Tag Archives: praise

The Four Greatest Words

I was spending a week in a cottage of one of our congregation members. They had offered to let me stay there as I wrote and developed a discipline/discipleship Bible study.  The combination of seclusion and the beauty of the surrounding nature was the inspiration I needed to keep at the task. I still find it hard to believe all I accomplished during that week.

Yet I also longed to be home because I missed my wife and three young boys. Since Facetime and Skype were still years from being developed my only contact with them was via phone – for which I had to pay long distance charges!

So I highly valued the few phone conversations, which were largely with my wife. But one time she said one of our sons wanted to speak to me. She gave him the phone. Across the miles, beyond the separation, even when we he couldn’t see me he said, “Daddy, I love you.” Then he gave the phone back. Wow! My heart melted and the tears rolled gently down my cheeks. It took all my energy and focus to remain at my task and not immediately head back home to give him a hug.

Those are, I believe, the four greatest words we can hear: “(your name) I love you.” No matter who we hear them from, they stir our hearts and lift our spirits. I have a hunch you know what I mean. That moment in time reminded me of how important it is to say them to those we love.

Yet it also brought another thought to mind. God likes to hear those four words from us as well. I’m certain Jesus had this in mind when he taught his disciples – and us – how to pray. “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9) The word Jesus used was Abba, a term of love and intimacy; it was “Daddy’ rather than ‘Father’ or even ‘Dad.’ All that Jesus prays for in this prayer flows from a loving, trusting son to His loving, faithful Daddy. And Jesus said this is how we are to pray. In other words, let God, our Father, our Daddy, know we love Him. Imagine what it means to Him to hear those words – especially in those times when we may feel distant from Him.

How often do you tell Him? When was the last time you simply prayed “Daddy, I love you?” When was the last time you prayed “Daddy, I Love you” and said nothing else, made no requests – just let Him know you loved Him?  How often do you sing a love song to Him? John Fischer expressed beautifully when he wrote and sang (1):

“Love Him in the mornin’ when you see the sun a -ris-in,                     Love Him in the evenin’ ‘cause He took you thru the day.                     And in the in-be-tween time when you feel the pressure comin’,                  Remember that He loves you, and He promises to stay.”

Sound, sensible advice. Perhaps it’s time to follow it. Today how will you say/pray/sing “Daddy, I love you?” Go ahead – do it now. And tomorrow – and the next day. Do it often. After all, they are the four greatest words that will melt even the heart of God.

(1) “All Day Song”, John Fischer, © Lexicon Music, Inc. 1973




The Importance of the Upward Look

During my seminary days I worked for a furniture store. I once received permission from the owner to borrow the store truck to move some furniture from my in-laws’ home to ours. I hopped in the truck and headed down the street to their home. Since it had been a good day I was softly singing praises as I drove. Still singing I turned into and headed up their driveway – only to run into a low overhanging roof that stopped the truck dead and punctured a hole in the truck’s box. Not cool!

As I later reflected on the incident it occurred to me that the problem was not necessarily my singing praises – it was the location of me eyes while I was singing. The singing led me to be far too casual and therefore to lose the concentration I needed when driving. In fact, if I had looked up just once as I entered the new territory of the driveway, I would have been okay. But getting lost in praise led me to lose perspective.

Singing praises, therefore, can be a problem. Far too often we are more focused on the act of praising than we are on whom we’re praising. So, when singing praises, look up. Only when we look up do we see the focus of our praise and avoid catastrophes.

• We might be praising another person – not bad in itself – but shouldn’t our real praise be for the God who created that person and brought him or her into our lives? When singing praises, look up.
• We might be praising some beautiful scenery – but shouldn’t our real praise be for the God who created that scenery? When singing praises, look up.
• Sometimes we even end up praising ourselves – then it’s really true: When singing praises, look up.
• Or it’s possible we’re singing in church or elsewhere and are sincerely praising the Lord, so much so that we get lost in the act, emotions, and mechanics of praising – only to lose sight of the Lord we  are working so hard to praise. So, when singing praises, look up.

Catch the spirit of the Psalm 103 (New Living Translation): “Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The LORD gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly…The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! … Let all that I am praise the LORD.” He does not say how to praise – the accent is on whom to praise. I have a hunch that the Psalmist, when he sang God’s praises, looked not down at his feet but up to the heavens. When singing praises, look up.

Come to think of it, there is one time when it’s all right to get lost in praise. Charles Wesley captured it:
“Finish then Thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be;                 Let us see They great salvation Perfectly restored in Thee:    Changed from glory into glory, Till in heav’n we take our place,        Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love and praise!” ( 1)

Then we won’t need to look up – we’ll be looking at Him face to face! But until then, when singing praises, look up.”

(1) “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

A Lesson from the Sun

There is a reason I love sunsets – more than just the fact that my wife and I love to see them in all their splendor. There’s just something about standing on the pier jutting out into the great lake and watching breathlessly as the sun paints its splendor on the horizon. It’s not unusual that, as the last chip of the great red ball fades below the horizon, the gathered crowd bursts into applause; on occasion someone even manages a “Yea, God!” But there’s yet a greater reason. One Sunday morning years ago as I drove to church, the eastern sky was aglow with the first burst of the rising sun. That’s when it hit me. God has messages attached to his sun.

Consider the rising sun – in the Bible it’s the symbol of a new day – everything and everyone awakens with a totally fresh start. Even the lamenting prophet understood it: “…my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:20-24). Similarly, the setting sun signifies the end of day – the opportunity to make things right before resting for the night: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). And there is yet a third symbol, from Revelation 22:5 – “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” This represents the time when our hope is fulfilled. As the hymn-writer penned it:

Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning, when with our Savior heaven is begun;
Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning – beyond the sunset when day is done.

Beyond the sunset no clouds will gather, no storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending – beyond the sunset, eternal joy!

Beyond the sunset a hand will guide me to God the Father, whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome, will be my portion on that fair

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who’ve gone before;
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting – beyond the sunset forevermore!

So every sunrise and sunset reminds me of new opportunities to experience the peace and rest of God, which only prepares me for the eternal rest and peace to come. And what should I do each day until THAT day? Let one more biblical sun image provide the answer: “Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised” (Ps. 113:2-3). There’s the reason I love sunsets – God wants to remind me, and you, of the agenda for the day: Praise the Lord!