A WEEK OF THANKS-LIVING . . . DO!

images (3)Throughout this Thanksgiving week I am unpacking a concept that I call “Thanks-living.” I’ll explain what this kind of life entails for every child of God in three primary areas of living out our Christian faith: what we think, what we do, and what we say. I am only going to focus on one verse of Scripture for each topic; I encourage you to find others that will strengthen your Thanks-living for God’s glory and for the good of others.

The previous blog discussed our thought-life; today we will explore how to live in Thanks-living by what we do. Remember that it has been well said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say!”

Here is today’s Scripture:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Everything we do should be ultimately motivated by one purpose: giving glory to God. Now, that is living a life of Thanks-living that springs from the Spirit and not from our own sinful hearts! You see, there are always two reasons that a Christian believer does anything. We can do something for the glory of God . . . or we can do something for our own glory. When we are doing something—anything—for our glory, we are doing it for what we hope to get. We are trying to broker God’s favor and blessing in our lives. We want control, and we try to get it by making God our debtor. When we operate from this mindset, even when we are doing “good” things, they turn out to be bad things because we were doing them for the wrong reason.

You will recall that the Pharisees did a lot of really good stuff: they spent lots of time in the Synagogue, they tithed, they served, they prayed, they fasted, they studied. But they did all these “good” things for all the wrong reasons! Their actions did not flow out of a heart of love for the Lord and gratitude for His grace. Their hearts were beating only for themselves. Jesus exposed this truth when He said, “Their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

I can’t imagine anything worse being said about anyone; could it possibly be said of you or me?

When we do whatever we do for the glory of God, our lives are truly marked by Thanks-living in every way. We are to eat for the glory of God; we are to drink for the glory of God; we are to love for the glory of God; we are to serve for the glory of God. We are to live for nothing smaller than the glory of God in every area of our lives.

So . . . what have you been doing lately? More importantly, why have you been doing it? When what we are doing flows out of a heart of thanksgiving for what Jesus has already given us—and not for what we hope to get—then we live lives marked by Thanks-living and a desire to showcase the goodness and glory of God. We put the Gospel on display and make our God attractive to all those who are watching us. And make no mistake; the world is watching to see if our practice matches our profession.

So remember that the key to the “Do” part of Thanks-living is found in the why we do what we do. This why is far more important than what we do, and the why is determined by what our hearts are ultimately beating for. God knows our thoughts; before a word is on our tongue, He knows it completely. I’m sure that there are those in the church today who, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, do all sorts of great things . . . but our Lord would say to them, “Your hearts are far from me.” May that not be true of you or me!

I pray that you and your loved ones enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving Day tomorrow; eat and drink and fellowship for the glory of God! I’m looking forward to our presenting the final message in this Thanks-living series to you on Friday.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A WEEK OF THANKS-LIVING . . . THINK!

images (2)Throughout this Thanksgiving week I will briefly unpack a concept that I like to call “Thanks-living.” We’ll see what this kind of life entails for every child of God in three primary areas of living out our Christian faith: what we think, what we do, and what we say. I am only going to focus on one verse of Scripture for each topic; I encourage you to find others that will strengthen your Thanks-living for God’s glory and for the good of others.

Today we’ll look at the thought life of Thanks-living:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You won’t find any of what I call “stinking-thinking” in that command from God! Notice that I said command. This is as much a command from God as any of the ten that were inscribed by the finger of God on the tablets of stone and given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Here the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described the thought life of those who are committed to Thanks-living . . . regardless of the cost or circumstance.

I say “regardless of the cost or circumstance” because Paul did not qualify this divine imperative with words like, “Think such thoughts when all is going well in your life—when the sky is blue and the clouds are fleecy and the sun is shining brightly.” He simply said that we are to think about such things as a way of Thanks-living before the face of God.

Paul explained that the only way that this Thanks-living will be a mark in the life of the Christian is to keep our thoughts focused on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. And what will stimulate such thoughts? Where will we be exposed to these qualities? Not in the newspaper . . . not in magazines . . . not in movies or music . . . certainly not on television or the Internet! This kind of thinking will only be found and forged by being immersed in the Word of God. The only way we will think God’s thoughts after Him is to know God’s thoughts; and the only way to know God’s thoughts is to read, study, and marinate in His true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable Word.

So . . . how are you doing in the area of thinking? How much time are you spending in God’s Word each day? Each week? Each month? Remember, the book you don’t read won’t help you, and that truism most definitely includes the Bible. God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating our very soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12), but it will not have that effect in the lives of those who do not read it!

I can tell you that one of the best things we have done as a new church is to read through the Bible in one year as a church family. My beloved friend, brother, and Greek professor, Dr. Sam Lamerson, has been walking us through the Bible since the beginning of this year during Sunday school class. The comments from everyone have been so encouraging! This has been just the “push” they needed to stay grounded in the Word of God.

Perhaps this message today is that gentle and providential “push” for you too. Make no mistake; Thanks-living thinking will only happen when we are very intentional about what we put in to our minds.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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NO BOOT FOR THE BELIEVER!

images (1)As a pastor, one of the saddest things I hear is the words of those who believe they can “blow it” so badly that God will turn His back on them. Some have told me this with tears in their eyes and explained how they learned this growing up in church. And every time I tell them the same thing: Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus said:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37)

Did you get that last part? “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Now if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith, your wood is wet! In my admittedly simplistic way of explaining biblical truth, I say that there is NO BOOT FOR THE BELIEVER . . . EVER! Jesus meant what He said. And He had a great deal to say about this subject!

I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28-30)

Christian, do you see the power in that promise? Never has God made a promise and turned His back on it. “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:29). Not one lost soul will ever charge Jesus with turning him or her away. They simply refused to respond to God’s gracious invitation to be saved by His grace, through faith alone.

The religious leaders of Christ’s day were furious with Him . . . but not for turning sinners away, but rather for receiving them! Jesus receives sinners—all types of sinners. Think of some of the scandalous sinners in the Bible that Jesus welcomed into His company: prostitutes . . . tax collectors (who were perhaps the most despised of all people in Jewish society) . . . He received liars . . . cheaters . . . murderers . . . deceivers . . . deniers . . . those who were weak in the faith . . . . He even received the religious leaders who came to Him, and they were sinning scoundrels of the highest order!

So have you messed things up a bit? Perhaps you’ve messed it up terribly? Jesus receives those who have messed it up, but He will never drive them away. “This is the will of [my Father] who sent me,” our Lord explained, “that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39). He will lose none of those whom God the Father has appointed for eternal life. No one and nothing can snatch you out of His sovereign, nail-scarred hand!

Yes, friends and family may turn away from us. But Jesus simply cannot do such a thing. He paid too high a price for us to get in to ever drive us out. He has exalted His promise to us as highly as He exalts His own name (Psalm 138:2), and He will never abandon or revoke that promise. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29)

So come to Jesus today, and come with the confident assurance that He is waiting to receive you with open arms and nail scarred hands. Come in your weakness and your worry. Come in your sin and your shame. Come in your fear and your faithlessness. Come just as you are—beaten, bloodied, and bruised. But come, because all that the Father gives to His Son He will never drive away.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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FIRST PROMISE TO FALLEN PEOPLE!

downloadParadise! Everything was good and going well in the Garden of Eden until that fateful day. Adam and Eve were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) . . . but they weren’t satisfied with that most noble status, above and beyond all other created things (Psalm 8:4-8). Our first parents grasped for more; they wanted to be God! Their rebellion plunged all of creation into groaning cosmic corruption.

But God did not leave them there! He made a promise to reverse the curse:

“I will put enmity between [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  (Genesis 3:15)

Here we find the Gospel proclaimed in Genesis, God’s first promise to send a Savior for sinners. But notice that this is a two-part promise. God said He will put enmity between the devil and the woman. Why? Because they had become good friends! Adam and Eve had rejected God’s Word and accepted the evil insinuations of Satan as truth; they were now on the run from God and in relationship with the devil.

But God, in His infinite grace and mercy, refused to let the story end there. He promised to separate Adam and Eve from the serpent and to drive a wedge between them . . . and His name is Jesus Christ. The promised Messiah was on the way, and He would ultimately crush the head of the serpent on the hill Golgotha.

God would cause the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent to do battle. And along the way to glory, the promise given to the Messiah about the striking of His heel is to be received by us too. The powers of evil attack us and strike our “heel” often. But what we must remember that only our heel is struck, not our head. The serpent’s strike will hurt, but it will not kill us, because Jesus took our death on the Cross.

How often we learn this second part of the Gospel promise by way of painful providence! We are tempted. We are tried. We are tested. And we fail those tests all too frequently! The waves of challenge seem to wash over us day and night. But through it all, we have a power in us that is far greater than any power that comes up against us. “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NASB). You and I shall be bruised . . . but never beaten.

To be sure, every time the devil strikes our heel we cry out and we limp a bit. But in those times of pain and defeat, let us never forget the Bible’s first Gospel promise: victory is assured through our conquering King, Jesus Christ, the young Prince whose final, triumphant victory cry from the Cross caused the earth to shake and the rocks to split open!

Are you limping today? Then limp all the way into glory, knowing the whole truth of God’s promise to fallen man. Our Lord was victorious in conquering every last one of our enemies, including Satan and even the ultimate enemy: death itself. Let that truth strengthen your walk with Christ this day.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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SMALL OR GREAT . . . IT MATTERS NOT!

imagesAre you feeling small today? We all feel small and insignificant from time to time, so here is a word of encouragement for those times:

[The Lord] will bless those who fear the LORD—small and great alike.  (Psalm 115:13)

Think for a moment just how many ways we can feel that we are small in the eyes of others . . .

  • Small success
  • Small influence
  • Small opportunities
  • Small education
  • Small stature
  • Small station
  • Small talent
  • Small significance

The list, of course, could go on and on. In what area of your life do you feel small today? Well, the psalmist said that our God will bless all those who fear Him—both great and small alike. Remember, our God bought both the great and the small with the same precious blood. Jesus went to the cross for both; He died for both; and He walks with both every step of the way. There is no difference in His eyes. He holds the hearts of kings in His hand (Proverbs 21:1), and yet he looks with love on the least of those among us (Matthew 25:40).

Perhaps you are a brand new Christian, just a babe in your faith; you look around you and see spiritual giants with gifts that seem to overshadow yours. Turn your attention away from them and fix your focus on the Lord, because He will bless those who fear Him, both the great and the small. God cares for all that He has created. In the Scriptures we read about both the great and small that God used for His glory. God used both kings and commoners . . . princes and peasants . . . somebodies and nobodies. Our God is no respecter of persons. To be sure, man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks only at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

So . . . what is your heart beating for today? Regardless of where this message finds you, look to the One who blesses both great and small alike. God is in the business of working through small and seemingly insignificant things: a small staff in the hands of Moses . . . a small amount of bread and fish in the basket of a small boy . . . a small amount of faith in a woman who only had enough courage to touch the hem of His garment.

How awesome is our God, who blesses both the great and the small! Thank God for that, because there are so many of us who are so small!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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REMEMBER AND RISE!

images (3)We all face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. This is one of the great promises our Lord has given to His children, so that they will not be surprised when the winds of challenge begin to blow in their direction.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Notice that Jesus promises both trouble and triumph. We will face all sorts of trouble on this side of the grave, but our Lord has overcome it all. And because we are united by faith to Him, we too have overcome it all.

I want to share a deep biblical truth with you that will help you when you face challenges in life: Remember and rise! Here is what I mean. Current danger can be overcome by remembering past deliverances. It helped David and it will help you.

[David said to Saul], “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

David knew what we all know by way of experience, that if we will simply look back and we will see what God has been doing in our lives. Just like David, God has delivered you out of the paw of the lion and the bear. Now, it is unlikely that you were confronted with a real, live lion or bear. It’s far more likely that God has delivered you from the “lion of loss” or the “bear of burden” on more than one occasion. The key, then, is to remember and rise above your current difficulties!

David was careful to acknowledge that he did not conquer the lion and the bear in his own strength. He conquered in the strength of His God, who was gracious to deliver him out of trouble and into triumph. Will God not do the same for you today, as He has done repeatedly in your past? God said He will never leave or forsake you, so you can be assured that He will deliver you once again from whatever “lion” or “bear” you are facing today.

Oh, by the way, you do remember what happened between David and that giant Philistine, don’t you? David was trusting in God, who delivered him in the past and would deliver him once again. And that is exactly what God did. Facing overwhelming odds in the form of Goliath, David overcame in the strength of the Almighty.

Take a moment to reflect on all of your past deliverances and determine to face whatever challenge lies before you today. You can be sure that what God did for you in the past, He will do again today. You have His word on it.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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SPIDER-SAINTS

download (1)In 1306, while Scotland was at war with England, Robert the Bruce became king of Scotland. Legend says there was a time when Robert took refuge in a cave to hide from the armies of England, and while in the cave he saw a spider trying to attach its web to a ceiling beam. Over and over, the spider tried and failed. Eventually, however, the creature succeeded in its task.

After a number of battles, Robert the Bruce led his men in the Battle of Bannock-burn in 1314. It was there where Scotland won its independence. This story of the spider is captured in the very familiar maxim . . .

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Christian believer, I want you to carefully consider this: your life is to be defined by getting up one more time than you have been knocked down. It’s as simple as that! To be sure, God has called you into His perfect plan for your life, but make no mistake, along the way—perhaps even today—you will get knocked down. For decades, I have told student athletes I was coaching that falling isn’t failing unless you fail to get up! Proverbs 24:16 exhorts us, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”

So, regardless of the personal, professional, or relational difficulties you may be facing today—perhaps, like Robert the Bruce, you find yourself in a proverbial “cave” of conflict or confusion—remember the story of the spider. God has called you to be a spider-saint. Never give up and never give in!

The Bible is chock-full of examples of those who did not succeed at first … or on the second attempt … or even the third time. You do remember Peter denying his Lord in the courtyard, don’t you? Yet our Lord would not let him stay down. God helped Peter back up and set him right back into kingdom work by causing Peter to take his focus off his failure and put it back where it belonged—on Jesus.

I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  (Isaiah 41:13)

Look today to the only One who can bring you both the encouragement and the comfort you need, no matter what “cave” is currently enclosing you. Remember: “If at first … or second … or third … you don’t succeed, try, try again!” God has given you everything you need to be a spider-saint, so keep trying! In the end, you will be glad you did and give God the glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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