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The Outrageous Power of Praise  

What if God filled out a monthly report card for each of us—and His sole grading criteria was how much we praised Him? Would He have plenty to comment on in your life?

"Of course!" you answer. "Every Sunday, our church leads us in a powerful time of worship." Great! But what about when you're not at church? Do you praise God, then? How often? Under what circumstances? 

Do we praise Him only when He provides the parking spot, the cure for our cold, or the raise for which we prayed? How likely is God to hear our praise when the wheels fall off everything?

It’s easy to sing praise songs in church. But it’s pricey to praise—really and truly praise—when we’re in agony. Picture Paul and Silas beaten and in chains.

But there's a flipside to praise you may have already discovered. At the very moment we least feel like praising God—when we are most down in the dumps—the act of giving Him praise has a way of lifting our souls (remember the miracle that happened to Paul and Silas!).

In his book, Practicing Peace, Glyn Evans declares, “Praise forcibly drives out doubt, suspicion, jealousy, bitterness, anxiety, depression, and other dark moods that often result from our difficulties and that hinder the coming of joy in our lives. In short, praise relaxes us. We cannot fume and fret and praise at the same time.”

Who knew—praise relaxes us! And there’s more. 

Evans adds, “Praise doesn’t deny pain. It displaces it. It displaces it by exercising faith in God’s healing and restoring power….Praise and negative feelings cannot cohabit the same mind.”

I have a feeling God might very soon offer us all a test or two to prove we’re serious about learning to praise. Here’s to better grades!

 

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust;

Psalm 56:3,4a

 

 
Vision Problem  

 

Do you have a vision problem?

If you're like me, you easily miss some of life's poignant moments.

Example? I'm in Florida, walking around Ponte Vedra’s Bird Island Park. Think palm trees, tropical bushes, and exotic birds. These are what grab your immediate attention. The wood-planked walking path sweeping the pond at Bird Island offers soul-refreshing views, especially if you have just arrived from winter-weary Chicago as we have.

Inevitably, your gaze fixes on the mirrored reflection of the gazebo in the water. The glassy upside-down image is so perfect you're confident that if you had a canvas and some oil paints, you could create a masterpiece worthy of Monet. Almost.

But since you are from Chicago and not used to the intensity of a Florida sun, you seek the shade of that gazebo. You see nothing but liquid tranquility when peering into the dark water beneath its overhang.

Eventually—maybe—you notice what appear to be tiny scraps of driftwood. Or are those leaves? I am about to dismiss them until, upon further inspection, I see they are heads of living creatures—turtles!

They swim toward you as if on a mission. And they are! These foot-long turtles are hungry and hope you toss them a snack.

As they swim by, they are careful to stay just beneath the surface except for an occasional glance above the water. And when they do look, it's more of a forlorn stare—if turtles can do that.

They remind me of the hurting people around us: easy to miss as they struggle to keep their heads above water. To uncaring eyes, they are little more than human driftwood. But make no mistake—they are people with eternal souls. Not to mention immediate needs.

So often, we don't see them. We have a vision problem. A problem made worse by our tendency to judge first: "These people wouldn't be in this predicament if they only…" (and we're "sure" we know precisely why).

 

O God,

Forgive us for not seeing them.

And for presuming to judge them when we do.

Give us your eyes to see, Jesus.

Give us your heart to care—more than criticize.

Heal us of our vision problem, Jesus.

Amen. 

 

 
No Small Gifts  

Few experiences define the word "dud," like a fishing trip without fish. Even more so when fishing is your livelihood.

But that’s the predicament that Peter, James, and John were in on the shores of Galilee. You know the story in Luke 5. They'd been casting their nets all night, catching nothing but a growing sense of frustration.

After borrowing Peter's boat and delivering a sermon to a shoreline crowd, Jesus asked Peter to row out into the deep, where He told him to let down the nets. This after zero success the night before. Give Peter credit for the rare humility in his reply: “But I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

And suddenly, this expedition was no dud. There were fish. Lots and lots of fish. So many fish that professional-grade nets (designed to hold lots of fish!) began to break.

That’s when Peter gestured wildly to his partners, James and John, in a second boat nearby. Note the details Luke includes:

“And they came and filled both of the boats, to the point that they were sinking.”

You and I know the Sunday School summary of this parable--that we're supposed to be "fishers of men." Jesus said so!

But do we miss the second lesson in this story? It's this: God gives no small gifts. He provides "abundantly above all that we could ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). And 1 John 3:1 reminds us, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.” In fact, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

  • The magic of a sunset—God gives no small gifts.
  • The cooing of a baby—God gives no small gifts. 
  • The symphony of a summer rain—God gives no small gifts.

Next time you’re facing an empty net—or an empty soul—choose to seek the Savior. Heed His voice—and remember: God gives no small gifts. 

 
Caught on Camera  

Do you ever wonder what kinds of critters invade your yard once darkness settles in?

My wife, Diana, has found a new source of entertainment by scanning the overnight footage of our recently installed security camera. Even in winter, you'd expect to see birds and squirrels. But the camera also captured the image of a fox in our yard on two consecutive occasions.

The first visit was at 2:30 am. The next night, he came much earlier—10:16 pm. But in both cases, his (her?) bushy tail made a strong statement against the blanket of white snow. Amazing what a camera and a little curiosity turn up.

Though they may be quick and sly, foxes are no match for an HD camera with color night vision. The image of that fox reminds us of our foolishness as believers when we convince ourselves we can live parts of our lives in “private":

  • A “quiet” indulgence.
  • A “secret” sin.
  • A “strictly personal” thought.

But none of these things exist! Unlike our security camera (which occasionally hiccups or disconnects from Wi-Fi), there is no "service interruption" with the All-Seeing Almighty.

Shouldn't that influence the videos we watch, the books we read, and the places we go? Shouldn't that affect our conversations and even our aspirations?

The old children’s chorus comes to mind: “For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little feet where you go.”

You might be sly as a fox.

But you are never unseen.

 

“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”  —Luke 8:17

 
Your One Job  

The moment he said it, you knew you’d remember it.

We had just finished recording a Moody Radio special with Attorney David Gibbs, Jr. His ministry, the Christian Law Association, assists Christians under fire as they live out their biblical faith.

Though the list of those opposing Christians is long—and getting longer—Attorney Gibbs stressed our need as Christ-followers to be kind and gracious, even as we stand up for our legal rights. That's when he declared, "I have one job in life: to make Jesus look good."

I felt my conscience rumble as I pondered a recent phone conversation about a computer problem. My demeanor toward the tech was less than gracious—and I surely did not make Jesus look good.

What about you?

  • When the grocery cashier is slow (and almost seems to revel in their slowness)—do you still choose to make Jesus look good?
  • When you vehemently disagree with the penalty call at your kid's soccer game, does your response make Jesus look good?
  • When coworkers or relatives make snarky comments about "Bible thumpers like you,"—do you make Jesus look good?

We can quote Bible verses with the best of them and know every line from every worship chorus. But our reactions speak louder than our memorized Scriptures or our songs.

Best we focus on that one job: make Jesus look good. 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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