praise

Self-Development and Self-Expression

⌊As⌋ iron sharpens iron,

so one person sharpens the wits of another.

As a face is reflected in water,

so a person is reflected by his heart.

The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter for gold,

but a person ⌊is tested⌋ by the praise given to him. (Proverbs 27:17, 19, 21 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 27:17-27 GW)


The self—our individual sense of identity and personhood—is a favorite topic in American culture. There are books and courses on self-development, self-improvement, and self-expression among many other self oriented focuses.

This fits well with our ingrained sense of individualism. The term expressive individualism captures the obsessive yet elusive search for the true self.

This is nothing new. It’s just a new spin on it all. It may appear new the past couple of centuries but Solomon reminds us there’s nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9).

The classic figurative language used in these three verses describe what defines and shapes us. Each verse flies in the face of what our surrounding culture says about self. Perhaps these few thoughts are keys to discovering the elusive but genuine self.

Benefits of honesty in relationships

Iron sharpens iron…that sounds harsh. What happens when iron strikes iron? Sparks fly with the clanging thud of metal against metal! And don’t get your fingers caught in between because that would hurt! Makes me cringe to think about it.

Who wants to be on the wrong side of conflict or confrontation? No one! Most all of us tend to avoid or resist such experiences—unless we’re searching for punishment or derive some strange satisfaction from it.

But the focus of iron sharpening iron is a beneficial and positive one. It is when we value honesty in our relationships. The benefit of honest conflict, correction, and counsel from someone we know and trust brings accountability, balance, and perspective in our life.

If we want real self-improvement in a way that benefits others and ourselves, we need people in our life whom we trust and appreciate because they’ll be honest with us—even when it makes us uncomfortable.

As our personhood develops in the way God intended—through healthy and honest relationships—our true identity will be evident to those who know us. When a person experiences inner transformation others will see it in their attitude and actions.

Who we are on the inside is seen by others on the outside—whether it’s good or bad. Other people notice whether or not our words and actions agree. They notice if the attitude of our heart doesn’t match the expression on our face and the words of our mouth.

The real test of a person is not how we handle criticism but praise from others. A person can ignore criticism and avoid conflict. But no one is indifferent to praise from others. How we handle it reveals our true self.

If we, as the saying goes, believe our own press releases—thinking everyone else says the same about us when we think well of ourselves—we set our self up for a fall.

Do we allow the praise of others to over inflate us with pride or resist and reject compliments and praise? Neither reaction is healthy for us. Both produce a false sense of identity.

If we are able to accept and appreciate the compliments of others, then set them aside to keep a good sense of perspective, we’ll be a healthier version of our self.

I need people in my life who care enough about me to be honest with me. People who will tell me how things are not how I want them to be.

I have had and now have people who keep me grounded in reality and I’m better for it. When I was pastoring on the west coast, I met regularly with two other friends. We knew each other well and called one another out when needed. We helped keep each other grounded in reality.

How about you? Do you have people in your life who sharpen you and help you see yourself in perspective with things as they really are?

Reflection—

Our personhood will develop the way God intended through healthy and honest relationships and our true identity will be evident to those who know us. We all need people in our life who care enough about us to be honest and keep us grounded.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself avoiding honesty in relationships, ask the Lord to show you why and how to benefit from those who care about you in a healthy way.

©Word-Strong_2019


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A Maligned Gift and Enduring Memorial

Photo thanks to–  http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/

I read two posts a while ago about kindness and it got me thinking how we may have differing personal views on kindness. This personal view involves our motives and intents—how and why we value kindness and perhaps what we consider as kindness.

A simple story found in three of the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, and John—reveals at least two different views on kindness. It also reveals the heart and character of two people—known for very different reasons.

I’ll give a synopsis of the story below but you can read it for yourself here—Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:2-8.

Photo thanks to– ifiwalkedwithjesus.com

Photo thanks to– ifiwalkedwithjesus.com

A story of two hearts

Following the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at the beginning of the week and before the Passover Feast, a woman named Mary comes to anoint Jesus with an expensive ointment as He reclines at a meal given in His honor.

Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead only a short while before this, reclined at the table with Jesus at the home of Simon the leper. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, is busy serving the guests as her sister Mary anoints Jesus with fragrant spikenard.

As the fragrance of the oil filled the room, it prompted a complaint and caused some dissension. Why the complaint? It was seen as a waste of money. Who complained? None other than Judas who would soon betray Jesus—the focus of this act of pure love.

Mary understood who Jesus was and expressed her love and devotion by sitting at the feet of Jesus as her sister Martha served. Once again, her devotion to Jesus caused some dissension. This time with her sister, Martha, who complained to Jesus about her workload because of Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

When Mary poured her oil on Jesus, it was an expression of love, a picture of true worship. It’s as if she poured her soul out to honor Jesus. It was true kindness.

The heart of Judas is also revealed—he was a greedy thief—he cared only for himself not for the poor (John 12:6). His concern had nothing to do with kindness. It was pure selfishness.

What a great contrast he is to Mary—Judas the betrayer and Mary the worshiper.

What a great contrast—Judas the betrayer and Mary the worshiper

Jesus made it clear what was most valuable—

She has done a beautiful thing to me…She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Mark 14:7, 8-9 NIV84)

Photo ©Lightstock.com

Photo ©Lightstock.com

Empty praise or a heart full of worship?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of the crowd shouting, Hosanna—oh save us—Son of David! It fulfilled an ancient prophecy (Zech 9:9) but was prophetic in its own right (Matt 21:1-11).

The crowd who honored Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem with shouts of triumph would cry out in just a few days, Crucify Him! How quickly things changed this final week of Jesus’ life on earth—from triumph to tragedy.

How could this happen? Why would it happen?

Yes, it was prophesied. And it also exposed the shallow expectations of one of Jesus’ followers and the depth of devotion of another.

Judas was rebuked for his selfish complaint—shamed by his greed and shallow commitment. He was part of the crowd who shouted, Hosanna! And his betrayal set in motion the cruel cries of hardened hearts to crucify the Lord.

Mary’s gift was accepted and honored by Jesus. It would become an enduring testimony of her love for Jesus—an act of worship and a prophetic preparation for the Lord’s burial.

What is of greatest value to you—wealth and good intentions or a heart of devotion?

As people celebrate Holy Week worldwide, many will express their worship and devotion for the Lord. So I ask, what do you have to offer Jesus?

What do you have to offer Jesus?

Empty palm branches and shouts? Or, will you pour your soul out to the Savior of the world?


Here’s another post related to Holy Week you might like to read— It’s Easter Time!

Hallelujah!

Devos & Studies in Psalms.png

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!

Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! [vss 1-2]

Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!

Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! [vss 3-6]

(Psalms 150:1-6 GW)


Hallelujah is universally known as an expression of praise. It literally means—Praise the LORD! The LORD—the Self-Existent and Eternal One. Our human desire and need for praise in some form are also universal. It's connected to the basic need of every soul who cries out for acceptance and approval— pure love.

Our pets demonstrate a similar need for attention and affection. Studies even show people with pets are usually happier because of the mutual care between the pet and their master.

However, an unintended but common consequence of the attention and affection shown to pets is the lack of showing the same to people, especially significant others.

The reason for this is complicated because relationships with people are complicated. Why? Because of the expectations we put on relationships and the inevitable disappointments and hurts resulting from unmet expectations.

Another inherent need is expressing praise not just receiving it. Something comes alive in us when we express genuine and heartfelt praise. It fills us with joy and contentment. As a parent and grandparent, I receive joy and love when I show my joy and love for my children and grandchildren.

Likewise, when I express my love and affection to my wife I enjoy a connection and fulfillment I miss out on when I keep my thoughts and words of love and affection inside, unexpressed.

Psalm 150, the final expression of praise in this collection of prayers and songs is a reminder we are all created for a greater purpose than what typically fills our life.

God breathed life into us. He sustains our life. He provided a means of knowing Him intimately and personally. When we praise Him in a genuine way, we experience a fulfillment and freedom not found anywhere else with anyone else on earth.

Only one word is adequate to express that sense of true fulfillment and freedom—Hallelujah!

Do you know or desire to know true fulfillment and freedom deep within your soul?

God—the Creator and Sustainer of all life—calls us into a universal chorus of praise with all creation to be expressed in many ways. Join in with your own Hallelujah!

©Word-Strong_2017


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I won't cover all 150 Psalms, but do selective devotionals through the rest of Psalms.

So if I skip one that you like... let me know and I'll try to cover it!

Pull Out All the Stops and Praise Him!

What is worship? It's a simple word but hard to adequately explain or describe. How is worship expressed? There are myriads of forms and ways for worship to be expressed, along with many opinions about it.

Our current English word worship originally came from the old English word—worth-ship—the realization and response to someone of great value, power, or who is worthy of respect.

Great, Compassionate and Good

Fame is fleeting. It does not last. Even notoriety fades quickly, especially in our day of instant media notifications—regardless if it's true or false.

As generations come and go, what was once great or sensational is forgotten. One of many reasons history repeats itself.