Invest in Relationship

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Philippians 4:8-9  8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Memories are important. They bring us strength. They encourage us. They motivate us. They comfort us. They bring us joy. Most of us carry memories around with us in one form or another. Some of us trust our minds to carry them. Others put them on our mobile devices, and maybe in our wallets, pockets, or purses. Some of the memories are printed on small slips of paper, while others may be photographic. I carry both. Tucked away in a tiny slot in my wallet is a card from a man that I led to Christ years ago to remind me of God’s transforming power in his life. On my phone are pictures of family members, especially grandchildren, to remind me of the love I experience when I am with them. Even though I say I love the picture, I love the person infinitely more. The picture is but a reminder of the relationship that is only fully experienced when I am with the person.

In Philippians 4:6-9, I see a similar concept. First, Paul tells us to pray about everything and we will experience the peace of God. I see this as the memories we carry around in our pockets. Throughout our lives we have been given pictures of the faithfulness of God as He worked through all the difficult situations we experienced. We carry those memories around with us in one form or another. Some of us have notes on slips of paper tucked away in significant places like wallets, purses, or Bibles. Some of us have kept detailed journals of our walk with Christ. Some of us trust the storage capacity of our minds to hold the precious memories. We use these memories as the foundations of our prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, request, and surrender. The memories of God’s faithfulness are the fertile soil into which God plants the seed of peace, and we love to walk in the garden of peace and be reminded that we have no reason to worry or fear.

Paul goes on and tells us about something even more exciting, fulfilling, and satisfying than having the peace of God in our hearts and minds. He tells us that we can experience the personal presence of the God of peace. So many of us are satisfied just to carry around the memories and be at peace. We have fallen in love with the picture. We miss out on the greatest joy when we do not spend time in personal relationship with the person whose picture we carry. I realized that more than ever after my mother died. I have picture of her accessible from my phone, and for the rest of my life the memories motivated by those pictures are all I will have. Not until heaven will I be able to spend personal time with her. I have the memories of mom, but I would much rather be experiencing the mom who created those memories.

That’s the distinction I see Paul making: we have become satisfied with the peace that comes from the memories of God’s work in our lives, but we may be missing the best part of knowing Jesus – spending time with Him in person. Paul says that the step up from the level of having the peace of God to the level of living in personal relationship with the God of peace is accomplished by putting into practice what we have learned about God. It is a wonderful thing to experience the peace of God by going to Him with our requests and trusting Him with the outcome – but it is not the best thing. There is more that God has for us. He longs for us to experience the wonder of His abiding presence.

We know that at the moment of our salvation we were indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and He promised to never leave us or forsake us. But what I speak of here is more than that. At my wedding my wife committed to being with me for as long as we both shall live. Her picture reminds me of that commitment. But I am not satisfied to live with the memory of my wedding day. I am not simply in love with the picture or the event. I want to experience the wonder of her presence every chance I get. That’s what Paul is talking about, and that is only possible if we are putting into practice what we know to be true about God.

Paul affirms what James teaches when he says “faith without works is dead.” It is by faith that we are saved, but it is by our works that we abide in the presence of the God of peace. By faith we pray based on our knowledge and memories of God and we trust Him with the outcomes. By our choice to bring our minds, hearts, and actions into conformity with God’s pattern for living we experience the awesome reality of His presence in our lives.

Jesus said it this way – If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  (John 15:10 – 12)

Jesus knew that the fulfillment of joy in life is dependent upon abiding in the love of the Father, and that is only possible through obedience to God’s commands. We are not satisfied to live with pictures of God, but rather we long to experience the presence of God. The reality of that experience depends on our choice to bring our thought life into alignment with God’s holy nature, and to put into practice what we have learned about living holy living.

So, take a look at all the pictures you carry, and assign them into one of two categories – those people you want to spend time with and those whom you don’t. What, you don’t carry pictures of people you don’t want to spend time with? Of course not! We carry memories of relationships in which we are invested. The memories may be good, but the time spent investing in the relationship is better.

Now apply that to your relationship with God.

Pastor John

Believe What God Said

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I saw a Peanuts cartoon with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, “I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!” Charlie says, “But I thought you had inner peace.” Lucy replies, “I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness”

There are times when I fail to live in the full understanding of God’s peace. He has promised that His peace will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Let’s consider the word guard.

The Greek definition says, to protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight. Think about that carefully. God’s peace provides us with two benefits:

  1. Total protection from hostile invasion, like worry or fear;
  2. Total confinement of the enemy.

Jesus said that He has accomplished both of those things on our behalf so that we can be at perfect peace. Not partial peace or temporary peace, but perfect and permanent peace. Our hearts and our minds are protected from any hostile invasion, and the enemy himself has been overcome and confined to a besieged city from which he is unable to flee.

We do not need to live like Lucy, claiming the peace of God but living in fear, worry, and disdain of the world. Peace transforms our attitudes and our actions.

Have we taken the King at His word? Maybe not. We have not always lived in perfect peace. We have not always trusted the protection of God and the conquering of the enemy. We have claimed to be at peace with God, but have not lived in the confidence that we have the peace of God. We are walking through life as a foot soldier of low rank when we have been designated by the King as officers.

The Emperor Napoleon was reviewing some troops in Paris; and while giving an order he thoughtlessly dropped the bridle upon his horse’s neck, kicking the horse into a gallop. The emperor was forced to cling to the saddle. At that moment, a common soldier of low rank sprang before the horse, seized the bridle and handed it to the emperor. “Much obliged to you, captain,” said the Emperor, and by this statement he made the soldier a captain.

The man believed the emperor, and saluting him, asked, “Of what regiment am I a captain, sire?” Napoleon was charmed with his faith, and replied, “Of my guards,” and he galloped off. As soon as the emperor left, the soldier laid down his gun, saying, “He may take it who will,” and instead of returning to his comrades, he approached the group of staff officers. On seeing him, one of the generals scornfully said, “What does that fellow want here?”

“This fellow,” replied the soldier proudly, “is a captain of the guard.”

“You, my poor friend! You are mad to say so!”

“But the Emperor said it,” replied the soldier, pointing to Napoleon, who was still in sight.

“I ask your pardon, sir,” said the general respectfully, “I was not aware of it.”

We may be sure that God gives peace by believing His Word, just as the soldier believed the word of the emperor. He may have still been wearing the uniform of a foot soldier, but in his heart and mind he was already acting like an officer. He was taking steps to bring the external into conformity with the internal.

That is what we need to do. We are at peace with God and have been given the peace of God in Christ Jesus. We are protected from hostile invasion and the enemy has been conquered. We should live like those things are true.

Lighten up! Let it go! Don’t worry! Live a life of peace!

Pastor John

Wait For Peace

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, August 6, 2018

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 26:3 – 4 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

There is one more significant part of prayer that we must discuss, and it is something God taught me experientially during the week following my mother’s death years ago. So many times, when we pray, even when we pray properly using prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and request, we tend to stop before we pray for the peace of God. We miss such a great blessing when we fail to wait on the Lord to fill us with His peace that passes all understanding.

When my wife and I arrived in South Dakota the day after my mother was transferred to glory, I knew that in two days I would be standing in front of all of our family and friends and officiating at her memorial service. I knew that I should be stressed and uneasy as I considered the possibilities of emotional breakdowns during the service. I knew that in my flesh I should be worried that I would adequately represent the beauty of my mom’s life to everyone present. I expected that walking into my mom’s room for the first time without her present would be excruciating. I thought that reflecting on all the ways that I missed her would bring a constant flow of tears to my eyes. I believed that we would have to try and put up a good front of strength when in reality we were crushed by this loss.

But none of that happened. I do not claim to understand what the Bible says transcends all understanding: all I know is that I experienced the peace of God! It was a powerful experience to stand in front of several hundred people and lead a memorial service to the woman who gave me life, and to do it with joy and celebration rather than grieving and loss.

The experience of God’s peace was the product of prayer that ended in total trust and surrender to God’s outcome. Whenever I would shift my focus from the eternal to the earthly, the tears would start and the experience of loss would overwhelm me. At those moments, only one thing was necessary for me – to think of the glory of heaven and the perfection of the saints in God’s presence. Immediately the tears would end and the joy of the Lord would restore my spirit. His peace guarded my heart and my mind because I had chosen to trust Him.

One morning, while my brother Paul and I took dad around town to finish up some necessary business, we stopped at the grave of my mom to see the marker that had been placed there by the funeral home. I wanted to see the place from which my mom’s body would someday rise incorruptible. When I thought of her body in that grave, I cried. When I heard my dad say, “She isn’t here,” my heart leaped for joy. I can trust the Eternal Father to bring His glorious conclusion to all of earth’s suffering. No matter what the circumstances, my mind remains steadfast and at peace, because I trust Him.

When we pray about anything, it is imperative that we conclude our prayers with a time of listening and waiting – listening for God’s response and waiting for God’s peace. When we do not, we are as foolish as the person who walks into a fast food restaurant, orders his food, pays for it, and then leaves before receiving it. He goes away hungry and penniless. When we don’t wait for God to fill the order for peace, we are still spiritually hungry because we have not received God’s nourishment. We must wait for His assuring voice that He has it under control and His Spirit of peace that passes all understanding.

Don’t rush through your prayer time and then hurry on to the next event on your calendar. Take time to be still, and know that He is God. He will keep you in perfect peace.

Pastor John

 

Ask Me Anything

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, August 3, 2018

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

So far in our study of prayer from Philippians 4:6, we have learned to praise God for who He is, to thank Him for what He does, to confess to Him those things we have done that are not in agreement with Him, and then to repent of those things, turning away from them and moving into agreement with God about our actions. It is at this point of agreement with God that we can engage the next type of prayer – the wonderful privilege of asking God for the desires of our hearts.

The subject of asking God for whatever we wish and expecting to get it has generated many questions. Certain phrases and promises from Scripture seem to capture our attention, and we tend to lock on to them without considering their context or mutual responsibilities. I dare say that the reason we ask about asking is selfish. Deep in our hearts is the desire to get what we want, and to believe that it’s totally right to want it. We partially read God’s Word and see that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us.

As we mentioned in a devotional last week, we tend to believe that our identity and value are based in the physical, so we naturally apply this promise to the desires of our flesh, and we ask for prosperity and health and blessing on our physical lives. Then, when we don’t always get it, we doubt our faith, or we doubt God’s promise, or we doubt God himself. We then ask questions about asking.

Notice that in each of the following passages where Jesus promised us that we could ask anything of God and He would do it, there is a requirement that we ask from of a position of agreement with God’s perspective of the situation.

  • “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) We must believe not only that God can do it, but that He wants to do it. Just because I want a mountain moved to benefit me does not require God to oblige me. True faith in God goes beyond knowing what He is capable of and moves into the realm of agreeing with His purpose.

 

  • Do you remember what the disciples James and John asked Jesus for in Mark 10:35? “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” They took the promise of Jesus the way we do most of the time. They wanted Jesus to do whatever they desired. Look how Jesus responded. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. … These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”  We must remember that what we ask for must be in agreement with God’s predetermined purpose.

 

  • In John 14:13 – 14, Jesus said, And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. The requirement here is that we must ask in Jesus’ name. That means we ask according to what we know to be true about the nature, character, and purpose of Jesus. That’s why prayers of praise and thanksgiving are so important before we ask anything, because it puts our hearts in touch with who Jesus is, so that our asking is in agreement with His purpose to bring glory to the Father.

 

  • Jesus adds another qualifier to asking Him for anything in this statement – If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. Here the condition of asking is that we are abiding in Christ and His words are abiding in us. This describes true intimacy with Jesus, and all prayers of request are to be the product of such intimacy. When we ask we should do so in agreement with what He has already said and with a pure heart that is seeking Him in every aspect of our lives.

We can have God answer every prayer the way that we want it to be answered. The key is that we ask according to what we already know God wants to have happen. Every prayer that is asked according to God’s nature, character, and purpose is granted by God. The responsibility we have is to make sure our hearts and minds agree with His. That’s why prayer of praise, confession, and repentance are required before we ask anything, because it is the only way to assure that our minds are in agreement with God.

When I was growing up, I learned very quickly what my dad’s standards were, and how he would respond to different requests. I learned that there were some things I just shouldn’t ask for. The problem I had was even though I knew I couldn’t ask dad, I selfishly pursued those things I wanted anyway. My knowledge of Dad did not change my desires. I had not yet caught His character.

Unfortunately, that is true of how we relate to God. We know that the desires of our hearts are not always in agreement with God’s character, so we simply choose to exclude Him from that pursuit and reach for it on our own. Believe me, life is much more fulfilling when we let the Holy Spirit change our character so that any desire of our heart is in full agreement with God. Then we can ask anything we wish, and He will do it, because it pleases Him to fulfill His purpose in our lives.

Pastor John

Confess and Repent

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Matthew 6:12  Forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us.

Mark 11:25  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us to bring everything in our lives to God in prayer. Prayer is the word used in Scripture to describe all communication with God. Intimate relationships require various forms of communication: terms of endearment, comments of care and concern, expressions of encouragement, words of confession and sorrow, and questions of request are just some of the ways that people who are in love talk to one another. On Tuesday we began a study of the various types of prayers that Scripture encourages us to use as we communicate intimately with God. We started with discussions of praise and thanksgiving.

The next type of prayer that must be a part of an intimate relationship with God is confession and repentance. Consider the importance of this in your most intimate human relationship. True intimacy cannot be experienced without true humility, manifested by taking personal responsibility for wrong and admitting fault. That is what we call confession. But confession alone is not sufficient to bring intimacy to a relationship: there must be repentance as well. Of what value is admission of sin if there is not a turning from the sin and a commitment to not do it again?

As children, our parents tried to teach this to us. We were not only required to apologize for what we did, but we had to promise not to do it again. As immature children we probably said those things without meaning them. Many of us do the same with God. We may say we’re sorry, but our confession seems to have an accompanying asterisk, with the footnote containing the reasons we want expressed to justify our action. Such rationalization of behavior falls far short of true confession and most certainly does not include repentance. True confession and repentance takes full responsibility for the behavior and sincerely commits to never doing it again.

When we study the word confess in Scripture, as used in 1 John 1:9 which states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we discover that it means to come into agreement with God. True confession of sin requires us to see it from God’s perspective and not ours. Our perspective is motivated by self-protection. We attempt to justify our actions to preserve self-worth and protect our image. All such responses require shared responsibility for the behavior.

This is not a new concept – it has been around as long as humans have sinned. When Adam was first confronted by God with his sin, he immediately blamed the woman. He even blamed God who gave him the woman. Eve in turn blamed the serpent. We still try to weasel out of personal responsibility today, blaming our dysfunctional or abusive upbringing, our poverty level social status, racial discrimination, or even God himself for allowing us to be in such situations. We quickly agree with the world’s assessment of our situation and our response to it, but we stop short of considering God’s assessment of our choices. We live in a culture that idolizes choice, and we have chosen to make choice our God.  It is time for us to come into agreement with God about our choices and their consequences. It is time for the people of God to confess their sin.

But if forgiveness is to be offered, repentance is inseparable from confession. God does not extend forgiveness without repentance. (Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. Acts 3:19) To repent is to turn from the sin and proceed in a different direction, specifically the direction of agreement with God.

When we confess to a sin, we admit that our action was not in agreement with God. When we repent of that sin, we admit that we want to be in agreement with God. But the simple act of admission is not sufficient: there must be an accompanying action, and that action is to make new choices that are in agreement with God. This brings true depth of intimacy to our relationship with God. All dysfunctional issues of self-protection, self-worth and image disappear when we experience the forgiveness of God as a result of our humble confession and repentance of sin. Our fear of rejection that motivates justification of our choices is abolished in the love of God.

We must learn to truly confess sin and repent of it. Every prayer we pray depends upon it. God does not hear the prayers of people who harbor unconfessed and unrepented sin in their hearts. (If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; Psalms 66:18)

Maybe the reason we are not experiencing the power of God in prayer is that we are not praying with pure hearts. Make a specific effort today to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any sin that is hindering the intimacy of your relationship with Christ, and then pray with confession and repentance. God’s presence and power will be revived in you.

Pastor John

Be Thankful

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

1 Chronicles 16:8, 34 8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; …Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Our current study of Philippians has brought us to the subject of prayer. The Apostle Paul commands us in Philippians 4:6 to pray about everything. Yesterday we discovered that prayers of praise focus on the nature and character of God. The second type of prayer we want to consider is that of thanksgiving. Prayers of thanksgiving focus on the activity of God.

As we make our way through the day our attitudes are influenced by two different types of activities: those that turn out right and those that don’t. We categorize every event of our lives as either a blessing or a bust. And because we tend to respond most easily to the flesh, our attitudes are more easily affected by the activities that don’t work out for our benefit. That’s why we tend to be anxious and worry. But that response is more serious than just a bad attitude: it really reflects a weak understanding of God’s activity in our lives. When we allow worry to be our response to the circumstances of life, we are really denying the activity of God in that circumstance. That’s why Paul states that we are not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation of life we are to pray with thanksgiving that God is at work to bring about His good.

Thanksgiving is vital in all our prayers. There are so many things that God has done, and it encourages our hearts to think on them and thank Him for them. King David reminded us to make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

The first thing I am thankful for is my salvation. What event or circumstance of life can possibly take away the joy of being a child of God? Again, David reminds us that we should give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Can anything in this life separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Can any trouble you are currently experiencing undo your spiritual birth into the family of God? Of course not! So, in everything you bring to God in prayer, be thankful.

After you have thanked Him for your salvation, the list of things for which to be thankful will be unique to each individual, because God’s activity in your life is unique. But remember this – God is always active and is always working all things out for good.

I was reminded by God one morning to count my blessings rather than focus on the problems. It was rather funny the way God did it. I had been having problems with my laptop computer, and because I had an appointment out of the office, I planned to write a devotional from home. I turned on the laptop and said a quick prayer that it would work. When I clicked on my word processing program to bring up the devotional I had started the night before, my computer did what I asked it to do – and more. It loaded 57 blank documents before I could get it to stop. A button on my keypad had stuck. At that moment God said to me, Are you going to focus on what’s wrong with your computer or are you going to see that when you ask Me for something I will give you more than you thought you needed. It was a simple reminder that even during a problem, God is actively at work to make all things good. We need to notice the blessings He provides even when things are going bad.

Yesterday I talked to a Godly woman who is having some real difficulties that have affected her ability to rejoice and have brought on some anxiety. I recognized that she seemed to be trying to manage tomorrow’s activities along with today’s. It was obvious that her plate was full, but the problem was that she was already working on filling up tomorrow’s plate as well, and trying to carry them both. I reminded her that God promised to provide sufficient grace for today only, and that His activity in her life would handle everything on today’s plate. She needed to let go of all she hoped God would do tomorrow and start being thankful for what God was doing today. It is a reminder we all need.

To use the words of a great old hymn, “count your many blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 

In everything be thankful. God has not stopped His activity in your life. 

Pastor John

Learning to Praise God

Lifelink Devotional

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Let’s play a game of word association. When I say a word, think about the first word that pops into your head. Here we go. Pray…So what word did you think of first? Was it the word ask or one of its synonyms? We tend to think that praying is primarily asking God for something. But if that were true, then why does Paul distinguish between praying and petitions or requests in today’s Scripture passages? What are we missing in our understanding of prayer?

One of the greatest joys of being a parent is to spend time communicating with my children. But I remember too well the teenage years when the only communication initiated by the child was asking for something. Dad, can I have the car? Dad, can I have ten dollars? Dad, can I stay out past eleven tonight? Dad, can I go out with my friends to the game? If I wanted more information about their life, I had to ask them for it, and their responses would be short and to the point, forcing the asking of more questions. It was hard to not have a deeper and more intimate relationship with my kids during those years.

Reflecting on that helps me to understand how God must feel about our relationship when it seems all we do is ask for things. What God longs for is intimacy that comes from sharing every aspect of life with us. Paul says in Ephesians 6:18 that we are to pray with all kinds of prayers, indicating that there are many styles of communication with God. There are many styles of communication with God, and we are missing the blessing of intimate fellowship with the Father if our only prayers are those of petition.

Over the next few days I want to look at the various types of prayers we should be praying. I’m sure this list will not be complete, because I cannot claim to know how to be totally intimate with God or even people. But this should give us a good start on building deeper intimacy with God.

One type of prayer is Praise. One of the biggest detriments to learning to praise God is the phrase Praise the Lord! I used to think that when something good happened to me I should say Praise the Lord! When someone else would tell me something God had done for them I would say, Praise the Lord! When I would write a thank you note to someone or would hear of an answered prayer, I would write, PTL!

But saying that phrase is not praising God. For example, I believe a vital part of raising children is to praise them. If every time one of my children or grandchildren did something commendable all I said was “I praise you,” it would mean very little to them. What I must do is tell them why I am praising them, and that means recognizing and acknowledging their character. But this has become hard for us. We are much better at recognizing behavior than character. We acknowledge performance, but don’t seem to do a very good job of acknowledging character. Recognizing deeds is not praise – it is thanksgiving, and we’ll talk about that tomorrow. Praise is the recognition and acknowledgment of the nature and character of God, and we must learn to do it.

I first discovered this was a problem a few years ago when I asked people in church one Sunday following a time of musical worship to spend a moment praising God out loud for who He was. There was silence. First of all, it was unheard of to ask a conservative Baptist congregation to make any noise in church let alone any non-uniform noise. But I also discovered there was a huge problem of not knowing what to say. If I would have asked everyone to thank God for something He had done, there may have been a few who would have spoken. Or if I would have asked them to say, Praise the Lord in unison, they would have done it. But for each person to individually praise God out loud in their own way, that was beyond their capabilities. How sad, I thought to myself, and then I realized that I had trouble doing it also.

Why is it so hard to truly praise God when there are over 300 references to praising God in the Bible? If our relationship with God is not based on our recognition of His nature and character, then what kind of a relationship do we really have? Certainly not an intimate one. I have been so blessed in my relationship with God since I started personally acknowledging His character to Him. It is vital to our relationship with God to start each prayer with a statement of praise for who He is. He is holy. He is loving. He is compassionate. He is merciful. He is just. He is sovereign. He is…and the list goes on. Every request we make of God is based on our understanding of some aspect of God’s nature and character, so we should verbalize the basis for our request. Just as in your relationships with people, intimacy with God is accomplished only through recognition, acceptance, and acknowledgment of His nature and character.

Start practicing praise. Tell God what you know to be true about Him, and that you appreciate knowing it. Tell Him you’re glad He’s holy, loving, merciful, just, forgiving, in control, etc. Let Him know that you know Him. That’s what praise is, and that’s what brings intimacy.

Pastor John