Have you ever been driving through the countryside or nearby a local farm and come across the following scene? You must wonder, is the grass really that much better on the other side? This familiar idiom tries to capture the thought that people (or animals) are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better. When we consider our circumstances, when we compare our experiences with that of others we tend to think that we would be better off or happier on the other side.
Mankind has been struggling with this thought pattern for centuries. In Psalm 73, we are introduced to the thoughts of Asaph and his struggle to “jump the fence” and run free on what looked like the “greener” side of life. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”. Asaph continues to describes the appearance of a better life, “They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong. They are freed from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. He sees them (those who have turned away from God) and sees a life “free of care” and prosperity.
It is through the experience and power of God’s love that Asaph is able to stay on the right side of the fence. He describes a moment when he “enters the sanctuary of the Lord”, a place where he is able to ground himself in knowing that without God, those he looks over will one day be destroyed. Asaph makes the choice to enter into a place of worship with the assurance that God is with Him and that God will protect him. “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart… But as for me, it is good to be near God.” The experience of God’s love through the story of Asaph is the same love that God has for us today. Our lives, our “sanctuary” or place of worship needs to be found in all areas of life. Through personal prayer, song, scripture reading, working diligently, serving humbly or building Christ like relationships, we are called to worship God. As we stay connected with God he will keep us on the right side of the fence. God gives us the ability to see clearly that what He has given us is good and what He has prepared for us in heaven is even greater.
With names like Millennium Force, Top Dog Thriller, Formula Rossa, Intimidator 305 and Steel Dragon 2000, these world-famous roller coasters will provide the thrill that extreme adrenaline junkies seek. There are intense drops, twists and turns, incredible speeds and gut wrenching G-forces that push your mind and body to its limits. You might be one of those people who gets excited about being strapped into the seat on one of these giant steel mechanical marvels or you might be like me, the anxious spectator (who likes to keep two feet on the ground) left holding all the bags, hats and loose change until the ride is over.
When I read through the Psalms I get the sense of being on a different sort of roller coaster, a ride that journeys through a wide range of emotions. Through ups and downs, twists and turns and the pressures of life, we get a glimpse into the complex emotions that our creator built into us. Woven into the fabric of the text we can experience the writer’s feelings of joy, fear, anger, disappointment, outrage, gratitude, contentment and more. When we listen, hear, and take to heart the stories shared by the different author’s we are invited into their lives and deep into their hearts. One of the most powerful and emotional moments in the psalms for me is found in chapter 18:6, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Distress, suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, each one of these “places” can bring us crashing to our knees, desperate and needy, searching for God just a David did in this passage.
It has been said that every human emotion is portrayed in some way through the writing of the Psalms. The Psalms are a “go to” for many who need encouragement and direction in their lives; often when we find an emotional connection we can also experience the writer’s response or reflection. One of the strongest themes that help facilitate that connection is that of love. Out of His love for David, God hears his cry for help, He delivers him from the hands of his enemies. Today our God is no different than He was in David’s day, He waits patiently as we persistently try to work things out on our own, he continues to hear our cries, He loves us in all our brokenness, he rejoices when we put our faith and trust in Him. It is His love that will keep us standing with two feet on the ground.
God in His wisdom and discernment gives all of us gifts and abilities that we can use to bring glory and honor to his name. In the design for my life God did not bestow on me the gift of music in any way shape or form. One thing that God did give me is the gift of three wonderful budding musicians that play a myriad of instruments and sing like life is an endless musical. Each day our home is filled with a variety of melodies and harmonies along with the occasional squeal and high pitched screech.
The Psalms, also known as the “Book of Praises” are both inspirational and instructional for our own personal and corporate worship. “Therefore [I] will praise you, Lord, among the nations; [I] will sing the praises of your name (Ps 18:49), “Be exalted in your strength, Lord; [we] will sing and praise your might” (Ps 21:13). After reading through the psalms and you don’t get the picture of praise and worship I would have to point you to one verse that sums it up pretty well, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Ps 47:6). One of the great things I appreciate about the Psalms is how the authors bring praise to God in the difficult times and the good times. The words are written as if we could walk in their shoes; the events and circumstances in our lives may be different, but the living breathing act of worship we offer is being lifted up to the same unchanging God.
Whether our worship comes through song, repentance, prayer, remembrance or thanksgiving our God hears and sees everything we say and do. Our worship must come from the heart and soul of who He created us to be. Like the budding musicians who squeal and screech, we too can struggle in our times of worship; there will be valleys to come out of and mountain top experiences to celebrate. Our worship, no matter where we are must be a response to God’s love for us.
How is your memory? Do you have the capacity to remember names, dates, numbers or historical events? Numbers are my nemesis, phone numbers, addresses, lock combinations, alarm codes, they all give me trouble. In addition to the cognitive confusion someone decided to mix numbers and letters together; it has been over four years since I last moved and still to this day I have trouble remembering my own postal code.
The psalmists repeatedly bring us to into a place of remembrance (approx. 45 times) as we read through the psalms. One of the powerful messages I read in regards to remembrance is this: as we reflect (remember) on what the Lord has done for us it encourages us to rejoice in His power and glory. In Psalm 66:5-6, the Psalmist recounts the awesome story of God’s provision for his people in the parting of the red sea, this is an experience that caused the people to rejoice and give thanks. David, in Psalm 13 says that his heart rejoices and sings for the good things that the Lord had done in his life. Asaph, in Psalm 77:11 remembers the Lords “miracles of long ago” and continues to write about how great God is. In each of these Psalms and others we here the voice of fellow believers rejoicing in what God has done for them, their remembrance leads them into a place of rejoicing, a place of worship.
The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines remembering as this: “The process of recalling the past, especially the presence and activity of God in the history of his people. Remembering God’s work in the past can lead to praise and rejoicing, and to hope for the future”. As I reflect on what God has done in my life and where He has brought me I am thankful, it reminds me of the power He has to lead and guide my family and I through all areas of life. Remembering and accepting what the Lord has done to help me grow, I can only wait with a feeling of anticipation for what He is going to do next.
Have you ever broken a bone in your body? If you haven’t, I can tell you from personal experience it hurts, a lot! What is the first thing we do when something like this happens? Under normal circumstances we go to the hospital. When you arrive there is a process: first, we sit in the waiting room while the person next to you says “wow, that looks like it hurts”, then we see the doctor, go for an x-ray, and most often have the injury casted then get sent home with a bottle of pain medication.
As I read through the Psalms I found many references to bones. (6:2, 22:14, 31:10, 38:3, 51:8) David is not talking about physical broken bones in these passages, they are expressions of “personal distress”, they are the feelings of a burdened heart because of the sin in his life. Much like the process described above, when in our life we experience “broken bones” we must go before our God, the great physician. Like David we must go before Him with a repentant heart asking for healing (forgiveness). When I read through David’s experiences I can feel his sense of guilt because of the sin in his life and at the same time I get a picture of his confidence for God’s grace in his life. I know that he hates the pathway of sin (119:128) that life often falls into and through that I see him turn toward God, striving to live a life holy and pleasing to Him.
Our confession, our coming before the Lord is an act of worship. As David seeks forgiveness he gives God glory and honor because of His grace and mercy. Other than the time and place in history our lives are not that much different that David’s. We face many of the same temptations and trials as he did. As believers we know today that our sins are covered by the death of Christ on the cross. As we seek to live a life pleasing to God He is waiting patiently for us to come before Him through His son with a repentant heart.
“I will give thanks because of his righteousness…” (7:17). “I will give thanks to you Lord…” (9:1). “…give thanks to him and praise his name” (100:4). “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good…” (106:1). “Give thanks to your holy name…” (106:47). “Let them give thanks to the Lord…” (107:8,15,21,31). “I rise to give you thanks” (119:62). “Give thanks to the God of heaven His love endures forever”. (136:26)
Riding on the heels of a long weekend focused around thanksgiving I had to ask myself two questions: Who did I give thanks to? Did I come humbly before my God in worship, praise and thanks for all that He has provided in my life?
The Psalms provide us with some powerful words that can help draw us into worship. David pens many of the Psalms that point to the core of worship. He reminds us that our worship, our attitude of thanksgiving needs to come from our heart and soul (the core of who we are). Psalm 103 reads: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The benefits that David is talking about are forgiveness, healing, deliverance from death, love, and compassion. He reaches deep into his soul because he has experienced God’s goodness in his life. Our God wants the best for us; at the same time, He wants every part of us as we give Him honor and glory.
Did you forget to thank God for something this past weekend? The great thing about our God is we can come to him anytime, anywhere. As you humbly go before him follow in David’s paths in Psalm 103, go before him with all you heart and soul.
Imagine yourself sitting in the Sydney Opera House or the Royal Albert Hall in London listening to a finely tuned orchestra perform a classical score written by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart or Bach. As the orchestra plays you may hear the emotion filled sound of violin or the soft gentle flowing melody of a flute that calms the senses, then as the music continues and all the instruments play together you experience a powerful heart pounding sound that sends a shiver through your body.
As I begin to reflect on worship and read through the book of Psalms I get this picture of the orchestra in my mind. Especially in the very last Psalm, it reminds me of that moment the orchestra is playing all together. The words of Psalm 150 describe the playing of the trumpet, harp, lyre, timbrel, strings, pipe and cymbals together to give praise to God. This beautiful piece of scripture is the grand finale, the final instruction of how we are to bring praise and worship through our lives to our Heavenly Father.
The way we worship should play out like that of the orchestra playing together, it is in all parts of our life that we need to worship our God. Each one of us has the opportunity to worship and give praise to God on our own and that is critical to the development of our personal relationship with Him. It is more than just our own personal worship that God calls us to, our worship should be found in all areas of life. The Psalmist writes in verse 6 of chapter 150 “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”. When I read these words as a living, breathing creation of a God who is always with me my life should reflect that through my daily worship and praise to Him.