Monday, September 2, 2013

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD from the heavens!  Praise him from the skies!  Praise him, all his angels!  Praise him, all the armies of heaven!  Praise him, sun and moon!  Praise him, all you twinkling stars!  Praise him, skies above!  Praise him, vapors high above the clouds!  Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being.  He set them in place forever and ever.  His decree will never be revoked.  Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, young men and young women, old men and children.  Let them all praise the name of the LORD.  For his name is very great; his glory towers over the earth and heaven!  He has made his people strong, honoring his faithful ones— the people of Israel who are close to him.  Praise the LORD!           Psalms 148:1 - 14 (NLT)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.  Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.    
Colossians 3:12 - 17 (NLT)
Do you like disaster movies?  Not my favorite!  Give me “Meet Me in St Louis” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” –There’s already too much reality on the daily news for me to be interested in end of the world scenarios. 
Have you ever wondered why there are so many of those “disaster movies” produced?  It’s because there is so much disaster and “shaking” of this world.  Frankly, underneath it all people are nervous and unsure of what’s going to happen to this old world; so much is uncertain.
Herbert O’Driscoll is a retired Anglican priest who served in Ireland.  In the 1970’s he watched the terrible earthquakes in Northern Italy.  Someone with a home movie camera captured an outdoor worship scene after the quake hit: 
On a hillside a rough altar of stones had been assembled and an elderly priest was about to elevate the chalice when an aftershock came.  The tremor rippled through the crowd until it reached the priest.  He staggered but succeeded in keeping the chalice aloft with one hand while supporting himself on the altar with his other hand. 
[O’Driscoll continued that he]…immediately identified with the scene.  I understood my priesthood as being in such a world, a world in which foundations were being shaken but where my task was to reach for and hang on to what remained solid and lasting….Why does God shake the earth?....God shakes the earth so that what cannot be shaken may remain….To serve in an age of earthquake is to be forced to decide what it is, for each one of us, that cannot be shaken.[1]
The cross of Christ is, for me, what cannot be shaken.  This cross represents the love of God, and the life Russell should lead.
For these few moments let’s focus on the solid, unshakeable ways we can praise the LORD with our lives.  The Psalmist told us why – that God is creator and sustainer of all there is, and therefore entirely worthy of our praise. 
Paul, in Colossians, tells us the how – living each day of our lives in a manner that is a worthy offering, a life in the character of Jesus Christ.  Paul shows us about 11 characteristics of a Christ-like life. 
It’s not exactly New Year’s resolution time, but let’s go over the list.
1.     Live With Compassion
Compassion is pretty straightforward; when somebody else is hurting, you do something!  It may only be a word, or it may mean sacrifice beyond what you ever could imagine – but compassionate people act!
2.     Live With Kindness
Kindness is a matter of seeing the weakness in another person and deciding against exploiting; rather deciding to help the other to overcome.  It is the picture of lifting someone out of the pit.
3.     Live With Humility 
Humility isn’t merely a lack of “tooting your own horn” or the opposite of pride.  It is more a matter of simply thinking of others before you consider your own needs or wants.  That’s rare today; very rare!
4.     Live With Meekness 
Meekness is not being soft-spoken or “wimpish”.  The Bible word suggests great power under control.  The image is like a huge stallion – 2,000 pounds of incredible strength, gently responding to the reins held by a ten year old girl.  Jesus was characterized as meek, but he had great strength.  His prayer from the cross could have been, “Father, wipe ‘em all out and get me off this planet!”  But Jesus’ meekness, his strength-under-control, was to instead say, “Father, forgive them.”
5.     Live With Patience 
Do you enjoy department store return lines?  How about traffic jams?  Do you have any patience left when you get cut-off on the interstate?
For thousands of years God sent his messengers of love, the prophets; one after the other they were murdered by the very ones God intended to save.  Finally God sent his own beloved Son – and we put him on a cross too.  That is patience!
6.     Live With Forgiveness
How are you at forgiving?  Do you make others come to you, groveling, before you’ll even consider it?  Do you say you forgive, and then keep bringing it up, rolling it around in conversation or just thinking about it until you unravel whatever forgiveness you might have given?  Have you not learned to forget to talk about another’s wrong towards you?
7.     Live in Harmony
Harmony is not when everybody learns to think and act alike; it is much harder to achieve harmony than uniformity.  It takes different notes to make a harmonious sound.  But, harmony IS your target.  So, are you committed to listening so you can understand others – so you can work together towards harmony?
8.     Live With Christ’s Peace Ruling in Your Heart
Paul said in his letter to the church at Philippi that worry shouldn’t rule over our lives, but our prayers and needs are to be lifted to God above.  When we leave our cares and needs with God, he sends the peace of Christ to guard our hearts.
9.     Live With Thankfulness
This should be the easiest of Paul’s list.  When you have a God who has promised an exchange, where we give Him our anxieties and tell Him our needs, and He gives us his peace and supplies our needs, what more does it take to be thankful?
10. Live Teaching Each Other Wisdom
Wisdom is not a matter of IQ or degrees earned from colleges.  Knowing God is the beginning and sum total of true wisdom.  When it comes to teaching each other Godly wisdom, we are like so many beggars sharing with each other where we found bread. 
A major problem these days is that too many spiritual beggars have decided not to look for bread any more.  Bible Study is, of course, the implication here. 
We get our Bible study in many ways – worship is introductory; holy conferencing with other believers takes learning spiritual wisdom to a deeper level (if the topic is scripture and serving, not ball game scores). 
But the deepest of all is personal Bible study, so that you learn to share God’s good ways with others.  Nobody learns like one preparing to teach!
11.  Live With a Song of Praise
There is enough about which you can complain these days.  The life of a believer who honors God in a worthy manner is a person whose lips are filled with praise.  Unfortunately there is no shortage of people who want to constantly dwell on the negative.  They can’t wait to tell you the latest bad news.  They feel compelled to the down side like a junkyard dog feels called to devour a mailman.
Christian – your life is in-Christ, not in the dump!  Pull up thy chin!

Amen, or “Oh Me”?

Does your life fall just a little short of all these wonderful characteristics?  Do you feel like you don’t hit on all those cylinders?  Perhaps you felt like you got a perfect score – ZERO out of 11!
Let’s go back to Herbert O’Driscoll.  It’s an earthquake kind of world.  Of all that which we do today, the cross of Christ is secure.  No matter what your score on Paul’s list, God loves you. 
You can count on that, praise the Lord!

[1] Herbert O’Driscoll, Christian Century, December 29, 2009, page 29.

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