Friday, 8 April 2016

The Power of Praise ~ Ganeida

James 1:22  says: But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Many Christians think this verse means to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, offer hospitality, visit those in prison etc. but that is not primarily what this verse is referring to.

Here at Harvest Family Church you might hear your leaders say things like *Stand on the Word*, *Walk in Faith* or *This is a tool to help you.*  Today I want to give you a tool to help you break bondages & impediments in your life so that you might walk in victory & this verse in James is the first key to understanding how you can do that.

Firstly you need to understand that we are to Guard [y]our heart above all else, for it determines the course of [y]our life. Proverbs 4:23.  James 1 is firstly an instruction about our attitudes, about guarding our hearts.

The King James puts this verse this way:  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

When we study out the Greek,  be is Ginomai. Ginomai means to bring into existence, to create, to be born. The idea is that we bring into being the living word in our lives. Poiētēs, translated doers, actually means a maker, a craftsman such as a poet or author, who creates something.  So you see the idea behind James 1 is that of a craftsman who is bringing something into existence.  If you aren’t doing that you are deluding yourself: paralogizomai.
James goes on to say that the one who continues to bring the word to life in their lives will be blessed in all they do.

That is the what.  Now let us look at the how.  How do we make that happen?

John10:10 Jesus says: The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

This is the eternal dilemma.  Jesus’ stated purpose is that we might have abundant life.  Satan’s agenda is to kill, to destroy & to steal.  This is a fallen world & so just as Jesus warned we often have to deal with trials & tribulations. 

There is nothing more detrimental to the Christian witness than Christians who are constantly sour, down in the mouth, depressed, complaining, whinging, whining, defeated.  They have obviously forgotten Jesus command to take heart; He has overcome the world.

There are things we can know about God:
He does not lie [Titus 1:2]
He keeps his promises [Numbers 23:19]
He is faithful [2 Timothy 2:13]
He cares for us [1Peter 5:7]
He is a healer [Exodus 15:26]

So this is the crunch; who do we believe?  Do we believe what God says or do we believe satan?  Satan will always lie to us, always try & confuse us, always attempt to steal our joy, always bring us down, always keep us in bondage.

What comes out of our mouth when we are in the midst of the battle is important.  Who do we believe? God ~ or satan?

God never said it would be easy but He did say that we could trust Him.  Just the same, winning the battle requires a strategy.  Satan has one & God has one. It is easy to fall prey to satan’s strategies because he lays snares & traps for us & if we are not paying attention we are going to succumb but there is one simple & effective tool we can employ that will keep us on track & break bondages.

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always & again I say rejoice!

1 Thessalonians 5:16
Rejoice always….Give thanks in all circumstances…

Now before everyone grabs hold of the wrong end of the stick let me clarify.

No, you don’t give thanks that you are broke; you give thanks because God is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides for you.  You don’t give thanks because you are sick; you give thanks that you know the God who healeth.  You don’t rejoice that your family life is in disarray; you give thanks to the one who saves & redeems.  Notice something?  Praise takes our eyes of our circumstances & fastens our thoughts on the one who is able to change our circumstances.

It does something else, something very, very important.  It calls satan out.  It exposes him for the liar he is.  When we whinge & complain about our circumstances we come into agreement with what satan says about us & about our life.  When we do that we deny what God has said & call Him a liar!  When we praise God no matter what our circumstances are then we come into agreement with God & He can release His blessing into our life because God inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 22:3

This is a principle Jesus applied to His life.  I want to look at just 2 examples.  You will know them both.

Matthew 6:9~13 ~  Commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. Those who have had this teaching will remember that this is not a rote prayer but a rabbinical teaching tool using 12 principles that are to be prayed.  The first principle is praise [Holy be thy name].  The last principle is praise [to thine be the kingdom, the power & the glory].  In between are sandwiched our petitions for food, clothing, protection, forgiveness. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray this is how he taught them: begin & end with praise.

You may think to yourself, Really?  But Peter walked free from prison due to praise. [Acts 12]  Paul & Barnabas experienced prison gates opening, chains falling off, & earthquakes due to the power of praise.[Acts16] Praise raised Jesus from the dead.
You can read of Jesus death & resurrection in all 4 gospels & each gospel tells the story slightly differently ~ as you would expect because people remember different things. What we do know is it was Passover. We teach about Passover because it teaches us important things about how to follow Christ.

At Passover all Torah observant Jews like Jesus did certain things.  They removed all leaven from their homes because leaven represents sin. They celebrated a meal in which they remembered what God had done for them when He led them out of bondage in Egypt & they sang the Hallel ~ Psalms 113-118.

Scripture records that after the Passover meal they sang a Hymn & left for Gethsemane. The hymn was probably either Psalm 118 with the response: His faithful love endures forever or the Great Hallel, Psalm 136 with its repetitive refrain: His Love endures forever. This was Jesus declaration as He prepared to go to the cross as our Paschal lamb, our atonement for sin: God is good; His love endures forever. It is what Jesus continued to declare from the cross.

Jesus wasn’t yet on the cross.  He was yet to beg that if it was possible the cup of suffering would pass from Him. The cup did not pass & Jesus found Himself on that cross, in so much physical pain it is impossible to truly imagine it.  Our minds flinch away but it is then, in the midst of the sort of suffering you & I cannot really know, that something truly remarkable happens ~ & we do not know because we do not know our scriptures as we should ~ but you can bet your little cotton socks the Jews watching knew & understood!

To quote a line of the psalms to the Jewish mind, was to reference the whole psalm.  So when Jesus cried out:  My God!  My God!  Why have you forsaken me? He was not, as so many mistakenly believe, accusing God of abandoning Him. Things are not as they seem for psalm 22 goes on to declare:
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

Jesus also quotes twice from psalm 31.  His trust in the Father never wavers.  Even as He hung on that cross bearing the weight of the World’s sin, even as the Father’s wrath fell on Him that we might be spared, Jesus remained steadfast. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Hebrews 12:2 Paul could state this unequivocally because He understood what Jesus said from the cross. Jesus could just as easily have said with Job : Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.

In the midst of one of the worst scenarios imaginable, on the point of death, Jesus expends His energy to praise God. His focus is not on His present agony, excruciating as that must have been, but on the Father.  Selah.  Pause & think about that for a moment.  What are you complaining about today?

Finally Jesus says:  Tetelestai, it is finished.  This is actually a legal term indicating the terms of an agreement or contract has been  fully met; that what one set out to do has been accomplished. Tetelestai is in the perfect tense in the Greek which tells us that it has been done, it is done & it will continue being done. It is also the traditional ending to psalm 22!

The Jews considered hanging on a cross a curse [Galatians 3:13] but Jesus praised the Father anyway.

The Religious leaders called him a blasphemer ~ but Jesus praised the Father anyway.

The soldiers cursed him & divided His clothing amongst themselves ~ & Jesus praised the Father.

One of the 2 thieves mocked Him ~ but Jesus praised the Father.

The watching crowd considered Him as good as dead yet Jesus declared that God is good & His love endures forever.

Praise is a choice. It wasn’t Jesus choice to go to the cross: praise was.

Circumstances are often beyond our control.  How we respond is our choice. To praise God in the storm is an act of faith so enormous it raised Christ from the dead.

Isaiah 38:18 says:  For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise but hear the affirmations that close psalm 22:

I will declare your name
I will praise you.
 honour him!
Revere him,

The verbs are not past tense.  They are present & future. They are not the words of a dead man.  This is faith & this is what praise does.  It declares the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [Heb 11:1] It is why we are commanded to 
 Do every thing without complaining and arguing  [Phil 2:14].  It tells the world what we really believe about God.

Do you believe that God is good always?  Then praise Him!  Praise Him in the good times, & praise Him in the storm!

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