Posts Tagged ‘Enjoying God Ministries’

Here is Part 2 from a commentary on Psalm 148-150 by Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries:

Second, the focus of such adoration is always and ever God alone for who he is and what he’s done. We do not worship the world or revere the reflection. We fix our hearts on the Original, the Source, the First Cause of all subsequent causes (see Ps. 148:5-6, 13-14).

We are to “praise him for his mighty deeds” and “according to his excellent greatness” (Ps. 150:2). There is a limit to praise only if there is a limit to God. Ah, but there is an infinite plenitude to his greatness that our worship could never exhaust.

Third, worship is an exhilarating experience, both for God and us! We are to “be glad” in our Maker and to “rejoice” in our King (Ps. 149:2). We are to “exult in glory” and “sing for joy” (Ps. 149:5a), even while on our “beds” (Ps. 149:5b). Whether as we go to bed, or perhaps during seasons of sleeplessness, or as we rise up in the morning, or even when laid prostrate from affliction, let praise fill our hearts and mouths.

Why is worship so pleasing and satisfying? Because, as C. S. Lewis noted,

“all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible” (94).

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy, said Lewis,

“because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed” (95).

In worship we see and God is seen, and in both is unrivaled pleasure, ours and his! We enjoy him who is eternally enjoyable and he enjoys being exalted in our enjoyment!

God commands that we “praise his name with dancing” and make “melody to him with tambourine and lyre” (149:3) because he “takes pleasure” in his people when they do (149:4a).

Over the course of the next three days, I will post parts of a commentary on Psalm 148-150 by Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries.  Here is Part 1:

Psalms 148-150 are too lengthy for me to include in the text of this meditation, and too important for any of us to ignore. So I encourage you to open your Bible and read them now. After you are finished, consider these four themes that emerge.

First, worship is a universal privilege. I could have said “obligation”, for worship is a duty we are commanded to fulfill. But I don’t want to give the impression that it is burdensome or oppressive. Exulting in the exaltation of God is an unparalleled privilege that is permeated by joy and satisfaction. But it is the universal dimension that I want you to note, especially as it is delineated in Psalm 148.

There are no people who are excluded, or a place where praise is not proper. In vv. 1-6 the whole of the celestial or heavenly universe is called on to praise God and in vv. 7-12 it extends to the whole of the terrestrial or earthly universe.

He is to be praised both “from the heavens” (v. 1) and “from the earth” (v. 7). “All his angels” (v. 2a) form an innumerable choir and join in the song (cf. Rev. 5:11). Even the “sun” by day and the “moon” by night (v. 3a) declare his power, never leaving their Creator without a witness.

All “shining stars” (v. 3b) add their voice to the chorus of praise! Billions and trillions and quadrillions of thriving heat and energy and blinding brightness testify to his immeasurable power and artistic skills. The Babylonians, from whose captivity these worshipping Israelites had recently been released, believed the stars were deities that controlled their destiny. But here we see that they are but one section in the celestial choir that echoes the glory of their Maker!

Every “creature” of the “sea” (v. 7) has a song to sing: whether diminutive perch or massive whale, be it the majestic dolphin or the ravenous shark. Stingrays and moray eels and starfish and barracudas and bass and trout and salmon together draw attention to him who is worthy of all worship.

As we saw in Psalm 147, so also in 148 “fire and hail, snow and mist,” even “stormy wind” fulfill his word (v. 8). “It is a grand orchestra which contains such wind-instruments as these! He is a great leader who can keep all these musicians in concert, and direct both time and tune” (Spurgeon, 3:B:439).

By means of “mountains and all hills,” whether the towering Himalayas or the foothills of central Kansas, be it Everest or an ant hill, God is glorified (v. 9a).

“Fruit trees and all cedars” (v. 9b) testify to his splendor: yes, apple trees and cheery trees and sycamores and oak and elm and sweet gum and weeping willow and sequoia and pine and, well, you get the idea.

Let us not forget the “beasts and all livestock” (v. 10a), both longhorn and lion, both jersey and jackal, even simbrah and stallion.

For some of us it’s hard to imagine that “creeping things” (v. 10b) such as tarantulas and ticks could praise God, but indeed they do; as also do all “flying birds”, both bluejay and buzzard, whether cardinal or crow.

Of course, we mustn’t forget the human race! “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers” (v. 11), “young men and maidens” together with “old men and children” (v. 12) are to praise the name of the Lord!

All that have “breath” (Ps. 150:6) should praise him with every breath until they are out of breath!

“We sing the greatness of our God that made the mountains rise,

That spread the flowing sea abroad and built the lofty skies.

We sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day,

The moon shines full at His command and all the stars obey.” (Isaac Watts)

Sam Storms, of Enjoying God Ministries, comments in an article, I Will Lift Up My Hands! (Psalm 63:4)

So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

On more than one occasion I’ve been asked: “Sam, why do you lift your hands when you worship?” My answer is two-fold.

First, I raise my hands when I pray and praise because I have explicit biblical precedent for doing so. I don’t know if I’ve found all biblical instances of it, but consider this smattering of texts.

  • “So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63:4).
  • “To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary” (Psalm 28:1).
  • “Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you” (Psalm 88:9).
  • “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes” (Psalm 119:48).
  • “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!” (Psalm 134:2).
  • “O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:1-2).
  • “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (Psalm 143:6).
  • “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the court, and he stood on it. Then he knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven” (2 Chronicles 6:12-13).
  • “And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God” (Ezra 9:5).
  • “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:6).
  • “Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lamentations 3:41).
  • “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8).

If someone should object and say that few of these texts speak of worship (see Pss. 63:4; 134:2), but only of prayer (as if a rigid distinction can even be made between the two; indeed, I can’t recall ever worshiping God without praying to him!), my question is simply this: Why do you assume that the appropriate place for your hands is at your side and you need an explicit biblical warrant for raising them? Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to assume that the appropriate place for one’s hands is raised toward heaven, calling for an explicit biblical warrant (other than gravity or physical exhaustion) to keep them low?

The second answer I give to the question, “Why do you lift your hands when you worship?” is: “Because I’m not a Gnostic!” Gnosticism, both in its ancient and modern forms, disparages the body. Among other things, it endorses a hyper-spirituality that minimizes the goodness of physical reality. Gnostics focus almost exclusively on the non-material or “spiritual” dimensions of human existence and experience. The body is evil and corrupt, little more than a temporary prison for the soul that longs to escape into a pure, ethereal, altogether spiritual mode of being.

But biblical Christianity celebrates God’s creation of physical reality (after all, he did pronounce it “good” in Genesis 1). We are more than immaterial creatures. We are embodied souls, and are to worship God with our whole being. Paul couldn’t have been more to the point when he exhorted us to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” which is our “spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

By all means, we must worship with understanding. We must think rightly of God and love him with our heart and soul and mind (see Mt. 22:37). But we are not, for that reason, any less physical beings. We will have glorified bodies forever in which to honor and adore our great God. If we are commanded to dance, kneel, sing and speak when we worship, what possible reason could there be for not engaging our hands as well?

Ronald Allen is spot on in his portrayal of the significance of the human hand:

“It is the human hand which beautifully typifies the human spirit. It is distinct from the hands of the lower animals in appearance and dexterity. Observe the hands of a skilled person; no matter the field, it is an amazing exhibition of the genius of our creative Lord. Think of the fingers of the typist, the seamstress, the potter, the painter, the violinist, the mechanic, the builder; the list could be endless. The hand allows the creative to be expressive; it can do so much good or evil. The hand can be firm, as a parent’s spank or firm grasp; it can be gentle, stroking the hair or face of a child or lover” (122).

In addition, the human hand gives visible expression to so many of our beliefs, feelings, and intentions. When I taught homiletics, one of the most difficult tasks was getting young preachers to use their hands properly. Either from embarrassment or fear, they would keep them stuffed in their pockets, hidden from sight behind their backs, or nervously twiddle them in a variety of annoying ways.

Our hands speak loudly. When angry, we clinch our fists, threatening harm to others. When guilty, we hide our hands or hold incriminating evidence from view. When uneasy, we sit on them to obscure our inner selves. When worried, we wring them. When afraid, we use them to cover our face or hold tightly to someone for protection. When desperate or frustrated, we throw them wildly in the air, perhaps also in resignation or dismay. When confused, we extend them in bewilderment, as if asking for advice and direction. When hospitable, we use them to warmly receive those in our presence. When suspicious, we use them to keep someone at bay, or perhaps point an accusing finger in their direction.

Does it not seem wholly appropriate, therefore, to raise them to God when we seek him in prayer or celebrate him with praise? So again, why do I worship with hands raised?

Because like one who surrenders to a higher authority, I yield to God’s will and ways and submit to his guidance and power and purpose in my life. It is my way of saying, “God, I am yours to do with as you please.”

Because like one who expresses utter vulnerability, I say to the Lord: “I have nothing to hide. I come to you open handed, concealing nothing. My life is yours to search and sanctify. I’m holding nothing back. My heart, soul, spirit, body and will are an open book to you.”

Because like one who needs help, I confess my utter dependency on God for everything. I cry out: “O God, I entrust my life to you. If you don’t take hold and uplift me, I will surely sink into the abyss of sin and death. I rely on your strength alone. Preserve me. Sustain me. Deliver me.”

Because like one who happily and expectantly receives a gift from another, I declare to the Lord: “Father, I gratefully embrace all you want to give. I’m a spiritual beggar. I have nothing to offer other than my need of all that you are for me in Jesus. So glorify yourself by satisfying me wholly with you alone.”

Because like one who aspires to direct attention away from self to the Savior, I say: “O God, yours is the glory; yours is the power; yours is the majesty alone!”

Because as the beloved of God, I say tenderly and intimately to the Lover of my soul: “Abba, hold me. Protect me. Reveal your heart to me. I am yours! You are mine! Draw near and enable me to know and feel the affection in your heart for this one sinful soul.”

For those many years when I kept my hands rigidly at my side or safely tucked away in the pockets of my pants, I knew that none would take notice of my praise of God or my prayers of desperation. No one would dare mistake me for a fanatic! I felt in control, dignified, sophisticated, and above all else, safe. These matter no more to me.

Please understand: these are not words of condemnation but confession. I know no one’s heart but my own. I judge no one’s motives but mine. I’m not telling you how to worship, but simply sharing how I do and why. I’m at that point in life where I honestly couldn’t care less what the immovable evangelical is thinking or the crazy charismatic is feeling. What matters to me is that God have my all: my mind, will, feet, eyes, ears, tongue, heart, affections, and yes, my hands.

No, you need not raise your hands to worship God. But why wouldn’t you want to?

Sam

According to Dr. Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries, Psalm 51 has a special message for several groups of people. He introduces his article, When Mercy Scrubs Clean the Soul, like this:

First, Psalm 51 is for those who have never come to grips with the horror of human sin and the magnitude of divine grace. Often grace becomes meaningless, and certainly less than “amazing”, because we lose sight of the depths of our depravity. David helps us on both counts by describing in graphic detail the reality of his sin and the breath-taking glory of forgiving grace.

Second, this psalm is for those who think some people are too high or too holy to fall. Let us never forget that this psalm describes the experience of David, King of Israel, the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14)!

Third, this psalm is also for those who think that once you have fallen, you can never get back up again. It is for those who think it’s possible to fall beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness or that there is a quantifiable limit to divine mercy. But no one is so holy that he/she can’t fall, or so fallen that he/she can’t be forgiven.

Fourth, Psalm 51 is for those who think that if you have fallen and have actually gotten back up, perhaps even forgiven, you are still useless from that point on both to God and the church. David’s experience will prove otherwise.

 

Sam Storms, in his “Meditations on the Psalms” series writes of Psalm 46-

Ein feste burg ist unser Gott! Say what? Well, that’s how Martin Luther would have written it in his famous hymn:

“A mighty fortress is our God,

A bulwark never failing;

He, amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing.”

There can be no doubt but that Luther’s sturdy, unshakeable, unflappable confidence in God as his refuge, his strength, his mighty, impenetrable fortress is what ultimately accounted for what he was able to accomplish in bringing about what we know as the Protestant Reformation.

The same could easily be said of Elijah, as he faced the treachery of Ahab and Jezebel and the prophets of Baal.

The same could be said of Daniel, as he fearlessly confronted the power and pressures that came from Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.

And what was it that empowered the Apostle Paul as he stood in the presence of his Jewish persecutors or his Roman captors? The same God, who for all of these folk proved himself to be a mighty fortress, a bulwark never failing.

Don’t let the fame of these people suggest that God is any less a mighty fortress for you in the midst of your daily struggles or the minor trials that come your way. Psalm 46 is a powerful word of encouragement for the Christian troubled by the lingering memory of a moral lapse, or the parent in agony over the rebellion of a teenage son or daughter. This is a message of hope for the believer who lost his job because he refused to compromise his integrity, as well as the woman who lost her husband to cancer. This is a psalm for you, no less than for the OT Israelite, such that you can confidently declare:

“The Lord of hosts is with us [ME]; the God of Jacob is our [MY] fortress” (v. 7)….

 

……This God, dear friend, “is with us [YOU]” (v. 11a). This God “is our [YOUR] fortress” (v. 11a).

Not even Martin Luther was immune to depression and frustration and fear. When he came face to face with his enemies, he would often turn to his young friend and co-worker, Philip Melancthon, and say: “Philip, let us sing forth the forty-sixth Psalm.” And this is how it sounded:

“A sure stronghold our God is He,

A timely shield and weapon;

Our help he’ll be, and set us free

From every ill can happen.

And were the world with devils filled,

All eager to devour us,

Our souls to fear shall little yield,

They cannot overpower us.”

To read the rest of the article by Sam Storms at Enjoying God Ministries, click here:

 

Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries writes this in an introduction to a lengthy article on Psalm 33, which I encourage you to read if you have time.  Click here:

This psalm is a reminder to us that there need never, ever be a crisis in confidence for the Christian. The dollar may rise and fall, nations may totter on the brink of destruction, health may come and go, but through it all the confidence of the Christian ought to remain constant and unaffected. How so? To use the words of David in Psalm 20, “some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord, our God” (v. 7). Or better still, read Ps. 33:16-22 . . . Psalm 33 is a hymn of confidence, a song of faith, a poem about the grounds for our hope.

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,  that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:16-22 ESV)

 

Job 20:12-14 “Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue,
 though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth,yet his food is turned in his stomach;
it is the venom of cobras within him.

Sam Storms, of Enjoying God Ministries, comments:

Zophar uses vivid imagery in vv. 12-14 to make his point. His argument is that “a wicked person savors his evil-doing just as a child holds a sweet morsel under the tongue, refusing to swallow it until he squeezes out every bit of flavor” (Hartley, 305). But eventually it will dissolve, . . . it will turn bitter in his stomach. It may taste good now but one day you’ll need some moral Tums!

Part 3 of a commentary on Psalm 148-150 by Sam Storms, of Enjoying God Ministries:

OrchestraFourth, and finally, there can be no mistaking the extravagant and exuberant nature of godly worship of God. It involves not only singing (149:1,5) but also dancing (149:3; 150:4) and a wide array of musical instrumentation (149:3; 150:3-5). Said Spurgeon:

“Let the clash of the loudest music be the Lord’s; let the joyful clang of the loftiest notes be all for him. Praise has beaten the timbrel, swept the harp, and sounded the trumpet, and now for a last effort, awakening the most heavy of slumberers, and startling the most indifferent of onlookers, she dashes together the disks of brass, and with sounds both loud and high proclaims the glories of the Lord” (3:B:464).

As this series of meditations on the Psalms concludes, what might be said to have constituted the central and controlling theme throughout? I think the answer is obvious:

Big God! Beautiful God! Faithful God! Great God! Gracious God! Powerful God! Loving God! Loyal God! Righteous God! Merciful God! Majestic God! Enjoyable God! Joyful God! Judging God! Holy God! Happy God!

And to top it off, he’s our God! 

Sam

 

Pastor Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries writes:

So why do you pray? What motivates you to whisper in your Father’s ear? Is it even worthwhile to do so? Let’s explore this for a moment by asking five questions and seeking the answers in Psalm 86.

First, why did David, the psalmist, pray so fervently in Psalm 86 (I encourage you to pause, if you haven’t already, and read the entire psalm)? Why should we do the same?

David gives one powerfully persuasive reason in v. 5 when he says, “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” We are repeatedly exhorted in Scripture to “call” upon the Lord “in the day of trouble” (Ps. 50:15) and to “offer prayer” to him at a time when he may be found (Ps. 33:6) and to pour out our hearts before him.

It is stunning, is it not, that we have to be commanded to pray? The sick hardly need an exhortation to visit a doctor or the hungry a soup kitchen, yet we must be told repeatedly to avail ourselves of a God who stands ready to richly supply our need and draw near when we call.

David was also quick to pray because he was confident that God did not command him to do so in vain. In other words, he was assured that God commands prayer because he takes indescribable delight in giving answers. “In the day of my trouble,” said David, “I call upon you, for you answer me” (Ps. 86:7). “Call to me,” said God to Jeremiah, “and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33:3). “When he [the believer] calls to me [God], I will answer him” (Ps. 91:15).

This isn’t to say the answer he gives is always the one we want (cf. 2 Cor. 12:7-10). But it is to say that it is always the answer we need!

Second, what is required of those who pray? In the first place, they must be “poor and needy” (Ps. 86:1b). People who pray must be keenly aware of their spiritually destitute condition and their utter dependence on God for all things good. It’s another way of saying that humility is required of all who seek God. I’ve often heard the excuse: “I can’t pray to God. I’m not good enough.” This is actually pride masquerading as humility and robs God of his glory. It is prideful because it is based on the assumption that it’s actually possible for a person to become good enough by their own efforts and thus worthy of receiving his answer. Of course you’re not good enough, but that’s precisely why you must pray!

To be “poor and needy”, to use David’s terms, is to recognize one’s spiritual distress, lingering doubts, anxiety, physical weakness, emotional struggles, and lack of wisdom, the very things God delights to heal and overcome as a way of magnifying his strength and mercy.

David mentions yet another prerequisite in v. 11 – “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” We are by nature divided within, at one moment trusting the Lord and at another defying his will. This disingenuous and disintegrated state of soul must be overcome by a unified commitment to seek fervently after God and to tremble at his word.

Third, how often ought we to pray? According to David, “all the day!” (Ps. 86:3). There are no fewer than fifteen petitions in this psalm alone. We, on the other hand, are quick to quit. We must train ourselves to distrust the certainties of discouragement, the “never’s” and the “always’s” and the “impossible’s” that creep into our heads when heaven seems silent.

Fourth, what reason do we have for confidence that our prayers will be heard? Answer: the character of God! Look at how David put it. He prays,

Because “you, O Lord, are good!” (v. 5a).

Because “you, O Lord, are . . . forgiving!” (v. 5b).

Because “you, O Lord, are . . . abounding in steadfast love” (v. 5c).

Because “there is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours” (v. 8).

Because “you are great and do wondrous things” (v. 10a).

Because “you alone are God” (v. 10b).

Fifth, and finally, are not my sins too many, too evil, and too frequent that God should hear my prayer and answer it?

There is no greater obstacle to prayer than the burden of sin and guilt that weighs heavily on the human heart. Add to this the accusations of the enemy, who says: “Why should you, of all people, pray? How could you ever hope to prevail upon God? Your sins have caused him to turn away his face. You’re a traitor to his cause, a thankless rebel. You, pray? Ha!”

What makes these words of Satan so powerful is that they seem so reasonable, so true. After all, we are often precisely what he says. We have done precisely what he claims.

This is why David is so relentless in his affirmation that “you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast loveand faithfulness” (v. 15; see Ps. 106:6,13-15,19-21,24-25,37-39,40-43 and compare these with vv. 44-46!! See also Ps. 107 and the four-fold refrain in vv. 4-6, 10-13, 17-19, 23-28). For every accusation of the enemy, there is a corresponding remedy from the throne of grace!

In the final analysis, how do we overcome the lethargy of heart and discouragement of mind and spirit and pray as we ought? David’s solution was simple: Pray for strength! “Turn to me and be gracious to me,” said David; “give strength to your servant” (v. 16a)!

We must not act as if we were four-year old children who need to be cajoled and manipulated into prayer. God is ever ready to stoop and “incline” his “ear” (Ps. 86:1) to hear those why cry to him for help. What excuse do we still have not to obey?

Sam

Sam Storms, Enjoying God Ministries

 

According to Dr. Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries, Psalm 51 has a special message for several groups of people. He introduces his article, When Mercy Scrubs Clean the Soul, like this:

psalm51cFirst, Psalm 51 is for those who have never come to grips with the horror of human sin and the magnitude of divine grace. Often grace becomes meaningless, and certainly less than “amazing”, because we lose sight of the depths of our depravity. David helps us on both counts by describing in graphic detail the reality of his sin and the breath-taking glory of forgiving grace. 

Second, this psalm is for those who think some people are too high or too holy to fall. Let us never forget that this psalm describes the experience of David, King of Israel, the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14)! 

Third, this psalm is also for those who think that once you have fallen, you can never get back up again. It is for those who think it’s possible to fall beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness or that there is a quantifiable limit to divine mercy. But no one is so holy that he/she can’t fall, or so fallen that he/she can’t be forgiven. 

Fourth, Psalm 51 is for those who think that if you have  fallen and have actually gotten back up, perhaps even forgiven, you are still useless from that point on both to God and the church. David’s experience will prove otherwise.