Do Not Forget His Benefits…

Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—

Our Verse of the Day has stirred my heart this morning. I cannot think of a better starting point for intimacy than PRAISE. Our Lord Jesus is worthy of all praise! Yes, with my inmost being, I will praise His holy name and remember His lovingkindness towards me. And with praise comes thanksgiving and a time of prayer … a time of solitude in the quiet place where there are only two voices. Indeed, for me, there is no better time than when I first awake in the morning to be alone with God … to read His Word and to let His presence breathe life and light into my soul. “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Cf. Psalm 63:1)

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 for He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His Kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His Word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

I love the opening verses of this Psalm … and I love its message: Praise the Lord and do not forget all of His benefits! It reminds me of a similar verse which reads: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah (Psalm 68:19 – NKJV)

All too easily, I think, we can slip into complacency and take for granted all of the benefits and blessings God has given us to enjoy. We can readily forget God’s everlasting faithfulness and His covenant of love which He remembers for a thousand generations. (Cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15) And so the David recognizes that praise and worship are always in order … and he reminds us to never forget the gracious and merciful love of God. As I pondered on this reminder, I reviewed some passages that its writers determined were crucial to not forget:

Deuteronomy 4:5-6; 9-10 (NIV)

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, “Assemble the people before Me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Deuteronomy 8:10-14 (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

2 Kings 17:35-39 (NIV)

35 When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, He commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the One you must worship. To Him you shall bow down and to Him offer sacrifices. 37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands He wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

Psalm 78:1-8 (NIV)

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.

I’ll stop there with these Old Testament passages for us to consider. The theme I keep reading is do not forget the deeds of God on behalf of His people nor forget to observe the commands of God in order to enjoy the life He intends for us. Further, I see the obligation to recount the deeds of God and to teach His commandments to our children and to their children so that “they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.” So, I think we should be diligent to read and know for ourselves all the counsel of God’s Word in order to live it and to share it with generations to come. It is the deeds of God that demonstrate His power and sovereignty – His worthiness of honor and worship. And it is through our obedience to His commands that we demonstrate our reverence and love for God.

Yet, I feel like “do not forget” is a negative approach to fellowship with God. To me, it speaks of a passive faith … an “afterthought” faith. If we are diligent in our reading of the Bible and prayer time, then our intimacy with God should cause us to “remember” His deeds, His covenant, and His benefits as an active, integral part of our relationship. We would be ever mindful of His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His grace, love, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness. In fact, when I switched my concordance search to the word “remember” I discovered a call to exercise my faith in a more proactive manner:

Exodus 20:8

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.

Numbers 15:39

Remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.

Deuteronomy 8:18

Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 15:15

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today (to be generous).

1 Chronicles 16:12

Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced….

Psalm 77:11

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Psalm 119:52

I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Isaiah 46:9

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Lamentations 3:19-23

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Timothy 2:8

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

Hebrews 10:32

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.

Hebrews 13:1-2

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Remember to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:7

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

James 5:20

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:17-18

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”

Revelation 3:3

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

I realize that I have been exhaustive with these verses of “remembrance”; but I wanted to make a point for myself and to share it as well. There is so much to remember in our walk with the Lord Jesus; and I think that draws attention to the necessity of intimacy with Him. We must be actively engaged; fruitfully abiding in the Lord … if we want to see the harvest of faith that He desires to produce in us. We all need constant reminders … daily encounters with the Lord to stay focused. We need to hear His still, small voice amidst the noise of life … and that requires a time of quiet and purposed silence if we are to remember who we are in Christ … if we are to receive instruction, wisdom, and power to accomplish the good works which God prepared for us to do.

So, I encourage each of us to “remember” to spend purposeful time with God each day … both alone and in community with fellow believers. Let this be our resolve as we enter the new year. I firmly believe that God is calling us to greater intimacy with Him … not only to receive His “benefits” but to share these blessings with the lost sheep of this world. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. As His heart, hands, and feet in this world … we are commissioned make that happen. Let’s get to work!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Changed Direction…

Luke 2:1, 4-5 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

Our Verse of the Day addresses a change of circumstances in the Advent Story that served to fulfill the prophetic words of Micah surrounding the location for the birth of the Messiah.  Micah 5:2 foretold: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Let’s read the narrative Luke provided for the nativity…

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV) ~ The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be bornand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

I love to imagine the scenes of this story unfolding and sensing the disruptive circumstances placed on the young expecting couple.  I admire them for their faith, their obedience, and their trust in God throughout the entire ordeal – thrust upon them at the most inopportune time. I wonder if they knew it had to be this way – that the birth of their son had to occur at “the set place.” Did they consider the prophecies of scripture as they packed their belongings for the journey south to the City of David? Were they excited about how God had orchestrated these events according to His will? It really is hard to imagine if they understood the significance of this turn in the road … their lack of resources to make the journey … and Mary so close to delivery. I feel so humbled when I think of them … the hardships they endured. Yet, I somehow believe they were so close to God in those circumstances and felt a great peace within themselves.  Somehow, they knew in their hearts the sovereignty of God was trustworthy. Perhaps Mary recalled the what the Angel Gabriel had spoken to her: “No word from God will ever fail.” (Cf. Luke 1:37)

Yes, Jesus arrived! His advent is sure and well documented. And we know on this side of history all that transpired in His life … the purpose for which He was sent by God … and His final words: “It is finished….” (Cf. John 19:30) His birth … His life … His resurrection … changed the course of human destiny forever. And it happened because Mary said, “Yes.” She responded to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Likewise, Joseph said, “Yes.” “He did what the Angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Cf. Matthew 1:24) The plan of salvation ordained before the foundation of the world continued to unfold because of their obedience and faith! And I believe we have been called to follow their example … to walk in their footsteps. Yes, I believe the Father desires each one of us to respond “Yes” to His Son, Jesus! As Jesus affirmed, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Then, we are to follow Him. As Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) Oh, what great lessons we continue to find in the Christmas Story!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Give Praise to the Lord…

1 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

Inherent with giving thanks to God is the offering of praise to Him as the expression of our gratitude! And we can do so in two ways: vertically and horizontally. While I think, for the most part, we are comfortable to express our praise directly to God during individual prayer time, or perhaps, during corporate worship; I believe where we might not feel so “bold” is sharing our thanks and praise in front of other people outside of family or church. Our Verse of the Day encourages us to “proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” This level of exaltation goes beyond our homes and our local assembly. We are to declare the life of God within His people to everyone … everywhere. Let’s look at this verse in the immediate context when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent (Tabernacle); offered sacrifices; and appointed congregational worship leaders:

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NIV)

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. 9 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 12 Remember the wonders He has done,His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, 13 you His servants, the descendants of Israel, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob. 14 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 15 He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. 17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” 19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, 20 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. 21 He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake He rebuked kings: 22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

I know this was a lengthy passage of Scripture, but I find it so expressive and powerful! I believe it truly captures the heart of thanksgiving and describes its foundations for worship. Yes, and note in Verse 7 how David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner!  This is our blueprint for praise and worship! So, I pray these thoughtful, inspired instructions of David will encourage us to find liberty of expression not only during times of congregational worship … but will fill us with courage and boldness to express the praises of God with others who cross our paths. Indeed, we need to get out of our comfort zones and tell everyone what HE has done … declaring His faithfulness not only in the lives of His people before us, but in our own lives as well!

Yes, give praise to the Lord and proclaim His Name! His Name is a strong and mighty tower … a shelter like no other … and it alone has the power to save! As the Prophet Joel foretold, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) And as Peter declared: “There is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) Indeed, what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name … is the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Overflowing with Thankfulness…

Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

A life changed by coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ is a life characterized by thankfulness! As Paul described in our Verse of the Day, our hearts should “overflow” with thankfulness … with humble gratitude … for the One who saved us and set us free from the condemnation of sin! For we have not been appointed to the coming wrath for those who are rebellious and disobedient; rather, we have received salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9) Indeed, our thankfulness should abound with the highest praise:

Ephesians 1:4-10 (NIV)

4 For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, 5 He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 God made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (NIV)

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” Since we have that same Spirit-given faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Hallelujah! As believers we have great reason to be thankful for the riches of His lavish grace! And so, I pray we will take a moment to give our Lord Jesus overflowing praise today … and every day! Indeed, let thanksgiving abound to God for all He has done! For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world and made us His handiwork; created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, let us continue to live our lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him through the faith we have been taught by the Word and received through the grace of God. Let everything we do in service to our Lord overflow with thanksgiving! In His Saving Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Thanking God For You…

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

As we enter the second day of this week of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day is a call for us to offer our thanksgiving to God for other believers. The Apostle Paul often began His epistles with an expression of gratitude toward the believers in the churches who he had mentored during his missionary journeys. Here are a few examples:

Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

 Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Philemon 1:4-6 (NIV)

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Notice how these passages have some common elements.  First, Paul assures the churches that he is praying for them all the time.  He expresses this discipline in prayer as “always”, “continually”, and “not stopped.” Secondly, we observe that in his prayers, Paul is giving thanks to God for these believers … and specifically for their faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul typically commends HOW their faith and service to God is evident by their love for one another.  Indeed, it is their love generated by their faith that Paul is so grateful to see coming to fruition! Their response to the grace of God is ample cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, and Paul is inspired to let them know.

So, I see an application for us to consider … and I believe we should ask ourselves some questions:

  • “Do I give thanks to God for other believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?”
  • “Do I appreciate their gifts, talents, and service to Jesus Christ as members of His Body?”
  • “Am I grateful for their fellowship and love as expressions of their faith in Him?”

As I pondered these questions, I found myself feeling appreciation and gratitude for other believers and their labors of love toward people through the ministries of the Church. And I have, from time to time, expressed my thanks to them for their devoted service. But as I think of Paul’s example, continual giving of thanks to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I find myself falling short of this ideal. Yes, I must confess that thanksgiving for others during my prayers has not been often enough; and I think that, perhaps, I have been missing an essential focal point of prayer. I am convicted and convinced that I should never cease remembering the Body of Christ throughout the world, nor should I ever cease to mention those who attend our local assembly in my prayers. Paul has made it clear that it is important to be faithful in sincerely giving thanks to God for their lives, their gifts, their service, and their love….

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that we all will remember this fundamental truth: that in Christ we form one body … His Body. Though we are many members, each individual member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:4-8) And as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Thus, in light of this context, I believe it follows that we should continually give thanks to God for each other during our daily time of prayer. Yes, let us make this our practice … to remember each other and to express gratitude to God for each other in our prayers as often as possible.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Come with Thanksgiving…

Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.

As we begin this week of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be nice to send out a verse of thanksgiving and gratitude each day….

Our Verse of the Day is a call to worship … a call to come before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to extol Him … to exalt Him … to lift up shouts of praise and thanksgiving to Him for our salvation!  Hallelujah!  Oh, indeed, let us come before Him singing … with music and song let us adore Him and rejoice!  Let us enter His presence today with joy and gratitude!

Psalm 118:19-24

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad!

Father, we give you thanks today for your awesome deeds … for the wonders of your mercy and grace!  With gratitude we humble ourselves before you and bless your name. Thank you for your lavish love!  Thank you for your redemption of our souls!  Thank you, Lord, for your deliverance from the valley of the shadow of death.  You alone are worthy of our praise! In Jesus Name! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Your Word is Light…

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path….

Our Verse of the Day aligns with our continued look into the wonderful things found in the Word of God. I feel compelled to reprint a few of the 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 for us to see our verse in some additional context. Although the exact author of Psalm 119 is unknown, most scholars have proposed it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel.  Each of these proposed authors suffered serious hardships in their lives, and the Psalmist engages that theme to demonstrate how he endured his suffering through a deep trust in God because the truths he learned from the holy scriptures. Ultimately, we know that the author of this psalm and all the holy scriptures is the Holy Spirit! (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) So, I hope you will find the following stanzas uplifting and inspiring for your own faith….

ב Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end for its reward.  34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word.  38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. 39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. 40 How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant according to your Word, Lord. 66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. 67 Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I obey your Word. 68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. 69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. 70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

ל Lamedh

89 Your Word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. 91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. 94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. 95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. 96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

מ Mem

97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your Word. 102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path.

נ Nun

105 Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your Word. 108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. 109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. 110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. 111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. 112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end … for their enduring reward.

פ Pe

129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore, I obey them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. 133 Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me. 134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts. 135 Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees. 136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

I just love how the Word of God itself has been exalted throughout Psalm 119.  Again, I highly encourage you to read the entire Psalm. It expounds on the blessings of living in accordance with the commandments, laws, statutes, ordinances, decrees, precepts, promises, and principles found within the sacred writings authored by the Holy Spirit. The whole counsel of God can be discovered within the pages of the Bible … the riches of wisdom and understanding and knowledge to guide us into all Truth! As the Word of God is affirmed, the character (nature) of God Himself is revealed. Indeed, He is righteous, trustworthy, truthful, faithful, unchanging, eternal, and holy!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

My Soul Longs For You!

Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Our Verse of the Day opens Psalm 63 – A Psalm of David when he was in the Desert of Judah.  It is a beautiful psalm of reflection … a song of deep longing for intimacy with God … a chorus of praise for the presence of God and His lovingkindness.  I have reprinted the entire Psalm for us:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your Name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. 10 They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. 11 But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in Him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Whenever I feel alone inside, I find this psalm so uplifting.  It reminds me that when my soul is parched and in need of living water, the Lord is ever near! There is a cloud! There is a river! Oh, to feel His rain upon me … the flood of refreshing waters He sends to those who are weary! Indeed, God is present in His sanctuary. He overshadows me when I lay on my bed and think of Him during the night. The Lord hears me when I praise Him. Yes, He surrounds me when I am still in the quiet place before Him…. Like the meditation of David in Psalm 139, I recite these same thoughts before the Father:

Psalm 139:1-7 (NIV)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain….

David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Well, the answer is that God is omnipresent and He is omniscient. We cannot hide ourselves or our sin from God. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) Yet, this truth is not something to be feared; rather, I find hope in the knowledge that His eyes are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayers. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15)

So, let us continue to long for the presence of God in our lives.  Let us place our full confidence in His presence. For our Heavenly Father has revealed His presence unto us! “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Cf. John 1:14) Indeed, it is His abiding presence that keeps us alive! Oh, His love is better than life….

A Final Thought:

1 John 3:19-24 (NIV)

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. 23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Lord Jesus, I thank you that when my soul is thirsty, I can come to the well … a well of living water that never runs dry. Jesus, you proclaimed: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink; and whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Cf. John 7:37-38) So, Lord, this morning I ask You for a drink of the water that You give … for the spring of water welling up to eternal life! (Cf. John 4:13-14) Refresh my soul, O Lord! I thirst for You … my soul longs for You! Fill my cup, Lord, to overflowing! For I ask in your precious and mighty name … Amen!

Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our Verse of the Day, Jesus gives His followers some insight on what being a devout believer will entail. Our profession of faith in Jesus will come at a cost … it will require a sacrifice. But our Lord Jesus affirms our devotion to Him comes with a blessing … a great reward in heaven … salvation and eternal life!

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. 20 Looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

When we look at these two presentations of the Sermon on the Mount, we see unexpected teachings of how true relationship with God is defined. Luke, true to his literary form, provides additional contextual commentary along with the recording of some contrasts (woes) that were spoken by Jesus. What we get here is a radical picture of what discipleship means in addition to a glimpse of the blessedness that following Jesus will produce in our lives. And I will note that Jesus did not say: “Blessed are those who have great possessions or sufficient finances….”

Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed in this life, to have intimacy with Him, we need to be emptied of all the things that the world seeks. He calls us to see the depth of our spiritual need … to mourn over our sin and disobedience … to weep over our self-centeredness and lack of compassion … to hunger and thirst for righteousness … to be more gracious and forgiving of others … to advocate for unity and peace … to seek holiness and humility in our hearts and lives … and to be willing to suffer for His Name and the Gospel.

I believe that who you and I will become in Christ, as we abide in Him, will be the outcome of sacrifice and suffering. Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24) John recorded a similar discourse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:25-26) And Luke records the following teaching of Jesus that affords us further detail on the matter:

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Jesus indicated that there would be a real cost to discipleship; and He admonished followers to consider that cost before they began to follow Him. My initial thought was: “Is there really any choice?” Jesus preached radical ideas that challenged the religious paradigms of His time. So, when He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him as others had done, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Cf. John 6:67-69) Indeed, no matter what we might “perceive” is the cost of believing and following Jesus, I think it is clear that we must give up everything for His sake! Yet Jesus has assured us of “great reward” for doing so. As the Apostle Paul expounded:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) And Paul challenged Timothy: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Say It Again: REJOICE!

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Our Verse of the Day begins a short section of final exhortations to the body of believers at Philippi. (Cf. Philippians 4:4-9) Paul gave them some great points of consideration for their continued walk with the Lord; and I  believe his intent was to encourage them to trust God in all things as they live out the Christian life….

Why does Paul intentionally repeat his exhortation to the Church? Why is the expression of joy in our Lord Jesus so essential to our well-being? To me, it goes back to the level of intimacy that we experience in our relationship with Him. When we contemplate what Jesus did for us on the cross … to bring atonement (not just forgiveness, but ATONEMENT) for our sin … well, there just really are no words that can truly express the deep gratitude we feel in our souls for His merciful gift. Jesus reconciled us to God and granted us eternal life in Him, so our gratitude is really offered as JOY in all of its myriad forms of human expression. To rejoice in God our Savior is an expression of thanksgiving for Jesus and all He has done for us!

Indeed, it was His indescribable love that allowed the nails to be driven into His hands and feet … while we were sinners and lost without any hope of redemption. (Cf. Romans 5:8) Through Christ Jesus we receive full atonement and salvation … freedom from the power of sin … release from condemnation, guilt, and shame … and granted the gift of eternal life. Yes, Jesus initiated the most wonderful relationship with us that will ever be known or experienced as humans. He is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2)

My friends, if we cannot find JOY in the LORD … if we do not feel moved in our spirits to REJOICE in the God of our salvation … there is something deeply wrong and we need to examine ourselves. If you have lost the spirit of joy in your heart, spend some quiet time with Jesus each day and meditate on all He has done for you.  I assure you He has not left you nor forsaken you.  He is ever-present and simply waiting for you to come and rest in Him again…. (Cf. Matthew 11:28)

So, I join with Paul this morning to stir our hearts and to remind us to rejoice in the Lord in all ways; … encouraging us to express our joy before the LORD with boldness! Joy IS our offering of thanksgiving for the redeemed lives we have received through Him. May we ever praise and worship our Lord Jesus with joy unspeakable and full of glory! I will say it again: Rejoice!

Psalm 51:11-12 (NIV)

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.

Isaiah 12:2-3 (NIV)

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!