Keeping Alert in Relating with God

alert-prayerThe things that often cause God’s people to avoid or quit praying is dullness, sluggishness, and drowsiness. There is a great need for alertness in prayer.  Paul says we can do this with “thanksgiving,” and in the Bible, thanksgiving is often associated with shouting.

Shouting is an act God prescribes over and over in His word.  It is something often forgotten or undiscovered in many circles. Many Christians don’t realize how often it is mentioned in the Bible.  Shouting and lifting our voice is by far the most prescribed expression towards God.  Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud is mentioned 265 times in the Bible.

Psalms 95:1-2 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.  (2)  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

This is in contrast to only about 11 times “silence” is mentioned (most of which are about meditating on things).  Only 3 mentions of silence are in terms of direct interaction with God.  These statistics are amazing when you see them in light of the other physical expressions God encourages His people to express in response to Him.

  • Shouting, lifting our voice, crying aloud 265 times
  • Playing music and instruments 58 times
  • Singing 29 times
  • Lifting our hands 14 times
  • Clapping our hands12 times
  • Bowing or kneeling 12 times
  • Dancing 9 times
  • Standing 7 times.

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” Harry Ironside

According to the Bible, shouting can break the power of fear, doubt, heaviness, barrenness, sluggishness, and grief. Circumstances and/or the devil often turn up the volume of the difficulty and hopelessness in our minds.  We must not be buried under these attacks but retaliate by lifting our voices in high praise.

Shouting and lifting voices are usually associated with Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition, but according to the Bible, it is associated with the Spirit’s activity in reminding us of our adoption by Christ.  The only two verses that speak about the Spirit reminding us we are adopted through Jesus are associated with shouting.

  • Rom 8:11-16...15  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father!”  16  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
  • Gal 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying (to croak or scream, call aloud, shriek, cry out), “Abba! Father

When the enemy comes to lie to us about God’s love and Fatherhood towards us we need to let the Spirit “cry out” through our lips with thanksgiving.

My wife has taught grammar for many years.  Exclamation marks should be used only when conveying extreme emotions or important points.  She says that they are way over used in emails and texts. Often it is used to try to get people to pay attention, but they were intended, according to the dictionary, “to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.”  In the Bible, exclamation marks appear over and over, especially in the Psalms.  The reason, to elicit strong emotions.  I like how the Message Bible portrays these truths.

  •  Ps 47:1″Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!”
  • Ps 95:1 “Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”
  • Ps 98:4 “Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!”

3 reasons shouting can help us in prayer and worship.

  1. Shouting awakens us to God’s great power and authority. Many times the voice of the enemy and our own doubts and fears have turned up the volume in our mind and emotions. Shouting turns up the God volume.  It can break off the power of fear, heaviness, and doubt.  Sometimes we need more than just silent prayers, we need to shout.
  2. Shouting is a means to break us out of barrenness into fruitfulness.  Isaiah 54:1-3 (Gal 4:27) Rejoice, O unfruitful one that never bore; break out a song and shout… For more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the married woman…(2)  Make the place of your tent larger and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes;  (3)  for you shall break out on the right hand and on the left. 
  3. Shouting can release victory. The story of the walls of Jericho is a good example.  God used the shout to bring them down (Josh 6:20).  God released a great earthquake through Paul and Silas’ late night praise that set them free from their chains and began a move of God that resulted in the planting of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:22-26).

Self-dignity and Self-consciousness leads to Spiritual Barrenness

Christians are often too embarrassed to lift their voice and shout. Some think it is embarrassing to be around others who do.  Unfortunately, this was the same attitude Michal had towards David when he danced, sang, and shouted wildly when bringing God’s presence (the Ark of the Covenant) back to Jerusalem.  Scripture reveals the results; David was fruitful while Michal was barren for the rest of her life (2 Samuel 6:14-23 ).   

Some mistakenly think that shouting is a cultural or personal preference.  It is a Biblical preference!  Shouting is encouraged twice as many times as all other expressions combined, and over 4 times as much as the second most frequently mentioned expression (playing musical instruments mentioned 59 times).  Shouting is encouraged over 9 times as much as the third most frequently mentioned expression (singing mentioned 28 times).

Shouting saints are more like David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others, including those right now around the throne in heaven than those who choose the self-dignity route.  David was a shouter and even shouted while alone in his tent Ps 27:6 “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”  We can do the same.

If you are dull, drowsy, sluggish, spiritually barren, or full of doubt and fear, don’t let it drive you from the place of prayer; shout your way past them into God’s presence Ps 47:1 Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.   

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Lights, Camera, God’s Presence

I read this comment on a report that caught my attention and made me consider some important issues regarding worship and connecting with God.

The sensory experience in many Charismatic churches is amazing.  Special lighting,
smoke, amazing sound and musicians, and video feed showing beautiful scenes accompanying our worship songs help our senses to focus on the Spiritual realms of God. These things help stimulate our emotions as well as endorphins in our brain that release pleasurable sensations.  Our emotions should be aimed at, and help us experience God.  Yet there can be a downside to this if we don’t equip people to connect with God beyond the meeting and the sensory help.

Understand that I am not an old naysayer who is advocating old or traditional ways of
worship from yesteryear. As a recently saved college student who was raised in a secular home (who attended my share of rock concerts), I helped lead a church into new expressions of charismatic worship.  I was a drummer, and we helped a church transition from singing traditional hymns from a songbook with one old piano, to a full-blown charismatic worship band leading great worship services.  I loved it and have never looked back.

That type of worship was rare in those days with only “new” churches experiencing it.  Now it seems as if everyone has jumped on the Charismatic worship style bandwagon. There is a wide proliferation of media and the arts being expressed in them which is wonderful.   If you want to be an “in church” you need to incorporate Charismatic worship styles, loud music, great lighting, video feeds, and trendy music.

Video feeds, smoke machines, special lighting, and loud music are helpful in connecting with God but they aren’t essential.

I love all those things but am also aware of a potential deficiency.  If those external sensory helps are the only way someone can experience the “tangible presence” of God then we are missing something important. Connecting with God in a real way must transcend all those external helps.  Worship and connecting with God is something that must go beyond the sensory and emotional sway of great music, lights, technology, and even coffee (Yikes!).  Emotions are emotions, but our connection with God and worship must be founded in Him alone.

Consider what the writer of Hebrews says about our connection with God

Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (16) Don’t forget to do good things for others and to share what you have with them. These are the kinds of sacrifices that please God.

Note the attributes of worship from this passage.

  • giving thanks from our lips in all circumstances
  • doing good things in serving others
  • sharing with those who have needs

This type of connection says nothing about our senses being stirred.  Of course, it doesn’t mention loud music, smoke machines, video feeds, or special lighting to help us “feel His tangible presence.”  While these things can be helpful, they aren’t essential.

We must realize that sometimes our emotions don’t tell the truth.

I love it when my emotions are on board with praising God and sensing His presence.  I love it when I am motivated to serve others and feel a sense of satisfaction in doing so. But sometimes my emotions are not on board with those things, and sometimes they are even against it.  If it happens occasionally on a Sunday morning, what about the rest of the week?  I can’t call for a couple of hundred people, a loud worship band, video feeds, and smoke machines to orient my senses to God.  My life of worship must be bigger than that.

Consider some of the Biblical heroes of faith and God’s “tangible presence” 

Abraham:  Abraham probably didn’t feel much of the “tangible presence of God” when he climbed the mountain as he contemplated sacrificing the promised son for whom he waited so long.  I am sure his emotions were all over the map, but he obeyed as an “act of worship” (Gen 22:5).

Great men and women of God were not guided by their emotions, instead THEY GUIDE THEIR EMOTIONS like David did.  “Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)

Job:  Job probably didn’t feel very tingly with God’s presence when he was sitting in the ash heap, scraping boils with pieces from a clay pot as he reflected on the children and possessions he had lost.  I am sure his emotions were running in different directions while rebutting his wife’s suggestions “are you still trying to hold onto what you believe, your integrity, your principles, curse God and die (Job 2:9).”  Yet Job trusted and obeyed as an act of worship with the mindset “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

Paul:  How about Paul when he was beaten 5 times with 39 lashes, spending a night and day in the ocean after being shipwrecked, or in all the “frequent dangers” (2 Cor 11:24-33)?  There was no worship team, special lighting, or loud music to help him “feel God.”  Yet he continued in faith, offered the fruit of worship both in giving thanks and living as a sacrifice.

Stephen:  Stephen had a view of heaven and saw Jesus (Acts 7:54-60), then was stoned to death. Did His vision cause him to avoid pain?  Did he still feel the stones?  Of course, but he still gave his life as worship.

Let us make sure we are pursuing a connection with, and worship of God that is not dependent on all the sensory help.   This includes pursuing a life of worship and prayer that goes way beyond an hour or two in a corporate gathering with all the external sensory help.  Cultivate and discipline yourself for that connection in your private prayer life with God.

Romans 12:1…because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.

PS:  There was a great sociological research study released by Katie E. Corcoran titled “God is like a drug” that describes the sensory phenomenon in a positive light.  It is worth a review.

 

 

 

 

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Restarting And Refreshing Our Internal Computer

I have the wonderful privilege of serving God with some great computer geniuses like Scott Parish.  On many occasions, I have had to, and continue to have to consult him about my issues, most of which or self-induced.  My computer skills are somewhat limited and trying to fix my own problems is sometimes like trying to climb Mt. Everest with no shoes or coat.  I appreciate Scott’s patience with me.

I often notice the problem when my computer freezes up or runs sluggishly.  It just begins to act weird!  It no longer works like it has in the past.

One piece of advice Scott almost always gives me at the beginning is, “have you restarted the computer?”  A second is, “have you hit the refresh button?”  Most of the time those simple steps takes care of the majority of my problems.

Prayer, praise, and worship are the way we zoom out of the emotional prisons and mental slumps we are in. 

There is a spiritual parallel in serving God.  Psalms 73 is a great example of going from spiritual and emotional breakdown to a restart and refresh. The psalmist’s emotions and perspective became bogged down and sluggish.  His emotional and spiritual operating system wasn’t working right.  We have all been there before.  We start to consider weird thoughts like the psalmist, “it would be easier not serving God…it is vain to serve Him…God doesn’t seem to notice or care about me.”  Like him we know deep down inside God is good but “as for me” we are not experiencing it right now, and wonder what the problem is.  This leads to considering very stupid ideas.

  • Psalms 73:1-28  Surely God is good to His people, To those who are pure in heart!  (2)  But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.  (3)  For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  (4)  For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat.  (5)  They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind.  (6)  Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them.  (7)  Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot.  (8)  They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high.  (9)  They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth… (11)  They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?”  (12)  Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.  (13)  Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence;  (14)  For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.  (15)  If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.  (16)  When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 

Fortunately for him and us, we can restart and refresh our emotions and thoughts as we come into the presence of God.  Consider how he describes it.  He goes from, “it would be easier not serving God,” or “it is pointless to serve Him,” to “Your nearness is my good…nothing I desire on earth can be compared to You…You are the strength of my life.”  He saw his previous mental and emotional state as being “senseless and ignorant” (which is how we all feel after we come through similar challenges).  How did he hit the restart or refresh button, by spending focused time in the light and presence of God?

  • (17)  Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end… (21)  When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within,  (22)  Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.  (23)  Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.  (24)  With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.  (25)  Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  (26)  My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever..  (28)  But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

Example of Paul and Silas

Acts 16 records a similar experience of Paul and Silas  They had been overcome by an angry mob who tore off their clothes, beat them, and put them in prison  At midnight instead of lamenting we find them doing something different that was restarting and refreshing their physical, mental, and emotional state,  “praying and singing hymns of praise.”  This triggered an earthquake that led to their release from bondage (vs 25-26).

When we get into emotional slumps it is usually because we have zoomed in on a problem or a messed up feeling.  We have focused on something we don’t like about ourselves or our circumstances.  Prayer, praise, and worship are the way we zoom out of the emotional prisons and mental slumps we are in.

Never let what is wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.   

When we come into the presence of God with prayer, praise, and worship we zoom out of our emotional, spiritual, and circumstantial prisons and refocus on God’s big picture.  We see again the great thing that happened over 2000 years ago with Jesus that continues to bring life to us today and hope for the future.

Never let what is wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.  Prayer, praise, and worship are about turning your focus away from what is wrong with you and remembering what’s right with God.  It is like restarting and refreshing you mental and emotional computer.

  • Colossians 4:2  Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful.

 

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Made in God’s Image or Making Him into Ours

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” Voltaire

I was recently in a worship service in which we were singing the song by Keith Getty and Stewart Townend, “In Christ Alone.”  It is a tremendous song full of Biblical truth. It gained quite bit of popularity among Christian circles for which I am very glad.  What a joy to know Christians all over the world have worshiped Jesus as they sang such wonderful Biblical truths about Him.  I have worshiped many times with this song, cried, and been freshly filled with Holy Spirit as I sang those marvelous truths about Jesus.  

It is always good to appreciate and worship Him based on how He revealed Himself and what He has done through Jesus. There is a fallen nature in mankind and culture, however, that tries to make God the way we would like Him to be rather than worshiping Him for who He has revealed Himself to be.   During the creation of mankind God said, Let us make man in Our image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28).  It is great for God to make us in His image but bad when we try to make Him into ours.  

We have that tendency to ignore what we don’t like about how God revealed Himself in His word and only highlight what we do like.  This leaves us with a God made in our own image and likeness.

“God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentlemen, returned the compliment.”  Mark Twain

This was highlighted in a controversy I remembered as I was singing the aforementioned song.  A few years ago the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song decided to exclude it from its new hymnal.  The song was being sung in many of their churches and the committee wanted it included but a line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” caused a problem.  For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.  I am sure it cost the authors financially but I am glad they didn’t bow to cultural or politically motivated heresy. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/05/presbyterians-decision-to-drop-hymn-stirs-debate/2618833/

In Christ aloneMany Christians deal with unpopular aspects of God’s nature like His wrath the way Victorian Christians handled the idea of sex.  Treat it as something shameful, embarrassing, and best left in the closet.  God is perfectly just and His wrath is not unbridled anger based on capricious whims.  Neither is His love just sentimental love.  Jesus living a perfect life, bearing our sins, and facing the perfect judicial wrath of God is the foundation of His being our Savior.

We must be careful not to try to make God the way we want Him to be rather than seeing Him as He is.   Some people choose aspects of God like we choose items on a salad bar. I love salad bars, and I know very well how they work.  We pick out what we like, leave out what we don’t, get as much as we want, and still end up with salad.  God doesn’t work that way.  The Psalmist speaks of this tendency of making God the way we want Him with God’s reply, “you thought I was like you.”  In other words you tried to make Me the way you wanted Me to be.  

Psalms 50:16-22  But God said…(19)  “You are always ready to speak evil; you never hesitate to tell lies.  (20)  You are ready to accuse your own relatives and to find fault with them.  (21)  You have done all this, and I have said nothing, so you thought that I am like you. But now I reprimand you and make the matter plain to you.

The great church leader Tertullian, 160-225 AD from the Carthage in the Roman province of  Africa responded to some early heresies of a similar nature that were coming into the church.  He said that the heretics proposed,

“a better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind.” 

As the early Christians understood Isaiah 53:4-5, Christ was pierced for our transgressions, smitten by God and afflicted.  He bore the wrath of God for us.  The wrath of God is actually an aspect of the love of God. British scholar Tony Lane explains that “the love of God implies His wrath. Without His wrath God simply does not love in the sense that the Bible portrays His love.” God’s love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender, but not spineless.  It involves not only compassion, kindness, and mercy beyond measure (what the New Testament calls grace) but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.

In his 1934 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr spoke of the salad bar approach to God, “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

How many other issues that Christians feel the press of culture to ignore or redefine have we succumbed to? We must be careful not to make God in the image we would like Him to be.  In doing so we may end up worshiping a god of our own making which the Bible calls an idol. 

 

 

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Our main problem isn’t His love for us but our love for Him

keeping yourselves in Gods loveGod is love  (John 4:7-8).  We are thankful for His great love seen in sending Jesus. Through His sacrifice we can be forgiven and joined to God.  

Ephesians 2:4-5  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…

There is another aspect of God’s love we must consider, our love for Him.    Mark Twain once said something that is a very true especially in the area of our love for God.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” 

Not long ago I was in a worship service in which we were singing songs about God’s great love towards us.  I could really sense His presence. We had some prophetic words and exhortations aimed at helping people be reminded and have a deeper appreciation of God’s love towards us. Then out of the blue the Spirit said something very surprising. “The thing that causes most problems in the lives of My people isn’t about Me loving them but them loving Me.”   

This was a little surprising to hear in that tender moment.   Then He preceded to show me this in Scripture. This was the first question Jesus asked Peter  after the resurrection.

Joh 21:15-17 …Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me…”Tend My lambs.”  16…”Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”…”Shepherd My sheep.”  17…”Simon, son of John, do you love Me?“…Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

Over and over Jesus said that the first (not second or third), and most important thing is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Mar 12:28-30…”What commandment is the foremost of all?”  29  Jesus answered, “The foremost is…30  AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. (Dt 6:5, 7:9, 10:2, 11:1, 13, 22, Mt 22:37, Lk 10:27).

John (the apostle of love) outlived all the other apostles and was dealing with heresies that had crept into the church.  He continually showed us that the acid test of authentic faith was loving God which is clearly seen through loving others and obeying His commands.  

  • Joh 14:15  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  
  • 1Jn 4:11-24 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. We love, because He first loved us.  (20)  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (21)  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.  (Joh 8:42, Joh 15:10-14).
  • 1Jn 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (Walking in Jn 3:16 should lead to walking in 1 Jn 3:16)
  • 1Jn 5:2…By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 

Loving God in response to His love is a key that brings healing and restoration in our lives. It causes us to obey His commands which makes us better husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and employees. Knowing God loves us should carry over into us loving and obeying Him. 

Loving God is also the foundation for local churches displaying the nature of Jesus the head of the church.  As John was recording Jesus’ messages to the 7 local churches in Asia Minor He challenged Ephesus about this very important issue.  Revelation 2:4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  If loving Jesus isn’t at the heart of a church it will be hard for Him to reveal Himself through it (Eph 3:10-11)

A most challenging scripture

Paul wrote probably one of the most shocking things about loving God to the Corinthian church.  He had stressed the importance of walking in God’s love in chapter 13.  No matter what we do in God’s kingdom if we don’t walk in love “it does not profit us.”  He finishes the letter with a crazy statement.

1 Cor 16:22-24 MSG If anyone won’t love the Master, throw him out. Make room for the Master! 23 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.

“Throw him out” for not loving God?  It sounds like a very unloving and unChristian thing to say.  Why was Paul so strong on this?  He knew that all the challenging things the Corinthians were going through could not be resolved without loving God.  If people stayed in the church who refused to love God things would only get worse. 

Keeping ourselves in the love of God 

How do we stay in and grow in our love for God? Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God.   Many things can help but one of the biggest is a constant gratitude for His love and forgiveness.  Like the immoral woman that Jesus used to show us what it means to love Him, we need to constantly be amazed by His great love.  This is what causes us, like her to “love much.”

Luk 7:30-50 …So which of them will love him more?”  (43)  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”(47)  “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

We tend to live in an entitlement culture that works against the idea of gratitude.  When we think we are owed things or deserve them we begin to lose a sense of gratitude. In order to abide in God’s love we need a deeper gratitude.  It is a constant gratitude for God Himself.   Psa 106:1, 107:1  O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psa 118:1, 136:1, etc.)  

This is a radical gratitude for who He is that causes us to lay our lives down in response. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (15) and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

This is an essential trait if we are to keep ourselves in God’s love.

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Putting Gratitude on a Good Foundation

ThanksgivingAs Thanksgiving is upon us people all over will be reflecting on things they are thankful for.  There is all kinds of research that confirms what the Bible has told us all along that being thankful is the best way to live (both physically and psychologically).  People who are perpetually thankful are healthier (both physically and mentally), have a better outlook on life, have better relationships, and have more of a sense of satisfaction than people who are not.

For those who know God, giving thanks helps us continually be refreshed in His life.  Even when things don’t always go well (according to our definition) we have the capacity to be thankful “no matter what happens.”

1Th 5:16-19 Rejoice evermore.  (17)  Pray without ceasing.  (18)  LB  no matter what happens always be thankful,  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  

Two Types of Gratitude

Foundational Gratitude

Foundational Gratitude

The Bible speaks of two types of gratitude we are to have.  The first is a natural gratitude which is being thankful for blessings we have received such as life, health, food, or a roof over our head etc.  For the Christian there is a deeper type of gratitude which even helps us keep natural gratitude in it’s rightful place.  I call this type of gratitude foundational gratitude.  This isn’t gratitude for goods that we received, but for who God is.  It is thankfulness for His goodness, love, power, patience, and excellencies.   This is a gratitude that is rooted in God Himself and is a proper motivational foundation for all other gratitude.

When we move in foundational gratitude it will cause a chain reaction of God’s life flowing in and through us.  It will affect our whole outlook on life.  From the foundational gratitude for God Himself, we focus properly on what we do have.  They become a reflection of light that shines from the face of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6…the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God….(6)  For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

If we see blessings apart from Him the blessings can become idols that we worship and grow tired of.  Then it is an easy step to look towards unpleasant things or what we don’t have and become ungrateful which steals life.   When we begin with His goodness we see all of our blessings in their proper place.   We will either follow the gifts up to the face of Jesus or we begin with the face of Jesus and see all of our gifts as a reflection of Him.  Either way we will have more joy and fulfillment in this life.

1 Timothy 4:4  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude

Anyone can look at things and can be thankful for them.  God’s people see that good things are a reflection of His goodness (light) and we follow that light to the source, Jesus.  Our greatest joy is in Him!   When He is our greatest joy then we enjoy His benefits more than we ever could apart from Him.      Psalms 43:4  Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

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