17 July 2007

Living Praise

Extract from Psalm 50, The Message

"I don't find fault in your acts of worship,
the frequent burn offerings you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?
Every creature in the forest is mine,
the wild animals on all the mountains.
I know every bird by name;
the scampering field mice are my friends.
If I get hungry, do you think I'd tell you?
All creation and its bounty are mine.
Do you think I feast on venison?
Or drink draughts of goat's blood?
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you're in trouble -
I'll help you, and you'll honor me."

Let me try to reframe God's address and perhaps make it cut a little more for our moment.

"I don't find fault in your singing of songs. But do you think I'm in great need of music? Do you think it is too quiet where I am? Did I not make the air molecules to vibrate and dance in such a way to let melody float from here to there? Do you think I am in great need of hearing these songs that were my breathings in the first place?"

We may argue, "Isn't that praise? Songs = Praise, right?" I think they're more like burnt offerings. The good news is that God doesn't find fault with our song offerings. There's nothing wrong with them. In fact, they can be beautiful expressions. But often they're nothing more than ritual, and at their worst they can even be provoking to God. Well then, what is He looking for? What is this praise He's after?

It is Praise Living. It is God leaning in and shouting, "I am the center!" and the sum of our lives nodding back in agreement. It is the core of our hearts echoing this statement. He is not begging to be the center - He is the center. He is the source. Our songs might verbalize and echo that at times, but so what? It is the nuts and bolts of our living that indicate if we really think this is truth. I would be so bold as to say eating barbecue and wearing sauce on your fingers and face and a grin as big as Texas with the knowledge that [God] is at the center of this can be truer praise than belting this "song ritual" that we have elevated to dangerous heights.

According to this psalm, even the simplicity of calling out to Him in times of trouble is considered the truer sacrifice. How surprising is that? And how easy? Higher than our ritual is the simple acknowledgement that, in truth, He is what we need. We, like the Israelites, often find rescue in burnt offering and not in the God who is the source of all. We find comfort in the song and not in the Comforter.

It is a subtle, but necessary shift. It is more difficult to find the Creator in a barbecue sandwich than in your favorite Sunday-morning song, but when you do, when you begin to find Him in all the stuff of life, everything starts singing. Every moment breaks into song. Every breath becomes sacrifice, and the songs become sweetness. This is living praise.

From the book Praise Habit, by David Crowder.

Finding God...here

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