November 2012


Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.

Psalm 50: 14

 

No matter what we do or how much effort we put out in attempting to serve God, it is all of little importance if our hearts are not thankful. We can be continually engaged in doing good works and in churchy-type activities and still be doing it all in order to feel good or to appear righteous to other people. It is the internal attitude that matters most, and that attitude is formed out of an understanding of why we need to be thankful to God.

 

There is something about the act of thanking God that is beneficial. As we express our dependence and blessedness by thanking the Lord for who He is, for what He does, and for His amazing love, our hearts and minds become oriented to hearing and doing God’s will. Thanksgiving leads to freedom from my preconceived notions of what I should be engaged in and opens my mind to grasp the idea of embracing the things that will truly bring glory to God. Expressing my thanks to God places Him in the center of my focus and takes me out of that position, and that change in orientation leads to the sort of empowerment that sets true service into motion.

 

My prayer for this day is that my heart will stay in a continuous attitude of thankfulness to my Lord, that my mind will not drift away from that focus, and that everything that I do throughout this day will be engaged from a desire to bring glory to God. A thankful heart is at peace in even the most turbulent of times. Expressing thankful words brings out the joy that sorrow has concealed. Thanksgiving soothes the pain of grief and loss. Thoughts of thanks and praise lead us out of the world and into the throne room of God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, my Lord and King. Thank you.

 

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Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 9: 15

 

We receive many gifts from God. He grants them to us out of His great love and in response to our enormous neediness. There is no end to God’s generosity and awareness of our condition. The essential needs, wants, and aspirations of our lives are met through the Lord’s open-handed giving. This world where we live was designed and created with us in mind. I believe that each step in that great creative process involved the addition of another layer, an additional component and quality, to this life sustaining environment that we call Earth. It was into this perfect place that the Creator inserted His image-bearing masterworks and provided us with purpose and meaning for our lives in the responsibility that we were given for taking care of all of this world.

 

Yet, that is not enough. This large and all-encompassing responsibility is totally insufficient for us to have a true and abiding place and significance in this life. As we live in the brokenness of sin and the lostness of our separation from God our very best efforts at management, control, and real dominion over this earth will be frustrated and defeated in the end. Death will always have the last laugh, and people are faced with the prospect of an empty eternity to reflect on all that was lost. This is where God’s singular greatest gift matters. Although the rest of what God gives to us is amazing, fabulous, and near perfection; it is Christ alone that makes a real and a lasting difference.

 

In Christ, God gives us Himself. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we gain back that intimate and unceasing communion with God that the first people enjoyed before their disastrous disobedience. This is a gift that God determined to grant to us out of His gracious love and relentless desire to draw us into His presence. The gift of life that is found only in and through Christ is worthy of our most abundant expressions of thanksgiving and praise. In Christ all of the purpose and meaning that God granted to us in His design of our world is given its eternal focus and its true worth. Christ brings to us God’s gifts of reconciliation, justice, and peace and asks only that we give Him our thanks through obedient service.

And now we thank you, our God, and praise Your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29: 13

 

We all need to do what David has done as he was speaking the prayer that this line is a part of. It is important to reflect on the many ways that God has entered into our life and to consider the totality of His presence. Sure, we can usually get the big picture of God’s involvement with us, but the breadth, depth, and constant nature of it tends to get lost in the processes of engaging with our everyday existence. From time to time we should do what David is doing and take a good look at the longer view of our personal history.

 

As we do this we can allow God, Himself, to reveal to our minds the many times when He was the real actor in the events that took place. He can open our hearts to acceptance and appreciation of the ways that our Lord took charge and turned the events of the day from ones that were headed toward failure or disaster and how He worked in the forces of nature and in the lives of people to make the outcome one that brought peace, justice, and righteousness into the world. David could see that this was true for him through all of the times and seasons of his life. God had been involved in the lonely and dangerous times in the wild with his sheep, and He had gone before King David in all of the days of his reign. The same is true for each of us. Our Lord is present and engaged always!

 

As this reality of God’s faithfulness, power, and love sinks into the heart and stimulates the mind to see its wonder and uniqueness, the natural response is to express thanksgiving and praise to God. Whether it is done in public prayer or in the quiet of a moment alone, this singing out of our understanding and deep appreciation for who God is and for what He does in our lives should be a daily exercise. My experience is like David’s in that honest reflection on life leads to the inescapable conclusion that the course and outcome of it would have been very different without the involved presence of God. This is a continual fact that leads my heart to want to sing out with words that humbly express my deepest thanks to God.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.

John 15: 16

 

There is more than one way to view the total meaning and implication of this verse. However, regardless of your theology, I believe that there is an overarching truth to it that is common to all. It seems clear that God chooses us; we do not get to choose our God. There is one and only one God, and He is sovereign over every aspect of the universe. Out of that sovereignty and because of His desire to be engaged with people in a form of relationship that is voluntary and that we desire to be in, He does grant us humans the ability to accept or to reject Him. Still, God calls to us, and He has designed for each of us a purpose and plan for living in a manner that is productive for the sake of His Kingdom.

 

God does not call us into His holiness and grant us His righteousness in order for us to be superior and separated from our world. Rather, Christ performs His transformative work in us so that we would gain His ability to see sin as it is and to fearlessly engage it head on. He also grants us His wisdom and understanding to use in speaking God’s truth into the hearts and the minds of a desperately lost world. It is God’s truth, when delivered in a package of His grace and mercy, which brings justice, righteousness, and peace into the world. This is the fruit that Christ desires to see. He wants to view a great harvest of lives that are eternally changed and to smell the sweet aroma of an unending bounty of love, peace, and reconciliation.

 

This is a fruit that lasts. As it is deeply rooted and attached to its true source of life in Christ, it draws sustaining nourishment and growth producing understanding from the Spirit. This should lead us into living a life that is centered on the Father and on desiring to know and to follow His will. As God makes Himself known to us, we are called to serve Him in ways that He specially and uniquely gifts and equips us for. It is out of this profoundly intimate relationship with God through Christ that we are provided with the sort of wisdom and understanding which should lead us to seek out the Father’s calling for our lives. From this place of absolute trust we can fearlessly ask God to grant us His blessing upon the ways that we are seeking to join Christ in the tending of His vineyard.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.

1 John 5: 4

 

When faced with some form of obstacle, challenge, or difficult situation most of us take them on by relying upon our knowledge and our strength. After all, that is why we have put in the hours and years of hard work that developed those skills. Whether we are wired to enjoy, to tolerate, or to detest these times of conflict, people tend to respond to all that comes our way in much the same way. Yet, none of this wins a true victory. Everything that we do on our own will fall short, and far too often the price of these victories is devastating on ourselves and on others.

 

Certainty of winning is found only in following the Supreme Victor, Jesus Christ. Although Christ has shared with us images of the great struggles, battles, and wars that are coming during these times of His final returning, all of this turmoil is nothing more than the mopping-up action that comes after the Lord has already claimed His victory over Satan and the world. So, as we are in Christ, we too are literally victors. Yet, we are not just invited to join in the celebration or added on to the tail-end of a victory parade. What happens to us is much greater than any of that, for the fight is still going on and the conflict is fierce. Although we can rejoice in the reality of Christ in our lives and worship our God with all of our being, we are simultaneously engaged in battle. It is here, on the battlefield, that Christ makes the greatest difference in our lives.

 

Christ’s presence changes the essential character of the way that we engage with our enemy. In Him we gain the capacity to see the true nature of the attack, and we are prepared to counter its force and fury with tools and weapons that are effective. Although we may perceive that we are faced off against flesh and blood opponents, we are, in fact, engaged in a conflict that exists in the realm of the mystical. The forces that are aligned in opposition to us are quite visible to God, but they are thoroughly concealed from our view. We must rely upon God to reveal them, their true intent, and His plan for engaging with them. In order to do this one primary thing is required of us, we must have faith. The strength that will sustain us and the wisdom that we will require to stay true to God’s calling will be provided by Christ as we stay faithful to His Word, His Spirit’s leading, and the fellowship of His Body.

I am writing you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

1 John 2: 12

 

This statement reflects one of the most basic and foundational truths of the Christian life. So, it should seem so very simple for someone like me to accept it totally and not have any times of wavering from this simple expression of fact. Yet, my attitudes and actions can suggest something else. For, in fact, there are times when I start to think about what I need to do or what it is that I am not doing in order to be fully engaged in my walk with Christ. This list too often leads to thoughts about tasks and accomplishments instead of focusing me back onto the reality of my unchangeable position in the eyes of God and onto my Savior.

 

It would appear that since John wrote this to my spiritual forefathers about two thousand years ago, I am a part of a very long line of people who have struggled with the fact that there is absolutely nothing that I need to continue to do in order to have my sins forgiven. In accepting the grace, love, and sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, and allowing Him into my life, that forgiveness before God is finished. Therefore, everything that I do by way of serving God is done in thanks to Him and in order to bring glory, praise, and honor to Him.

 

In this idea, I find freedom, and through this thought, I find power. There is no need to be concerned over failure, no reason to be held down by doubt, and never a reason to believe that my efforts and actions are insufficient. As Christ paid the full price for my sinful nature, He has also freed me to engage loving Him by giving myself fully to serving the people that He loves so dearly. My sins are forgiven, what a wondrous joy! Now I am free of compulsion and set free to share the possibility of that same freedom with anyone who will listen.

 

Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Galatians 3: 9

 

Abraham was blessed by God in many ways, for he had a long, close, and very active relationship with God in which the Lord led Abraham to a land of promise, provided him with position and prominence in that new home, and gave him the greatest desire of his heart in the form of a family. Yet, greater than all of these blessings was the promise that God made to Abraham that he would be the starting point of a long line of followers of God.

 

Although Abraham was a dynamic leader who exhibited courage and wisdom, he was an astute manager of his business interests, and he was able to negotiate treaties and contracts to his advantage, the thing that he is remembered for is still his faith. Abraham trusted God, and he allowed that trust to grow under the continual influence of the Lord, too. He was also willing to accept the grace of God as a vital part of the blessings that he was receiving, for Abraham frequently put himself into situations where God needed to save him from himself.

 

Ultimately, the story of Abraham gets down to a very simple reality. It is one of continuing day after day to simply put one foot in front of the other with the confidence that trust brings in the assurance that God will provide a solid place for that foot to land. Even on the days when the swirling winds of uncertainty and fear are trying to obscure the path, I know, as did Abraham, that the Lord will take my hand and that the light of His glory will penetrate any darkness. In Christ we can have faith that we will come through the moment whole, with no real injury, and stronger from the experience. As we journey through this foreign land that is life in the world we can join with Abraham in enjoying the blessing of God that comes through faith in His perfect will and infinite grace and love.

 

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