Praise Week: Get Loud

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” (Psalm 66:1-2)

King David had a volume issue. He had this expectation that people praising the God of the universe should crank it up to 11 sometimes. He wanted to hear joyful shouting and loud singing – but not just noise. He wanted it to be both loud and “glorious,” excellent, good.

praise_337We’re tuning in to Psalm 66 this week to think about what it means to praise God. Sometimes we think of praising God as doing whatever the worship leader tells us to do for the 20 minutes before the preaching starts. Read the screen and follow along.

We’ll see, though, that David praised with a purpose. There was a method to his glorious worship shouting. We’re going to look at a few ways we can learn to praise and worship our glorious God on purpose, as well.

Think: How often do you shout with joy? Sporting events? Concerts? How often do you shout for joy to God? Does your church get loud and excellent when praising him? How could you make it even better?

Pray: Ask God to help you to shout with joy to him when the time is right and to sing the glory of his name and to make his praise glorious.

Do: Find the right time and place this week and do what today’s verse tells us to do.

LIve Different: Use God’s Power

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

It’s easy for us to walk around with the wrong idea of what Christianity is all about. We can get sidetracked into thinking Christianity is intended to make us better versions of ourselves – as if Jesus came and lived and died and lived again just to make me a little nicer and better at helping people.

runThat idea is wrong in two huge ways.

First, Christianity isn’t about us, at all. It’s about God. It’s about Him being praised through Jesus Christ and getting all the “glory and power for ever and ever.”

Second, Christianity isn’t about making us better. We’re not close enough to being good that getting better would help all that much. Nope, God wants us to do his work with his power, with his words, in his strength. God wants to be God through us – not for us to be good enough on our own to accomplish his mission.

Think: What are some ways God has asked you to serve him with his gifts and his power? Would you say you’re using his power to serve other people? What does that look like?

Pray: Ask God to help you to use the gifts he has given you to serve others with his words and his strength.

Do: Talk to a believing friend who knows you well about what your spiritual gifts might be and how you could use them best to serve God by serving others.

Live Different: Love Deeply

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Sin comes with a price tag. We don’t naturally think of it that way. When we’re tempted – or jumping in – sin feels like something that is freeing and free. We’re breaking out of the rules holding us back from experiencing good things. Sin feels like escape.

runBut that’s the lie of sin, right? Sin digs a hole in our relationships with each other and in our closeness to God. To support itself, sin steals from our emotional stability, from our clear thinking, even from our physical strength.

We can be forgiven for our sin by God’s grace and through faith in Jesus. But God also offers us away to experience healing from the consequences of some of our sin in the here and now. It’s called love.

Sin is a selfish act. Love, by definition, is selflessness. It is the choice to give up what I want for your good. It is the choice to die to me to help you live more abundantly. It’s what Jesus came to give us and – by God’s remarkable gift – it’s what we can give away to each other.

Love each other deeply and cover over some of the holes in life that sin has left behind.

Think: Who loves you most deeply with a selfless Christlike love? Who do you love most deeply like that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to love others deeply with a Christlike love as a way of covering over a multitude of sins.

Do: Notice how the Christians in your life express the love of Christ to each other this week.

Live Different: Live to Pray

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7)

A friend of mine just got done running a marathon. Aside from not understanding why any otherwise healthy person would want to do such a thing, I must say I admired his commitment to preparing for this thing.

runHe ran lots of miles almost every day, of course. He changed what he ate, when he slept, and did everything he could to avoid getting sick – all so he could be in prime shape to run 26 miles on race day. That what it takes to compete in a marathon.

What does it take to compete as a Christian, to do everything you can to be ready for the “end of all things”? Prayer. Why is prayer so hard? Why does it require us so much focus and self-control to do it effectively? I don’t know, but I know that it does.

Peter wants us to see the need to sacrifice sloppy thinking, meandering self-amusement, and living for instant gratification – so that we can pray. He wants us to do the prep work needed to effectively talk to God. What changes would you need to make in your life to make that happen?

Think: What gets in the way of effective praying for you? What could you change to give yourself more time, more focus, more energy for talking to God more often and about more things?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

Do: Set aside 15 minutes in a row today or tomorrow where you will do nothing but talk to God.

Live Different: Think Next Life

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (1 Peter 4:5-6)

Sometimes Christians fall into self-pity or confused thinking when we can only see life from what we ourselves stand to lose and gain.

runWe might feel bummed to miss out on the pleasure hunt, not to dive into the flood of selfish sex, drinking, and parties. We might feel burdened to pay the price of maybe being mocked (or worse) for following Jesus. We feel good thinking about making good use of our lives and receiving our reward in heaven.

But what do we feel for those who might mock us for believing in Jesus, for not joining in the pleasure parade? Do we believe in eternity enough to fear for them, to want to offer them the way out of their dead-end thinking and into a relationship with God that will provide joy (and pleasure) forever?

They will give an account to the judge after this short, painful life is over. That’s far scarier to imagine than the worst the world can do to those who follow Jesus on this side of eternity. What can you do to offer the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus to those you know who still need to hear and understand it – even those still living deep in sin, even those who think you foolish for trusting Christ?

Think: Do you know Christians who seem to feel sorry for themselves because being a Christian limits their options or makes them feel foolish in the eyes of the world? Do you know Christians deeply concerned for the eternal destiny of the unbelievers they know?

Pray: Thank God for helping you to believe the gospel and trust in Jesus for your salvation. Thank him that you will live forever in joy even if you suffer in some ways now for following him.

Do: Notice this week the attitudes you hear from other Christians about what we gain and lose by being Christ-followers.

Live Different: Expect Abuse

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4)

We’ve got to be careful with this passage, I think. Peter isn’t telling us to put on our “I’m a Victim” T-shirts and start complaining about how bad Christians are treated in our society.

runHe’s talking to Christians who used to party hard and are walking away from that empty lifestyle. He’s warning them that their former friends won’t get it and will “heap abuse” on them for letting go of their belief in hedonism, for giving up on expecting to find meaning in a life of pleasure and numbness.

In Peter’s day, that abuse included terrible persecution against Christians, persecution most of us have never seen, but persecution that put them right in the middle of God’s will and on the path to making the best possible use of their lives.

We’ll see tomorrow, though, that the persecutors and party people were the ones in real danger – and we have the message of hope they most need to hear.

Think: Have you ever felt abused for not jumping into sin along with your friends? Have you ever prayed for friends who were jumping into sin out of concern for the danger they face?

Pray: Ask God to help you to have the courage and strength to pay any price required to avoid sin and do the good he’s called you to do.

Do: Read more about Christians who suffer for being Christians in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

Live Different: Don’t Waste Your Life on Sin

“For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:3)

If you’ve lived a pretty straight-up or sheltered life so far, you might be reading this verse and thinking, “Wait a minute. I haven’t spent any time doing these things.” And Peter would likely say, “Even better.”

runWhy? Because he’s making a point that participating in all these “party sins” is a waste of our lives. It’s not just that they’re wrong – and they are, of course – it’s that they are time we can never get back, time in our short lives spent on worthlessness.

Peter was writing to people who had grown up thinking that lust, drunkenness and worshipping idols was normal, everyday stuff. Then they became Christians and realized that what was normal for their culture led to pain, emptiness, loss and destruction. Normal partying brought them nothing good, even if it felt good at the time.

If we’ve really made the choice to follow our Savior who suffered for our sin, why waste our lives indulging in more of it?

Think: Which of the things on Peter’s list of party sins is coming to be seen as normal in our culture? Does the fact that a sin is normal and accepted make that sin less of a big deal? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to waste your life indulging in sin, even if its normal for your culture.

Do: Notice this week what sins are being “normalized” in the media and in your neighborhood.