A friend, pastor Mike Howell, wrote something on Facebook this week that could have come straight from my own heart, “From the day I was saved at the age of six, God’s goodness has been with me. In my family, in the churches I have served, in every season God has been good. This song reflects my life story.
“And all my life You have been faithful And all my life You have been so, so good With every breath that I am able Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God”*
A prayer of mine lately is, “God give me a worshipping heart. Give me a thankful heart, a praising heart. Help me into your intimate presence, into your holy of holies.”
It’s Not Always Easy
Can I be honest with you? It’s not always easy to come into His presence. Now, for you theologians, I know God is everywhere and He’s in us, too. Yes! I agree. But, on my part, when I tumble out of bed in the morning, slurp a little coffee and attempt to praise and worship the King of kings the way He deserves to be worshipped, well my emotions, feelings, and droopy eyelids usually conspire against me.
Looking at Psalms 100, it seems like there is a pattern for approaching the Lord. It’s almost like a three-stage rocket blasting into space. We start out by thanking Him (accompanied by songs and yelps of joy). We praise Him for Who He is. Then we enter an intimate place of worship and communion with our Maker/Shepherd, who “owns” us and takes care of the intimate details of our lives.
–Thankfulness sees things as they are—we are humongous beneficiaries. It takes away entitlement and makes us genuinely grateful for God’s blessings.
Thanksgiving, praise and worship get our priorities straight. He’s God, not us. He’s the Maker/Owner, not us. He’s the provider, not us. This quickens our faith and dampens our pride.
In Romans chapter 1 men start to go off the rails when,”… although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom 1:21, 22 NKJV)
An unthankful heart is a tasty treat for pride and anger. If you’re not grateful you open the door wide to all kinds of sins (read the list after Romans 1:22 to know what ungratefulness opens the door to). So … –Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, –And into His courts with praise. –Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Many of these “truths” work even for an unbeliever, to a point. A generous person is blessed. And studies have shown that thankful people are happier. Alex Lieberman, of the Founder’s Journal podcast, says,
“And while I was a skeptic…gratitude has been the greatest key to happiness and fulfillment… Gratitude is a mindset and it is a choice. It’s a choice to appreciate all that we receive, whether tangible or intangible, and whether in control or out of our control. It’s also a choice to acknowledge all of the goodness in our lives …gratitude changes how we see the world and how we see the world impacts our experience throughout life.”
That’s great. The only question I have is, “If you don’t acknowledge God, who are you grateful to?” Luck? Yourself? A great, cosmic, something-or-other?
I’m so thankful for Eternal God who made me, who reconciled me in His Son Jesus, who watches over me like a shepherd guards his sheep. A thankful person doesn’t think the world owes him. She’s so glad for all she receives. She considers each day a gift from God and treasures the people who populate her life. It makes her sing.
Thankfullness seems to be the first step in entering God’s presence. This launches the “rocket’s” second stage—praise.
–Praise sees God as He is—good, love, hope, peace, Savior, Redeemer, Lord and a million more things. When we see Him as He is, our faith blasts off. If I were to tell you that I was going to pay all your debts, you’d probably grin and say, “Thanks for the thought David, but your resources and my debts aren’t in the same bracket.
If Bill Gates honestly said he was going to pay your debts? Well, that’s a different thing. You evaluate our financial worth and get your hopes built up based on that. Praise estimates God at His true value and that causes hope to spring up within us and shout.
“Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Ps. 100:3, NKJV)
Praise Launches Stage Three
Praise propels us into worship and adoration.
–Worship experiences God in the Holy of holies. Worship spends time with God up close and personal. That’s when we realize, “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5) Thanksgiving, praise and worship are the natural result of our life with Him.
*The Goodness of God–Jen Johnson, Brian Johnson, Ed Cash, Jason Ingram, and Ben Fielding. Bethel music