"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week 19: Offer a Sacrifice of Praise

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise---the fruit of lips that confess his name." Hebrews 13:15

I was in Alaska last week for work. I had reserved the "praise" command to coincide with the trip. I imagined myself surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterfalls, being inspired by the glory of the creation to praise the Creator. I was set to leave St. Louis early on Monday and was due to be in Alaska by early evening surrounded by scenic wonders and praising my heart out.

Things didn't go as planned. My scheduled flight was cancelled. I didn't arrive in Alaska until almost midnight, and the flight the airline gave me turned out to be a nightmare. The first leg was St. Louis to Detroit, scheduled to depart at 3:30 pm. We boarded on time but sat on the runway until almost 5 pm so that we arrived late in Detroit forcing me to sprint to make my connection. Then we sat on the runway in Detroit for over an hour before taking off. On the flight from Detroit to Anchorage, I was seated directly in front of a couple with a sick and constantly barking dog that pooped on itself about one-hour into the six-hour flight. Who brings a sick dog on an airplane? The smell caused somebody nearby to get sick and throw-up. For the next five hours, my plane-mates and I were subjected to a barking dog and the re-circulated odor of dog poop and throw-up. I had started the day with a pinched nerve in my neck, and it felt more and more painful as the day went on.

About three hours into the Detroit to Anchorage leg, God reminded me that my assignment for the week was to "continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise." I prayed one of those really transcendent spiritual prayers. Something like: "Really, God? My neck is killing me. I'm tired and uncomfortable. I'd like nothing more than to open the emergency hatch and kick that dog off the plane, and I'm supposed to offer you praise right now? What is this---cosmic candid camera?" And, then, I started really thinking about my assignment.

The command to praise "continually" comes from the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews was written to a people that had suffered. They had been insulted and persecuted. They had been robbed of their possessions. Hebrews 10:32-39. And still, they had endured and kept confidence in God. God commanded these people to continually offer to Him a sacrifice of praise. God doesn't want praise that is conditioned on our comfort or circumstances. God is always a good Father, and He's always good to us. He's there in the midst of hardship, using it to discipline and mature us. Just one chapter before giving the command to praise continually, the author of Hebrews says: "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his Father? . . . God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." Hebrews 12:7, 10.

God is the same good Father whether we are comfortably driving down a beautiful scenic mountain road listening to worship music (like I was on Tuesday morning) or stuffed into a too small airplane seat for six hours with a stiff neck and a stinkin' dog in the next seat. In the midst of that awful flight, God reminded me that He was still sovereign and in control of my circumstances. It's not that we're supposed to praise God despite difficult circumstances. We don't go through life with blinders on trying to ignore the hardships. In a misguided effort to give God a pass on the difficulties that we face, we should never suppose that God is passive and uninvolved in every aspect of our lives. Rather, we're supposed to praise Him in the midst of difficult circumstances, understanding that God is still in control and that He is using all things for our good to make us more like Jesus. Romans 8:28-29. When I was on that flight, God wasn't just sitting back passively watching me suffer. He was there, using a bit of minor short-lived hardship to teach me and to impress upon my heart something profound. That is worth praising God about, and I do thank Him and praise Him for an important lesson so easily learned.

I did finally make it to Alaska. I had a very nice day sight seeing on Tuesday, and the trip home went very smoothly. Thank God! Here are a few pictures from the trip.


The morning after "the flight," I had breakfast at the Snow City cafe. The omelet was truly praiseworthy!

Anchorage is surrounded by ocean and mountains, so it doesn't take much driving to see some spectacular scenery. My sight-seeing day was overcast, but Alaska was still amazing. I don't have the talent or the camera to capture the beauty of it, but here are some pictures of those snowy mountains.

Here is a ferocious bear. He lives at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center.

Dasher and dancer.


  1. Sounds like quite a trip! And, for the record, you got much, much closer to a bear than we did. But we didn't have the luxury of a fence in our experience ... :)

    The mountains are beautiful. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to get out in nature.

    Great insights. Interesting that the writer of Hebrews used the words, "sacrifice of praise". It took quite a bit of work to make a sacrifice - selecting the appropriate animal, preparing the animal and yourself, and then killing it, and then cleaning up. Not just the "easy" worship song that I often think of (in fact, there's an old worship song that says, "We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Loooord!" that is playing through my head right now"). Worship takes effort and focus. But, as Ben said last week, if God gives us a command, he gives us a way to obey it. "Fruit of the lips that confess his name" - what a beautiful thing!

  2. That bear had crazy eyes. And he was much bigger in person than he appears in the picture. I'm sure he could have come right through that fence if we wanted to.

  3. Not sure if I like the fact that you can successfully mix humor, wit, and Jesus in riveting story-telling because it reminds me of Brian or because you are just that good at it. But I like it. You have me chuckling and "thinking" at the same time.

  4. Great post, Nathan! I so agree about worship being a lifestyle of recognizing God is God and we are not. It is true whether or not I always want to admit it! Glad you arrived safely and had a good trip. I'm sure Christina is very glad to have your last few trips done with before this baby arrives!