Support us on Paypal

James Merritt - Shout Out

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Shop
    James Merritt - Shout Out
TOPICS: Praise

Brought a copy of your Bible, I'd invite you to turn to Psalm 147, and if you don't know where the Psalms are, right in the middle. Any Bible, pick it up, Psalms, right in the middle. And if you wanna look on your phone or pad or whatever it is, we're gonna be looking today at the 147th Psalm. If you're joining us today for the first time in a while, we've been doing a series that we called "Music to My Ears," because I really do believe that God loves music, and I really do believe that God put these psalms to music because he doesn't just want us to look at them with our eyes. He wants us to listen to them with our heart, and this psalm is one of the greatest. Talks about one of the greatest ways we can relate to God.

As a matter of fact, it's all about the key to entering into the presence of God, and that key is praise. Now, I'm gonna tell ya something I learned in studying for this message. I never knew before, and I bet you would never guessed it, there's a lot more emphasis on praise in the Bible than there is prayer. The Bible talks a lot more about praise than it does prayer. Now, you may think, "Wait a minute. Time out. Praise is prayer". Well, not exactly because, at least the way we think of it, whenever we pray, the primary purpose of prayer, in our mind, is to get something from God, so 95% of the time when we pray, we need something, we want something, we gotta have something, we lack something, so 95% of the time, maybe 99% of the time when we pray, it's because we need God to do something. We need God to give us something. We need God to come through.

So, when we pray, we're wanting God to give something to us, but the purpose of praise is not to get something from God. It is to give something to God, and that's why, frankly, most of us spend a lot more time in prayer than we do in praise because, a lot more time, when we come to God, it's not because we're giving God anything. It's because we need God to give something to us. So put it this way: prayer is when you shout up to God, and you say, "Hey, God, I need you to do something. I need you to give me something. I want something from you". Praise is when you shout out to God, and you say, "God, I don't really want anything from you. I want to give something to you".

Now, even in our relationship to God, the verse in the Bible that says, "It's more blessed to give than to receive" is still true. Even in our relationship to God, it really is more blessed to give than it is to receive, and what I want you to see this morning is what this psalmwriter tells us are four things that we give to God every time we praise God, and I wanna encourage you to do something that I've done many, many years. I actually spend a lot more time praising God than I do praying to God, and it's not just because the Bible emphasizes that. Let me tell you something I've learned. You may be sitting there, and you may be sayin', "Well, you know, I understand that, and I get that, but, I mean, quite frankly, I've got a lot of needs in my life. I need God. I've got a financial need. I've got a marital need. I've got a need with my kids. I've got a health need, and I need God to come through for me".

Let me kind of give you a word of advice. If you will spend the time you ought to spend praising God and giving God what you could give to God, he'll make sure he gives you what you need. Don't worry about that. As a matter of fact, Jesus said you don't even have to tell God what you need. He already knows what you need before you tell him. He's got that covered. He is more interested, frankly, in what you give to him than what he gives to you because, when you give to him, what you ought to be giving to him, you put yourself in a position for him to give you what he needs to give to you, and what I've learned in my life is when I spend time, and I do every morning when I get up, when I spend time just praising God and just blessing God, I just know in my heart, "You know, Lord, you are always gonna give me what I need," and many times, I've learned he's already given me what I need.

So, number one, when I praise, I give God pleasure. When I praise, I give God pleasure. Now, notice how the psalmwriter begins. He says this: "Praise the Lord". All right, let's say that together. Ready? "Praise the Lord". Let's say it again: "Praise the Lord". All right, "Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him". Now, the three words in English, "Praise the Lord," that's one word in Hebrew. Who knows what that word is? Anybody? It starts with an "H". "Hallelujah". All right, so every time you see those three words, one word in Hebrew, it is "hallelujah".

Now, that's not only an exclamation. That is a command. In other words, we're not just requested to praise God. We're not just suggested to praise God. We are commanded to praise God. Praise is not something that we can do, or we might do, or we could do. Praise is something that we should do, must do, and we ought to do, why? The psalmist says because it is "pleasant" and it is "fitting". All right, number one, it's pleasant. What does that mean? Well, it pleases God. That's why it's pleasant. It brings pleasure to God. I mean, it does for us, right? If somebody praises us for something, you know, I know, you know, we try to act humble, right? You know, somebody say, "You know, that was a great meal that you cooked," or "That was a great thing that you did," or "Oh, Pastor, that was a great sermon you preached".

You know, what do we try to do? We try to do, I call it the "Aw, shucks," you know, "Really? Nah," you know. But, you know what? We love it. I mean, I would much rather you come to me after service and say, "Pastor, that was a great message," than for you to come to me like one lady did, not long ago, and said, "You know, you'll never know how much your messages have meant to my husband since he lost his mind". I would much rather you praise me than say something like that, and, you know, it brings pleasure to all of us. Well, listen, God is no different. When we praise God, it pleases him, but the psalmist says it's not just pleasant. He said it is "fitting".

Now, let me ask you a question: why is praise fitting? What does the psalmist mean by that? He says it's fitting, it's proper, it's the right thing to do. All right, I want you to learn somethin'. When we praise God, two things happen: we put God where he belongs, and we put us where we belong because, too often, we kind of swap places. Let me explain what I mean by that. If you read this psalm, 22 times it refers to God. This psalm focuses on God. The focus is all on him. It maximizes God. It minimizes us, and that's exactly what praise does. When you praise God, all of a sudden, you put all the focus on God. You put the spotlight on God. You put God at the center of attention. In other words, when you praise God, it forces you to forget about you, and it forces you to focus on God.

Now, let me tell you why this is so practical. It's not just spiritual. Spiritual is very practical. Praise will keep you out of trouble. Second thing he says is this. He says, "When I praise, I honor God's power". I don't just give him pleasure. I honor his power. Now, the verse we're about to read is one of the most unbelievably tremendous incredible testimonies to the power of God you'll read anywhere in any book you ever pick up. I want you to listen to what he says: "He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name". "He determines the numbers of the stars, and he calls each by name".

Every time I read that verse, I think back to about 18 years ago. I was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I was on a mission trip, and I was in the African country of Zambia, and I met a missionary there, and we took a boat ride up the Zambezi River for about two hours, and we're literally in the African bush. I mean, Tarzan, gorillas, elephants, you know, the whole nine yards, right? We're in the African bush. And so we were sleepin'. We had a big ole tent. There were four of us sleepin' under the tent, and so, about the middle of the night, I woke up and couldn't sleep and thought I'd just step outside, and I stepped outside. I'm gon' tell you, it literally took my breath away. I have never seen so many stars in my life, and I was so excited, I woke everybody up. I couldn't help it. I just woke everybody up.

I mean, you got... of course, the missionary had seen it a hundred times before, right? But I said, "Man, you gotta see this". And so, well, they all stepped outside. You know, they were all, like, except him, and he said, "James," he said, "takes your breath away, doesn't it"? I said, "Yeah," I said, "man, where did all those stars come from"? He said, "Well, the problem is," he said, "you live in a country that has pollution. There's no pollution out here in the middle of the African bush. It's very clean". So he said, "You're actually seeing the stars that are really up there," and it looked like people, somebody just takin' buckets of stars.

I mean, it was like the Fox Theatre on steroids, okay? I mean, it's just like all these stars, I couldn't, I mean, I absolutely could not get over it, and I had no idea I wasn't even seeing nearly what I thought I was seeing because I learned later on that, without a telescope, the naked eye, at most, can only see about 3,000 stars, and that's probably what I was looking at, about 3,000 stars, yet scientists now estimate that there are somewhere around 70 trillion stars in the universe. That is 70 million million million stars, or let me put it to you this way. That's how many stars, and that's almost the national debt, by the way, but that's how many stars there are up there in the universe. To put it in perspective, take all the grains of sand on planet earth and multiply by ten, and that's how many stars there are in the universe, and the psalmist says God's not only counted them all, God has named them all.

I got four grandchildren I can't even keep straight, and God says, "I've named every single star," so no wonder the psalm goes on to say this: "Great is our Lord and mighty in power". Now, watch this: "His understanding has no limit". So, I would suggest, the next time we get too full of ourselves or we think we might know more than God knows or maybe we think God could use our advice, we ought to just go outside, just look up. Just go outside and just look up. Listen, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein are Forrest Gumps compared to God. "His understanding has no limit". That ought to put every problem that you think you have into perspective because think about this: if you took all the brilliance of all the brilliant people who have ever lived on this planet and put them in one brain, that one brain still couldn't even explain electricity. Still doesn't even understand electricity, and, yet we're told God's understanding is unlimited.

See, my understanding is unlimited by what I know. I can only understand what I know, and even some things I know, I don't understand, but God's understanding is unlimited because he knows everything. God has yet to meet a problem that he can't solve, but, listen, it gets better than that. Why is the psalmist telling us about how great and how mighty and how powerful our God is? His point is not just that God's power is to show us how great God is. He said, "I want you to know how much, how powerful God is because of how much God cares," because listen now what he says down in verse 6. He said, "The Lord", now, this is the Lord that's named all the stars. This is the Lord that's numbered all the stars. He says, "This Lord sustains the humble, but he casts the wicked to the ground".

And what the psalmist is singing and saying is this: when you think about this God that is so great that he just spoke and a universe came into existence, that he has literally numbered and named every star, yet he still has the time to sustain the humble. He still cares for the weak. He's still concerned with everything that concerns us. When we stumble, he steadies us. When we fall, he lifts us. When we cry, he comforts us. This great awesome mighty God cares about little ole me and little ole you. That in itself ought to make us just break out into praise for the great God that we serve. So the psalmist says, you know, "When I praise, I give God blessing, and when I praise, I recount God's provision. I give God pleasure, and, you know, and then I honor God's power". Then he says, "When I praise, I recognize God's provision". "I recognize God's provision".

Now, the psalmist adds an element to our praise. Listen to what he says. He says, "Sing to the Lord", and I've never seen this before, "with grateful praise". You know, there's more than one kind of praise. He says, "Sing to the Lord with grateful praise. Make music to our God on the harp". Now, I love that phrase, "grateful praise". I've never seen it before, and I thought, "Okay, why does he say, 'grateful praise'"? And then I realized because praise and thanksgiving always go together. I mean, they always go together. Thanksgiving will always lead to praise, and praise will always lead to thanksgiving. When you praise God for who he is, you will then thank God for what he's done, and when you thank God for what he has done, you will praise God for who he is.

You cannot praise God and be ungrateful, and you cannot be grateful and not praise God. They always go together, but that raises a question: why should I be grateful in my praise? Why should I not just praise God? Why should I praise God in a thankful, grateful way? Well, he tells us in verse 8, because "He covers the sky with clouds. He supplies the earth with rain. He makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call".

Now, if there's no other verse in the Bible that said that, I want you to think about this. Talk about a 21st century truth, God is the God of climate control, and God is the God of animal care. He forms the clouds. He brings the rain. He grows the grass. He sustains the birds. He feeds the beasts of the field, which, oh, by the way, which is why, as followers of Jesus and Christians, every one of us ought to be committed to creation care. That is not a political issue. That is not a Democrat issue. That's not a Republican issue. That is a spiritual issue. This world is not ours. We were loaned this earth. We were loaned this planet, and we should all be committed to creation care. We should all be committed to treating animals well because we don't own this world.

God owns this world, and God has given us this world to take special care of the world that he has given us, but, by the way, did you...what the psalmist just said about all this life, when you read that verse of Scripture, automatically, I know something else about this great God that I praise. All life is valuable to God. All life is valuable to God. Now, listen carefully: God does not value all life equally. He does value all life consistently. There's no comparison between plant life and animal life and human life. Now, all life is important to God because he created life. He's the one who sustains life, but we make a big mistake. Don't listen, I'm just gonna be, let me just put it this way: the snail darter is not nearly as important to God as an unborn baby.

Now, let that kind of hover there a little bit. That makes you mad, apologize. I'll forgive you. All of life is important to God, but it is not all equally important. As a matter of fact, he sustains animal life, and he sustains plant life so that human life can be sustained. That's why we ought to praise God not only because we live in this world, we ought to praise God because of the world that we live in. I mean, frankly, I've had in my own life, I'll be honest with you. One of the hardest things for me to do, even to this day, is to be thankful for rainy days.

How many of you remember the song, I think it's the Carpenters sang "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down"? Forget Mondays. Rainy days always get me down. I mean, always. I don't care how much we need it. I never, ever like rainy days, and I especially don't like rainy days on Friday because I play golf on Friday. If I could pass a law and I knew God would make it stick, it would rain on Friday. It could rain on Saturday, and I don't...well, now, Saturdays, that's football.

Now, Sunday is church, and I could probably think about every reason why it should never rain, but that's just me. But my point is we ought to be thankful for rainy days because it is the beginning, the psalmist says, of the food chain process that keeps us all alive, which brings me to this: of all the people, the seven billion people that live on this planet, we, more than anybody, ought to be praising God for his bountiful, generous provision for us. But then he says one last thing. He says, "When I praise, I acknowledge God's protection".

Now, I want you to watch this. I've never seen this before. God doesn't just delight in the praise of his people. God delights in the people who praise him 'cause he says in verse 11, "The Lord delights in those who fear him". What a blessing that is: "The Lord takes delight in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love". When God looks at me and he says, "I see that you have that reverential fear for me, and I see that you put your hope, no matter what else is goin' on the world, I see that you put your hope in my unfailing love," God says, "man, I take delight in that". But then he goes further. He shows us on a daily basis, by providing us with his protection that gives us peace, now, listen to what he says, beginning in verse 13: "He strengthens the bars of your gates. He blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat. He sends his command to the earth. His word runs swiftly".

Now, the psalmwriter is so fired up about what God does and how God provides, he lists four things that God does for us, and I'll tell ya why I believe he listed them. We don't even think about it, we don't even really pay any attention to it, we don't even realize it, but listen to what he says. He says there's four things on a daily basis. First of all, he strengthens the bars of our gates. How does he do that? He provides legislators who pass laws to protect our liberties. He provides judges to see that those liberties are enforced. He said, number two, "He blesses the people within that city".

Now, the Hebrew word for "people" there literally means "children". He blesses the children within that city. How does he bless our children? Through the unselfish work of teachers who educate them... by the way, how many of you are schoolteachers? Hold your hand up if you're a school... hey, we thank God for you. We really do thank God for what you do for our kids. But he provides teachers to educate them, doctors who care for them, parents who love them. Then he says this: he gives peace to our borders. How does he do that? He gives us policemen who guard our communities, soldiers who guard our nation, laws that bring the guilty to justice, and then he says, finally, he satisfies us with the finest of wheat. How does he do that today? Farmers, factory workers, grocery stores, restaurants. He says, "Look, all of these things come from hand of God that we should give a shout out to every day in every way".

So I'm gonna wrap this up. I wanna take you back over 200 years ago to a president. His name was Thomas Jefferson. Some of the greatest words that Thomas Jefferson ever wrote were these words, and they're so applicable to where we are today. He said, "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God"? So true, so right, and I realize, to more and more people, it doesn't mean a whole lot, and I realize that more and more people are offended by it. I personally think one of the greatest things this nation ever did is when we put in our currency, "In God We Trust".

There's no other country in the world that has that on their currently, no other country in the world that has that, and I realize it can be just words. I get all of that. But Thomas Jefferson was right. The only thing that secures our freedom and our liberty at the end, don't fool yourself. It's not on nuclear arsenal, it's not our Army, it's not the Air Force, it's not the Marines, it's not the Navy. And thank God for the military, that's not my point. At the end of the day, it's not the might of the missile, it is not the strength of the soldier. It is the security of the God in whom we trust that gives us our liberties on a daily basis.

And, see, that's what praise does. Praise reminds us everything I have is yours. It comes from you. Everything I am is yours and come from you. Everything I am and ever will hope to be, it begins and ends with the God that did it all, and it is this God who, if he had not done anything else at all, deserves our everlasting praise on a daily basis because he is the God who sent his everlasting Son to die on a cross and come back from the dead that we might have everlasting life. And for no other reason, just that one reason alone, how we ought to, just, every day just spend time praising God because, listen, I'm gon' wrap up, and I'm done. Everything we have, even our very existence, is by the grace of God. Everything we do is enabled by the greatness of God. Every breath we take, every freedom we enjoy comes from the goodness of God, and that's why we ought to begin every day and we ought to end every day and we ought to spend every day shouting out praise to the God from whom all blessings flow.
Are you Human?:*