Focus: The sacrifice of praise
Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
When God called me into ministry work, I still had a few addictions. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and cigarettes. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NKJV) says, For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
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I look back now and see how merciful God was in my early days of recovery. When He first started giving me songs, I could hardly play the guitar and I had pain in my chest when I sang. I’ll never forget how God actually started opening doors for me to share my testimony and songs when I was ‘barely’ clean and sober.
The process was gradual for me. It was several months before I could quit smoking completely. Sometime during that first year, I dumped my remaining drugs in the toilet. I can still see the capsules swirling as I flushed them. It was a huge step of faith for me. ‘Wine’ was the only thing left…and was working on cutting back. Just drinking wine was almost like not drinking at all, compared to how much hard stuff I had consumed daily—in addition to wine—for several years before I had the heart to consider quitting everything. Within a year—I was done with all of it.
I sang on my own for a year and a half and was pretty steadily booked in churches, bible study groups, fellowships, coffee houses, etc. One Sunday night I was at a church I attended frequently and saw a few teenagers perform a song on the stage. I was impressed with their ability. After the service, I asked if they might like to get together to try doing some of my music. I had just turned 28 and felt like a fossil compared to them. I was surprised they seemed excited. We met at my house a week or so later and had a great first session. I had a lot of bookings and started including the group whenever it worked out. We had an instant bond with each other. We spent almost as much time in prayer as we did playing, and I believe it was one of the reasons there was such a strong anointing on our ministry from the start. We prayed about a name and the only one that ever witnessed in my heart was, “The Sacrifice of Praise”.
God was regularly giving me songs—sometimes, more than one in a day. I usually got the words and music all at once. One day, a melody came to me without words. I was a little puzzled by that. I recorded the music so I could learn it. I listened to it a lot and a few days later, I got the words. “Sometimes I think it isn’t easy—to walk the Christian way. Sometimes darkness and confusion seem to block the light of day. And sometimes I think it isn’t easy that my hands unto heaven I must raise. That’s the time I learn the meaning of the sacrifice of praise. And when I see how Jesus loves me, then all my thoughts and fears grow dim—and I see I have it easy just to live my life for Him. Sometimes when things are going good, it’s easy to tell the Lord how grateful we are for all He’s done. Other times, when just everything in the world seems wrong are the times we have an opportunity to really grow. It’s true—God inhabits the praises of His people, but it seems that the deeper the pain—the closer He feels when we reach out and praise Him. Thank You Lord, so much. Thank You Lord, so much…Sometimes I think it isn’t easy that my hands unto heaven I must raise. That’s the time I learn the meaning of the sacrifice of praise.”
We worked on the song at our practice sessions but had never performed it. A few weeks later, we were doing a concert on a Sunday night. The group was at my house loading up the van with all our equipment. We liked to arrive where we were playing an hour and a half early so we’d have plenty of time to pray and set up. On that day, we were running late and I was concerned. A sixteen year-old friend of the group named Jeff Ballinger called and some of the band members were talking to him on the phone. He wanted to go with us. There was no way we could wait for him, so we agreed to meet him at a spot on the way and he would ride with us from there. I told them to tell him to ‘hurry up’. We got to the spot and waited and waited. After at least twenty minutes, I said we couldn’t wait wait anymore. We got to the church and had to wait longer because no one was there. After someone finally arrived, we rushed through our set up and did the concert. Jeff never came. Later that night a member of the band came to tell me Jeff had lost control of his car on the way. As the vehicle rolled over several times, he was thrown from the car and killed. I thought I would die, too.
The next day, his mother called and asked if we would sing at Jeff’s memorial service. I couldn’t imagine how I could do it—but I couldn’t say no. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I felt so responsible. His parents were incredibly merciful. Jeff had gone through a tough period of rebellion. His parents were grateful because our band had helped restore Jeff’s faith before he was killed. At the memorial service, God held us above our circumstances. I felt cradled in the palm of His hand. We sang, “The Sacrifice of Praise” for the first time.
At that vulnerable point in my recovery, it would have been easy to turn back. I chose not to.
Declaration: I will find new strength by trusting God to hold me above my circumstances when I can’t face the harshness of my reality. I will offer the sacrifice of praise, when praising God is the hardest thing to do—and He will get me through.
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All NEW STRENGTH posts are Copyright by Christina Cook Lee 2012. Please request permission to re-post or re-blog.