VOICE OF THANKSGIVING

Ps.100:4,5 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.

Nothing like fervent, corporate worship. Actually, worship flows out from our love of God. Once you taste His incredible love that He has for you worship will be your response. One of the places we see this is in Luke where Luke describes a woman of questionable character who had tasted the love and forgiveness of Christ and could not pull herself away from His feet. She was caught up in fervent thanksgiving, washing His feet with her tears, her hair, and some expensive perfume. She was worshipping from her heart, responding to God’s love for her. Thanksgiving always follows love. Once you glimpse His love for you clearly demonstrated at the cross, your heart will overflow with the fervency of giving thanks. Here is a snippet from Jonathan Edwards Thanksgiving Day message from 1734.

“Love is a principal ingredient in the grace of thankfulness. There is a counterfeit thankfulness in which there is no love. But there is love in exercise in all sincere thankfulness. And the greater any person’s love is, the more will he be disposed to praise. Love will cause him to delight in the work. He that loves God, proportionably seeks the glory of God, and loves to give him glory. Now the hearts of the saints in heaven are all, as it were, a pure flame of love. Love is the grace that never faileth; whether there be prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. Faith shall cease in vision, and hope in fruition, but love never faileth. The grace of love will be exalted to its greatest height and highest perfection in heaven; and love will vent itself in praise. Heaven will ring with praise, because it is full of love to God. This is the reason that great assembly, that innumerable host, praise God with such ardency, that their praise is as the voice of many waters, and as the mighty thunderings, because they are animated by so ardent, vigorous, and powerful a principle of divine love.”

So are you ready for Thanksgiving this year? It’s a good opportunity to clear our heads and get back to what really matters in life. Determine this year you will enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

SONG OF HEAVEN

Matt.5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You ever think about the sights and sounds of heaven? In Revelations 14 John tries to describe the singing he heard in heaven. It sounds strangely similar to the way he described the Lord’s voice in Revelation 1. He said the singing had the sound of many waters, like the ocean. Why was the singing so different from the singing on earth? (You know John had heard some powerful worship in his lifetime). I think it all has to do with perception. When you see something worth worship, the worship takes on a new fervency. With eyes wide open the worshippers in heaven are totally unrestrained. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described that scene in his Thanksgiving sermon in 1734.

“They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency, that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.

’Tis from the little that the saints have seen of God, and know of him in this world, that they are excited to praise him in the degree they do here. But here they see but as in a glass darkly; they have only now and then a little glimpse of God’s excellency; but then they shall have the transcendent glory and divine excellency of God set in their immediate and full view. They shall dwell in his immediate glorious presence, and shall see face to face. Now the saints see the glory of God but by a reflected light, as we in the night see the light of the sun reflected from the moon; but in heaven they shall directly behold the Sun of righteousness, and shall look full upon him when shining in all his glory.”

So what about where we are today, do we have a heart of thanksgiving this Thanksgiving in 2018? If Jonathan Edwards is right maybe that is determined by what we have seen of the Lord. Take some time as we celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect on the beauty of the Lord. Maybe you will be struck by His magnificence and be caught up in the heavenly song.

Come and Dine

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Luke 22:29,30 – And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom…

Most people really enjoy the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Christmas all the way through the New Year we will find ourselves celebrating with friends and family. There is something inside of us that wants to be at home sitting around the family table. After all, there is no place like home. I believe that this is something that is part of our human makeup, part of what it means to be created in the image of God. This longing for community is actually a longing for the community that surrounds our Heavenly Father’s table. What a table that must be ! Can you imagine what that day will be like when we are actually in heaven, in our Father’s house, sitting at our prepared place at the table of the Lord? That is what our hearts are really longing for and that is why Thanksgiving and Christmas tables are so special. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the Father’s table.

“Heaven is the house where God dwells with his family. God is represented in Scripture as having a family; and though some of this family are now on earth, yet in so being they are abroad and not at home, but all going home: Ephesians “3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. God has many children, and the place designed for them is heaven; therefore the saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God. God is represented as a householder or head of a family, and heaven is his house. Heaven is the house not only where God hath his throne, but also where he doth as it were keep his table, where his children sit down with him at his table and where they are feasted in a royal manner becoming the children of so great a King.”

What a day that will be! So this year as I celebrate from Thanksgiving through the New Year I’m going to reflect on the greatest of all celebrations that is just ahead. The marriage supper of the Lamb is being prepared, the invitations have been sent out, the table is prepared; Come and dine, the Master is calling.

OFFERING OUR HEART IN THANKSGIVING

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PSA. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And will call upon the name of the LORD.

True spirituality is all about the heart. The world is filled with religious activities that really mean nothing to God. One of the most terrifying passages of scripture is found in Amos 5. It says,

“Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,

I will not accept them,

Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”

I think the Lord gets really tired of religious observances that have nothing to do with the heart. Now don’t misunderstand, the Lord loves worshippers. He even says He is looking for worshippers. The truth is He is only looking for one kind of worshipper; the authentic kind. He is looking for worshippers who worship in Spirit and in truth. That brings us to this question, “How does one receive an authentic heart of worship?” Actually it is connected to giving thanks. When we recognize the kindness and mercy of God our hearts are filled with thanksgiving that spills over in worship and praise. This is the work of God’s grace in our souls. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on giving thanks to the Lord.

“Being thy servant, I am bound to sacrifice to thee, and having received spiritual blessings at thy hands I will not bring bullock or goat, but I will bring that which is more suitable, namely, the thanksgiving of my heart. My inmost soul shall adore thee in gratitude. And will call upon the name of the Lord, that is to say, I will bow before thee reverently, lift up my heart in love to thee, think upon thy character, and adore thee as thou dost reveal thyself. He is fond of this occupation, and several times in this Psalm declares that he will call upon the name of the Lord, while at the same time he rejoices that he had done so many a time before. Good feelings and actions bear repeating: the more of hearty callings upon God the better.”

So that’s it, true religion by definition is a religion of the heart. It is not so much about the outward performance but the thankful heart poured out to God. Give thanks to the Lord, offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving, the offering of your heart.

CONTENT

Related imageHeb.13:5 ¶ Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.

I have been teaching the book of Hebrews in Bethesda for the last several months. The theme of the book of Hebrews is the supernatural life available to us behind the veil. In the last chapter we have today’s verse about contentment. Paul spoke about being content whether he had plenty or if he suffered lack. Obviously, Paul’s view of contentment was far different from what we ordinarily see. The reason is what the book of Hebrews is all about, our contentment comes from this supernatural life we have in Christ. Our contentment doesn’t come from our possessions or our accomplishments, our contentment comes from Christ alone. That’s why this message of fullness or the deeper spiritual life is so practical. Rather than compartmentalizing our life with the spiritual and the natural we see that the whole thing is spiritual. Our ultimate contentment can come from nothing more or nothing other than the Lord. Stepping into intimacy with God is the way to total satisfaction. Here is how Andrew Murray describes it.

“Yes, when God is the portion of the soul, it may well be content with what it has of earth. It is the consciousness of the favor and nearness of God that makes the soul rise above all that the world can offer. To lead the truly Christian life, the life of faith amid daily duties and daily care, we need the presence of God as our better and abiding possession. Our earthly and our heavenly life are more closely linked than we know. Too much of interest in or attachment to earthly things inevitably weakens our hold on God. True fellowship with God at once brings us into the right relation to earthly things. Let our faith study and feed on the promise: Himself hath said, I will in no wise leave thee, nor in any wise forsake thee. The faith that clings to its fulfillment will overcome the world.”
So where have you been focusing your attention to secure contentment in life? Is it financial security that you long for or a new title at work or a better house or a long vacation? Those things are all good but are just not what produces peace and contentment in our soul. Christ is more than enough and He is calling us near.

ARRIVAL

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John 1:1,2 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving which signals the beginning of our sure march to Christmas. This season has been called Advent for two millennia. We are awaiting the arrival of Christmas Day. This Thanksgiving my grandson James was at our house several hours before the rest of the family arrived for our Thanksgiving meal. James was beside himself; he couldn’t wait for the arrival of all the cousins. He was so excited as he anticipated the coming ‘festivities’. That’s exactly how it is for Christians; we are actually waiting for two arrivals. We are excited about the arrival of Christmas Day. It’s not the parties or presents that stirs our hearts, it’s the hope that Christmas Day brings that fills us with expectancy. That day is the celebration that light has entered the world and the age of darkness is about to close. The second arrival is even more mysterious. Just as the faithful in Israel were awaiting the birth of the Messiah at the time of Christ’s birth, we too are waiting for Him. We know His promise is sure and He will return soon in the same way He left. The celebration of His first coming fills our hearts with anticipation of His soon return. Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham on the arrival of Christmas.

“The word Advent means arrival, and it refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. The “Advent season” usually starts four weeks before Christmas and concludes with the celebration of Christ’s birth. Some churches emphasize the Advent season more than others, but all Christians look forward to celebrating Christ’s birth during this season of the year.
Why was Jesus’ birth so important? The reason is because slightly over 2,000 years ago, God stooped down from Heaven and became a human being: Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV).
Think of it: God became a man! He did it because He loves us—and that’s what we should celebrate as Christmas approaches. Take time between now and Christmas to reflect on this great truth.”
I pray the blessing of the Lord be upon you and your house as we enter into this season of joy. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

THANKSGIVING 2016

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Psa. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the LORD.
Thanksgiving is ingrained in the fabric of our American culture and heritage. Despite the onslaught on our heritage in the last generation, Thanksgiving remains in the hearts of Americans. It began with a simple celebration in the 1600’s as some of our first Americans survived a very unpleasant and difficult winter. They were grateful that many had survived and a harvest had come in that year. All they knew to do was to call a special feast day and give thanks to the Lord. It became a practice of various colonies over the years and became part of our national heritage under our first President, George Washington.

In the 1860’s our nation was being torn by the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln called for a national holiday to give thanks and praise to the Lord which has continued on the fourth Thursday of November since Lincoln’s proclamation. Her is a brief excerpt from his proclamation.

“…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”
President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Our country is torn again today. At the heart of this conflict is two visions of America. Are we a secular or a Christian society? The way we answer that question will determine our national destiny. Give thanks to the Lord for the Lord is good. His mercy endures forever.

THE BEAUTY OF THANKFULNESS

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched in him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” I Cor. 1:4
We have survived the election by just barely. It was said that some 700 million Facebook comments were made just on the day of the election alone about the presidency. If you didn’t read, see or hear of someone being negative or nasty then you probably aren’t on social media, radio or the internet or read any newspapers. The neat thing about my life is every weekend SUNDAY COMETH and thank God I can go get my spiritual bath and adjustments to my horrible self IN CHURCH! Worshipping with political diversity and ethnic groups of all kinds puts me back in the presence of God. Thanksgiving pours out upon us and within us and that is where the breakthrough happens. Thankfulness becomes a kingdom reality and the presence of Christ comes alive in our hearts. We learn to push through the outer trappings of this world and see there is a greater force working, we become enriched in all wisdom and knowledge.

The mandate from God hasn’t changed. We are to be the light of the world and they will know us by our love. When we stay in thankfulness, the light will shine through, when we have compassion toward others, our joy will overflow.

One of my favorite Psalms is 84 in the Message Bible.

“And how blessed all those in whom you live,

whose lives become roads you travel;

They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,

discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!

God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and

at the last turn—Zion! God in full view”

“Not only does their faith bring forth water out of the sand and rocks of the desert, but God also on his part lovingly anticipates their love, and rewardingly anticipates their faithfulness: a gentle rain, like that which refreshes the sown fields in the autumn, descends from above and enwraps the valley of Baca in a fulness of blessing: the arid steppe becomes resplendent with a flowery festive garment.” (Isaiah 35:1-10) Treasury of David

Maybe you find yourself running on empty but when you refocus and let your eyes dwell on the eternal, the “Valley of Baca” will become a spring of refreshing. You will go from strength to strength. Again in

Psalm 46:10 in the Message (MSG)

“Attention, all! See the marvels of God!

He plants flowers and trees all over the earth,

Bans war from pole to pole,

breaks all the weapons across his knee.

Step out of the traffic! Take a long,

loving look at me, your High God,

above politics, above everything.”

Be thankful and step into His beauty!

THE MIRACLE OF A THANKFUL HEART

Luke 17:15,16 ¶ And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

This is one of the great miracles of Jesus recorded in the Bible. If you are not observant you may miss the real miracle. Of course the healing of leprosy was spectacular just as all of God’s miracles are, but the greatest miracle in this story was not so spectacular. It was more of a hidden, mysterious miracle. It was the miracle of a thankful heart. All ten of these lepers were physically healed and got to return to their lives. Only one saw Jesus for who He really is. Who is He? He is not only the healer of bodies but the healer of broken hearts. Our hearts are all broken, paralyzed by sin. This one leper understood what had happened and Who Jesus is. Leprosy was a picture of man’s sinful condition. The physical healing was a picture of the miracle of Calvary. He bore my sins as well as my sicknesses in His body on the cross. Only one leper got the real miracle, the miracle of a thankful heart. Here is how Matthew Henry describes it.
“How rich Christ is in doing good: Were there not ten cleansed? Here was a cure by wholesale, a whole hospital healed with one word’s speaking. Note, There is an abundance of healing cleansing virtue in the blood of Christ, sufficient for all his patients, though ever so many. Here are ten at a time cleansed; we shall have never the less grace for others sharing it. How poor we are in our returns: “Where are the nine? Why did not they return to give thanks?” This intimates that ingratitude is a very common sin. Of the many that receive mercy from God, there are but few, very few, that return to give thanks in a right manner (scarcely one in ten), that render according to the benefit done to them. How those often prove most grateful from whom it was least expected. A Samaritan gives thanks, and a Jew does not. Thus many who profess revealed religion are out-done, and quite shamed, by some that are governed only by natural religion, not only in moral value, but in piety and devotion.”
The Samaritan was a picture of the unchurched crowd today. Often the lost get it sooner than church folks, Christ died to save sinners. When you see it you too will receive the heart of Thanksgiving.

OFFERING OUR HEART IN THANKSGIVING

PSA. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the LORD.
True spirituality is all about the heart. The world is filled with religious activities that really mean nothing to God. One of the most terrifying passages of scripture is found in Amos 5. It says,
“Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,

I will not accept them,

Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”
I think the Lord gets really tired of religious observances that have nothing to do with the heart. Now don’t misunderstand, the Lord loves worshippers. He even says He is looking for worshippers. The truth is He is only looking for one kind of worshipper; the authentic kind. He is looking for worshippers who worship in Spirit and in truth. That brings us to this question, ” How does one receive an authentic heart of worship?” Actually it is connected to giving thanks. When we recognize the kindness and mercy of God our hearts are filled with thanksgiving that spills over in worship and praise. This is the work of God’s grace in our souls. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on giving thanks to the Lord.

“Being thy servant, I am bound to sacrifice to thee, and having received spiritual blessings at thy hands I will not bring bullock or goat, but I will bring that which is more suitable, namely, the thanksgiving of my heart. My inmost soul shall adore thee in gratitude. And will call upon the name of the Lord, that is to say, I will bow before thee reverently, lift up my heart in love to thee, think upon thy character, and adore thee as thou dost reveal thyself. He is fond of this occupation, and several times in this Psalm declares that he will call upon the name of the Lord, while at the same time he rejoices that he had done so many a time before. Good feelings and actions bear repeating: the more of hearty callings upon God the better.”
So that’s it, true religion by definition is a religion of the heart. It is not so much about the outward performance but the thankful heart poured out to God. Give thanks to the Lord, offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving, the offering of your heart.