Praise Should Boil from Hearts On Fire

fire.jpgThe following is an excerpt from a new book I’ve just started. Hope you enjoy! (And please leave me a comment below to let me know what you think.) Thanks so much! – Dwayne

Imagine you have a child who has really struggled in a certain subject at school. You have become concerned about his grades because they continue to drop. Then one day, your child brings home a 100 on a paper in that very subject he has had difficultly with so long. How would you respond when he showed you his score? You would say things like, “I am so proud of you,” “Great job!” and “I knew you could do it,” wouldn’t you? At the very least you would smile and nod your approval. Perhaps you would place your hand on your child as an outward gesture of your love and support for him.

Now, rather than responding in the way any normal parent would, imagine, instead, that you merely stand there and look at your child. You don’t say a word to him to show him you approve. How strange would that be? How unnatural would that seem for you, being the proud parent that you are? You are filled with excitement and admiration for your child’s efforts and accomplishment. Yet, you do nothing outwardly to express your praise to him.

In much the same way, how strange and abnormal is it when we say we love God, yet we don’t willingly and joyfully articulate our praise to Him? Sadly and quite astonishingly, that precise scenario is played out time and time again in the lives of far too many Christians. They have love for the Lord. And down inside of them, they fear God and want to worship Him. Nevertheless, they hesitate to express how they feel. For whatever reason, they keep their thankfulness and adorations tucked carefully away. Rarely, if ever, do they allow their praise to spill out of them. Such so-called praise to God, praise that is harbored inside of us and never allowed to escape, is not really praise at all…

What Is Praise?
So then, what exactly is “praise”? Let’s take a moment and look at its definition. Praise is “commendation, laudation, the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship.” It means “to express…admiration of; commend; extol.” American College Dictionary goes on to say that to praise someone is to show “value” to them. Words that mean the same thing as praise include “acclamation, compliment, approve, glorify, magnify, and exalt.”

What does every one of those descriptive words have in common? They all describe something that is vocal, audible or visible. Praise, therefore, by its very nature, is outward and somehow accomplished through our bodies. Hence, we only truly praise God when we do something outwardly that glorifies Him. (It should be noted here that any expressions of praise we offer are counted as authentic worship to God if and when they are first motivated by a heart filled with adoration and worship.)

To help us grasp this idea of outward praise, let’s put ourselves in the student’s shoes for a moment. Imagine you are the child, rather than the parent, in our opening story. You are thrilled (and relieved!) that you finally got the grade you’ve been working for, and you can’t wait to show your mom or dad and get their response. You come running through the door of your house with your test score in hand. But, when you show it to them, they just stand there and look at it for a few minutes. They show no visible sign of emotion or approval. You have worked hard for this, and you are eagerly awaiting some sort of verbal – or at least non-verbal – affirmation. But instead, they just hand the paper back to you and walk away. What would that communicate to you? They have told you before that they love you. Yet, at that moment, they sure weren’t acting like it. How would you feel by their actions – or their lack of action, to be more exact? You would probably be a little hurt, wouldn’t you, and you might even wonder if they really care for you as much as they claim they do…

How do you think our holy God must feel when we have every reason in and out of this world to praise Him, yet too often we “just walk away” and fail to express to Him our joy and amazement of His incredible worth and majesty? We don’t give Him the outward sacrifice of praise He is so worthy to receive.

Why Praise?
About now some of us may be thinking, “Yes, but I don’t have to verbalize my thoughts to God outwardly. He knows and sees my inner thoughts and ways.” True. Nonetheless, God obviously wants to hear us tell Him we love and adore Him. He clearly enjoys listening and watching His children praise Him with the bodies we have yielded to His service.

There are many passages in the Bible that make it clear God expects us to outwardly and demonstratively praise Him. Hebrews 13:15 is a prime example. That verse is emphatically pro-praise. It states, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.” Here, the writer of Hebrews leaves no room for doubt. The praise to which he is referring, the praise our great God wants and rightly deserves, is projected with our lips and from our bodies. And anyone who is standing closely to us at the moment we confess His name is sure to hear us.

So, why is outward, expressive praise so necessary in our relationship with the Lord? Think of it in this way: As parents we try to provide for our children. We feed them; we cloth them and send them to school. But any parent should do that. And most any parent would do that. Who’s to say we’re not doing those things primarily out of obligation and duty as parents? Such routine actions alone don’t adequately reveal our love and true feelings for our kids. How will our children know for certain that we really care for them? Here’s how: They will be assured of our love and adoration by how we act toward them and by what we say both to them and about them to others.

This is also true in marriage. If you are married, how will your husband or wife know for sure that you love and cherish him or her? Why, it will be obvious because you will be bursting with adoring affirmation and approval! Your praise on the outside will help confirm and support your love on the inside. By the same token, your deep and passionate love for each other should cause you to heap constant praise on one another with even more passion and determination.

The “Cure” for Heartburn
Our God can pier right down into the depths of our hearts and souls. And frankly, if we are reluctant to show forth His praises, if we are contented to keep our Christianity and love for the King of Kings as “a private matter,” what kind of heart do you think He will see when He looks? A heart that is on fire for Him is unashamed of Him. And by any stretch of reason and logic, that same boiling-hot soul must at some point “relieve the pressure” and flow from itself bold and passionate praise! No wonder King David said, “My heart is stirred (or boiling over) by a noble theme, as I recite verses to my King.” (Psalm 45:1 NIV) His heart so burned within him that it literally boiled over into verbal and joyful recitations!

When we are proud of someone and approve of them we can’t help but want to express our praise and admiration for them. Even kids, as they get older and more mature, often begin to return praise back to their parents (if their parents give them reason to, that is). Likewise, if on the inside of us we truly love and adore our Father in heaven, then it is only natural and normal for us, His children, to praise Him with our lips and our bodies on the outside of us.

When we choose to hold back our outward praise to God, we are acting selfishly. Besides, if true praise is welling up inside of us, it’s actually easier to let that praise out than it is to try and hold it in. That’s why Jeremiah said, “I can’t stop! If I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in.” (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT) Keeping our love for the Lord bottled up inside of us can stiffle our burning heart and give us unhealthy spiritual heartburn! Thus, you might say that the “Alka-Seltzer for our soul” is nothing less than passionate, sacrificial, God-honoring, devil-routing, clearly evident, heavenly-focused, often loud, occasionally obnoxious, and always refreshing praise!

(c)2007 by Dwayne Moore All rights reserved.

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