Very good post by Carrie Roger's friend, Lee Ann Penick. Her blog is called Lapenick's Blog.
Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and have certain words just jump off the page? I firmly believe that happens when the Holy Spirit wants us to pay attention to the word(s) that keep jumping out at us. This experience happened to me after a dear friend with great enthusiasm placed her autographed copy of “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper in my hands and said, “You’ve got to read this!”
Because this book is Don’s true story of his 90 minutes in heaven, I couldn’t wait to read it. There are two chapters in which he goes into detail about his observations in heaven, and the Spirit used Don’s account to grab my attention around the most central thing we are supposed to be doing on a daily basis as a Christian, and that is praising God. The word “praise” and the phrase “praising God” refused to be ignored as I read them. Here are excerpts that kept pricking my heart as Don did his best to describe heaven when he arrived:
“They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God.”
“Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God.”
“The praise was unending…”
“Each voice praised God…”
“Praise was everywhere…”
“Hallelujah!” “Praise!” “Glory to God!” “Praise the King”
“Hymns of praise, modern-sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears…” (Here’s my one- sentence sermon: Apparently, God is pleased with all forms of music in His churches as long as He is being praised, so we need to quit arguing about it.)
“…all (hymns that filled the air) were praises about Christ’s reign as the King of Kings”
“He must be pleased and blessed by the continuous sounds of praise”
“Instead of just hearing the music and the thousands of voices praising God, I had become a part of the choir.”
I have understood that life has never been about me (though I wouldn’t mind and not that I haven’t tried!). I get that I am to glorify Him in all that I say and do. Sheila Walsh says, “Our life is one long worship service to the Lord.” I love that word picture. But the question is, “If life on earth is a dress rehearsal for the things to come, how I am doing in the area of praising God?” The answer is I have plenty of room for improvement, which probably explains why this phrase held my attention with the help of the Spirit. Praising God should be ongoing through everything I say or do. Either my actions, thoughts and deeds glorify Him and have eternal impact, or they don’t.
The more I focused on the phrase “praising God”, the more I realized how shallow my efforts are at praising Him. Praising God doesn’t just happen during a one-hour church service (though I think many of us lapse into that false mentality), let me at least start there. Perhaps you can relate. How many times have you and I showed up for worship with the idea we are here to praise God, but just go through the motions of singing words on a screen? Or worse, we chat with our friends while songs are being played. How many times have we really showed up at church to “punch a clock”, yet our hearts were far away? How many of us really come to worship with an attitude of profound reverence for God and a desire to communicate our adoration of Him? Don’t many of us come to mainly hear a good sermon? Doesn’t praising God tend to take a back seat? What about our prayer life? Are our prayers top-heavy with praise or mainly petitions? When we get to heaven, praise is going to be continual as it should be right now.
It warmed my heart that music will permeate heaven and be a vital way that we praise God. After reading that Don became a part of the choir, I just smiled remembering Psalm 150:6 that says, “Let everything that has breath (not pitch), praise the Lord.” Though I have been blessed with some musical abilities and enjoy singing, it is fun to think that all followers of Christ will be in the choir whether you think you can sing or not, and you will blend in perfectly! By the way, for those who are already wondering if heaven will be boring because of all of this praising going on, I can only say read “90 Minutes in Heaven”, and as my Dad put it the other day, consider when we cast our crowns before Him that we will not be able to resist praising Him. It will be the most natural response to a holy God!
After reading this book, I can no longer read, hear, or sing any form of the phrase “praise God” and be casual about it or be detached. I will always think about Don’s encounters in heaven and the music he heard. If you are wondering what it means to praise God, praise is about celebrating and acknowledging WHO God is, while thanks is a response for WHAT God has done for us. I would also invite you to read Psalms 145-150. Let’s call Psalms 145-150 for the fun of it “Praising God 101” since these are specifically psalms of praise. These Psalms are good training tools to help us exalt His name by focusing on a variety of His attributes. In the meantime, if you were raised in the church and love hymns as I do, may you be blessed as you let me conclude with lyrics of praise from songs that come to mind that I can no longer sing casually:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him all ‘bove ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
“To God be the Glory, great things He hath done….Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear your voice. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice….”
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation…”
“Hal-le-lujah! Hal-le-lujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Ha-le-lujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth…”
“Praise the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.”
“O Worship the King, all glorious above; O gratefully sing His power and His Love. Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise… ”
“Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above…”
“O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all of the earth…Oh Lord, we praise your name. Oh Lord, we magnify your name, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Oh Lord God Almighty.”
“All creatures of our God and King. Lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia! Alleluia!....”
“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands hath made…”
“Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord God, Almighty. Early in the morning, our song shall rise to thee. Holy, Holy, Holy, Merciful and Mighty, God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity.”