Offering a Sacrifice of Praise

I’m not sure where I found this but, at the time and even now, it reminds me of the one of the purposes of our singing together in church.

While singing is not the only form of worship–it may be argued it is actually a minuscule part of what the term “worship” actually means–I believe most Evangelical Christians would automatically associate worship with the song part of a service. I was at a conference recently where the leader introduced the song portion of a session with simply “Let’s worship.” So, keeping in mind that the use of the word “worship” here equals congregational singing, take from this what you can use:

There is an old saying many Christians use: “Offer the Lord a sacrifice of praise,” referring to Hebrews 13:15. In many circles this notion of a “sacrifice of praise” almost becomes cliche. (Perhaps because worship does not often come at much cost, especially compared with the sacrifices of saints who’ve gone before us.) But when we worship with folks of various traditions, there are times when we may hear a prayer that uses language we might not naturally use or sing a song that isn’t really our style. Thai is part of what it means to be a member of a community as diverse as the church is. And perhaps that also helps shed some light on why it might require some sacrifice for us to give up ourselves. When a song isn’t working for you, consider praising God, because thai probably means it is working for someone else who is very different from you. Offer your worship as a sacrifice rather than requiring others to sacrifice for your pleasure or contentment. There is something to the notion of becoming one as God is one: it doesn’t mean that we are the same; it just means that we are united by one Spirit. After all, we can become one only if there are many of us to begin with. . . So if a song or prayer doesn’t quite work for you, be thankful that it is probably really resonating with someone who is different from you. and offer a sacrifice of praise.

The Blues are a Given

‘My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?”

How many times in my life have I dared to ask the question, ‘Where are you, God?’ How often have I heard the cry, ‘Where is your God now?’

The obvious answer is that he is in the same place as he was in the good times. Our theology may define the specific ‘where’ that might be. But whether it is in heaven, encompassing everything around us, or in our hearts, God is not absent.

Today I arrived at school to find that one of our former students, who would have been in Year 12 this year was killed in a motorcycle accident on the weekend. I look at this tragic situation and can certainly understand the lament of the psalmist as those close to this lad are crying out, ‘God, where were you when Jason needed you?’

I believe God not only welcomes our desperate cries but invites our lamentation. He isn’t afraid of our doubts, or our giving voice to our fears. And he is with us as we are with him. Embracing us in our sorrow, weeping with us, grieving our loss, singing with us when we have the blues.

Martin B. Copenhaver writes, ‘Lament is not whining. Whiners always find a way to whine, regardless of circumstances. No, lament is a legitimate response to real hardship. Mahalia Jackson could have been referring to lament, rather than the blues, when she said, “Anybody singing the blues is in a deep pit yelling for help.”‘

He continues by reminding us that ‘in the Bible there are more prayers of lament than there are prayers of praise. This reminds [us] that God invites our expressions of sorrow and complaint as much as God invites our praise.’

God is not unconcerned or uninterested. He is not an uninvolved deity who watches us ‘from a distance.’ He is near. He is so close to us that Paul put it this way to the Athenians: ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’

The blues are a given. At some point we will all be singing our song of lament. There will be times in life when we will despair, be overcome with sadness, find ourselves in times of deep sorrow.

In that space, we rest in the love of a God who journeys with us–and joins us in our lament.

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After I wrote the above piece and posted it, I went to view it on the blog site and found a randomly selected link that WordPress had supplied. The link was to the poem below which is truly a lament, but with a tinge of hope (at least in my perception of it):

Life’s Poisonous Nectar

Names changing, being shortened to nicknames
Rich lands become crusty and dry
Wavering nights evolve to gold
Present is a stirring within all who wakes
For a moment blue skies and tender trees are in view
Then the veil of darkness closes in again
The earth once more acts as an envelope,
Containing all the fretfulness of the world
A weeping mother, hungers for her child’s well-being
Denying her helplessness, pushing away change
It had snuck up gradually, weaving with skill
Like a full moon shining golden and enormous
Only until an orange sunrise shatters the blue vortex
A final breath, the coldness of a young soul lost
No compensation to be given or a hand to lend
Money steals the hope of the poor
People once healthy and opulent, now destitute
Loss after loss, what is one to gain?
Another fight against tremendous odds
Change has begun to repeat itself.

Inspired by Nectar in a Sieve, Written in 2008
(an anonymous writing from the blog Looking In from the Outside)

Fields of Grace

Why “Fields of Grace?”

I have been captivated by this phrase ever since I heard it first sung in a Hillsong worship song, “All of My Days:”

All your works will praise you
Your children bless your name
We speak of all your goodness
We walk in fields of grace.

I could so clearly picture myself, with all my imperfections, troubles, errant ways and thoughts, stepping–no, running!– through these “fields of grace” and enjoying the calming, soothing, nourishing, refreshing grace of God as it washes over me. This song still brings a smile to my face every time I sing it.

Recently, another song, written with a similar theme, spoke into my life:

There’s a place where I love to run and play
There’s a place where I sing new songs of praise
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace

There’s a place where I lose myself in Him
There’s a place where I find myself again
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace

I love my Father, my Father loves me
I dance for my Father, my Father sings over me
And nothing, nothing
Nothing can take that away from me

There’s a place where religion finally dies
There’s a place where I lose my selfish pride
Dancing with my Father God in fields of grace

(Fields of Grace by Darrell Evans)

This ain’t no Sunday stroll. This is every day dancing, jumping, leaping in celebration (sorry, you still won’t catch me doing this at church!) Joyfully, ecstatically, praising the God of all grace who graces us every day with his goodness and mercy. What a gift!

So, while this blog won’t always be about grace, and while I won’t always feel like dancing as I write it, I would like to frame it in the unconditional love and goodness of God. It’s my desire that it will–often–celebrate grace and encourage everyone who visits it to dance their own dance in God’s amazing fields of grace.
(And, just in case you’re wondering, the web address “difog” stands for “dancing in fields of grace”.)