventory of all that we have seen the Lord do in our lives. A man name Bud runs a homeless shelter for women and children named New Life.  He writes:  “Before eating together, we gather in a circle, hold hands, and sing a prayer: “Our God is good to us.  And so we thank our God, for giving us the things we need, the sun and the rain and the food we eat.”  A visitor once asked if that kind of song was appropriate for homeless people.  Let me tell you, it is abundantly clear that the people in that room have more sense of thanksgiving and praise than many people in the average suburban pew.  They pray unashamedly, just to survive, and thank God for every little blessing that comes their way.  (Quoted by Philip Yancey in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, p. 277.)

With all sincerity cry out to God:  “Thanks a lot!  Thank you for the mountains!  Thank you for the sea!  For the sun, the rain and the food we eat!  Thank you, Lord!  Thanks a lot!”