Monday, November 4, 2013

Made to Praise

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!   Psalm 150:1-6
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing.  Psalm 100:2
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.   John 4:23
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the LordPsalm 150:6
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

All of us are made to “praise”!  Did you know that the word “praise” occurs in the King James Version of the Bible 248 times and in 216 different verses?  It occurs in the New International Version 340 times.  Do you think God wanted to send us a message if He put it in His word (regardless of the translation) that many times?  How you praise is between you and the Lord.  I believe God convicts each of us to praise Him in different ways.  At MPBC we have a congregation that chooses to follow the verses I have included above.  Hallelujah!  We serve a living God and He is worthy of our praise!  

I have been singing with the MPBC praise team for about 6 to 7 years now.  I enjoy it very much and believe that my relationship with the Lord has become much stronger through my participation on our praise and worship team.  You see, God has brought me a long way since I first started singing in the 80s.   I pray that what I am about to share will bless you in some way.   I feel compelled to share because it’s possible that someone has a similar story and may be able to relate or may be struggling in a similar way.   Through my testimony, I hope you will be able to overcome and allow God to work in your life.   

I’ll start with my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11-“For I know the plans I have for you declares to Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”   This is my verse; I like to think God wrote it just for me.  I realize this is selfish and untrue, but I am His daughter, and this verse was meant for me, along with all of his other few billion children.  God’s plan for my life has been one amazing blessing after another.  He’s led me down paths that I would have never taken without His guidance.  My path of praise, worship and song begins with the first time I ever sang alone in public.  It was at my dad’s pastoral ordination service.  I was scared to death, but I wanted to make this a special time for my daddy.  I had long felt God nudging me to sing for Him, but I fought Him pretty hard.  NERVES wracked my body every time I thought about it.  I did it anyway, I had been taught my whole life that when God speaks, we should obey His spirit working within us.  So, there I stood in my blue dress and braids, singing for my earthly father and my heavenly father.  Shaking like a leaf all over, my dress was even shaking.  I prayed and asked God to take over.  I’ll never forget the peace that spread all over me that day.  It was a supernatural peace that God promises in Philippians 4:6.  I’ve experienced it many times since then.  This first solo turned into many more and eventually a musical leadership position in our church.  I sang and worshipped alongside my earthly daddy for many years.   That same earth shattering nervousness never went away; sometimes it plagued me for days before I sang a new song.  I learned to depend on God and sing anyway because I was certain that God had called me to praise Him in song.  It was strengthening my dependence on Him and not my own abilities.  I cannot tell you what it’s like to be literally falling apart one minute, and the very next minute a calmness that can only come from God replaces all fear and trembling.  It can only be God!

Due to many circumstances,  my dad and I ended up in separate churches.  It was a hard time in our lives, but God was always there assuring me of my “plan”.  Soon we were led to Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.  It was about this time that I ended up having surgery on my vocal chords.  So singing was not on my agenda for a while.  I can’t say I wasn’t sad, but I just kept seeking God and praying.  Eventually, I did join the choir and figured that would probably be the most singing I would ever do again.  I was happy, but that desire to lead in worship to our Lord was still there.  I began to think maybe God had a different plan for me.  After church one Sunday, our new worship pastor came to me and asked if I would be willing to fill in for one of the soprano voices on the praise team.   She would be leaving soon to go to China and adopt a little girl.  I was shocked, you see, this dear man hadn’t really even heard me sing.  Readers Beware:  I am not Sandi Patti or Kari Jobe (although I sometimes pretend to be when I am at home)!   I felt inadequate to say the least, but I did not want to give up on an opportunity to sing praise to our Lord.  I had to remember my life verse, was this in my plan?  I said yes, thus beginning a wonderful experience mixed with a huge spiritual battle for me!  Satan was out to get me at my point of weakness.  

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  I wrestled every Sunday!  Satan tried to convince me that I wasn’t good enough.   He filled my head with lies like, “You can’t sing as good as they can.  These people are going to make fun of you.”  One of my weaknesses is the need for approval from others.  I needed to know I was “living” up to people’s expectations.  It was a constant battle!  Satan filled me with lie after lie.  He knows I struggle with feeling inadequate as a singer.  I spent many Saturday nights in prayer asking God to cover me and wrap His comfort and peace around me, to replace my thoughts with His word.  Many times I’ve been singing through a microphone, even leading a song, while in my head quoting Philippians 4:13 or 2 Timothy 1:7.  Fear does not come from God, and we can do all things through Him! There have been times when I’ve walked on stage, taken the microphone shaking so hard that I wasn’t even sure I could stand on my own two feet.  I was literally scared out of my mind. But something amazing and supernatural happens when I totally surrender myself to God.  His calm yet powerful voice drowns out the voice of Satan and replaces it with His own.  It speaks so powerfully to the depths of my soul.   He whispers to me, “You are mine, daughter, this is meant for my glory and not for yours. “  It’s not about me, it’s about HIM!!  It’s hard to let go and give God the control, whether I sing the high note correctly, breath in the wrong place or totally nail the song.  As long as I continue to sing for Him and for His glory and honor, none of that matters.  As long as God can use me to lead others to an experience with Him, it doesn’t matter how I sound. 

A couple of years ago, I faced another vocal chord surgery.  Satan tried to use this against me too.  I even let him convince me to try and quit.  Yes….it was that bad.  I couldn’t seem to drown out the dark voice in my head.  Brad would ask me to lead a song, and I would spend the whole next week arguing with God about how I wasn’t capable.  I struggled with constant fear.  Thank goodness for a Godly worship pastor that refused to let me quit.  You see, he knows about my battle and has been a constant support.  He encouraged me to keep on.    I was singing again just three weeks after surgery.  God is so good!  I can’t promise I don’t still struggle with Satan on some Saturday nights or Sunday mornings.  But God has done a work in me over the past several years.  He’s helped me to see that I can do nothing without Him, yet I can do the impossible with Him.  If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be where I am today, I would have laughed.  But God had a plan for me and I praise Him for it.  Even in the storms, He’s carried me.  You see He’s my King!  I sing and worship for an audience of one!  He helped me to see the source of the lies and doubt came from the evil one.  It’s not about what other people think.  I don’t serve them or Satan….I belong to GOD!  I am a “Child of the King”!  My song is meant for Him. 

So next time God asks you to serve or praise Him in a way that you think is impossible (which is usually the case), don’t listen to the wrong voice.  Search for the voice of our Savior.  He is the God of Truth!  He takes what we think is impossible and makes it real in our lives.  That is what makes our testimony!  Singing in front of 500 people seemed impossible to me; however, God brings me through it Sunday after Sunday.  I don’t know what His plan is for you, but I know it is to serve Him and to praise Him-somehow, someway.  It is probably in a way that is out of your comfort zone.  It will probably stretch you beyond what you believe you can withstand.  I know I wouldn’t change a single circumstance from the past years, because God has deepened my dependence on Him.  He has molded me and shown me that I was certainly “made to praise”!  Everything that has breath should praise him…..are you breathing?  Meet me on Sunday morning and let’s praise and worship Him together.  He is worthy of all our praise!


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