Lists of Infamy

     

© 2019 Bill Murphy

If Carol and I ever part company, or jugular veins, it’ll not be over money, sex, or family.  Nope!  It will no doubt be over the infamous shopping list, the fly in our happy ointment.  I guess you could say that we can’t see the list for the list.

     I’ve learned, through past misadventure, that ‘peanut butter’ means JIFF.  Pity the poor soul who brings home anything less.  I’ve attempted to explain to my dear wife that there are no massive manufacturing and packing facilities under the KROGER name, where they bottle, can, grow, bake, and build everything from mothballs to baby food.  None.  Nada.  But when we travel, she keeps a keen eye open to find one of these magical, all-purpose facilities.  I’d like to seen one too.  It must be massive!

     In my defense, I’m not psychic – psychotic maybe – but I can’t read minds, nor can I, obviously, read lists, or labels.  GRAPES the list says.  Yes, I know the difference between grapes and bananas.  No problem there.  But there are more varieties of grapes in the produce department than commercials on TV.  And Kroger purposefully confuses the issue.  The ‘white’ ones sure look green to me.  The ‘black’ ones look blue.  The ‘red’ ones are definitely purple!  I have a college DEGREE in art, and I know my colors – just sadly, not my grapes.

     I seldom get everything on the list correctly.  She lists one way.  I list the other. My vain attempts to ‘help out and do my part’ quickly goes to Hellman’s in a hand basket.  I can’t understand why we have these demon-list-problems we have.  The woman who takes hours to find simple sneakers at the shoe store, can’t understand why I’m in the grocery store 45 minutes and still can’t locate the correct yogurt.  (Kroger has more yogurts than grapes!)

     Don’t get me started on CEREAL.

     Alas… it’s a good thing we’ve ‘matured’ beyond the ‘feminine products’ stage of our lives.  That’s one good thing about growing old(er).

     Have you seen my list?  I’ve lost the list.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… 

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IN THE SHOP… AGAIN

© 2019  Bill Murphy

     A few months ago, I turned 78 and Carol turned 73.  If we were driving automobiles this age, they’d surely be in a shop a lot!  Carol and I both have been ‘in the shop’ numerous times lately.

     4 years ago, Carol discovered a ‘bump’ on her neck.  She had it examined by a local clinic.  “Oh, that’s cancer,” they said, “We recently had a patient die of the same thing.”  NOT exactly encouraging words!  So a dear friend put her in touch with a, shall we say, more ‘knowledgable’ doctor.  It was simply an easily treated thyroid issue.  Problem solved – and another problem discovered!

     God was in control from the start.  

     During her examinations by this new doctor, a very, very tiny ‘spot’ was discovered on her left lung.  Her new doctor made note of this, and began watching it closely.

     Fast forward to earlier this year.  The tiny spot had slowly begun to grow.  It was still very, very small – but yet slowing enlarging.  “It’s time now to take action,” her doctor said.

     Carol was put in touch with an oncologist in St. Louis.  He was shocked that anyone had discovered this tiny spot so early.  “If…” he began, ‘if this is malignant, we never have patients present themselves at such an early stage!”

     That very day she was seen by a respiratory surgeon.  He too was dumbfounded by her early diagnosis.  A few days later, Carol was in surgery.  A biopsy was done.  It was malignant.  The spot along with 1/4 of that lung was removed.  They got it all!  No radiation treatments necessary.  No chemo.  Praise God!

     My turn.

     A few weeks ago I had my annual ‘wellness checkup’ by my doctor.  I passed with flying colors, well, for a man my age.  Then the doctor asked if I had any ‘issues’ or changes in my well being.  I mentioned some very slight ‘discomfort’ in my lower abdomen.  There was no pain, no real soreness, just a nagging ‘something’s not right’ feeling.  He set me up for a CAT scan.  

      The scan revealed that I had several ‘cysts’ on my kidneys. But it was unclear as to how serious they were.  I had an ultra sound done for a better look-see.  But that didn’t show anything more.  Next, I had an MRI.  

     Within 3 hours, the doctor called me in for a consultation.  Oops!  In addition to the cysts, I had a suspicious dark ‘solid’ spot on my left kidney.  My local doctor explained that there are no qualified urologist in our immediate area, and suggested that we go to St. Louis to see a specialists.  Now it was my turn to be in the shop!

     Tuesday of this week Carol and I traveled to St. Louis, were I saw a specialists.  After studying my previous test results done here, and examining me there… he had very encouraging news, and a suggest path to take with this issue.

     Let me say that both Carol and I really like this doctor.  His ‘bed side manner’ is extremely comforting.  He speaks with knowledge.  And he reeks with and experience.  We trust him.

     He explained that the ‘cysts’ issue is a non-issue.  This is common, and my cysts are not ‘aggressive’ in nature.  As of the dark ‘spot,’ it also may, or may not be, a big issue.  He explained that a spot of the current size that I have does not scream ‘get me outta here – now!’  He told us that age matters – it maters in the fact that these things are very slow growing in patients in my age bracket.  Basically he was saying that I could easily out-live this problem!  

     The bottom line is… we will watch this thing inside me.  In 3 months, I’ll have another scan, and we’ll see how it is doing.

     On the plus side, I do have TWO kidneys… and the other is A-Ok.  A V-6 will still run on 5 cylinders – maybe a little slower and less smoothly – but it will get you to the grocery store and back.

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Another Word for Freedom

© 2017  Bill Murphy

Remember the words, Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to give from Janis Joplin’s big hit, ‘Me And Bobby McGee?’ 

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster.  Kristofferson says that he got the inspiration for the ‘freedom’ line from the 1954 Italian movie La Strada, written and directed by Federico Fellini.  The storyline of that dark movie illustrates that freedom can bring both joy and misery. 

The message of ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ is that freedom is a two-edged sword.  It truth, FREEDOM is much more than that.

Today’s America is a home divided, a family in dispute and heading toward divorce.  The dividing lines are drawn, each daring the other to cross.  We know that a house divided cannot stand, yet we still want the other side out of ‘our’ house.   

The fact is, although our great nation was founded on ethical, moral, and Christian principles, it was built through many unethical, immoral, and un-Christian actions.  And here lies the seed of discontent.  

The cry of the Left today is for socialism, whereas the cry of the Right is for free-enterprise.  Although history well proves that socialism is a dead end street, truth also teaches us that free-enterprise, like freedom itself, is also a two-edged sword.

When I turned to the word FREEDOM, I discovered some most interesting things… things which closely correlate to the words of Me and Bobby McGee.

When you consider the true meaning of the word FREEDOM, it’s not actually the glorious rallying cry of which we hardily sing.  Freedom is not 100% positive.  Freedom is fraught with negativism and danger!  You see, by its very definition, freedom has no limits.

True freedom is not limiting.  True freedom is the bird set free from the constraints of the cage, free to soar where ever it pleases.  The free-bird is free of it’s cage, where it has found shelter, food, and safety.  Now it’s truly free, to find its own food (if it can), to find its own shelter (if it can), and free of safety also – free to now be caught and eaten by creatures who see him only as food.

FREEDOM means that there are no constraints.  None.  Nada.  Zip. 

Another 1969 hit, People Got To Be Free by The Rascals tells another totally false version of freedom:

All the world over, so easy to see

People everywhere just wanna be free

Listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be

There’s peace in the valley, people got to be free 

That’s what they sing in the streets today.  They foolishly sing of freedom without understanding what that they’re sing about!

When you’re free,  I’m free also.  We’re ALL free.  We’re all free of all constraints. No one will be telling us what to do.  That’s true freedom.  No rules, no laws, no constraints!  We’re freeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

And that my friend, is the definition of ANARCHY.

We see anarchy on the news all the time now… when people throw off the constraints of reason and law, and embrace the ‘freedom’ to do whatever, to whom ever, when ever, and how ever it pleases.  Never mind that you become a victim in the process. 

The truth is, we don’t really want (or shouldn’t want) freedom.  What we want is LIBERTY

Liberty is ‘freedom’ as that ‘freedom’ is defined by and limited by certain previously and mutually AGREED UPON constraints.  

These ‘constraints’ are simply rules, regulations, and duly agreed upon laws designed not to LIMIT our freedom… but to PROTECT US from unlimited (destructive) freedom.

Believe me, you want the LIBERTY to possess and use an American Express card… not the FREEDOM (Where other’s are free withoutconstraint to steal and use your monies as they so choose.) 

We want OUR freedom, but we don’t want OTHERS to have that same freedom that WE enjoy –  especially if their freedom will will harm US! 

There’d be very little peace in the valley with everyone free. 

Listen, please listen, that’s (not) the way it should be.

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Scars of Beauty

© 2020 Bill Murphy

This past weekend Carol and I got a little taste of Heaven. We attend the JCM-NATION 2019 REUNION in Jackson Mississippi – fellowshipping with old friends from both Jackson College of Ministries, and the First Pentecostal Church. Friday night’s service was held at Black’s Chapel on Robinson Road, the former home of First Pentecostal Church – where praises to God – and nostalgia reigned supreme!


The good folks of Black’s Chapel are to be heartily commended for going far beyond the extra mile to make the JCM event in their facility a resounding success. Needless to say, everyone was putting their best foot forward.  


But something somewhat ‘out of place’ to some eyes, caught my eye. Right down front, within a few feet of the pulpit, one of the cushions of the padded prayer altar had a few RIPS! Now I know that in our home, Mrs. Murphy would never allow nearly a thousand guests to see torn cushions! What would the guests think?


Oh yes, guests do often have critical eyes, and judgmental opinions. And that night, we, the JCM/FPC crowd were the guests. But, we were not the MAIN guest. Guest Numero Uno was The Lord Himself! 


As host, we have the responsibility of catering to and pleasing the guest. When those guest are of great influence and prestige, we tend to go the extra mile.

  
And then I thought – when the guest are all gone, and it’s just me and nobody, and I’m allowed to get a little selfish with my pleasures – what makes ME happy?


We all have that favorite coffee cup, you know, the one with the chip, that nobody wants. Who wants a chipped cup anyway? And isn’t there a well worn, far past ‘throwing them out time’ pair of sneakers in the closet that are simply way too comfortable to consign to the round file? Isn’t there also a T-shirt somewhere, far back in the drawer, with too many paint stains and holes to even wear to Wall-Mart. You still keep it, but only now for mowing the lawn. You continue to hang onto that thread-bare garment ‘for the sweet memories’ it holds! Don’t these worn, mangled, torn and stained items still bring a smile to your heart and comfort to your spirit? They’re no longer worthy of ‘show’ to our guest. They’re now reserved for YOU, the one that loves and cherishes them most, in spite of all their imperfections and blemishes. Rejected by the world, they still have a place in your heart.


An altar pad with no imperfections could be a new altar pad – or – one that is old – yet never used. Oops!


That night, that torn altar pad spoke to me of use! No doubt, there may have been a human eye or two that saw these abrasions as blemishes on the backdrop of a grand presentation. But God didn’t. I know that He saw them as a visual testimony that they have been put to good use – the use for which they were intended. These scars were loud shouts of praise – of honor and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – witnesses that loving saints had knelt in worship and prayer. They are badges of a commitment to prayer – and they are a beauty to behold!

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Praise & Worship

Their roles in our relationship with God 

© 2018  Bill Murphy

PREFACE

Praise and worship are both meaty and meaningful subjects, to be considered thoughtfully… and prayerfully.  Praise and worship are not only things we do  –  they are, I believe, also an important part of who we are.  

This is a fresh look at the very old subject of praise and worship.  Looking backward for answers and understanding, the closest we can come to the original truth is found in God’s Word.  Here we can weigh what we may think by what God says.  When I did this, what I found was amazing.  It compelled me to re-think my understanding of praise and worship.  

Has our concept of praise and worship changed?  Perhaps it has.  All one has to do is look, and listen.  Today the terms praise and worship are usually grouped together, as when a particular part of the church service is referred to as the Praise & Worship part.  And, the terms are also often used interchangeably, as if they are one and the same.   But, are they?  Are the two fundamentally the same?  Are they scripturally the same?   

But why make an issue of this?  Does it really matter?  And, does it even matter, even if it could be misleading?

At the very root of the matter is a simple, yet complex thing we call ‘vocabulary.’  

Vocabulary is nothing more than the words we use to express our thoughts.  When we use a word that it not true to the thought we are attempting to express, the result is misunderstanding, and confusing.  This is true with the spoken word, as well as the written word. 

When we’re repeating or sharing a thought given to us by someone else, we must be certain that we never cloud or confuse the issue by using words which don’t convey the original thought.  Countless are the occasions when friendships have been damaged or destroyed by just such inaccurate sharing of thoughts.

So, is it not all the more important to be as accurate as humanly possible when repeating to others what God has said in His Word?  I think we all understand that there’s a fundamental difference between joy and happiness.  So, does it really matter, if we incorrectly use joy instead of happiness?   Can such sloppy use of our speech be excused, when it leads to errors in interpretation? 

In the case of praise and worship, I believe it can and does matter.  Happiness and joy are emotions we feel.  Praise and worship deal with our expressions of devotion to God.  Are tithing and giving the same?  And does it really matter if we confuse those two?

I write this to bring to the Christian’s attention the fundamental Biblical differences between praise and worship.  I would be derelict in my personal Christian duty not to share this.

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I noticed in scripture that praise appears to speak of an expression of approval, the lifting of hands, hearts, and voices upward to God.  On the other hand, worship appears to define a bowing down, as in reverence and submission.  Is it possible that praise and worship can be considered as directional?  WOW!    

Praise feels good!  Praise is a celebration.  Praise takes us to the mountain tops.  And, praise is contagious.  On the other hand, genuine worship is of a more serious nature.  True worship sends us to our knees.  Worship in depth, is up close and personal with God, and can lead us to see ourselves as we really are, as weak and needy mortals, alone before the Almighty God.    

We can praise alone.  But praise is most often a group activity.  And we can Worship in a group setting.  But worship, in depth worship, is something personal, a one on one with Him experience.   

The truth is: we are more inclined to praise without worship than we are to worship without praise.  This is because of the basic dynamics of the two.

I considered this.  I questioned it.  So I studied.  And I also asked, does it really matter?  Really?  And more importantly, what does God think about it?

Jesus encountered questions such as this when He taught the people.  He didn’t stop short when telling them that they should love one another.  No.  He carried His teaching much farther by going into detail in explaining to the people, and to His disciples, exactly what love really is!  How could they obey if they didn’t understand what to obey, and how to obey?  If praise and worship really are expressions of LOVE to him, should we not strive to understand these concepts?

As a child at Grace Methodist Church, we sang the old standard, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross!”  That’s praise.  But true Christianity is not simply, standing up and lifting our hands and hearts to Him.  Oh yes, Jesus dearly LOVES our praise!  He cannot (as we say) get enough of it. 

But, He requires our worship.  We cannot praise only.  We also must worship, real worship, deep worship, true worship.  What we ignore, Satan will invade.  

Now, or later, EVERYONE will worship.  As scripture says, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess.  Just as NOW is the time to worship, NOW is also the time to praise.

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First of all, notice that there are TWO words involved in the phrase Praise & Worship.  Have you ever paused to wonder, ‘why two words?’  Are they the same?  Or can they be only similarFaith and hope are very similar.  But are they the same?  Joy and happiness are also similar.  But are they the same in meaning?  

Today, praise and worship are generally used interchangeably, as if these two words share the same meaning.  Yes, the are very similar, but they are also different , especially in application.

Consider this: It would have been a simple thing for God (who created us) to have created us  ready made to serve and love Him.  But God didn’t want mindless robots scurrying about perpetually doing His will.  He wanted relationship.  And the relationship he wanted, and created for us, is that of parent and child.  Amazing!

Praise and worship are simply parts or areas of this heavenly relationship between God and mankind.  For want of a better term, think of praise and worship as ‘channels of communication’ between God and each of us – and they are!  In this way, praise and worship are very much like prayer.  

It’s true that one-way communication can be a good thing in certain circumstances, but as a general rule, two-way communication is far superior.  It was in scripture that I saw direction to praise and to worship… our two-way communication with God.  One could call this a ‘directional relationship.’  Consider the following scriptures:

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.   Psalm 27:6

It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever….  2 Chronicles 5:13

Notice the mention of direction as applied to praise in these two above scriptures.  The first says ‘mine head be lifted up,’ and the second example, ‘when they lifted up their voice.’  The implication here is that praise is directed up, from the heart of humankind, upward to God.  Therefore, praise originates within ourselves, within our own filled hearts, and then flows outward and upward unto God. 

Yes, praise is inspired by God Himself!  When we recognize His greatness, His goodness, His loving kindness, His might and His power, we turn our heads, eyes, hands, hearts and voices toward Heaven and offer up praise and gratitude unto Him.  Praise overflows from a fullness within us, and erupts like a geyser of love and joy upward to Him who is the object of our praise.

Among the words often used in place of praise are:

Accolade

Acclamation

Admiration

Adoration

Celebration

Esteem

Exaltation

Glorification

Gratitude

Homage

Honor

Tribute

Ovation

Regard

I chose to think of praise as a personal celebration of our love toward God.  It can be likened to cheering for our Lord and Savior.  My praise is my gift of gratitude, from my heart, to His.  As that old carole of Christmas says, ‘Oh come let us adore (praise) Him.’ 

When we look at early Hebrew text, we find that the word translated into modern English as ‘praise’ is:  halal.  Halal mean ‘to shine.’ Usually translated as ‘praise’ –  halal actually means ‘commend.’  However, commend is an abstract word.  Hebrew thinking was in more concrete terms, rather than in abstract terms.

Think of it this way.  The North Star is the only star in the heavens which remains motionless and stationary.  Because of this, it is used as a guide for earthly travelers.  In the Hebrew mind, we offer up praise to God for being our faithful guiding light (star) that leads us in the correct direction.

We look upward in gratitude in order to praise.

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The ‘flip’ side of the coin of praise and worship is worship.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.  Psalm 95:6

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,  and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.   Matthew 2:11

Notice in these two scripture examples the downward posturing of reverence, honor, and respect of mankind towards Deity.  In the first scripture it mentions kneeling and bowing down as we worship.  In the second example, the worshippers are said to ‘fall down’ and worship.

When our hearts are filled with the wonder and love of God, we open those floodgates and allow praise to flow out of us, and upward toward God.  But when we’re stopped in our tracks, and when we pause and recognize and realize the awesomeness of His presence, when we realize that we are in His Holy and Royal presence, then we tremble at the thought of how small and weak and needy we are before Him.  We cannot jump to our full height in celebration of what and who He is… not when we pause and consider, not when we compare who and what He is as opposed to who and what we are.   NO!  We bow before Him in humility, awe, reverence, and deep respect.  

Do we recognition the truth that there is no comparison between God and ourselves?  Do we pause and consider and understand – and know that we are in desperate need of Him?  Do we accept the fact that He is our only hope?  If we do, we cannot help but bow before Him in devotion and submission, confessing our need of Him and for Him, in love and in worship.

Among those words often used instead of worship are:

Awe

Devotion

Homage

Humility

Prostration

Resignation

Respect

Reverence

Submission

Supplication

Surrender

Veneration

Shahhah is the Hebrew word which is translated into English as worship.  In truth, there is no Hebraic word which means worship as we understand it.  Shahhah actually means ‘to bow’ or ‘bow down.’  Shahhah is found 172 times in Hebrew text, but is translated as ‘worship’ only 99 times – when it is referred to as an action toward God.  When used as an action (of bowing) to another human, it is translated as ‘obeisance.’ 

Scripture plainly defines worship as directional – shahhah – bowing down unto God! 

Although praise and worship both share other dissimilar characteristics, we fail to recognize these differences when these two expressions of response to God are grouped together as if they are one in the same. 

As a child, one of my favorite Bible stories was the one we celebrate on Palm Sunday – that of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem….

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.  And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.   Mark 11:7-10

I can envision it now, I can hear the happy shouts of praise from the crowd.  It must have been a truly amazing event!  How many were in the crowd?  I can image hundreds.  This joyous Bible story perfectly illustrates the fact that praise is contagious! 

This is why we have cheerleaders at football games.  And this is why churches have praise leaders.  Once the praise gets started, others tend to join in.  Someone was the first to cut down a palm fond and wave in the air around Jesus!  Then the multitude joined in.  

Because praise is contagious, it is easily and readily a group activity.  Praise can be spread, and multiplied.  When the quarterback runs 99 yards for a touchdown, you don’t need cheerleaders.  How much more did Jesus do for us than to win a football game?  You see what I mean?

On the other hand, because worship originates from deep within our hearts, and because our relationship with God is such a wondrous and unbelievably amazing one on one thing – worship is (or should be) an intensely personal thing.

Look again at the list of worship synonyms.  See how they can be intensely personal, such as devotion, submission, and surrender.  We are devoted every day to many various things and individuals.  We’re devoted to our family.  We’ve surrendered to the fact that the grass in our yard will continue to need mowing.  We’ve submitted ourselves to the bank and agreed to make the house and car payments.  

When we decide to devote our life to God, we surrender our life to Him, and we submit to His will for our life.  And why?  Because we know that He knows what’s best for us, and because we love Him.  But, devotion, surrender, and submission is not always easy.  God does not take away our personal will – it’s up to us to hand it over to Him – voluntarily.  And that is never a group activity!  That is intensely personal.

True worship, deep worship, commitment worship, is a thing between you and God.  It’s up close and personal.

Yes, one can personally be involved in true worship of God in a crowd.  But let’s face it, we strive for intimacy with Him, even in the physical presence of many others.  We strive for that heart to heart connection with Him, as if we were physically alone with Him.  True? 

This brings up another ‘worship’ word on the list – reverence.

A super bowl game doesn’t equate with reverence.  Super bowl games are the ultimate in celebration (praise).  So how can we think that an exuberant, wall-shaking praise service is in any way reverent?  

Praise celebrations are enjoyable, they’re up-lifting, especially to us!  They fill us with joy and good feelings.  In that light, a praise celebration almost sounds, selfish!

Reverence, which leads us to personal introspection and soul-searching, doesn’t usually fill us will gleeful joy.  Sadly, our tendency is to be prideful people, so bowing down in reverent worship goes against our natural inclination.  Reverence leads us to search our hearts, perhaps to bring on ‘Godly sorrow’ and repentance.  It is far easier to see the light of God when we’re looking from inside the darkness of our own souls.  That comparison is astounding!   

Yes, reverence can bring us face to face with God.  But the journey to that glorious spot is not always a glory road of joy.  Worship is not always pleasant (to us).  But worship of God surely makes Him very, very happy.  It’s not just the thing to do, it’s the thing that He commanded that we should do.  Remember, this is His world.  He allows us to live here.  

There are two more words that we often use interchangeably, and inaccurately – want and need.

We want those newest running shoes on the market.  We want an update on our smart phone.  We want a new automobile.  But we need water, food, and warmth.  We have a choice about wants.  There’s no choice concerning needs.  Needs are necessities.

Just as I stated when I first began this discussion on praise and worship, sometimes the lines of division in understanding them are often blurred.  Sometimes it’s best to view how things operated from the standpoint of application.

That said, I think you know where I’m going with this – that praise is more of a want and worship is a sincere need.

I’ve come to this conclusion by observation.  We pick and choose which sports stars, which entertainers, which politicians we support, which ones we cheer on, which ones we praise

History describes the practices of idol worshippers, and it clearly demonstrate that much of their worship was based upon perceived needs.  There is probably no greater human love than that of a mother for her child.  And yet, hundreds if not thousands of infants and young children were given up as human sacrifices to appease angry, hungry, pagan gods.  Were these children offered up through desire, through a ‘want’ to kill the child – or through a perceived need to do so?   I think you will agree that this ‘act of worship’ was done through a sense of perceived necessity.

But what of us today? 

When do most people come to God?  When do most people turn to Him?  As long is life is going our way, as long as we’re happy, content, satisfied, when everything is right with the world, the altars of our churches are seldom full.  But when calamity comes, when the tornadoes of life destroy, when the bombs of war begin to fall, we run to those altars.  When need arises, we fall to our knees.  When we’re in need, we’re not compelled to praise.  When our hearts are emptied, they need to be filled, and that filling comes down to us in the form of worship.

There is a scripture that has always especially intrigued me.  I’ve always had a difficult time really getting my head (and heart) around it completely.  Now I believe I understand it clearly.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,  that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.   Hebrews 13:15

Now wait a minute.  Didn’t I just state that sacrifice is an act of worship?  But here scripture is equating it with praise.  Is my understanding all wrong?

I don’t think so.  

Our God is an awesome God. Everything about Him is beyond description and beyond human understanding.  And, He is the master of contradiction.  He uses the weak to defeat the strongest, illness and death to proclaim and exhibit health and life.  He turns shepherd boys into kings, and causes fire not to burn.  And Jesus walked on water.

I believe that Hebrews 13:15 is just such and example.  And, I believe the key to understanding this verse is the word ‘continually.’

We ‘continually’ need water, food, warmth.  These are needs.  And I said that ‘praise’ is a want.

I also said that pagans sacrificed due to a perceived need.

So why this supposed ‘contradiction’ in this scripture? 

I believe that this verse is telling us that ‘By him,’ that is, through His strength and leading, that we should – through a sense of need other than through simple desire, offer up praise unto God.

I believe that this verse is telling us that God wants us to praise Him through a sense of our need to do so.       

A sacrifice has always been understood to be the best thing we can offer God, something valuable, something personal, something treasured.  God wants our praise to Him to be this also, something valuable, something personal, something treasured.  I believe this is what this scripture is telling us – that He desires our praise to not be just something we ‘want’ to do – not to be just a celebration that makes us feel good – but He desires our praise to be on par with our needs.  He wants our praise to be a sacrifice!

It’s possible that as you read through this, you may have suspected that I believe that worship is more important than praise.  I hope these final few paragraphs convince you that I assuredly do not.  

Praise and worship are not the same thing.  Yes, they share similarities.  But we can never claim that one is more important than the other.  God commanded us to worship and to praise.  I believe He also wants us to understand (from His viewpoint) the difference between the two.


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I Miss Reverence

Call me ‘old fashioned, but in today’s church, I miss good old fashioned REVERENCE.  I’ll clarify that by saying, it can be missing from many churches.

I worshipped my first 20 years of life in Grace Methodist Church of Jackson MS.  Sadly, like calm and respectful reverence, Grace Church is no more.  Where I learned to grow close to God is now but an empty lot.  I feel that emptiness today.

But that’s me. 

I make no apology for the following ‘old fashioned’ definitions. They’re necessary for you to understand what I’m attempting to say -and the true meaning and understanding of those words I will use. 

REVERENCE is defined as: honor or respect  felt or shown; profound adoring and awed respect.  Reverence implies that this profound respect is also mingled with love and devotionThat’s heavy – isn’t it?

Synonyms of reverence are: respect, honor, homage, and deference. 

RESPECT means: expressions of high or special regard.

Yes I know – you’ll say that folks express respect differently today.  Differently does not necessarily mean better.  Consider the fact that public school classroom demeanor is different today. 

Generally, most weddings even today are basically respectful and reverent in nature, much as were Sunday church services way back when.  And, most brides today wear white, want order and dignity in their marriage ceremony, and prefer to be the center of attention.  This was how it was in the 50s each Sunday when we honored the ‘Biblical Bride-Groom,’ our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then we better understood a holy respect of and for our surroundings.

But, you say, there are laid-back weddings and laid-back church services today.  Yes there are.  

So I ask – why can we have a reverent marriage ceremony on Saturday afternoon, and in the same church sanctuary it’s a (Christian) rock concert Sunday morning? 

HONOR means respect and esteem shown to another. It can apply to the recognition of one’s right to great respect or to any expression of such recognition.

DEFERENCE implies a yielding or submitting to another’s judgment or preference out of respect or reverence.

HOMAGE adds the implication of accompanying praise.

I mentioned a (Christian) rock concert above. 

At some point in time, ‘praise’ became firmly welded to ‘worship,’ as if the two were one and the same.  This is not true.  (Think about it.)  But that’s another study.

First of all, praise and worship should only be directed toward GOD!  To do otherwise is idolatry – if not bordering on it.  Correct?  Think about this also.

That said, although I well understand that Psalm 100:1 says “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  I do not believe that every time we direct praise and worship to Him, that it must be at full volume.   1 Kings 19 tells us that God didn’t speak to Elijah in the wind, earthquake, or fire… but in a still small voice.  

Praise and worship cannot be measure with a decibel meter.  Should it be?  The presence of God’s Spirit cannot be controlled through the sound board. 

Because my ‘quiet’ praise and worship is (and should be) directed toward God (and to him only), no other individual has the ‘right’ judge my praise.  (That right and privilege belongs to God’s alone.)

‘But you should be an example to others,’ I hear. 

 I think not.  In most instances yes.  In praise and worship, no.  Why?  If I lift my voice with ‘drummed-up’ vocalizations – when my true praise is more quiet in nature, I’ll be exhibiting false praise – and that would not be good.  Doesn’t God want our true and genuine praise?

This brings up the question –does our Lord really need cheerleaders?  If the ‘fan’ needs a cheerleader, he’s not much of a fan (of the home team – or of God!) True?

We hear a lot about ‘sanctuary cities‘ today – cities set aside and apart from the laws of the nation – cities which harbor illegal aliens. 

The house of God is also a sanctuary.  It is a place set aside for the explicit purpose of instruction, prayer, praise, and worship of God.  It may be a multi-purpose facility, where areas (or times) are set aside from everyday activities.  But during ‘church time,’ when that area is set aside for GOD – it should be a place of focus totally upon HIM.  I like to think of it as barefoot church, where He wants to meet with us on a skin-to-skin personal level, just as He did with Moses at the burning bush, when He instructed Moses to take off his shoes.

Before we have guest in our home, we wish to make them feel comfortable.  We want to present a feeling of both comfort and cleanliness.  We vacuum the carpets. This is done out of our deference to them.  Yet if it is raining or snowing outside, and they take off their shoes at our door, they’re doing so in deference to us.  These are simple acts of shared respect.

Should we not at least show similar respect and deference to the house of God?  In truth, we should show more respect and reverence for HIS ‘house!’ 

Consider funerals, where the deceased is the one being honored.  We EXPECT reverence and respect to be displayed by one and by all, regardless of age. 

Doesn’t the Lord of All, The King of Kings, The Almighty, the living GOD HIMSELF warrant the same honor, homage, deference, respect and REVERENCE as poor ole Grandma in the coffin – or as a daughter at her wedding altar?  Why can we not expect reverence in the house of worship, no matter where/what that might be?

In 1960 we had teenagers, guns and schools.  The difference between 1960 and 2018 is that teenagers in 1960 who had access to guns – went to school and left their guns at home – or on the gun rack in their truck in the parking lot.  Sadly you know what many teenagers today have done with guns at school.

The common denominators in 1960 and 2018 are: teenagers, guns, and school.  The difference is: In 1960 we had self respect, respect for others, respect for teachers, parents, laws, country… and our future.  We had a true reverence for life!

Have we really lost it altogether?  

This is why is miss reverence.  It seems to be so difficult to find today. 

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THE GREAT DOOR OPENER

© 2019  Bill Murphy

There are scores of songs we sing in church which herald the goodness of God: His favor, His blessings, His patience, His mercy, His care and concern for us.  He opens doors that have locked us out.  As Christians, we believe this to be true.  But there can be a difference between believing… and experiencing His great goodness.

Carol (my wife) has a really good doctor, and this doctor’s PA is equally as amazing.  They stay on top of things, and it would seem, even a step or two ahead of things!  4 years ago, a suspicious ‘spot’ appeared on Carol’s lung.  Since that time it has been closely monitored.

A few weeks ago, it was discovered that this ‘spot’ had grown.  And then Carol’s blood pressure began doing weird things.  So, her doctor ordered additional tests.  A CAT scan, a heart Cath, and also a PET scan were scheduled.    

The results of the Cath were great.  The others… somewhat ‘borderline’ or iffy.  ‘Iffy’ is not good where your health is concerned.  Carol’s doctor wanted a second opinion, so we were referred to an Oncologist in St. Louis.   We spent yesterday there… and this is where the God of Glory, as Carol so aptly put it, really ‘showed out.’

She had a mid-morning appointment.  The doctor’s office is located inside the huge Missouri Baptist Hospital.  We were unaware that early that very morning (a Thursday) a group of on-staff doctors met (each Thursday morning) to review ‘unique’ cases.  And… the Oncologist had presented Carol’s case to them… while we were still on the road to toward St. Louis. (Her records and scan images had been forwarded ahead.)

When the Oncologist saw Carol, one of the things he asked was how this mysterious ‘spot’ had been found in the first place… and Carol replied that it was discovered during a routine check-up.  He was amazed, saying that they hardly ever see patients in such an early stage of ‘disease,’ and because of that, it was difficult for them, as specialists, to diagnose it!   

He described the three possibilities of what this ‘spot’ might be, which ranged from ‘nothing’ to the beginning of something bad.  He also explained, that because of where it was located, it would be exceedingly difficult to do a simple biopsy.  He also said that to leave it alone and ‘observe it’ was taking a chance.  His suggestion was… remove the offending thing soon.

Then the doctor told us that there were two doctors there at Missouri Baptist who specialize in laparoscopic surgery, and that both had been in that mornings meeting, and both suggested removing it.  We agreed.  Then, the doctor said he would make the arrangements.  But Carol spoke up, and asked if it was possible for us to see one of these surgeons TODAY, while we were still in St. Louis.  “Highly unlikely,” was the doctors reply.  But, he made a call anyway, and asked. 

Who call a doctor and gets an appointment the same day?  Perhaps with a GP… but a specialist?  Within two hours, we were sitting in the surgeons office, discussing Carol’s case!  And he was so very nice and understanding, and explained everything to us… in detail.  Carol’s surgery is scheduled for February 26th.  

I’ve heard it told of God opening doors all of my life… and yes, I’ve had Him open some for me in the past.  But I’ve never been right there, for a front row seat, to see so many doors opened so effortlessly, in such a short space of time.  It was an amazing experience.

Yes, God IS great!   And God IS good…  just as the child’s meal-time prayer says! And just as God has the whole world in His hands… He also has Carol!

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