The Broken Hallelujah

You’ve likely heard the song, “Hallelujah.” Most people love the dramatic, mesmerizing melody. Leonard Cohen released the song in 1984 and since then it has been performed by a “who’s who” of artists and featured in scores of movies, TV shows and music videos.

If you don’t know it (or even if you do) take a moment and listen to this amazing performance by Pentatonix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRP8d7hhpoQ

The song always moves me to tears, but I could never figure out the lyrics, so I ignored them and just enjoyed the powerful melody. When I watched this Pentatonix rendition, I had to figure out what Cohen was saying in his choice of such cryptic language. I read through all the verses (fifteen in all, only about eight of which every get performed) and I read various stories and interpretations of their meaning. It reminded me of my generation trying to figure out what Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ was all about, positing everything from the death of Buddy Holly to the second coming of Christ.

The brilliance of the lyrics of ‘Hallelujah’ is their openness and even invitation to a myriad of interpretations. Some see only an ode to sex, others a deeply religious struggle. Cohen said the song represented absolute surrender in a situation you cannot fix or dominate. Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan affectionately called it a ‘hymn of the heretic’.

When I considered the meaning behind the lyrics, I found something that spoke to my soul. I believe there is a powerful message for us as we enter 2018. While it’s clearly not a Christian song, it is a profoundly honest song. I chose six of the verses that spoke to me the most. I admit to reading my own interpretation into them, but here is the message I found.

Read more at: http://thestewardsjourney.com/the-broken-hallelujah/

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Let Everything Praise Him

https://theriverwalk.org/2017/12/30/december-29-let-everything-praise-him/

The Garment of Praise

to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 WEB

Have you ever felt so down, so lethargic, that you begin to ask yourself, ‘What is the point of it all?’ There are many things in this verse but the one that I want to mention today is the ‘spirit of heaviness’, better known by its bona fide name: ‘Depression.’

It can settle on anyone given the right circumstances and none of us are immune to it. We all like to think that we have it together, but really we are just one phone call away from crying at any given moment.

Once when we were overworked and nearly burned out, we went to an exhilarating praise and worship conference that lasted for three days. After the first night, I began to feel lighter, and brighter. Each hour that we spent there seemed to bring renewal, a refreshing of our spirit, like standing under a waterfall.

When I had arrived, I was pretty down and cynical, but afterwards, I was as light as a feather and cheerful. By the time I left the conference, I felt like I was walking on air and didn’t have a care in the world. I would not have cared if the world were ending. That time soaking in praise and worship brought immediate change in our life. We had exchanged the spirit of heaviness for the garment of praise.

Praise and depression are polar opposites and repel each other. If you are down, depressed, heavy, you will not feel like praising the Lord. If you are praising the Lord, then you will not feel like being depressed. If you are feeling ‘heavy’ today, find some good praise and worship music and soak in it for an hour. Listen to it while working. Begin to praise the Lord along with it, and that spirit of heaviness will flee out of hearing range.

Prayer: Heavenly Father I praise You today, please deliver me from the spirit of heaviness. Fill my life with Your presence, bring the right people, the right music, and the right opportunities into my life, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.

 

Comment at: https://www.refreshinghope.org/blogs/1/1676

“I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)” – Shane and Shane

It is good, but could be much better if they sang it with a temp that sounded like they were excited about it.

Scots don’t do praise

Scots don’t do praise. Of God, yes (a little), but not praise of one another.

Instead, we specialize in pulling people down, thinking the worst of others, and puncturing anyone who achieves anything. We can’t let a compliment pass without balancing it out with a criticism, and woe betide anyone who makes anything of life: “They’re just full of themselves!”

Where did this come from? Well, there’s no question that the cynical “build ‘em up to pull ‘em down” media is partly to blame. The evil envy of rabid and rampant socialism has also eaten away at much goodwill and gratitude towards achievement and achievers. But I’m afraid that a distorted Calvinism has also contributed to this soul-shriveling cynicism.

American Contrast
I didn’t see it so clearly when I was part of it, but with the distance of 5 years in the USA between me and my beloved homeland, it’s painfully easy to recognize and grieve over.

Perhaps it’s especially the contrast of my American sojourn that’s helped me to identify this Scottish ailment and my own contribution to it. Because if there’s one thing I can say about Americans, it’s that they are probably the most optimistic and cheerful people I’ve ever met.

True, this warm openness can sometimes lapse into gullibility: witness Jimmy Swaggert, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Barings, Lehmans, J P Morgan, etc. They wouldn’t have got very far in Scotland, I can assure you. However, there’s something so refreshing about the American desire to think the best, say the best, and do the best to others. The cheerful celebration of success and the willingness to offer encouragement and praise is such a contrast to so much of Scottish life, and yes even of Scottish church life.

Distorted Calvinism
But why did I partly blame a distorted Calvinism for this? Well, the biblical belief in the total depravity of all men and women seems to have been sometimes misapplied to exclude any appreciation of humanity, even of redeemed humanity. “Don’t want to make him/her/them proud, do we!” Praise, encouragement, appreciation, affirmation is somehow thought to be incompatible with a belief in the universal sinfulness of men and women. To praise is to apostatize; to encourage is to backslide; to recognize achievement is to risk the damnation of the achiever.

If someone is praised, get a criticism in quick. If someone does well, remind them and everyone else of their previous failures. If someone gets a promotion, “Well, what goes up, must come down (hopefully).”

There are happy Scottish exceptions of course, but the corrosive effects of this negative spirit are wide and deep, and still plague me too.

Practicing Praise
That’s why I found Sam Crabtree’s Practicing Affirmation so challenging and yet so helpful. I’m amazed that this book has not had much wider “affirmation.” As John Piper says in the foreword, it’s a “one-of-a-kind book.” Do you know any other book that deals with the subject of how to praise others and to do so as a habit of life? No neither do I; and yet, as Sam demonstrates, it’s a topic with lots of Scriptural support and explanation, together with huge consequences for our families, friendships, and fellowships.

And although I think Scots like myself need to practice affirmation far more than Americans, there’s no question that American Christians increasingly need it too.

Worrying trends
I say that because among other worrying recent trends in America, I’m afraid that the celebration of good is weakening and a cynical critical spirit is spreading. I can’t say for sure where this has come from, but the inundation of bad news at home and abroad, the hostile hate-filled political climate, unjust corporate rewards, and our President’s regular planting and cultivating of class and economic envy have all played their heart-chilling, soul-shrinking roles.

So, if you want to learn what affirmation is, how to practice it, and what blessings it will bring to your life, stay tuned to the blog this week as I review Sam’s book. Or better still, buy the book and start praising God for His work in and through you and others. And maybe praise a few people along the way too.

3 Reasons God’s Name Is Blessed

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.”

– Daniel 2:20

HE CONTROLS THE FUTURE

Whatever happens didn’t escape God’s attention. There were no, “wow, how’d that happen” because God knows what is to come before it even arrives. King’s might think they reign, but the Bible says differently: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov 21:1).

Read more: https://www.christianquotes.info/images/3-reasons-gods-name-is-blessed/#ixzz4xI0twshV

5 Reasons To Rejoice

“It is both his privilege and duty to rejoice in the Lord. “

– A.W. Pink

RESCUED

The Apostle Paul says to those who have rejected the righteousness of God, that in “your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5), and “He will render to each one according to his works” (Rom 2:6), but for those who have trusted in Christ, God has placed our sins upon Him Who “knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of Christ” (2nd Cor 5:21)…and rescued from the wrath of God. That’s a great reason to rejoice.

REGENERATED

When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s heart, He convicts them of their sin, just as the Apostle John quoted Jesus as saying, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:18). This is where regeneration begins, where God gives us a new heart and new desires with that new heart (Ezk 36:26). It will be a regenerated heart that will seek to obey God. Rejoice that you have a new heart, and a heart that seeks to please God.

REDEEMED

The Apostle Peter wrote that God saved you and me, but “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1st Pet 1:18b-19). Like Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, Jesus is our Redeemer, Who redeemed our soul from the pit of hell. Rejoice about that!