Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

The prayer of thanksgiving is probably one of the most important prayers to pray. Various biblical texts refer to the thanks we should give to God on a regular basis. The psalmist David begins Psalm 9 with these words,

 "I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. 
I will be filled with job because of you, I will sing praises to your name, O Most High." 
And 1 Chronicles16:34 says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good."  
Remember Luke's account of Jesus healing ten lepers, but only one came to thank him. Jesus questioned him about the other nine, then said to the man, "Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well."  
We all know the importance of being thankful when we pray, but we need to know the concept of thanking God goes beyond thanking him at mealtime, or when we first wake up, or when we go to bed at night.  The thankful heart is one that is constantly recognizing God's direction and work in our  lives and is always ready to offer him praise and thanks.  
I know God receives pleasure when his children are thankful to him for all he has done, but I want to show you some additional benefits.  1. Being thankful to him, helps us to continually recognize him as God, while we recognize ourselves in constant need of his presence.  2. Our thankfulness to God is an example to others of our intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. 3. Thanking God for the gift of his Son, keeps our hearts and minds on Christ. 4. Being thankful to God takes the emphasis off of us, controls our pride, and allows us to focus on God.

Paul told the Thessalonians, "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for those who belong to Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:18

From a little prayer book by Rachel Quillin, comes this prayer, 

"Thank You, Lord, that You have a perfect plan for my life. i know I don't always understand it, but You know what's best, and everything that happens is for a reason--that You might be glorified. I'm so glad that You are in control and that I need not worry."  
Today I am thankful to God for you who read these messages. Regular visits here or just once in a while, makes you a great blessing to me.  God continues to give us increase in the number of people who  come to this site. My prayer of thanksgiving to him continues daily that we may be a thankful people in all we do, remembering God's great love for us, and our love toward one another. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

Let Us Pray

One of the greatest gifts afforded to every Christian is prayer. For every discussion about prayer there will be varied opinions leading to discussions of prayers that have been answered, prayers which resulted in changed lives, or prayers that accomplished purposes for which there is no explainable  answer.  

Prayer is conversing with God. The Bible is filled with examples and stories about those who prayed. Even Jesus, during his earthly ministry removed himself from his followers and spent quiet times with the Father. The apostle Paul in his writings was insistent on Christians praying for him and for one another.  The early Christians which are the focus of the book of Acts, were always praying for each other and for those outside Christianity. 

The point is, God loves to converse with his people. He longs to be in such an intimate relationship with us that merits conversation with him. Almost every Christian will have a story about a situation where they prayed for some specific answer to a problem, and through the word of God, or through a nudging from within, or encouragement from other Christians, the answer came.

One of the blessings of prayer is that even when we do not know what to pray for, the Spirit of God which lives in us actually represents us before God's throne. It's nice to know that we humans have the presence of the Divine to assist us in our conversations with God. 

Those sections of scripture which we know as "The Lord's Prayer," were the result of people asking questions about how to pray.  There are some who do not prefer to pray publicly, but may be some of the strongest Christians through their personal and quiet times talking to God. 

Some would have you to believe prayer is like a magic wand God waves, giving us everything we want, or think we want. Still others will associate successful prayers with an accompanying donation of financial support.   When will we learn the simplicity of just carrying on a conversation with God, and a willingness to wait for his answer?   What about you?  What do you talk about when you pray to God?

Your prayers may be in the form of thanksgiving, thanking God for physical and spiritual blessings he has sent your way. You might even include prayers for others who are struggling with an illness, a death in their family, financial burdens, work related problems, rebellious children, etc. There are countless things going on in our lives, and God wants us to talk to him about them. 

Prayer is a time when we can really be ourselves because God already sees us as we are. It's not a time for us to remind him how good we are, but a wonderful time for us to thank  him for how good he is. It is impossible for me to know what is on your heart today. Praise, complaints, sins, problems, whatever it might be. Today is the day you can spend some time with God in prayer and pour your heart out to him. (More on prayer each day this week here in the blog.) 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Worship and Communion

The weekend is here again, and this weekend is like many other summer weekends. Warmer weather, and lots of activities going on. Some are home from vacation while others are just leaving on their trips. No doubt about it, we do get busy in the summer months and trying to fit everything into a schedule is a job in itself.

I hope this weekend and every weekend, you find some time to spend with God in worship and communion. The time of worship is your opportunity to gather with Christians and experience the closeness of like minds and hearts sending praise and honor to God. Also, of great importance is the time spent in communion, remembering all that Jesus has done for you. 

These events were planned for us since before time began. God loves his people and desires their love and adoration in return. The weekly celebration of communion is a time when we can give our thanks and praise to the one who died for us.  In communion with our Lord, we have a time to inspect ourselves, to attempt to see ourselves as God sees us. It is a time when our reflection on the cross brings us to a personal re-dedication of our commitment to him. 

The bread and the wine, symbols of his body and blood, draw us closer to realizing what it means to have someone die for us. But the love that brought all that to us as a gift, expects our lives to reflect that we are recipients of the forgiveness that Jesus' death brings. 

I hope we can see the power that is unleashed in worship and communion. Two events that we have a tendency to experience with casual participation. But God does expect us to praise him. He is pleased when his children worship him in spirit and in truth. It is when we are right with him in the worship experience that we receive strength to face the difficulties of life that hit us during the week. 

Likewise there is power from our communion experience, too. No one would argue about the power of God which raised Jesus from death. Nor should we doubt the spiritual power that comes alive in us when we celebrate his resurrection each Sunday with our church family, the actual recipients of the benefits of his death, burial and resurrection.
Sing it with me, out loud or just in your hearts, 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.


Friday, July 27, 2012

She was a wicked woman

She wasn't a very nice lady. She had a poor reputation and was called a woman of the town, a prostitute. Luke is telling us her story in his account of the gospel, and simply calls her an especially wicked woman. 

It was no accident that she met Jesus that day, nor was it fate that brought them together at the home of  a Pharisee. Jesus had been invited there to eat a meal, and this woman showed up uninvited. She brought with her an alabaster container of perfumed lotion or ointment. 

She was standing behind Jesus, crying, and her tears began to drip on his feet.  The Bible says she wiped them dry with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed them with the perfume. 

We can understand how this might have made the Pharisee homeowner feel. He was embarrassed at the thought of a prostitute coming into his home and apparently he thought Jesus didn't know what kind of woman she was. 

It seemed strange, but Jesus began telling a story to the Pharisee about a lender and a couple of debtors. One owed the lender a large sum and the other owed a small sum, and neither could repay their loans. The lender forgave both debts.  Jesus then asked the Pharisee which of the two loved that man the most?  The Pharisee told him it must be the one with the greater debt forgiven.
Jesus said, "you have decided correctly."  Then he continued telling his host to look at the woman, and reminded him that when Jesus had entered his home, there was no water offered to soothe and clean his feet, yet the woman had cried tears to wet his feet and wiped them wither her hair.  Jesus continued talking to the Pharisee host,  "You did not greet me with a kiss, yet she continues to kiss my feet. You offered no oil for my head, but she anointed my feet with this costly perfume."

Here is the lesson for the Pharisee, and for us. Jesus said, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven because she has loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Here was a man who was quick to point out how evil this woman was, much in the same way we make sure everyone knows about the sins of people we see every day.  Perhaps the Pharisee wondered where the woman got this expensive perfume. Did she buy it herself with money she received from her wicked occupation?  Maybe it was a gift from one of her lovers.  None of this concerned Jesus. She was a woman who showed honest love toward the One who loved everyone enough to die for them. 

You can read the whole story in Luke 7:36-50. I hope we can all benefit from the lesson for the Pharisee. This woman had a past, and we have a past. Jesus died for her sins and ours. On that day, Jesus looked at this woman and saw love. Do you get this picture?  The eyes of love, seeing a sinner who loves him in return.  When we recognize our hopelessness without Christ, we will long for those loving eyes to see in us, a sinner loving him for who he is, for what he has done, and for who we can become because he loves us. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ever Increasing Glory

2 Corinthians 3:18 " And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Isn't it great that God accepts us the way we are, cleans us in the blood of Jesus, tells us we are a new creation, and then lets us know he wants to keep changing us into the likeness of His Son?

The verse above describes being transformed into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory. Other translations use the phrase "changed from one degree of glory to another." But wait. Don't we believe that whatever we do in this life as a Christian is done to bring all the glory to God?  We do, or at least we should. But now we have verses from the Bible telling us as God changes us, it is done in phases as we become transformed into the likeness of Jesus with ever-increasing glory.  That's what the Paul was talking about when he said we "reflect the Lord's glory."

To help understand we look back to the Old Testament book of Haggai where there is another usage of this idea of "increasing glory."  The prophet of God is instructed to speak to the leaders, the high priests, and to the remainder of the people and ask , "Who among you is left that saw this house in its former glory? And how do you see it now?" Later, the prophet's message from God is that God is going to shake things up a bit and make the heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry lands tremble.   God says, "I will shake all nations and the desire and the precious things of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with splendor."  Do we see the prophetic message of the coming Lord, or some prophecy about the church?

Let's make an application from our perspective. Do you think God received the glory of another addition to his spiritual family when you were born again? Sure he did. And while we may stumble and make mistakes and commit sins in our lives, we Christians still bring glory to the Father when we grow to overcome the stumbling blocks of Satan.  From the biblical sense, especially our knowledge of God's plan spoken through Haggai, as the process of being changed from one degree of glory to another is experienced, we take another step toward the likeness of Jesus. 

However we interpret those verses, the truth is the same. God is not one to leave us where we are, even after we become Christians. He desires for us to grow and mature in Christ until the glory we reflect is just like that of Jesus.  And according to the reference from the book of Haggai, each future glory will surpass the previous glory.

Satan tells us we are not worth saving. He wants us to believe that God gave up on us years ago. These feelings are the devil's tools to slow us down and keep us focused on our worthlessness. The truth of the matter is that God loves us, and through the cross gives us the privilege of redemption. His grace that brought us to this point continues with us as we mature in ever increasing glory and become transformed into the likeness of Christ.  Praise God for the person we can become through our commitment to Him. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

God's Deliverance

From the Old Testament writings which we call the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, we are introduced early to Samuel, who was a faithful servant as prophet and priest in Israel. The people had been begging for a king and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel's first king.
Saul wasn't exactly the kind of king Israel needed. The Bible shows us a side of him that reveals a evil heart. However, it was through Saul that David, the future king, enters the picture. 

We know David best in his younger years for defeating Goliath, the giant of the Philistine army. In your reading today, look through 1 Samuel 17 to see the battles that were facing the armies of Israel. Things did not look favorable for them in their attempt to defeat the Philistines. The main character on the Philistine side was Goliath, a giant of a man, standing almost ten feet tall. Verse 11 is easy for us to understand, "When Saul and all Israel heard the words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid."

A man from Bethlehem had eight sons, three of which had gone with Saul to battle the Philistines. The youngest of the eight was David.  David was sent by his father to take food to his brothers on the battlefront and to bring back some news about how they were doing. 

Goliath had now been issuing his daily challenge for someone to come fight him, for forty days. It was while David was visiting his brothers that he heard the challenge of Goliath. David witnessed the fear in the lives of all the warriors of Israel. After hearing the challenge, and seeing the fear of his comrades, David asked the question, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine?"  David's oldest brother became angry and accused him of coming there just to see the battle.  Verse 30 says that David turned away from his older brother. 

David was also confronted by Saul, who told David he was not able to stand up to the giant. "You are only a child and Goliath has been a warrior for years." After more discussion, David convinced Saul to let him go, and verse 37 gives David's convincing words. "The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.  Saul said to him, Go, and may the Lord be with you."

We are familiar with the story of David's sling and the smooth stone which brought Goliath down. David was victorious over the giant, and all the Philistines fled in fear. 

I tell you the story today to get you to see, David was feeling the call of God to deal with a huge problem on behalf of his countrymen and brothers.  We too, feel the call of God for witnessing, evangelizing, or any number of ways to assist in defeating evil and the Evil One. David's lesson for us, when faced with insurmountable odds, is to depend on God's deliverance. David could have ran back home in fear if he had listened to his brother, or if he had listened to King Saul. David knew God would supply the victory. We should have that confidence too.  What is God calling you to do?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Struggles Abound

The writings of the apostle Paul are an amazing testimony from the life of this transformed hater of Christians and enemy of the church. The Damascus Road experience had caused the changes as Paul became a follower of Jesus and traveled on mission tours spreading the truth of the gospel. 

One of the most personal letters he wrote was 2 Corinthians where he seemed to realize the struggles of  Christians.  His first letter to them had brought up the problems and attitudes which necessitated changes being made. Now his second letter is finding many of those problems still existing, although there are some Christians who are attempting to keep the faith and maintain their allegiance to God. 

I want us to see today, the important message early in chapter 1, which assures us that in spite of our troubles and problems God is with us to bring comfort. Read closely from verses 3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
One thing every Christian should know and understand is that difficulties come our way. It may be brought about by some sin in our lives, or it could be the result of sin in the lives of someone else. In the case of the Corinthian Christians, they were having some bitter disagreements in the church, some based on lifestyles, others based on worship, to name a few. Paul himself knew in his Christian life problems arose, there was always some suffering attached to his work in spreading the gospel
As a result of this, Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that when these trials of struggle and suffering come our way, God is there to provide comfort. The added bonus is that the comfort with which we are comforted overflows from us and becomes a comfort to others. We see from the passage above that God is a God of comfort, but we are also comforted by fellow Christians.  

We are all people who share in our sufferings, but the comfort to see us through difficult times is available from God and from His children. Those who receive this comfort from God are to become a comfort to others who are suffering. 

It was no mistake on the part of God to use the word "Comforter" when describing the Holy Spirit which lives in us. That comfort which we receive from deep within, is God recognizing our agony and dilemma and offering his peace. If you recognize that comfort in your life today, let it overflow from you into the life of someone you know is struggling.  God bless.