THE IMPORTANCE OF THANKSGIVING…


Spiritual Blog - Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  NASU

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America.  The day that was initially set aside for giving thanks for our blessings.  It was originally celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts when the colonist and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest.  Various colonies celebrated various dates to commemorate the remembrance of God’s Blessings on them.  It wasn’t until 1863 during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of remembrance would be held in November each year.  Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison all designated days for thanks during their presidencies.

In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Lincoln’s date up one week from the fourth Thursday to the third but in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.  Thus, we began or made official a federal holiday designed to remind every American of our historic blessings and urged everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status to Give Thanks. This holiday has morphed into a commercial event and many simply see it as an extended weekend where there is an overload of football and food with no real thought as to the Giving of Thanks!  That is tragic.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to develop an attitude of gratitude in which they were in a continual state of rejoicing and prayer.  He coupled with those directives that they were to “give thanks in everything” and if you will allow, “for everything.”  No, I did not say that we are to desire difficulty or disaster but in the midst of every event in life, we are directed from the Holy Scripture to BE THANKFUL and GIVE THANKS!

I am reminded of a story that I heard some years back that might be beneficial in helping us recognize our blessings and open the door to the development of an attitude of gratitude.

Two friends, Bob and Jake met on the street of their town and Bob said to Jake, “Jake, I am having the worst luck.  My car broke down and it is going to cost over a thousand dollars to repair.”  Jake nodded and said, “Could have been worse.”  Bob, took that as an encouraging word and went on his way.  The next week they met again at the coffee shop and Bob said, “Jake, my luck is going from bad to worse, the pipes burst in my house and flooded everything.  It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair and I’ll be out of my home for several weeks.”  Jake nodded and said, “Could have been worse.”  Bob, again took that as a word of good advice and went on his way.

In a couple of weeks, they met again, and Bob said, “Jake, things keep getting worse all the time.  Not only did my car break down and cost me a lot of money, then my house flooded and cost me a fortune and displaced my family.  Now, my boss told me that they are phasing out my job and at my age, it will be almost impossible to find suitable work.”  Jake nodded and said, “Could have been worse.”  Bob, grew angry and said, “Jake you keep telling me that, but I ask, “How could it be worse.”  Jake said, “It could have happened to me.”

Every event in life is viewed from a particular grid and perspective.  If we look at things as happening to us we turn our focus inward and find it difficult if not impossible to be thankful.  We open the door to depression, discouragement, and despair.  Self-focus is the enemy of Gratitude and Thanksgiving.  If we view the events of life as opportunities for God to demonstrate His love, power, and purpose and rather than looking at the matter with a “woe is me” attitude we look upward things change.  No, the situation is still the same, but we are different, and in our difference, we can truly Give Thanks in Everything!  It is in that state of mind and attitude of heart that we open the door for the Blessings of God to flow.

It has been said that if one focuses on what they have they will want more.  If they focus on what they do not have they will grow bitter.  If one focuses on God and others we find that no matter how difficult our situation is, there are blessings we have overlooked.  Helen Keller once said, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly, and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.” She developed an Attitude of Gratitude.

 I encourage everyone to remember the quote of Benjamin Franklin, “For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, For the want of a shoe the horse was lost, For the want of a horse the rider was lost, For the want of a rider the battle was lost, For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost, And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  May the rich and bountiful blessings of the LORD come to you this day and may your heart be warmed by His presence, peace, power, purpose, and love.  God bless you!

 

WHAT IS TRUTH?


Spiritual Blog - Truth

John 18:38 – “Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”  NASU

When I consider this passage and examine it, a thought immediately comes into my mind.  That question is, “What is the truth according to us?”  We have heard much about a woman’s truth or their truth as juxtaposed to The Truth.  Although our truth or the truth as we see it, understand it, believe it may or may not be The Truth, it is still what we believe.  If ‘our truth’ is not The Truth our belief in what we believe makes it difficult if not impossible to see The Truth.

I see this as a tool of the devil to deceive and imprison people in their own minds and thereby prevent them from the freedom that is afforded in God’s Truth or The Truth.  Jesus spoke incredibly powerful and liberating words in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  The freedom that is in Truth is one of the most liberating forces on Earth.

Jesus had been brought before Pilate by the Sanhedrin and the Jewish Orthodoxy of His day.  He was challenging their truth (religion).  Those in power were far more interested in protecting their position, place, and power if not their purse than they were about finding Truth.  Their man-made regulations had replaced the veracity of Scripture and they had long ceased searching for the Truth that Jesus spoke of in John 8 or anywhere else.  Truth, to them, was what they believed.  Their doctrine was truth and anything that challenged or questioned their beliefs was deemed demonic and to be destroyed.

Many cannot fathom the reality that we ‘know in part’ and none of us, individually, has full knowledge or revelation of All Truth.  They see their doctrinal views as being complete.  They believe that if you do not ascribe to their brand of Christianity you are outside the family of God or are second-class Christians, at best.  That is tragic because we are taught in Scripture that we (individual Christians) are members together forming the Body of Christ.  We need each other and just as the natural body cannot function as it is designed without the other members of the body.  The hand needs the foot, and the mouth needs the lungs.  The eye needs the ear and the lungs need the heart.  Our bodies function as designed when each individual member contributes its skill and function to the process.  That is also true in the Body of Christ.

None of us are at the same level of spiritual development and understanding.  As I’ve said before, “We are not at the same level of light.”  By that, I mean we are not at the same maturity or understanding.  That is why if I can incorporate what you understand with what I understand and you with me we both are stronger.  Truth is like a diamond.  It cannot be fully comprehended by viewing it from one side.  As you move around the diamond you discover different facets and if taken separately each facet of dimension becomes The Truth but it isn’t, it is a part.  However, if we view the diamond from above we can observe all the sides and have a full appreciation of the diamond.  That’s how it is with Truth, we need a heavenly perspective to fully understand.  That is also why we are ever learning and always growing and developing in our Christian experience.

In Scripture, we are told in John 1:1 that Jesus is the Word of God the incarnate living word of God.  In John 17:17 the prayer of Jesus reveals that God’s Word is Truth, therefore, the answer to Pilate’s question is Truth is Jesus and/or God’s Word.  However, the question we should be asking is “What is truth according to us?”  Are we aligned with God’s Truth and are we willing to relinquish our grip on what we believe to be truth when He expands our understanding and exposes any deficiencies in ‘our truth?’

My simple prayer is, “LORD, help me to be a seeker of truth.”  The longer I live and walk with my Lord Jesus Christ the more I realize that I do not know everything and often feel like I do not know anything.  I have learned a lot in my almost 50 years of ministry but with each passing day and each divine appointment and encounter, I realize how much larger than I His Truth really is.

So, I ask you to ask yourselves, “What is Your Truth?”  If you are required to define your truth to your neighbor or anyone, what picture do they receive?  May we never be so arrogant or prideful that we believe that only our truth is The Truth and the Complete Truth.  May we be like sponges and growing plants always longing for more.  I believe a truth revealed in the parables is apropos here.  In Luke 12:48 we find a powerful revelation that “to whom much is given, much is required.”  Also in Matthew 13:12 we find that “whoever has more will be given.”  Most of the time we equate that to money or talents but could it not apply to knowledge and the understanding of truth?

May God help you become a diligent seeker of His Truth!   I pray that your day will be filled with His wonder and your mind filled with His truth.  God bless you!

BOTH LORD and CHRIST…


Spiritual Blog - Lord and Christ

Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.”  NASU

I don’t know about you but every time I read that verse it leaps off the page and into my spirit and I then pause to meditate on it.  Peter was addressing the Jews and attesting to the truth that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb of God and the Son of God.  He addressed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Then he makes this incredible statement that Jesus was “both Lord and Christ.” 

I’ve heard many preachers lament that too many have made Jesus Savior but not Lord of their lives.  There is some validity in that and it is possible to believe that He is the Messiah without fully coming to terms with His Lordship in our lives.  I had a preacher tell me that a “Carnal Christian was an Oxymoron.”  He insisted there was no such creature.  I did not want to argue but thought about the many people that I have encountered and even the times in my life when I named the Name of Jesus but allowed the flesh to direct some attitudes and even actions.  If there could be no place for a Christian to drift there would be no place for chastisement and correction from our Lord through the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been taken to the woodshed before by the Spirit of God and corrected.

What I want to focus on is not Carnal Christians but the distinction between being Lord and being Christ.  Both are the same person but two different aspects or dimensions of His ministry, position, and person.  Peter tells the hearers that the Father made or gave Jesus both distinctions and functions.  So, I believe the examination of the distinction is worthy of consideration.

LORD – – If you examine the language and search for understanding as to what this word implied and contained you find some interesting and revealing things.  The word “lord” properly denotes “proprietor, master, or sovereign.”  Peter is affirming that God has elevated Jesus to the position of King and in that has given Him dominion in the heavens or as we might better understand, “ruler of all things.”  Everything is in subjection to Him and one day will bow before Him in full recognition.  John 17:2 makes that clear saying, “For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to those you have given Him.”  Paul reaffirms that in Ephesians 1:21 saying of Jesus that God had elevated him, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  That is amazing!  He is LORD of LORD and KING of KINGS.  We belong to Him.

CHRIST – – This word refers to the ministry of Jesus as Messiah.  Peter is informing them that they have crucified the Hope of the Nation and the world for that matter.  He is Messiah.  He is Savior.  Jesus is the ONLY way to God and therefore the ONLY way to heaven.  There are not many roads to Salvation.  Jesus made that perfectly clear in John 10:9 when He declared, “I am the door.”  In John 14:6 He expanded that reality saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  In Acts 4:12 we discover there is salvation in no other name, “for there is no other name under heaven given among me by which we must be saved.”  Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  His blood was made in atonement for our sins and in His sacrificial death He bought us back from the legal control of the devil.

As Christ, He is my savior and as Lord, He is my sovereign and I serve Him.  He can only become my Lord after He becomes my Savior.  I enter his house through repentance and faith and I serve Him through obeying His commands, directions, and demonstrating His person and love.  If it is possible to get to heaven without truly following Him as Lord and getting in as some have said, “by the skin of our teeth” I would hate to stand before Him without any fruit.  I do not work to be saved but I long to do His will in this life and my daily prayer is, “Father hallowed by thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven and let it be done in me.  Let me manifest your person and work the be both a vessel God can use and a laborer in the harvest field of God.  Make me like Jesus.”  I am not trying to make a deep theological argument about Lord and Christ but trying to urge you to seek Him as not only Savior but also as Lord in your daily life.

May the Lord bless you richly as you manifest Him to others today!

 

 

 

AS HE IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD…


Spiritual Blog - As he Is

1 John 4:17 – “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” NASU

What a powerful concept that here in this present world, in the flesh, we can be and should be like Jesus IS.  There is something very essential to this discussion and that is the first two words of verse 17 – “By this….”  By what?  It is necessary that we go back to verse 15 and consider the passage.

1 John 4:15-16 – “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” NASU

Notice the flow of these two verses leading up to verse 17.  When we “confess” that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in us and, we in Him.  God enters our hearts and becomes intertwined with our lives like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich blended together.  We become ONE!  Then John follows that by saying that we have “come to know” [a process] and “have believed” [the development of faith] God’s Love for us.  It is difficult for humans to comprehend the Agape of God because it is Unconditional Love and we, for the most part, Love Conditionally!  When we fully realize and grasp the truth that God Is Love, and when we abide in love we abide in God and God in us, it changes our entire outlook on life.  We are no longer humans trying to please God.  We are humans, in whom, God has indwelt our spirits and we are “one with God”.  Then John says that “… By this,” love is Perfected in us and the end result is that “as He is, so are we in this world.”

At least one translation renders Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I, who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” NASU   I believe that is an acceptable translation because if John is correct and we can be as Jesus is in the here and now, then truly the faith that is produced in our lives by which we live is Jesus’ faith.  We are One with Him.  He is in us and we are in Him.

The remainder of the passage in 1 John 4 gives us an even bigger picture of the life we can and do have as a believer.  It is a life of the absence of fear because we are abiding in Perfect Love which GOD Is!  We are now capable of not only enjoying His “unconditional love” but “giving it.”  We are now able to walk in the “fullness and abundance of life” that Jesus promised.  We are able to walk in “perfect peace” as described in Isaiah 26:3 –You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” NKJV Our lives will become steadfast as Isaiah spoke of in 22:23, “…like a nail in a sure place…”  We will become as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “…steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” NKJV

So instead of saying, “Well, I’m only human,” and making excuses for our failures in being Like Christ let’s accept this truth and allow the Holy Spirit to “transform” us into His image and refuse to be “conformed” to this world.  We can live above the power of the flesh and walk in the fullness of Christ’s love, mercy, and faith Now!  That is the kind of life that I am convinced that the apostles lived, the early church believed in, and the faith heroes of Hebrews 11 looked for.

May God grant you the power of His grace to walk in the fullness of His love and enjoy the abundance of the life that affords!  May you know the fullness of the peace, power, and presence of the Lord in your life on a daily basis!  May God’s blessings be upon you in all that you do as you begin your work week and enter into His rest and renewal!

Blessings!

GUIDE FOR LIFE…


Spiritual Blog - God

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” NASU

How many of us do this?  Be honest with yourself, do you?  Do you all the time or just some of the time?  As I read this my heart was smitten by the Holy Spirit and my mind instantly focused on a violation of this in my own life recently.  I wish I could say that was the only occasion but I would never lie.

No matter what you are doing in life it is to be done “to the glory of God.”  That covers everything and without saying it would suggest that some things are not to be done because they cannot be done “to the glory of God.”  If my life is characterized by bringing Glory to God then my life is of such quality that it impacts others.  People observe far more regarding Christians than they do in almost any other arena of life.  If a person that has publicly and openly professed that Jesus is their Lord that person will be under a microscope everywhere that is known about them.  That is not a bad thing but something that some seem to forget.  That reminds me of the story I heard about a lady who was giving the driver in the car in front of her fits with hand gestures, waving her arms, shouting, and beating on the steering wheel when a policeman turned on his red lights and pulled her over.  When he came to the window she asked, “Officer what on earth did I do? I was breaking no laws.”  He said, “Ma’am based on the bumper sticker on your car I thought the vehicle might have been stolen.”  She had a honk if you love Jesus bumper sticker on her car.

Make it the goal of your day to bring “glory to God” today in all that you do.  Even if you fall short sometimes, you will have touched some lives positively that you might not have otherwise touched.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

HOW MUCH ARE WE TO LOVE?


Spiritual Blog - Love

Luke 10:25-28 – “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”  27 And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” NASU

 The Pharisees were continually trying to trip Jesus up and find fault with Him concerning “The Law” but they found that The Son of God was always at least one step ahead of them and he presented a problem in their doctrine, thinking, and living.  Yet, He forced them to face their own ‘short-comings’ and ‘sins’, something they were want to do and resisted mightily.

Although there is much said here I want to focus on one portion and that is Jesus’ directive on ‘how much’ we are to Love the Lord.  He used the Lawyer’s own rendering of Scripture to address this.  Notice it says we are to Love

  1. With all our HEART.

There can be no divided loyalty and love here.  The directive is to Love God with our ENTIRE HEART.  He is to be loved above and more than anything else on Earth.

  1. With all our SOUL.

The word in the Greek is ‘psuche’ which literally means breath but by implication speaks of the spirit which is identified in the Bible as being both immortal and rational.  We are to love God with that part of us that is eternal our ‘soul’.

  1. With all our STRENGTH.

This involves and includes our physical person and our bodies. Our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit and should be recognized as a tabernacle of clay that God uses and abides in.  That should behoove us to give more care to the body but never to the neglect of the spirit.

  1. With our entire MIND.

We are to intellectually and mentally recognize God as the Lord of All and love Him with our minds.  We are to bring captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

 Then He admonishes us that we are to Love our Neighbors as our Selves.  The Bible advises us that if we do not love our brothers and sisters that we have seen how can we love God whom we have not seen.  If we cannot love our fellow man it is evidence that something is amiss in our hearts and we need to address the root of the problem.

So how much are we to love?  We are to love with All our Hearts, Souls, Minds, and Strength and our neighbors as our own persons.  We are to love completely!  Make that you objective from this day forward!

May God bless you as you go through your day!

PURE RELIGION IS NOT A BAD THING…


Spiritual Blog - Pure Religon

James 1:26-27 – “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  NASU

 James had a way of coming to the point and pointedly declaring relevant truth as he does here.  If you transpose the word religious with spiritual it might be more accepted by some but either way I believe we get the message even if we deny that we did.  He addresses and contrasts two types of religion or spirituality.  One is pure and the other is worthless.

He begins by drawing our attention to the fact that perception may seem like reality but it is not.  He draws attention to how we view ourselves and in today’s world, there is so much effort in every arena and discipline to make people feel good about themselves even when they should face the guilt and conviction that God wants them to deal with.  He says if you think you are religious or spiritual and do not bridle your tongue you are living a deceived life and your perception of your religious status is Worthless. That is bold!

He then defines Pure Religion in God’s sight as one that cares about and ministers to the orphans, widows, and keeps his or herself unstained by the world.  Christianity must by its nature be concerned with the needs of people spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, economically, and in every way.  That does not mean that we neglect other aspects of life but if we have no compassion for people then how can we claim to be followers of Christ who came to ‘seek and to save’ that which was lost?  The very heart of the ministry of Jesus focused on people.  I’ve had preachers tell me that they loved preaching but didn’t like dealing with people.  I always said, “What are you doing in the ministry?”  People not your ability to stand in the pulpit and your oratorical skills should be the focus of your labors.  Some ministers are not pastors and should never lead congregations because that is not the gift that God put within them.  That does not give them license to be unconcerned about people or from loving people.  How can I claim to love God if I do not love people?

I want my religion or spirituality to be Worth Something not Worthless.  I want to develop and manifest Pure Religion in the sight of God.  I am less concerned about what people think of me than what God knows about me.  I do not want to perform religious functions out of a sense of obligation but out of a heart of love that compels me and motivates me to action because of God’s love.  One will be nothing more than a clanging banging gong and the other will bring the nectar of life to hearts.

So as you go through this day seek to manifest Pure Religion in the sight of God and it will minister to those who are hurting and hungry.  Blessings as you go through your day!