Never Miss a Chance to Give Thanks!

I recently caught myself in a bout of grumbling and complaining about a variety of things in my life that were  not meeting my expectations.  I even through a small pity party; number of guests invited: one!  Perhaps you have thrown such a party yourself.   As I was beginning a particularly busy day with lots of hard physical work and running around on the agenda, and being tired already, words bubbled up in my spirit.

“Never miss a chance to give thanks.”

It was these words that brought conviction and repentance to replace a vague sense that I needed to adjust my attitude.  It was these words that began the transformation of my attitude.  It was these words, echoing in my heart, that would be tested by the events of the following weeks and keep me in peace in the midst of challenges.

Thankfulness is hard to find in our culture; ingratitude is everywhere.  I believe this flows from a sense of entitlement (and I am not just talking about social programs).  If a person believes that they deserve to have everything go their way all the time, and that hardship is injustice, then they have a sense of entitlement.  It’s hard to be thankful when you are simply getting what you believe you deserve.

In Acts 16, we find Paul and Silas in Philippi being followed by a woman with a demon problem.  Now, this woman’s employers were profiting from her problem, so they were thoroughly upset when Paul cast the demon out of the woman.  (Pay attention, friends; doing the will of God will make someone angry!)  As a reward for their good deed, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten with rods until many great welts striped their flesh, and imprisoned in the maximum security section of the local prison.  They had good reason to be bitter.  Their response to all this injustice?  About midnight they were singing hymns and praising God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Ingratitude leads to corruption.

Years later, Paul would write to the church in Philippi.  In Philippans 2:14-16 he writes, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Do things without complaining and disputing and become blameless and harmless!  This implies that if you spend your time complaining and arguing, there will be blame and harm.

Jude in verse 16 of his epistle, speaking of people who cause trouble in the church, says, “These are grumblers complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words.”

Paul describes the progressive degradation of human society in Romans 1:21-32.  “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him, nor were thankful. . . .  For this reason, God gave them up. . . .”  All the undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, unforgiving behavior had its foundation in unthankfulness.

On the other hand, thankfulness paves the way for the Presence of God.

“Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:14-15).  The idea here is that thanks are being offered as a sacrifice, even though the circumstances do not appear to warrant thanks.  No matter how bad things look, there is reason to give thanks!

Think about this:  somewhere out there is the unluckiest person in the world.  Statistically speaking, you are probably not that person.  Somewhere out there is the unhealthiest person in the world, the ugliest person in the world, and the poorest person in the world.  Again, statistically speaking, the odds are in your favor that you are not that person!  Be thankful!   (My point is this:  no matter how bad things appear for you, they could be worse.)

God’s response to this sacrificial offering of thanks is to answer you!

“Whoever offers praise (thanks) glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conversation aright I will show the salvation of God.”  (Psalm 50:23)  Get a mouth full of thanksgiving and expect a heart full of revelation.

Psalm 100 tells us to, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving. . . be thankful to Him and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His faithfulness endures from generation to generation.”

This brings us back to Paul and Silas, beaten, chained and singing hymns and thanking God.  They were not singing, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”  They were singing praises, possibly even the words of Psalm 100.  They didn’t miss their chance to give thanks and paved the way for the manifestation of God’s presence.  The result was that the prison was shaken, the doors fell open, and the chains fell off!

Do you need to be unshackled from a bad attitude?  Do you need doors of opportunity opened to you?  Get thankful where you are and see what the Lord will do!

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Scriptures for Study on Spiritual Warfare

These scriptures are not a complete list on the subject, but are passages we are examining in our study. Read, pray, and meditate.

Psalm 18:34, psalm 144:1, Ephesians 6:12 through end of chapter, psalm 8, James 4:6-7, Psalm 61:2, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, 1 Timothy 1:18,Isaiah 40:1-2 & 8-11, 1Samuel 17:47, 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, Matthew 12:11, John 10.

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Worship and Warfare Wednesdays

For the rest of July we will be having extended times of praise and worship to lead us into spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not about getting angry and breaking a sweat! It is about entering the Presence of God and finding peace and joy and an anointing that breaks yokes. Join us at 7 pm starting on Wednesday July 16.

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Support the Ministry!

We have recently added an option to make secure online donations.  Please visit the “Support the Ministry” page for more information.  

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On Obsessions and the Church

A friend recently shared an article making a theological-ish argument for full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle by the church.  It began by stating that the American church is obsessed with the subject.  I would suggest that this “obsession” was a response to a similar obsession on the part of the homosexual community.  If adulterers were to begin having “cheater’s pride rallies”, displaying bumper stickers advertising their lifestyle, and lobbying congress to legislate economic advantages for their snuggle buddies, I would expect the church to be equally “obsessed” with the subject of adultery.  Lest I be accused of being obsessed with the subject, let me point out that this is the first time I have written about it.

The article advocates loving acceptance of “gay Christians.”  I agree.  God loves homosexuals.  And adulterers.  And gluttons, and liars, and hypocrites and kleptomaniacs and prostitutes and murderers and rude people and mean people and cowards and gossips and backstabbers and idolaters and tax cheats and tax collectors and me.  And you.  He even loves the French!  According to Jesus, He is, “kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35)

What a church that believes in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture cannot do is approve homosexual behavior or accept theological arguments that suggest God now approves same-sex marriage.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality point to a passage in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus, now much maligned, and argue that it does not mean to us what it meant to the Jews.  The article I read suggested that we go back and look at the original meanings in Hebrew, and that we consider the context and to whom the text was written.  I respond thus:  the chapter in question also prohibits incest, adultery, and bestiality, yet there is no cultural movement suggesting we celebrate these behaviors as an “alternative lifestyle”.  If this chapter is no longer relevant to human life then pluck the pages from your Bible!  But be careful when you start plucking, for the basis of your healing, peace, and salvation may be next to go.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality argue that “they were born this way,” or that “God made me this way.”  Without doubt there are those who are born with a genetic tendency toward certain behaviors (alcoholism springs to mind).  That does not mean that God made them that way.  Every man, woman, and child on the planet was born in sin.  That was not God’s doing, but was the result of Adam’s sin.  God brought the antidote in the person of Jesus.  I will agree with the homosexual who insists he was born that way.  However, I will also agree with Jesus who says, “You must be born again.”  The same David who wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” also wrote, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  (Psalm 51:5)  In other words, David says he came out of the womb a sinner, just like his mother.  I do not believe God sowed the seeds of my own destruction in me when I was born; but even if He did, it was not so that I would celebrate those bitter seeds.  If He Himself placed in me the genetic predisposition for alcoholism, and He made me that way, it was so that I might come to Him and be born again.  The wonderful thing about sin and self-destruction is that it can spur a sinner’s heart to pursue a loving and gracious God.

Advocates for accepting homosexuality assert that scripture approves same-sex marriage for those who cannot otherwise contain their sexual lust.  Where to begin?  Firstly, we identify the root of the issue — sexual lust.  The refrain, “I should be able to love whoever I want,” is in reality, “I should be able to have sex with whoever I want.”  A life-long platonic relationship between two men (Abbot & Costello, Tonto & the Lone Ranger, Batman & Robin) is not what advocates want; it is a sexual relationship.  Thus the pro-homosexual affirms that they are speaking of the lust of the flesh.  Next, we note the pattern for marriage identified from the beginning of the race in Genesis:  “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh.”  One man, one woman, one flesh with the capacity to procreate.  No other marriage can be affirmed by the church.  Finally, we point out that scripture calls us to walk in the spirit rather than fulfilling the lusts of our flesh.  Every disciple of Jesus who ever lived has dealt with lusts (plural) of the flesh.  We are to put them to death by the Spirit, not justify them.  (Side n0te:  finding a spouse is easier said than done, and marriage does not ensure that you will not “burn with lust.”)

Finally, advocates for accepting homosexuality say that the church should openly welcome and include “gay Christians”.  We allow other sorts of sinners to participate in the life of our church, including gluttons — why not practicing homosexuals?  Recognizing that we are all flawed, and that there is no good thing in us except Jesus, we preach the good news of Jesus trusting that the Holy Spirit will liberate those in bondage to sin.  God does not deal with us according to our sin (see II Corinthians 5 and Hebrews 10 for starters).  However, if we flaunt unacceptable behavior it becomes a stumbling block to those who wish to be free.  Paul, in the fourth chapter of his first epistle to the church at Corinth, directs the church to discipline a person for bragging about sexual conduct specifically prohibited in Leviticus 18.

For those who have sought the Scriptures and prayed and concluded that they are gay and God is fine with that, I say fine.  Let us walk in love toward one another, accepting that we will never come to agreement about this issue.  Let us stand together and condemn the treatment of homosexuals in Iran and other Muslim countries.  Let us pray together and serve those who are dealing with AIDS.  Let us accept at face value the person who says they are loving and following Jesus to the best of their ability, even though we disagree on this subject.

The pathway to heaven is not to stop sinning, but to start trusting and following Jesus.  Imagine if that were the obsession of the whole church in America!

 

 

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The Labor of His Soul

Much preaching and praying and religious effort is concerned with the question, “How must I live in order to please God?”  But the question we should ask as heirs of grace is, “Now that God lives in me, how can I live?”  

We want to know what we have to do to walk in freedom, or healing, or divine provision.  “What must we do God?” we cry.  And God answers with a question:  “Do you know what Jesus did about it?”  It is written, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”  (Romans 8:2)

It is written, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”  (1 Peter 2:23-24)

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.”  (If you pay attention to what people say, you ought to pay more attention to what God says!)  “For this is the witness of God which He testified of His Son.  He who believes the Son of God has the witness in Himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”  (1 John 5:9-12)

Isaiah says of Him, “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.  He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied.”  (Isaiah 53:10-11.  If you read this chapter in context with the work of the suffering servant, Jesus, you will discover that YOU are the labor of His soul; YOU are the pleasure of the Lord which prospers in Jesus’ hand.  He will look on YOU and be satisfied because HE is the one at work.  

Your labor is to discover what He has accomplished on your behalf already and allow Him to cause your life to overflow with it.  Your labor is to pay more attention to the witness of Christ than the multitude of witnesses of this world and all its wisdom.  Find out what Jesus has already done for you.  Dare to believe it is true.  Receive it as fact, even though it may not yet be revealed to your senses!  

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What stops us?

Fear, guilt, and self-doubt stop people from walking in step with the Holy Spirit.  They stir unbelief.  Meanwhile, we should be stirring up the gifts of God praying in the Holy Spirit (in communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit).  Faith grows as we hear the voice of God by the Holy Spirit.

Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space.  Faith is a gift of the Spirit; fear is a gift of the devil.  We will receive one or the other.  Faith will never fool you.  It is complete confidence in Jesus.  Fear has no place in you: fear that you could do it again; fear that you will fall to the sin that so easily besets you.  What Job feared most came upon him.  That is why we fall to the temptation; we are afraid of it.

Self-doubt is doubt about who you really are.  The devil wants you to doubt.  Speak your identity in Christ in response to thoughts of self-doubt.

Condemnation leads to frustration and anger.  Anger turned inwards becomes depression.  These make you feel unfit for God’s service.  In John 3:18 Jesus says, “He who believes in Him (the Son of God) is not condemned.”  Stop believing the bad news about your past, your present, your failures, and your weakness.  Start believing Jesus will never condemn you because you are trusting His perfect performance, His powerful past, His unwavering presence in your life, His complete success in saving you, and His strength!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom from fear, self-doubt, and condemnation.  If you are in the Spirit, you are free.  If you do not see the freedom you have an unbelief problem, not a sin problem or a bondage problem.  Stop doing the devil’s work for him.  Stop beating yourself up.  Dare to believe that what Jesus did at the cross was done for you!  Dare to believe the good news!

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