Praise, Gratitude, and the Deeper Healing

24 11 2010

As we move into what I call the “Grateful Season” of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want to encourage you that an attitude of gratitude experienced through a lifestyle of praise just might transform your life.  This is my thesis:  gratitude expressed through Praise brings a deep healing in your heart!

As a missionary for 10 years in Japan and as a pastor for the past 15 years in Colorado Springs, I can tell you that most Christians are not experiencing this deeper healing.  Most believers have never come to grasp the power of gratitude and most are not experiencing the joy of praise.

You see, to praise God through an attitude of gratitude is warfare, warfare with our flesh and the values of this world.  Satan doesn’t want you to learn the power of gratitude expressed through praise.  Because an attitude of gratitude breaks the power of pride over our life.  Making a choice to rejoice breaks the power of selfishness over our heart.

Gratitude expressed through praise opens up intimacy with Jesus!  It was C.S. Lewis who helped me understand this.  Lewis struggled with this whole concept of gratitude and praise of God, yet he discovered something that most Jesus followers never understand.  Some theologians have called this “Lewis’ greatest theological discovery.”  Lewis describes his struggle and how he worked through it in an extraordinary passage from the essay, “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms”

But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game (Monday night football coming up)…praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy 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.”

When I first read these words, it was this phrase that really caught my heart, “[praise] completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”  Gratitude expressed through praise is the completeness of inner healing in our lives!  Gratitude expressed through praise completes the deep healing of our heart because it completes the relationship!

We see this deeper healing in a story of 10 lepers who encounter Jesus in Luke 17:11-19

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:11-13)

Communicable diseases under the Law meant exclusion and literally death to relationships and community—these men had to be quarantined from society—these men literally had no relationships with healthy people.  This was a life or death situation and they wanted Jesus to heal them.

So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14)

It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t lay hands on them but simply told them to show themselves to the priests.  Matthew Henry, the puritan commentator writes, “This was a trial of obedience.”  These men had a choice to obey or disobey Jesus.  Any cure according to the Book of Leviticus needed a ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ from the first century referees—the Priests.  Obedience often precedes healing!  It seems clear: if they had not gone they would not have been healed.  But, it’s the next part I want emphasize for our purposes.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-18)

The men obeyed what Jesus told them to do and they were all recipients of divine healing.  Jesus didn’t command anyone to be thankful or to praise Him!  But this man came back.  Like the jets that fly in formation over the Air Force games, this one peels off and heads back to Jesus.  He is full of joy and praise with an attitude of gratitude.

Jesus seems genuinely dismayed that the others didn’t come back to thank Him—it’s almost like he didn’t need to command this, but expected it. It’s like Jesus needed praise for what He had done.  It’s like Jesus wanted some kind of gratitude for the healing.  Don’t miss this: It’s like Jesus wanted a relationship with those He had healed!   We praise who we delight in—we delight with whom we have a relationship.  Might it be that the healing isn’t complete until we praise Him, because praise completes intimacy?

Jesus wanted something more from these men!  They just wanted Jesus for His blessing, for His power, for His stuff.  Like the two brothers in the Prodigal Son parable, nine of the ten lepers only wanted Jesus for his blessing—they didn’t want a relationship with Him.  Except for this one Samaritan.  Jesus wanted something more.  He wanted friendship and intimacy; he wanted love with their praise and gratitude.

John Piper writes, “God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act”. This one man did the loving act—he praised and thanked Jesus—and this man received a deeper healing, a deeper blessing, a deeper grace from Jesus.  Let’s see what happened to him.

And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)

This man not only received the blessing of a healing from his leprosy, but he met Jesus!  His first relationship after healing was Jesus.  His heart is filled up with gratitude expressed through praise and he receives the deeper healing flowing out of the deeper intimacy with Jesus.

This leper wanted Jesus, not just the blessing of Jesus.  Jesus blessed this man above all others and it was this blessing that gave him the deeper healing of intimacy in his heart. This man was not only healed of a physical disease but a heart disease:  he was healed of selfishness; he was deeply healed of his pride.

As we enter the “Gratitude Season” take time to give audible expression to your gratitude through praise.  Jesus is the deeper healing. Bring Jesus into your family—take time to worship and praise Him.  Bring Jesus into your job, by an attitude of gratitude and joy.

My prayer is that you will experience the deepest healing of all—the healing of the heart through an attitude of gratitude expressed through praise.  Have a praise-filled Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Poetry of Love (Part 3)

12 11 2010

“The Church: God’s Collection of Poems”

One of my favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins.  And in this poem he captures the heart of God for imageodei, people created within His image, a lonely people looking for light, like a man carrying a lantern through the night.  He writes,

The Lantern Out of Doors
Sometimes a lantern moves along the night
That interests our eyes And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
there, eyes them, heart wants, care haunts, foot follows kind,
Their ransom, their rescue, and first, fast, last friend.

All people matter to God.  All of us at times are the person walking through a lonely night of the soul, looking for something.  We are all walking through the wind and fog.  And we are noticed by Jesus.  Christ minds: Christ’s interest.  His eyes, His heart, His care is upon each man and woman.  He is there for our ransom, our rescue.  He longs to be our friend for we are the apple of His eye.

He is, after all, the master poet, always writing, always meditating upon His work.  He is brooding over each of us for greater healing.  He is longing to complete His work in our lives.  His work is plural: works.  He is working, always working to give us more freedom, to heal the deeper wound.  To avow or amend what He began.  Not done.

The church is His “collection of poems.”  The church—His grand idea.  As disappointing as the church might be at times, she is still his collection of poems, a poetic statement within each soul of a master poet that is masterfully at works. Works, not of our making, but His.  A set of sad works, joyful works…but all thoughtful.

The big poetic idea of Jesus is the church.  A communal idea that was first birthed in and through the nation of Israel but has come to fruition through the church.  Not consummation but fruition.  The works of Jesus are manifested through the little poems that walk, talk, share, cry, give, love.  Little poems.  Undone poems.  Incomplete.

Creation Continues

God’s collection of poems—the church is still being created.  The creation continues.  An incomplete collection; a dirty collection; an untidy collection.  But His creative collection nonetheless.

God’s collection of poems—unfinished.  We are all still so broken, fractured, torn, and tired.  But, the final line has yet to be penned.  There’s still time.  A work in progress some have said. But, it’s true.  A work.  Not a project or “resource.”  We are not projects of this world.  We are not resources for some seemingly greater work.  We are already the greater works of God!

We are original works of grace being created by Heavenly Father for the works of His doings in our life.  Eugene Peterson captures this thought,

Original works of grace are possible in the everyday work of forgiving the sinner, in helping the hurt, and in taking up personal responsibilities…creation continues.  The streets and fields, the homes and markets of the world are an art gallery displaying not culture, but new creations in Christ (Traveling Light)

Creation continues when we cooperate.  When we allow the paraclete to have access into our life—the walking, the conversation, the relationships, the job, the boring hours, the shopping.  He’s never done; never a complete poem.

And so grace continues, grace is not conspicuous.  All grace is a writing of the hand of God upon our lives.  Nobody’s life is without grace.  More about this next time…