The Sacrifice of Praise

The Sacrifice of Praise

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Heb.13:15)

On Sunday morning, we were blessed by the performance of a black gospel singing group who tore the roof off the sanctuary with powerfully moving praise to God in the name of Jesus. There were few dry eyes in the room at many points during this time of praise music.

When I say the words “black gospel singing group”, I am not making a racial slur. On the contrary, I mention this for a specific reason. Many young people don’t know the historical roots behind black gospel music, which took shape in the midst of the suffering of inequality in the deep south of America. The Civil War was won by the North, but racial discrimination didn’t end there. In fact, for many blacks, it increased. This is not a post about racial discrimination, but this illustrates the lesson we must understand concerning praise in the Bible.

Black gospel praise music is powerful in ways that contemporary Christian music often isn’t, because it is rooted in pain and suffering.

The cry of genuine faith reaches its greatest crescendo when it goes forth from the valley of darkness.

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Fixed Prayer vs. Supplication

Fixed Prayer vs. Supplication

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  (Matt.6:7)

The irony in this verse is not apparent to many people, yet it’s there.

I went to a men’s prayer meeting at a church once and thought it would be a good idea to bring my siddur. (A siddur is a Jewish prayer book which contains formal prayers for daily liturgy as well as Shabbat and Festivals and all manner of special occasions). I only did this because they had announced that they were going to pray through a few Psalms, and the siddur has many, many Psalms in it for that very purpose. To me it made sense, but they saw the Hebrew script on the cover and looked at me suspiciously, so out of deference to their group I tucked it away and suffered while they went around the table and struggled mightily to come up with words to say to God.

This is a common problem in prayer: We desperately want to pray, but have no idea what to say. We start to feel stupid, and then it’s over. The time of prayer ends, and we feel badly. This type of experience is far more common than most of us want to admit. It results from not having a plan or structure to guide our time before the LORD. This problem is unnecessary, but results from the traditional taboo against using liturgy in prayer.

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Missing the Point

Missing the Point

What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy

                                                                        Acts 10:15

Much of modern Christianity is based on presumption and dogma. Often, people can become so distracted trying to maintain their hold on what (they think) is a cohesive understanding of Bible doctrine, that they tie themselves into a mental knot which they cannot undo.

Like a lion and a tamer, they cannot get past the legs of the chair in order to focus on the real objective of the text.

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Guarding Your Foot

Guarding Your Foot

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God; to draw near to hearken is better than to give the sacrifice of fools; for they consider not that they do evil. Be not be rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God.  (Eccl.5:1-2, Koren Jerusalem Bible)

What does it mean to “guard your foot”? Further, what is the “sacrifice of fools”?

The idiom in our culture to “watch your step” is common, but we must ask, “from what?” What are God’s people suppose to be doing here?  Are there sacred objects which one must avoid stepping on? Did the Israelites of antiquity not have proper footwear? Were they supposed to stare at their feet as they walked into the Temple? Were their feet at risk of being attacked if they didn’t “guard them”? These are all strange ideas, but they illustrate our relationship with the language of the Bible, and the fact that we commonly fail to ask questions of the text; questions which would help us better understand the meaning.

Both phrases are ambiguous. Many times we read the Bible and come across phrases or images like these and, lacking the historical or biblical context which we need to truly understand their meaning, we invent one that seems to make sense, and then we keep reading. Before we know it, we are engaging in Bible interpretation based on the rubric of assumption rather than careful analysis, and only because our brain has “filled in for us” the missing information so that we can keep reading uninterrupted.   Continue reading