By Emerald Barnes, author
This week we had revival at our church with Bro. Tracy Harris of Harvest International Ministries, and our praise team sang a Newsboys song, "I am Free." While they were singing, I couldn't stop thinking about what that freedom meant.
As some of you may know, I am an author, and recently, I wrote a yet-unpublished book called, The Healer. It's unorthodox, and I'm not sure how it is going to be received in the Christian community because not everyone believes as I do about healing and such. But, the idea was so strongly within me, I couldn't not write it.
What does this book have to do with freedom? Well, in this book, religion has been made illegal, not just Christianity, all religion. With that, the earth devolves into chaos, but Christianity hasn't been snuffed out completely. There is an underground church, and not all of the Bibles were destroyed. So, it's still there, but these people have to make sure they aren't caught by the law or else they'll be prosecuted. There is much more to this story, and that isn't what makes it unorthodox. But I wanted to note that because it came to my mind during this song.
Drawing you back to the point I'm trying to make, these people in my book are only fictional, but there are people in the world who actually have to do this. Missionaries have to sneak in Bibles or else they'll be prosecuted, possibly killed for spreading the Good News, and I have the freedom to serve God on a padded pew in a heated (or air conditioned) church yet sometimes, I hold back. Why? Fear. Fear of what others think will hold us back from praising God to our fullest.
That isn't the case with everyone at Faith Outreach. You never know when someone will take off running the church! (I think we all know who that someone is. :) ) The point I'm trying to make is that that is the right thing. We should all be running the church, lifting our hands, and doing everything we can to praise the Creator, the God who saw fit that you were born!
Psalm 100:4 says, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
This verse tells us that to enter in the gates of God, we have to be thankful, and when we enter His court, we enter with praise! The definition of praise is "the expression of respect and gratitude as an act of worship." Thankful means, "expressing gratitude and relief." So, from these two definitions, I think we can conclude that being grateful, expressing our gratitude, is a sign of worship and praise. The two words can be synonymous, so we have to thank God in our praise!
Praise is important. It keep us in a position to receive what God has for us. Think of it this way, would you want to give something nice to an ungrateful person or child? If someone has wronged you, isn't it hard to give them whatever it is they ask for? You can give and give and give to an ungrateful person, but eventually, you'll get tired of it. Why should you give away your hard earned cash to someone who isn't grateful for it? Does this sound familiar to anyone? I've been guilty of saying this, and I kind of wonder if our Heavenly Father doesn't think the same thing sometimes. Why should He give us what we aren't grateful for?
Don't get me wrong. God is a merciful and loving God, but once we start praising Him for things that have come to us and things to come to us, don't you think that's it puts us in an easier place of receiving something that we're grateful for?
And I think we have a lot to be grateful for. We have the freedom to praise God in any way that we want in this country where it's completely legal to be a Christian. Shouldn't we start praising God for that?!
I will say this. God doesn't need our praise. Even the Bible says that the stones will cry out if we're silent. But doesn't He deserve our praise? He's a Good Father, and He deserves what we can give Him.
Giving Him praise is beneficial to you as well! It stops the enemy and opens up a direct line between Him and us! It puts us in a position of receiving the promises. Praise is an important part of being a Christian, and it's time we start doing more of it. Praise Him when it's the hardest. Why? Because it breaks you free of oppression. Because is stops the enemy. Because God deserves it.
So, exercise your freedom today. Praise God. Don't be afraid of how you look or feel. Do it anyway. You'll be thankful, and you'll be free!