Thankfully Praying

Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, we read:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

This brings to mind a similar instruction from Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; NKJV)

Take some time and consider the key words in these verses:

Rejoice, pray, thanksgiving, will of God, Jesus Christ, peace, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy.

Evaluate your life today through the lens of these words.

Are you rejoicing in your own life and with those you care about or are you letting the bad things distract you?

Are you spending time in prayer whether it is a time you have set aside or continually conversing with your Father through the good and bad of your day?

Do you see the will of God today?  Do you see Jesus?  Are you trusting God is there and working?  Does this bring you peace?

Are the things you are thinking about true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy or is satan filling your mind with distraction?

God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  Fill your heart and mind with the building materials of God, trust His will, feel His peace.  That is what He is shouting from Heaven.  That is my prayer for you and for me today.

What Will Be On My Lips Today?

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
(Hebrews 13:15)

We are a holy priesthood. As Christians, we are serving God in His temple offering up sacrifices. The old temple is gone, and with it went the Levitical priesthood. Jesus is our high priest, and every Christian serves as a priest.

Our sacrifices are not like those of the Old Testament order. There is no altar in front of the church building where we bring lambs, bulls and goats. We are not to be pouring out oil and wine as a drink offering.

We are the offering. We are the sacrifice…Daily. Our character, our thinking, our choices, our words, our generosity, and our relationships are all part of our spiritual service to God (Romans 12:1-2). That is true religion, according to James (James 1:26-27).

Specifically today, let us consider that the sacrifice we are to be offering to God is praise from our lips. It is readily apparent that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, and the Internet/Social Media doesn’t help that much. For us to have the praise of God on our lips is truly a sacrifice because we are giving Him the attention and glory rather than ourselves.

The apostle Peter also spoke of you and me as priests offering up spiritual sacrifices to God. Notice the connection to our words.

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:5)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

So, what will be on my lips today? Gossip? Complaining? Dirty Speech? Rough joking? Remember that the lips reveal what is in the heart. If our wells are dirty, so will the water be at the faucet. What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.

Don’t we all need to fill our wells with more of the praise of God? Shouldn’t we all devote more time to meditating on the wonderful character of God, so that praise is a natural result of what has been going on in our hearts?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
(Psalms 50:14-23)

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to those of you who are traveling to visit family and friends.

We are tremendously blessed by our heavenly Father in so many ways.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

See you Monday, Lord willing.

God’s Family—Mayer Road Case Study

  • Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality…. (Romans 12: 9-13)
  • rejoice with those who rejoice…weep with those who weep… (Romans 12:15)
  • But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
  • Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing…let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being… (1 Thes 5:11)
  • Bear one another’s burdens(Galatians 6:2)
  •  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Please consider these verses. Each of them have a specific moral issue for which Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote to admonish, instruct, and encourage the various brethren receiving them. I do not want to add to or take away from these lessons but want to emphasize these principles as I consider what is happening in Casco, Michigan as Christians come together for one of our own and do what they can to rebuild for one of our own.

Not too long ago, one of our families experienced a profound loss as their barn burnt in the middle of the night with all their equipment and livestock inside. The physical and emotional loss was tremendous and the ramifications are still felt as each of us continue to deal with the loss. This event was enough to burry many families…to cause many individuals to lose hope. That is not how this story ends though!

Though a terrible and fiery loss, what really resulted was God being glorified, His children strengthened, and an opportunity for those outside the faith to see the hope available through Jesus. I can’t emphasize the significance of the good that has been done, is being done and will continue to be done because of all the experiences around this great loss, clean up and rebuilding process. The work is far from done but isn’t that the case for all of us? Don’t we all have profound loss and struggle? Aren’t we all experiencing physical and spiritual struggles?

In all of that, do we do what we must? Do we put our full faith and trust in God’s love and power? Do we share our struggles with each other or create an environment to make it ok to do so? Do we take the time to not only pray for those who are struggling or hurting…but also to rejoice in the happiness, success, and blessings of our most dear brethren? Even if it isn’t as a result of a great struggle conquered…but in a blessed life…do we rejoice?

We are so blessed in one another and what is happening in on Mayer Road this week is another piece of an exceptional example of that…but we can see the same awesome God and Christian family in the everyday goings on in our own lives. Take time and thank God, thank each other and rejoice! We are here for but a short time and times aren’t always going to be easy…but we all share the hope of Heaven and living now within the context of eternity is such a blessed place to be. Living there with like-minded loving brethren makes it even the sweeter. Take a moment, see God’s blessings in His family and thank Him…and hugs always help too…because that right there is what God’s love looks like.  Have a blessed day brothers!

Strong Foundation

I hope you enjoy these thoughts as we start the week.  I received this from Jason Cicero, one of my best friends and most importantly a brother in Christ.  Consider your foundation this morning and take some time in meditation and prayer about how much God has loved you and how willingly and freely He blesses you so that you might be filled up with His blessings and be a blessing to others in whatever role or situation you find yourself in.  Have a great week!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

A foundation is a strong, stable base on which a life is built.  A blessing is a gift from God.  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17; NKJV).  In Christ there are “showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26; NKJV).  Of all the blessings God has given us it seems to me that there are five that we can fall back on as we make our journey from Earth to Heaven.

Five Foundational Blessings.  Grace is God’s kindness to the guilty and undeserving.  Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve.  Mercy is God withholding from us what we do deserve.  Love is God’s active good will toward us.  Forgiveness of sins is the release from the debt, guilt, and punishment for our transgressions.  Hope is the confident expectation He fills us after we receive forgiveness.

Why I don’t deserve them.  I do not deserve these five foundational blessings because I have sinned.  By definition I do not deserve grace.  I am guilty and undeserving.  He is well within His holy nature to give me what I deserve.  He loves me despite my sins.  He longs to forgive me.  He fills me with a living hope even though I have let Him down again and again.  

Why I’ve been given them.  I have been given these five foundational blessings to the praise of His glory!  We have been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” for the purpose of glorifying His name (Ephesians 1:3).  He gives me grace, mercy, love, forgiveness of my sins, and hope that I would praise His name!  Receive these blessings “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; 2:7; 3:20-21).

My response to them.  Because of these five foundational blessings I will rejoice always!  I will pray without ceasing!  I will give thanks in everything!  Because of these five foundational blessings I have a relationship to God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that will sustain me no matter what happens.  Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39; NKJV).  In this I rejoice and praise His name!

Man-Made Climate Change

Lots of discussion and attention has been given over the years to man-made climate change. No, I am not diving in to that mess, I am just using that phrase to talk about a different “climate.” This climate is clearly under our control, and our behavior directly affects it. The climate we will consider today is the one in our homes, specifically our marriages.

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9).

Yesterday, we saw how God views complaining. It is a big deal to Him. He wants us to be thankful. Words of gratitude, blessing and praise should be regular parts of our speech. Christ set us free from darkness and sin so that we would be His kingdom priests, proclaiming His praises (1 Peter 2:9).

This is not to say that we never deal with problems or discuss them. It doesn’t mean we are never discouraged and hurting. Life has real pain and trials. Ignoring, suppressing or minimizing problems is not what God wants. Jesus wept, Paul despaired, and Elijah was depressed.

“Climate” by definition means weather conditions over a long period of time. That is different from today’s weather. Someone may have a bad day or week, just like it might on rare occasion snow in the South. I’m talking about our “climate” as men. What is our consistent pattern of behaviors and attitudes at home?

What I do want to focus on today is specifically our attitude and words around our wives. It becomes very easy to complain. Sometimes being negative and cynical is as comfortable as our favorite recliner. We can settle in to a really nice whine and grumble about all that isn’t right in the world. We can get tired and overwhelmed, and we begin to see problems everywhere. What the kids aren’t doing right. How the wife isn’t doing what she should. The house and car repairs. Health. Finances. Politics. My job and my boss stink.

Husbands, take inventory. Is there a critical, negative, cynical, complaining dark storm cloud over us? If we find ourselves in that negative mindset and we are grumpy about everything, how does that affect the climate of the home? What position does that put our wives in?

Man-Made Climate Change

If God advised us to live joyfully with our wives, and to “eat your bread with joy,” how do we accomplish that?

Try to smile. Really, I don’t mean to be flaky here, but just try to smile…at your wife. Even when all you want to do is gripe…look at your beautiful wife and smile. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Of course and always, pray! Lord, help transform this grumpy old troll. Help me Lord to see the joy and blessings you have showered me with.

Consciously look around for blessings. Force yourself to see what is going right, and verbally acknowledge it. We have to teach our mouths to do this, because it does not come naturally.

Consider the following Proverb:

The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:23-24).

What kind of “man-made climate change” are we producing in the home?

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

God provided manna, bread from heaven, for the children of Israel. Every day was a miracle. Their food was miraculously provided for 40 years. Do the math. 6 days a week (extra manna provided on Friday for the Sabbath day) for 40 years. That’s a myriad miracles, and a gazillion tons of manna. They called it “worthless.” On top of that they said, “our soul loathes” it.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 yesterday where Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians about the Israelites in the wilderness. The sins they committed were recorded for us as examples, Paul explained, so that we do not repeat them. One of those sins Paul specified was complaining.

It just reminded me of how serious God takes complaining. If you haven’t done this lately, look through the Bible and do some word searches for words like grumbling, murmuring and complaining. See what God says about it. Look at the consequences. Lots of people died at God’s own hand because of it.

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

So, here we are, living under Christ, walking in His grace, and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 to remember how God views complaining. It is still a serious thing to God, just as serious as sexual immorality and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Sometimes we are tempted to think that the big sins are sexual immorality and murder, but complaining is just a little sin. We would be well served to take a walk through Exodus through Deuteronomy with the children of Israel to refresh our memories of God’s view of complaining.

Today, let us take a moment to thank God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If we recognize that we are living an ungrateful life, and have a complaining spirit, we should get down on our knees and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We also should ask the Lord to teach us to be more thankful. May God help our hearts to be content, and may our words express that daily. It is helpful for us to take regular inventory of how richly God has blessed us. That old song still rings true, “Count your many blessings.”

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).

Thank God for Kids

Today, I want to share the lyrics to a song by the Oak Ridge Boys called, “Thank God for Kids.” I thought it was fitting for Thanksgiving week.

“Thank God For Kids”

If it weren’t for kids have you ever thought
There wouldn’t be no Santa Claus
Or look what the stork just brought
Thank God for kids.
We’d all live in a quiet house
Without Big Bird or a Mickey Mouse
And Kool Aid on the couch
Thank God for kids.
Thank God for kids, there’s magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile.
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to heaven is a child?
Daddy, how does this thing fly?
And a hundred other where’s and why’s
I really don’t know but I try
Thank God for kids.
When I look down in those trusting eyes
That look to me I realize
There’s love that I can’t buy
Thank God for kids.
Thank God for kids, there’s magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile.
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to heaven is a child?
When you get down on your knees tonight
And thank the Lord for His guiding light
Pray they turn out right.
Thank God for kids.
Mmm, Thank God for kids.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (Psalms 127:3-5).
Be back on Monday…Happy Thanksgiving!

Favor from the Lord

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD (Proverbs 18:22).

Take time to be thankful for the good relationships, especially if you are married to a godly and loving wife.

When we are thankful for each other, we see each other in a very different light. Even when we are fussing with each other, if we keep in mind how thankful we are for each other, it helps to deal with that disagreement and tension in a better way.

Let’s take a piece of paper and physically write down all the reasons why we are thankful for our wives. We do this for our kids sometimes when they are complaining and fussing, we make them write down good things about each other. Big people need to do the same sometimes.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD (Proverbs 19:14).

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalms 100:1-5).

why is it so important to be thankful?

It is foundational to our relationship with God. We “enter His gates” with thanksgiving. Can we really even have the right mindset to enter into a relationship with God, worship Him, and live for Him if we are not truly thankful for what He has done for us? When we become unthankful, our thinking becomes futile and we will be led away from God (Romans 1:21).

Having an attitude of thanksgiving is a sacrifice we offer to God. Being thankful for God and all His blessings is a great way of getting our minds off of ourselves (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Praying with thanksgiving helps us tremendously when we are stressed and anxious (Philippians 4:6-7). When you start thinking, meditating and thanking God for all that He has already done for you, it helps to settle your mind on what God is doing now and will do for you later.

Eating with thanksgiving helps us to remember the source of all our rich blessings (James 1:17). For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

History.com has a good video on first Thanksgiving in America and the development of the Thanksgiving tradition.

“In all things give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).