Gerald Brooks couldn’t read a lick of music, but he had a strong voice and an enthusiastic, positive attitude, so he became our church song leader. That was in the days before worship teams appeared, and organs and pianos, choirs and soloists disappeared.
There Gerald was, behind the pulpit on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening, energetically pumping his arm up and down or back and forth, not always in time to the music. He chose the songs (his favorites) from our “Melodies of Praise” hymnal, so we often sang the same ones over and over—“There’s Within My Heart a Melody,” and “Since Jesus Came into My Heart.” We always sang three songs, and whether the song had three verses or thirty, we sang only three verses.
When I was very young, the choir was made up of those in the congregation who wanted to sing. It was as simple as that. When the pastor opened the service, he invited anyone, who wanted to be in the choir, to make his way to the platform. They came all ages, with broad smiles and lusty, not necessarily good voices, ready to worship.
There were no auditions. The choir was not trained. It was not practiced, nor did they know which songs they would sing. They were there to back up the song leader and, by example, encourage the congregation in worship.
I majored in music my first couple of years in college, so now I know. “WE DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT!” However, the memories of those simple, unstructured, unmanipulated times of worship, when hearts swelled, voices were lifted, hands were raised, in unrestrained, joyous praise to the God of heaven, are indelibly etched in the corridors of my heart.
As a child, I was part of that worship. I know we did not sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but in those moments, I am convinced God leaned over the balcony of heaven and savored every word of praise, every joyful shout ascending to His throne. Our simple and sincere praise blessed Him.
We often speak of God’s blessing upon our life—His mercy and benefits to us, but you must know that we also are called upon to bless Him. I just conferred with Mr. Webster. I was surprised to see that most of his dictionary entry defining “Bless,” and “Blessing” refer to our blessing God not the other way round.
He says, “To bless is “to give thanks to God the Father in a special manner, to speak gratefully to Him for His kindness, to honor in worship, to praise or glorify His name.”
In his book of songs, King David set a wonderful example for us.
Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
Psalm 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
Psalm 119:175, “Let me live that I may praise You…”
Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…”
In essence, David is saying, “My purpose in life is to praise God by everything I do and say. Therefore, I will praise Him continually with all that is in me, and if you are breathing, you must do the same.”
We ask for and receive His blessing, but I am wondering how often we thank Him for His kindness—how often we praise and glorify His name. Not often enough, I would imagine. Yet, over and over again in His Word, we are admonished to praise Him—to bless him.
Why does He command us to bless Him? This God, who knows everything, can do anything and owns all that exists. Does He really need our praise? Surely He is not going to wither and vanish away if I do not bless Him. Truth is I can’t make God any bigger or any greater with my praise. So, why—
Actually, when I praise God, I am the one who benefits, and God knows that. It is God’s way of lifting me out of my slough of despond, away from my impossibilities, above the cares of this world, and into His marvelous presence. In His presence, there is fullness of joy. In His presence, I am encouraged, my faith is renewed, and I am strengthened to continue the journey.
It is true. Sometimes we are so obsessed with our needs that we cannot find a word of praise, and yet the scripture even asks us to sacrifice praise to God.
Hebrews 13”15-16, “…let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Our style of worship is not the issue. Whether or not it is polished and practiced is not what counts. It is the attitude of the heart and a grateful, loving spirit that attracts God’s attention, and causes His presence to inhabit our praise.
Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!