Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Prepared Heart

Leslie Basham: You need to have praise in your heart all the time, but it doesn’t have to just stay in your heart. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Are you opening your mouth? Are you opening your lips? Are you speaking, singing, telling the goodness and the greatness of the Lord?

Leslie: It’s Friday, November 24th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Your husband can show you love in all sorts of ways—by buying you gifts, working around the house, holding your hand. Yet sometimes, it’s nice to hear him just come out and say, “I love you.” When was the last time you opened your mouth to express love and praise to God? Here’s Nancy to help us consider that question.

Nancy: I had an unusual experience that turned into quite a blessing. A number of years ago, when I was traveling and I was spending the night in a friend’s home, these friends were also hosting a pastor and his wife from Nigeria. They were visiting here in the States, staying as guests in the same home.

We all went to bed. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a sound unlike anything I had ever heard before. In the bedroom next to mine, the Nigerian couple were signing. Now we’re talking the middle of the night. They were singing at the top of their lungs—I mean loudly—with a very heavy accent, slowly singing, “How Great Thou Art.”

I didn’t see them. I don’t know if they were standing up or upright in their beds or what they were doing. But they were singing together in the middle of the night, “How Great Thou Art” with this very thick accent.

That couple, who I had never met before and I have never seen since, illustrate a lot of important truths about praise. They were not spectators when it came to praise. They were right there, on the stage, actively participating in what is a great, eternal drama of praise—where we are called to be participants. They were performing for an audience of one—for God. They didn’t know anybody else was listening. Had they known, I don’t think they would have cared.

So many of us have a view different than that couple did; we see it differently. We think of praise as something that a praise band or praise team or a choir or a worship leader comes out on the stage on Sunday morning and he does the praise; he leads the praise. They do the praise. What happens to many of us? We sit back and become a spectator; we’re the audience.

But as God designed it, we’re to be the performers in this matter of praise. The audience has only one person in it—it’s God Himself. He is the One who is listening and loving and being blessed by our praise. Praise is first and foremost for God, not for us.

The purpose of praise is not to make you and me feel good. There are some blessings and some benefits we receive when we praise God biblically, but the primary purpose of praise is to bring Him blessing; to bring Him pleasure. We live in a very narcissistic, sensual culture. In that culture, praise and worship has become for many believers—now hear me when I say this—a sort of spiritual expression of what is really self-love, self-stimulation; making us feel good.

God says, “No, no, no. Praise is first and foremost for Me.” In the Old Testament, the book of Exodus chapter 30, God gave Moses a precise recipe—a very detailed recipe—for making the incense that was to be used in the worship in the tabernacle (verses 34-38).

Remember, we said earlier in the series that incense symbolizes our praise and our prayers going up to the Lord. Once God told Moses how to make this incense, He said, “It shall be holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves. Consider it holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people” (verses 37-38, paraphrased).

What’s God saying? “Praise is first and foremost for Me.” The purpose of praise is not to satisfy me, not to please me. When I’ve been to a praise service, the question shouldn’t be, “Do I leave feeling good?” The question when I leave is, “Have I praised and blessed the Lord? Have I ministered to Him?”

Now praise is to be both public and private. Both are important. Scripture talks about both. I think the picture that comes to mind here is a married couple who spend time together. Sometimes they spend time as a couple with their friends. They go out together, maybe with another couple or with their kids, and they enjoy each other’s company when they’re with others—and that’s good; that’s right.

But they also need time to be just together as a couple, to be away from others, to cultivate their relationship alone. They can display affection when they’re in public, but there’s an entirely different type of affection they can display when there’s no one else around.

The Scripture talks about times when we praise the Lord in the company of His people. Psalm 107, “Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people and praise Him in the counsel of the elders” (verse 32). Psalm 109, “In the great throng I will praise Him” (verse 30b). Psalm 108, “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples” (verse 3) Many, many other times through the Psalms in particular, you’ll find this matter of publicly praising the Lord.

But at other times praise is a private expression, a personal expression, of love between our hearts and our Beloved. I think of Daniel, in the Old Testament, who learned that a decree had been published that if you prayed to anyone other than the king, you would be thrown into a lion’s den. Now in English that means you’re dead.

The Scripture says, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day [as he had done previously] he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God” (6:10). A private, personal act of worship.

There’s a verse in the Psalms that’s been speaking to me as I’ve been working on this series. That is in Psalm 149 that says, “Let the saints be joyful in glory. Let them sing aloud on their beds” (verse 5, NKJV). Now that’s a picture of being private. You usually don’t have a crowd with you on your bed. I mean, that’s being alone.

He says, “Let them sing aloud.” I’ve been challenged, as I wake in the morning and as I go to sleep at night, to sing aloud to the Lord. I love singing to the Lord aloud when I’m with a group of people. But it’s a little different thing for me to speak and sing the praise of the Lord when I’m very alone. I’ve found that this is a precious time of expressing my love and my praise to the Lord.

Psalm 63, “My mouth will praise Thee with joyful lips, when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the watches of the night” (verses 5b-6). Well, praise is private, and it’s public—it’s to be both.

Then as we’ve said earlier, praise requires personal participation—it is not a spectator sport. That Nigerian couple in the bedroom next to mine in my friend’s home were participating in praise.

Let me just share with you something that’s been on my heart in relation to this area. In our day we have been blessed in many ways to have a lot of Christian music—CDs, tapes, and concerts. This has become a huge business. But it’s also, I think, subtly contributed to a spectator mindset about praise and worship.

It’s too easy to just slip the CD on the player or the tape or to go to the concert. All the lights go on the stage, the lights go off in the auditorium, and where are all our eyes? It’s on the performer. We sit back and watch and listen, when what God wants us to be doing is participating.

I think as Christians in our world, we’ve developed an addiction to being entertained: “You do it for me.” I’ve been discovering, as I’ve been working on developing a discipline of praise in my life recently, that it is hard work. It’s a lot easier for me to let somebody else do it for me. It’s harder to open my own mouth and find the words to express to God the praise that He deserves. It takes more discipline and more effort.

You look around a congregation during an average Sunday morning service and in most churches I suspect you’ll find a lot of people just standing there during the praise and worship time. What are they doing? They’re letting someone else praise and worship for them. I’m not saying they’re not following in their heart, but God wants us to not be lazy about praise. He wants us to enter into it ourselves.

The Psalms are a collection of a man’s personal response to God. You don’t find David saying, “Let me just put a CD on the player and listen to someone else praise You.” You hear him making his own songs of praise to the Lord.

Let me challenge you to do that. You may not be a songwriter—I’m not—and I’m not a singer that anybody would let sing in public at any rate. But I find at times I will just go to the Scripture and begin to sing the words of the Scripture to the Lord, making up my own tunes. Now, those tunes will never be published . . . I hope. They’ll never be in anybody’s top ten. But they might be in the Lord’s. I think He loves that—when we are not spectators but participants.

As we praise, remember that praise must be expressed outwardly. Praise is verbal or visible adoration of God. This is something that struck me over the last several days afresh as I was reading through the book of Psalms. I did the whole thing in about three or four days. But it struck me that praise must be expressed.

In the Psalms you don’t find silent praise; it’s verbal or it’s visible; it’s all the way through. “My tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:28). “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation” (40:9-10).

Psalm 51, David prays that great prayer of repentance and brokenness and humility. Then when he prays for God’s forgiveness, he says, “Oh Lord, after you delivered me from blood-guiltiness, after you forgive me of my sins, my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. Oh Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (14-15, paraphrased).

Before we get into the matter of how we praise and some of the biblical expressions of praise, I want to pause here and talk about the preparation for praise. Did you know that it takes preparation to praise the Lord properly? We’re talking here not about the “how-tos” of praise, but about the heart of praise. It takes a prepared heart to praise the Lord in a way that is worthy of Him.

You see, we learn from the Old Testament and then continuing in the New, that you and I do not have the right to just run into God’s presence, climb up on His lap and be intimate with Him. We don’t even have the right to look on God as we are. There are some things that have to take place before we can get into the presence of God to praise Him; before our praise can be acceptable to Him.

We’ve got to approach God on His terms; it has to be done His way. In fact, in the Scripture there are some rather frightening examples I think—and they should frighten us—of people who tried to do things that were considered a part of their praise or their worship, but they didn’t do it God’s way—they lost their lives.

Now mercifully, God doesn’t always strike people dead. In fact, He doesn’t normally strike people dead when they praise Him in a way that is not worthy of Him. But I think these few examples in the Scripture are a caution.

Remember when the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back to Judah and one of the men attending the Ark . . . The Ark never should have been on a cart in the first place. That wasn’t the way God said it was to be carried. So they already were violating God’s rules for worship. Then one of the men, maybe with good intentions—we don’t know what was in his heart—reached out to steady the Ark from falling when the oxen pulling the cart began to stumble. God struck the man, Uzzah, dead on the spot (see 2 Samuel 6:1-7).

One of the things that says to me is that God would rather have His Ark be in the dirt, sacred as it is, than He would want to have unholy hands touch the glory of His presence. You see, God takes worship very seriously.

There were two priests who learned that the hard way, Nadab and Abihu. Their father was Aaron, who was the first high priest of Israel. They knew a lot about the ways and the heart of God. But they went into the presence of God and offered a kind of incense that God had not ordained.

As you put the whole passage together, there in Leviticus chapter 10, it appears likely, many commentators say, that they were actually drunk. They had been drinking too much. They came into the presence of God and they treated His holy things lightly. God struck them dead (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Now we don’t like reading those kinds of passages. I’m so thankful that God does not act in that way every time my own heart is not right before Him. Every time I come to church and I’m going through the motions, singing the songs, praying the prayers, but my heart’s not in it. I’m insincere or hypocritical in my worship or not even thinking about what I’m doing. God is merciful.

If I want to praise God in a way that is worthy of Him, I must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God has said, “Here’s how you worship Me.” There’s no other way acceptable to God to worship Him.

There are two things that I want to point out as we think about preparing our hearts for worship. One is that we need to have a humble heart when we come into God’s presence, a heart that’s been emptied of self, a heart that is consumed with Him. A proud heart never will and never can praise God. If I’m consumed with myself, I’m going to be looking out for my own reputation, lifting myself up. I won’t be lifting God up with my heart.

In fact, wasn’t that Satan’s problem? His was a pride issue; an ego issue. He lifted himself up. He was set apart by God to be one of the worship leaders in heaven. If you’re involved in your church in leading worship—whether it’s in children’s Sunday school or youth group or in the worship service as part of a praise team or a choir—you have an incredible responsibility to make sure your heart is humble.

It is important that you are not trying to promote yourself or your voice or your abilities, but that you are seeking with a humble heart, to promote and to praise God. A heart needs to be humble, a heart that says, “Lord, I’m not worthy to come into Your presence. I come only in Your worthiness.”

Then the heart needs to be not only humble, but our hearts need to be holy as we come into God’s presence. Psalm 24 tells us, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol” (verses 3-4a, NIV).

I think most of us are familiar with that verse in Psalm 66 that says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” And we often use that verse to say if we come to God in prayer and we have unconfessed sin, that our unconfessed sin will be a hindrance to God hearing and answering our prayers. And I believe that’s true.

But notice the context of this verse in Psalm 66. Let me read the verse that precedes the one I just read. The psalmist says, “I cried to him with my mouth and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart [while I was trying to praise the Lord], the Lord would not have listened” (verse 18, ESV).

How many times do we stand up in church to sing, to pray, to give our offerings; coming before the Lord in our own personal quiet time to praise Him, and yet there are things about our hands and hearts that are not pure? If only we could have this—actually, I’m glad we can’t have—but imagine in our worship services that there could be this infrared red light that could search all our hearts and expose on a screen up at the front what is going on in our hearts while we’re singing praises to the Lord.

There’d be the person there who hasn’t spoken to her mother in four years; the woman who’s angry at her husband who’s sitting right next to her and there’s a wall a mile thick between them. The mom who yelled her head off at her kids on the way to church that morning; the woman who won’t talk to the other woman on the other side of the auditorium because there’s been a breech in their relationship; and the mom who’s carrying on an emotional or even a physical affair with a man at work or a man who’s sitting in the same auditorium at church.

You say, “No way.” Absolutely. I would wager that in almost every worship service—church service—that you and I could go into across this land, these are the kinds of things that as God sees. God knows all about them while we’re trying to worship Him, or we act like we are—this is what we’re covering. God says, “No. That’s not acceptable to Me.”

How do we get acceptable? There’s only one way to come into His presence. That’s the way they learned first in the Old Testament—a sacrifice has to be made. Blood has to be shed. Cain and Abel learned that. Cain brought a sacrifice from the work of the fields, the work of his own hands—his crops, his vegetables and fruits; it was his own doing. God said, “That offering is not acceptable to Me.”

Which offering was acceptable? Abel’s offering. He brought a lamb from his flock. He didn’t understand why it was acceptable and why Cain’s offering wasn’t, but we know now as we read the Scripture that in order for our sacrifices and offerings to be acceptable to God, including our praise, there has to be blood shed (Genesis 4:1-7).

Year after year in the temple worship and in the tabernacle through the Old Testament, what did all that slaughtering of lambs and oxen and bulls mean? It was a picture that was fulfilled when we came to the New Covenant, when Jesus went to Calvary and He shed His blood as a sinless Lamb of God—dying in our place.

The book of Hebrews tells us, “You can come boldly into the presence of God, to praise him continually through Jesus Christ” (9:11-28, paraphrased).

As you come into His presence today, as you prepare for worship next Sunday, do you have a humble heart? Do you have a holy heart?

Before you come to praise, come to the Lord and say, “Oh Lord Jesus, I know I can never come into God’s presence on my own. My hands are dirty. My heart is wicked. But You paid the price. You paid the sacrifice. You shed the blood. Right now, again by faith, I claim that the price has been paid and that I may come into God’s presence boldly to worship, and to praise with clean hands and a pure heart because a sacrifice has been made.”

Through Him, through Jesus Christ, then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God—that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminding us that we are unworthy worshipers apart from the blood of Christ. Doesn’t the knowledge of Jesus’ great act of love make you want to praise Him even more?

Well, if you’re ready to move into a new season of praise in your own life, we’d like to help you. We highly recommend a book by Ruth Myers called, Thirty One Days of Praise. If you don’t know how to get started, this little but powerful book will help lead you in praising God every day for 31 days. It’ll point out Scriptures to help you understand praise more fully.

Find out how to order your copy at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can find out more information about how to help this ministry continue to speak to the hearts of women during a crucial time for us. Here’s Nancy to explain more.

Nancy: It is an important time and an exciting time as well. You may recall, that last year at this time friends of the ministry offered to match one dollar for every dollar that was given to Revive Our Hearts at the year’s end.

It was so encouraging to see such broad participation in this challenge, from married couples and singles and widows and even some children. I’m trusting that again this year the Lord will prompt many of our listeners to partner with us because once again, some friends who believe in this ministry have agreed to match every dollar given up to $175,000.

That generous commitment, along with the partnership of friends like you, will make it possible for Revive Our Hearts to continue reaching into the hearts and homes of women throughout the year ahead.

Would you pray and ask the Lord to help us be able to meet this year’s matching challenge? Would you ask Him if He wants you to have a part in helping to meet this year’s need?

Leslie: To help us meet this matching challenge, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Does it matter whether you sit, stand, or kneel during worship? Nancy will explore that when we’re back on Monday. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

Scriptures used were taken from the NIV and the NKJV.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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