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!

The Will of God…

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Yesterday, we studied a prayer that asked for being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. And I thought, after reading our Verse of the Day, that we can simply look in the Word of God to find specific revelations of His will for our lives. Our verse is an example of several unequivocal declarations of God’s will found in scripture; and I will share some others for your reference:

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like unbelievers, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister….

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 7:29-30 (NKJV)

29 And when all the people heard Jesus, even the tax collectors declared the righteousness of God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

These passages tell us that the will of God for us is to do good; to be sanctified; to rejoice always; to pray without ceasing; to give thanks to God; to fulfill the calling of God on our lives; and to receive the baptism of repentance. Paul declared that his calling to be an apostle of Christ Jesus was by the will of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1) So even though we might not always have complete knowledge of God’s will, we CAN still act and operate on what we do know. The least we can do is respond to the knowledge of God’s will we already have available to us. Yes, I think that just doing the few things revealed here will position us to have greater intimacy with God as we continue “to be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Often, I have heard people express concern about “missing” the will of God. When I reflected on my own attempts to discern and fulfill the will of God for my own life; what I discovered is that I was chasing after my own hopes and dreams at times. I was not giving consideration to what had already been revealed to me in His Word. Then it occurred to me, that perhaps I should focus on and pursue the things that I do know already; rather than be worried or idled while waiting for some new revelation from God.

I remember sharing my anxieties with a former pastor about the decision to move my family to a different state for a new job. He told me, not to agonize over whether to go or to have ultimate certainty of the “rightness” of the decision. Pastor Sam shared, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit simply moves us to take a new step of faith. He shared, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:8) Then he said, “Where you go … what you do … is not always the most important aspect of your decision; rather, wherever you go – just take root and bear fruit. That is always the will of God for our lives.” His wisdom has stuck with me through the years … perhaps it will speak to you when those type of decisions come to your life.

God’s will for us is to do the good works for which we were created in Christ Jesus to do before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God’s will for us is to be baptized and sanctified – set part for service to Him. God’s will for us is to rejoice, pray, and to give Him thanks all the time. God’s will for each of us is to exercise our spiritual gifts and fulfill our role within the Body of Christ. (Cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12) When I look at these things, none of them have anything to do with where I live; what occupation I have; who I should marry; or those types of decisions because His will and purpose for me will always be for me to be obedient in any of those contexts….

So rather than looking for the will of God in a specific context … perhaps becoming paralyzed with indecision about whether to move or change a job or develop new relationship; I think we would do better to base our decisions and choices on what God has revealed in Scripture. Maybe we should ask, “How will this decision affect my ability to ‘take root and bear fruit?’ How will this decision enhance my desire to walk in the revealed will of God?” This means we need to read God’s Word to know His will. This means that we do not look for answers from the world; rather, our transformation to obedience comes from a renewal of our minds … a reset of our mindset. Paul exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Cf. Romans 12:2)

In Matthew 6:25-34, when Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” I believe He was speaking about the pursuit of God’s will for our lives. The kingdom of God is based in His sovereign authority (His will); and it follows that seeking to do His will (obedience) must come first … regardless of the context or circumstances we have been given in life. But then, God promises to grant all us the things which pertain to our needs. So, I think we need to realize there is a difference between His will and our needs (desires). I believe the obedience of faith in Jesus must come first! But as you do the will of God, watch as He unfolds and reveals His specific will in your situation and circumstances. (Cf. Psalm 37:3-6) When you seek the will of God, watch as He causes “all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Cf. Romans 8:28) And remember, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose (will) that prevails.” (Cf. Proverbs 19:21)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Hebrews 10:36

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

1 Peter 4:19

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

1 John 2:16-17

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

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!

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!

REJOICE!!!

Joel 2:23 (NIV)

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

Rejoice in the Lord your God! As I read that phrase … my thoughts wandered over the past several weeks and months.  I had to ask myself, have I rejoiced in the Lord my God?  In the midst of trials and troubles … as pandemic restrictions and cultural chaos continue in our nation and around the world … have I stopped a moment to intentionally rejoice in the Lord? The word rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight.  I have to admit that I have not “felt” great joy or delight lately when I look at the tribulation in the world around me.  But maybe that is the point.  Perhaps, I’m looking at the wrong things.  Maybe my focus should be on something that does bring excitement, joy, and delight to the heart….

The Apostle Paul urges us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” And I love the context in which we find this encouragement:

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsWhatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I think there is a message here for us.  Do not be anxious about anything; rather, we should take our cares and concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving. One might ask, “Why with thanksgiving before you even know the outcome or answer to the prayer?”  Well, think about what God has already done in your life….  Consider His faithfulness!  He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Yes, we should think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  We should set our minds and hearts on God and the love He lavishes on us through Christ Jesus!

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Quoting Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Oh, we have so many reasons to rejoice in the Lord!  From A to Z we can rejoice in Him:

Rejoice in His abundance.

Rejoice in His anointing.

Rejoice in His atonement.

Rejoice in His authority.

Rejoice in His baptism.

Rejoice in His beauty.

Rejoice in His blessing.

Rejoice in His calling.

Rejoice in His comfort.

Rejoice in His compassion.

Rejoice in His covenant.

Rejoice in His creation.

Rejoice in His cross.

Rejoice in His deliverance.

Rejoice in His discipline.

Rejoice in His election.

Rejoice in His encouragement.

Rejoice in His eternal life.

Rejoice in His faithfulness.

Rejoice in His forgiveness.

Rejoice in His freedom.

Rejoice in His gentleness.

Rejoice in His gifts.

Rejoice in His glory.

Rejoice in His grace.

Rejoice in His healing.

Rejoice in His holiness.

Rejoice in His intercession.

Rejoice in His intimacy.

Rejoice in His justice.

Rejoice in His kindness.

Rejoice in His kingdom.

Rejoice in His liberty.

Rejoice in His life.

Rejoice in His light.

Rejoice in His longsuffering.

Rejoice in His love.

Rejoice in His mercy.

Rejoice in His name.

Rejoice in His omnipotence.

Rejoice in His omniscience.

Rejoice in His peace.

Rejoice in His presence.

Rejoice in His promises.

Rejoice in His protection.

Rejoice in His provision.

Rejoice in His purpose.

Rejoice in His quiet.

Rejoice in His redemption.

Rejoice in His restoration.

Rejoice in His resurrection.

Rejoice in His righteousness.

Rejoice in His sacrifice.

Rejoice in His salvation.

Rejoice in His sovereignty.

Rejoice in His testimony.

Rejoice in His truth.

Rejoice in His unity.

Rejoice in His victory.

Rejoice in His wisdom.

Rejoice in His word.

Rejoice in His yoke.

Rejoice in His zeal.

So, perhaps, we should spend less time on what we see … and rejoice in who we know.  He is everything that matters most.  So, again I say, Rejoice!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Father Rejoices

Proverbs 23:24

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in Him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

I love the truth of this verse and it resonates so deeply.  Indeed, the father of a righteous child has great joy! Indeed, a man who fathers a wise son (or daughter) rejoices in him (or her)!  Righteous. Wise. Faithful. These are the qualities I believe every father desires to instill in his children. What could possibly matter more to a man than to see his children living in the light of the Truth? This verse reminds me of another favorite. Written by the Apostle John: “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling me how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (Cf. 3 John 3-4)

When I contemplate my own life, and the legacy I hope to leave my children, I pray the most important “take away” they will receive from me will be a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ.  I have found that nothing else truly matters in this life except our fellowship with God and our love for Him … and accordingly … our sincere love for one another.  Leading our children to faith in Jesus Christ and discipling them in the faith is the greatest demonstration of real love that I could ever imagine to impart.  Why?  Because I know they will not have or experience abundant life or fulfilling love apart from Him.  If we love and cherish children as God ordained for men to do, then it follows that we must bestow upon them the best gift possible … the love of God through His Son … the only hope of eternal life!

I am sure that most of us have failed to be consistent in our own journeys of faith at times over the years … and our examples have not always been the best in difficult situations or personal challenges.  But in whatever way we have fallen short of being God’s best for the building of our children’s faith, know it is never too late to redeem the time or to express a sincere desire to continue the walk together going forward.  And so, do not hesitate to humble yourself and ask your children to look beyond the sins … the missteps and mistakes made along the way … and assure them that you have endeavored and will always strive to love each of them as you have been loved by God through His Son.  Yes, remind them that God is their true Father … and that His love is perfect, full of grace, and abides forever.

Well, I apologize if I sound too emotional this morning. It is hard for me not to feel emotional on Father’s Day because the love and joy I feel from having children and grandchildren in my life is overwhelming! The delight of fatherhood has been a precious and treasured gift from God; and I want to savor this occasion with thanksgiving for the honor and privilege of being an earthly father.  This morning, I told my children how extremely proud I am of each of them … their awesome accomplishments … and the incredible impact each of them already have had upon this world.  Likewise, each one of your children and grandchildren will make this world a far better place and bless others with their unique gifts, talents, and expressions of love.  So I pray this morning that every father will be grateful for the blessings of their children; and I pray our Heavenly Father will fill each of you with His unending grace and His unfailing love!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!