Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits … (Psalm 103:1-2).
One area of my prayer life that for the first sixty years I consider to have been very weak was praising God. It was partly because I didn’t understand the difference between praise and thanksgiving. Now I want to lift up Jesus, acknowledge Him as King of kings, Lord of lords, and give Him his rightful glory as I come into a period of praying. It has become important to focus on God and praise God for who He is and what He is. I now begin my prayer times focusing on God through recalling words that are names, attributes and characteristics of God and not on myself.
Here are just a few listed in the image shown:
On your mark, get set, GO! With bags checked in, and passports in hand, last group prayer, and tearful hugs and good-byes given, we were on our way to Hong Kong and China during Easter break 1996. Twenty-four VLHS students and eight adults were making another mission trip from Valley Lutheran High School. This group included four students from the first mission experience to Russia. Ruth Hessler, Matt Provenzano, Allison Reed and Leigh Anne Rogner were our veteran student advisors. Also traveling with us were our adult veterans from the Russian trip that included teacher Steve (Oh my Gosh!) Zill, Dr. Mark and Connie Davenport, (the medical team), and my faithful wife, Alice. They provided me direct support and input for leading another trip. Dan Sandman and Karen Keup came along too and became right hands on the Michigan end. Karen’s parents had worked with us at Hong Kong International School (HKIS) in Hong Kong. Dennis and Donna Oetting, friends in Hong Kong, spent hours making calls and contacts for us with on the Hong Kong side. Their efforts provided a comfortable stay.
Musician and composer David Paul Britton also accompanied us on the trip. “First Thessalonians 1:2-3,” “God is Everything,” “He’s Knockin’ At Your Door,” and “Make a Joyful Noise” were four of the praise songs of a larger selection produced especially for this trip under his direction. He had them recorded on cassette tape by the 1996 VLHS Hong Kong Mission Team. It was a unique, marvelous and successful way to share the gospel message of God’s love with Chinese student friends and strangers we met in Hong Kong and Mainland China. To our student ambassadors God was everything and they sang with passion. Amazingly these praise songs were even sung in Communist China on our visit there. More than 1600 tape recordings were given away as our gift to the Chinese people.
It was our hope and prayer that these audio tapes would be used by the Holy Spirit. Music transcends culture, forming a natural bridge to connect people everywhere. Who can know the number of hearts that were touched by these Christian gospel praise tapes!
The Book of Psalms was never a book that I appreciated as I grew up. Primarily I think it was due to the reality that I couldn’t understand the Old King James version of the Bible when I was young. They contained too many “Thees” and “Thous” for me. I gave up trying to appreciate the poems. It was not until I started to read modern translations did I begin to read the Psalms. I found the book of Psalms is filled with descriptions of God’s eternal character and unchanging righteousness as the basis for praise. Praising Him puts your attention on his worthiness.
Someone once said: “Praise is the song of a soul set free.” Unfortunately, I think many lifetime Christians don’t appreciate the blessings of freedom. Until a person understands what it means to be in bondage, he probably doesn’t grasp the full meaning of freedom. Every believer in Christ has been freed from the crushing guilt of sin. Without this insight it isn’t possible to sing praise: a song of a soul set free.
Personal Reflection Time