Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Day to Give Thanks

horn-of-plenty

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

In the “Jaywalking” segment of the “Tonight Show,” Jay Leno posed some Thanksgiving Day trivia questions to passersby, and the results were humorous and sad at the same time. Here is a sample of questions asked and the responses:

  1. What year was the first Thanks giving? 1966, 1492
  2. Pilgrims are often shown wearing what on their shoes and their hats? Moccasins
  3. What is a male turkey called? Fred, Richard
  4. 280 Million Americans will cook turkey on Thanksgiving. How many Americans are there in our country? 8 Million
  5. Where did the first Pilgrims land? Hawaii, the East Coast
  6. What President declared Thanksgiving a national holiday? Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin
  7. How many days did the first Thanksgiving last? Three: one day for breakfast, one day for lunch, and one day for dinner
  8. What is the name of the ship the Pilgrims came over on? the Nina
  9. Where did the Pilgrims come from? Spain

This may be good for a belly laugh, but it is really tragic that Americans today are so ignorant of our nation’s history and traditions. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off of work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.

It does not have to be that way. The psalmist said, “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalm 18:49). The “heathen,” in this case, were the gôyim, Hebrew for the “nations” or the “Gentiles,” and by implication, the “godless.” Our attitude of thanksgiving should be a testimony to those that are without God not just on Thanksgiving Day, but everyday of our lives. In these “last days” we should live in contrast to those who are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Timothy 3:2).

C. S. Lewis once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” Paul expressed this same idea when he said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12). We assimilate this attitude when “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). “Them who are the called according to His purpose” do not live their lives like the “heathen” who are ungrateful or “unthankful” in their life conduct.

Perhaps the reason the “heathen” are unthankful is because they do not know to whom they should be thankful. That, of course, presupposes that in every other respect they are caring of others beyond themselves. If expressed at all, we often hear such empty platitudes as: I’m thankful for my job; I’m thankful for my family; I’m thankful for good friends, etc. That is fine, but thankful to whom?

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they arrived in the face of a harsh New England winter. They were without food and without shelter. Of the 121 souls that departed England to escape religious persecution and “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country,” only 47 of the original colonists survived that brutal winter. With the help of neighboring Indian tribes, the colonists learned to cultivate and enjoy the bounty of the land. At the harvest that followed, they celebrated a season of thanksgiving to God for His providence and protection. The third year after having landed, William Bradford officially proclaimed November 29, 1623 a day of thanksgiving.

In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest … and in as much as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three … there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

Our nation, from its beginning, has always set aside a special day to give thanks to God, but not always on a consistent basis. George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving on November 26, 1789 with these words:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor … Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is or that will be … that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions …

Would that our current national leaders adopt that attitude!

Finally, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed an annual national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He said:

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy … I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, 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 … [it is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord … It has seemed fit to me and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

This Thanksgiving Day, amid all the festivities and family gatherings, try to devote at least some time to “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

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Thankful to Whom?

thankful2

Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13)

It is that time of year again where almost everyone says they are thankful for something. At least, we are expected to be thankful. I enjoy browsing through my Facebook newsfeed and reading all the things for which my “friends” are thankful. I read comments like:

  • I am thankful for my husband/wife.
  • I am thankful for my family.
  • I am thankful for my kids.
  • I am thankful for my home.
  • I am thankful for my friends.
  • I am thankful for my health.
  • I am thankful for my job.

Of course, there is always the spiritual one that will remember to be thankful for Jesus, or for their salvation.

Whenever I receive something from someone, whether a gift or simply a kind gesture, I say “thank you” to that individual – the giver. I don’t say, “I am thankful for the gift” or “I am thankful that the door was held open for me.” No, I thank the person.

To be thankful for something one must recognize the originator of the benefit. Who gave you that husband or wife? Who gave you that family, children, home, friends, health or job? After giving that some thought, some may conclude that all those things came about through their own effort. After all one has to attract and win the affections of a good mate. Or they may surmise that their children are the “product” of their marital union. Home, job, friends, are all products of one’s own effort. Good health? Well maybe that is just the luck of the draw or the result of good genes. So, for what does one have to be grateful? To whom must one give thanks? To self or to dumb luck? To thank yourself or dumb luck would be silly!

If we are to be thankful, we must recognize the originator of the gifts or “blessings.” Ultimately that is God. Without God, there is really nothing for which to be thankful. For starters, without God to give you life, you are nothing more than a leech on the planet sucking out of it all that you can get in order to survive. Who is there to thank? The Doxology exhorts:

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.
 

If you are truly thankful for what you have, the thanks must go to the Giver. I thank God for giving me life, and for the blessing of good health. I thank God for giving me a loving wife. I thank God for giving me sons and grandchildren. I thank God for my extended family, especially those who are “twice” family. I thank God for giving me the ability to work and earn a living and for providing a job where I can exercise those abilities. I thank God for my home and all the material blessings that fill it. I thank God for surrounding me with good friends and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank God for Jesus, my Savior, and for the sure promise of an eternal home in Glory. I thank God.

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Psalm 103

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

Psalm 103

A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

This wonderful psalm reminds us to give grateful praise to God for all His goodness and love that He continually demonstrates for His children. When we think of blessing someone, we often think of doing something good for that person. When we think of God blessing us, we might think of having good health, a nice home, a wonderful family and friends or any number of things – good things. But is that really what it means to be blessed? And if that is so, how can we possibly bless God? I mean, what can we give to God that He does not already have? (Besides your heart)

Perhaps “blessing” is not what we think it is. As translated in this psalm (and many other places in the Old Testament) the Hebrew word is bârak, and according to the Strong’s Dictionary, it means: “to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or the king, as treason): –  X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank.” I don’t know about you, but that definition is certainly confusing. In reading the context of the psalm, we gather that cannot mean to curse God, so by the general tone of the psalm we can infer “an act of adoration.” The Greek translation in the Septuagint (LXX) of this psalm uses the word eulόgei, which means “to speak well of,” and from which we get our English word “eulogy.” I have never been to a funeral where an ill word was spoken of the dearly departed; only good is spoken of the dead in a eulogy.

So this psalm encourages us to “eulogize” God from the very core of our being. We are to “speak well of” His holy name. Why should we do this? The next four verses instruct us. We “eulogize” Him because of how He treats us, i.e., “His benefits.” He forgives our perversities (“iniquities”) which is a disease that only He can heal. He “redeems” our lives, i.e., He “buys us back” from destruction, i.e., eternity in hell. Not only that, but He elevates us to royal status by awarding us a crown, and all of this is because of His “loving-kindness” and “tender mercies.” This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) who spurned his father’s love and wasted all that his father gave to him. Then, while in the filthy, smelly pigsty, having hit absolute bottom, the son remembered all that the father’s house had to offer, and leaving his pride in the mud pit, he determined to return to his father’s house as a lowly servant. But rather than chastise him for his ingratitude and cast him out as a worthless vagrant, the father welcomed him with open arms and elevated him to his former status of the master’s son and heir to the father’s wealth. Then the father threw a huge party with lots of wonderful food – he killed the “fatted calf” that was reserved for special occasions – to celebrate his boy’s return. The fifth verse tells us that He “satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Imagine how the son felt after a long season of hunger, shame, and disgrace! That is what God offers us, and we should speak well of Him for that.

We eulogize the Lord because He carries out righteous judgment on behalf of all who are oppressed. He is merciful – He withholds the punishment we deserve; He is slow to anger. He is gracious – granting us what we do not deserve; He is abounding in mercy. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (v. 10). As great as His mercy is – greater than the heights of heaven – it is there for those “that fear Him.” Do not think for one moment that you can live like the devil and obtain His mercy; but His mercy is there when you recognize Him for Who He is – the great Creator God, Who is to be feared, and whose name is holy and deserves to be “well-spoken of.” When we understand that, He will remove our transgressions, “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (v. 12).

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (v. 13). “Pity” is an unfortunate translation here. The Hebrew word is râcham, and it means to fondle, love, show compassion. Picture a father or mother cuddling an infant child – that’s the picture; and again it is qualified by “them that fear Him.” His love and compassion stem from the fact that He knows our “frame.” That Hebrew noun is yêtser, whose verb form is yâtsar, which means to “mold” or “form” as a potter fashions a clay vessel. God knows how we were made because He made us out of the dust of the earth, and He cherishes us. This should cause us to “bless” His name!

Our life on earth is brief. Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This psalm reminds us of that truth. When compared to eternity, our life is like grass or a Texas wild flower; when the hot winds of summer blow in, they dry up and their beauty is forgotten. But God’s mercy is not like that. This psalm says that His mercy “is from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). Once again, the promise is to “them that fear Him,” i.e., “To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (v. 18). For these “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (v. 19).

In light of all that God has done, all of His creation – the hosts of angels that do His bidding and all of His “works” over which He has dominion (that includes everything and excludes nothing) – can do no less than “speak highly, reverently, and fearfully of the Lord.” And if we fail to do so, Jesus says that the very “stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). Let not the stones do what we were created to do.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

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Rich And Ignorant

easter-egg-hunt

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.  (Proverbs 28:20)

Several years ago, I had the privilege and distinct joy of taking my beautiful granddaughter, Amri, on an Easter Egg Hunt. She was about five or six at the time. The field where the great hunt took place was littered with a rainbow of candy Easter eggs to the point where one could not take a single step without crushing one of the sweet treasures.  To call it a hunt was a colossal misnomer.  Even a blind person could have scored a bountiful booty by simply falling face down, spread-eagle on the ground and gathering a full wingspan to himself

I was at once amazed and amused as I watched my little one run here, pick up one egg, and then run there and pick up another.  When all was said and done, she may have gathered a dozen eggs even though she could have had a basket full.  If she had just stayed in one place and gathered all that was immediately around her she could have filled her basket in short time, but instead, she went running from one bright attraction to another with absolutely no sense of direction.  She could have “abounded with blessings,” but instead, “she who made haste” came up short.

Aren’t we like that many times?  God has richly blessed us.  His blessings are all around us and yet we fail to see them.  We keep running from one attraction to another and never getting our baskets full and never getting fully satisfied.  I can imagine that as God watches, He is probably more amazed than amused at our frantic search for happiness while He has surrounded us with His blessings.  If we would only slow down long enough to take a good look around, we might see that we are truly rich beyond measure.

In the “Parable of the Soils” Jesus described a soil (a metaphor for people) infested with thorns (the cares of this world).  The sower (God) sows the seed (the Word of God) which falls on different kinds of soil.  Jesus says: “these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19)  If our focus is on the things of this world, i.e., worries, riches, desire for things, the Word will be choked and we will become unfruitful.  Though we are surrounded by the blessings and true riches of God, we will be oblivious to them, running from one candy egg to the next never having our basket full.

Father, God, give us the wisdom and the sight to see the blessings You have provided.  Help us to have our focus rightly placed on You and not on the deceitful riches of this world, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Thank You, Lord

pray-hands

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  (James 1:17)

Name one thing – anything – that you have that does not come from God. How much time do you need to think about it? In the meantime, think about this:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:27-28)

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit. And these things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee. (Job 10:11-13)

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:4)

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9)

Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (Isaiah 42:5)

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (Acts 17:24:25)

And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:22)

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. (Psalm 128:3)

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD. (Proverbs 18:22)

House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD. (Proverbs 19:14)

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: (Genesis 16:2)

And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. (Genesis 17:15-16)

So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. (Genesis 20:17)

And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. (Genesis 48:9)

Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORDFor this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him (1 Samuel 1:19-20 )

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD. (Psalm 113:9)

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (Psalm 127:3-4)

Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers. (Proverbs 17:6)

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. (Exodus 16:15)

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. (Psalm 104:14-15)

Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:25-26)

The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:14-16)

I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields: (Job 5:8-10)

Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. (Psalm 147:7-9)

Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. (Jeremiah 5:24)

Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:16-17)

He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26)

And I commanded you at that time, saying, The LORD your God hath given you this land to possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war. (Deuteronomy 3:18)

And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. (Deuteronomy 26:9)

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) (2 Corinthians 9:8-10)

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17)

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I [God] will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles 1:12)

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. (Psalm 104:24)

Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalm 112:3)

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: (Daniel 2:21)

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5)

The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3)

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. (Psalm 35:9)

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.  (Isaiah 43:11)

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. (Hosea 13:4)

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:18)

[Jesus says] Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:32-33)

[Jesus said] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11)

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. (Ephesians 5:2)

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (Titus 2:11)

Were you able to think of anything that does not come from God? Everything comes from God and He pours out His riches on believers and non-believers alike. Even His free gift of salvation is available to all, but unlike the sun and rain that fall on all alike, the gift of salvation must be accepted as a matter of choice. Thank God from Whom ALL blessings flow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Priorities

priorities

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

We all have priorities – those things that are most important to us. Things that, when we are forced to make a choice, supersede all others. Many of those things merit high priority – spouse, family, friends, health, etc. Other things that we make high priority are not so worthy – entertainment, pleasure, material possessions, and things of that sort. Whatever our priorities, God wants us to make Him top priority in all things.

A couple of Sundays ago, the Rev. J. John of England, touted as “Europe’s Billy Graham,” gave the sermon at our church. He presented a great message, but the part that stuck with me most was the acrostic “FIRST” that was offered as a memory aid to help us remember to put Jesus first in every area of our lives.

F

Put Jesus FIRST in your Finances. Someone once said, “Show me a man’s checkbook register, and I will show you where his priorities lie.” Throughout the Old Testament, God demanded the first and the best of the people’s possessions – the firstborn male child (Exodus 13:2), the firstborn of every animal (Exodus 34:19), the first of the harvest, a tenth of the harvest (Leviticus 27:30, 32; Deuteronomy 14:22, 28), etc. God has no need of any of these things. In fact, they all belong to Him in the first place (Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Job 41:11; Psalm 50:10, 12; Haggai 2:8). The reason He makes these demands is so that His people will learn to depend on Him for their provision. The tithe (the tenth part) is not addressed in the New Testament, but “generous giving” is encouraged. Luke tells us that the early believers “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:45). As Paul made the circuit of the churches, he took up a collection for the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem. Of the churches in Macedonia he commented, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality … Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2, 4, 5, emphasis mine). Note that they gave themselves FIRST to the Lord. In order to have our priorities right, we must put Jesus and His kingdom FIRST in your Finances.

I

Put Jesus FIRST in your Interests. These days many things contend for our attention – television, Facebook, entertainment, family, friends, etc. How often do those things keep us from spending time in God’s Word or in prayer? What kinds of books or magazines do we read? Are they God-honoring? When given the opportunity to attend a professional sporting event that conflicts with a church service, which do we choose? Do you allow your children’s sports activities to keep you away from church on Sunday? If our priorities are right, the things of God should be FIRST in our Interests.

R

Put Jesus FIRST in your Relationships. Jesus said “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). That is painfully clear, and it may seem rather harsh; but God created the family, and when God is given first place in familial relationships, there will be enough love to go around and then some. In fact, we are instructed in proper familial relationships. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).  “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right … And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Of course, even when we follow God’s instructions, our relationships may not work out to our liking. Jesus warned that our commitment to Him may divide our families. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:35-36, emphasis mine). In that case, Jesus must come FIRST. As for relationships outside of the family, we are instructed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If our priorities are right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Relationships.

S

Put Jesus FIRST in your Schedule. Many things compete for our time. In the busyness of our lives, making time for God can be a challenge. The best way to overcome this is to set a time every day to spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading. I am reminded of Daniel when a law was passed “that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God … shall be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel put God FIRST in his Schedule and “he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10, emphasis mine). Daniel had his schedule set and nothing was going to keep him from his appointment with God, not even a decree from the king. If we want our priorities to be right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Schedule.

T

Put Jesus FIRST in your Troubles. While it is true that we often forget about God until we are really in trouble, too many times we try to manage our trouble all on our own and only call on God as a last resort. How about calling on Him at the first sign of trouble? “I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4). “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1). “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19). “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21). Since God hears us and is ready to come to our aid, why not call on Him FIRST? Better yet, why not stay “prayed up” before trouble hits? When our priorities are right, we make Jesus FIRST in our Troubles.

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God’s Not Fair

Judgment of God

O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:20)

Someone complained that God is unfair to send people to hell simply because they don’t know any better. She said, “I’ve recently hit a point where my faith is all but dead, not by will but by fear that the worst is true, that there is no God after all.” Her reasons for arriving at this conclusion are as follows: “It’s two-fold in that [1] God has never revealed Himself to me in ways that I was taught He would (Pentecostal background), and [2] more recently that I just cannot wrap my head around the idea of a God of ultimate love knowingly creating even one single soul knowing it was destined for eternal damnation. I question why God would create such a being, knowing beforehand the choices he would make.”

Her first reason, it seems to me, finds an explanation in her “Pentecostal background.” I see this problem with many Pentecostals because many (not all) are taught (if not directly then by inference) that God must reveal Himself in miraculous ways: speaking in tongues, healings, tangible answers to prayer, etc. The fact is that God is not obligated to reveal Himself to us in any way other than He has already done, i.e., through His creation (Romans 1:19-20) and through His Word (John 1:1-3, 14; Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16, et. al.). Her Pentecostal background may also have something to do with her second issue against God in the Arminian soteriology of Pentecostals, which holds, in part, that a believer can “fall from grace,” and if they die in that condition, they will go to hell. So, Pentecostals must continuously “work out their own salvation” so as not to lose their salvation. That, in itself I think, might give one a tenuous grasp on their eternal status and sense of eternal security.

Her Pentecostal background may be the source of her sense of insecurity which she then projects on those whom she sees as victims of a merciless God. Why would God create humans knowing that He is going to send them to hell? Not only is God merciless, but she finds eternity in hell to be cruel and unusual punishment.  She said, “I am a pale imitation of God, an ignorant human born in a world of decay, yet to me the pain of one soul, any soul, even the worst example of humanity, is not worth the existence of this universe” (emphasis mine). Can you see what she has done? She made moral judgment against God and placed herself in a position of moral superiority above God. Though she is “a pale imitation of God,” she makes herself morally superior  to God because she would not cause pain even to the worst example of humanity. If she were in the place of God, she would not even create the universe, if even one soul would suffer eternal torment. Furthermore, God has no basis “to extend this eternal punishment further to those that fail to heed words in a book thousands of years old when other books tell their own versions (other religions).”

As I read her tirade, I distinctly heard echoes of Genesis 3:1-5: “Tssssssssssssssss! Yea, hath God said in the Bible? That book is so ancient. Those are just the words of men. What about all those other holy books? Aren’t they just as valid? Ye shall not surely die. If God is so loving, He wouldn’t send anyone to hell would He? And even if He did, surely He wouldn’t make someone suffer for eternity. If He does, then God’s not fair! Why should you follow a God like that!”

When we put ourselves in a position where we question why God made us the way He did, we in effect pass judgment on Him and make ourselves superior to Him because we are saying that we could have done it better. “Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:20-21 also Isaiah 29:16, emphasis mine). We are not in a position to question God’s motives in creating us as He did. We are not God. Humanly speaking, does not a creator/inventor of anything have the right to assign value to his/her creation/invention, and to decide how to dispose of it? By the same token, can we not allow the Creator to decide the “worth” of His creation and select what He will keep and what He will discard without our input? Let’s be fair here!

The fact is that God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and part of that image includes rational thought and the ability to make decisions and exercise our free will. Along with that comes the responsibility to assume the consequences for our decisions.  When God made Adam and Eve and He placed them in the Garden, He gave them one choice: eat of the tree of life and live, or eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and die, i.e., be eternally separated from God (Genesis 2:16-17). God created Adam and Eve with a will and the ability to choose whether to obey or disobey God. Had God not given that choice, His creatures would be no different than any other animal, and they certainly would not have the “image” of God. The will and the ability to make choices is part of having the image of God. Without that, we are just animals.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s only prohibition (Genesis 3:1-6). Eve was deceived, but Adam disobeyed willingly (1 Timothy 2:14). That disobedience, whether willful or through deception, brought death upon all of God’s creation. Because of that original sin, all of mankind receives the curse of sin which is death (Genesis 3:19). Every human being is born “dead” – eternally damned – due to Adam’s original sin. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. We are all in the same condition; there is no escaping it. How well informed or how misinformed one is has nothing to do with it.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:13)

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins … Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:1, 5)

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

This is the truth, and it is not going to change simply because it offends our sensibilities. It does not matter whether someone is duped by evolution, or whether they have not had the Gospel explained clearly enough for them to understand; the fact of the matter is that every human being that is born, is born “dead” because of sin. The penalty for sin is eternal death (separation from God) in hell.

However, this dead condition is not without resolution. God provided the way to eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God makes Himself available to all who will seek Him. “For by [the free gift of] grace [i.e., unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith [Hebrews 11:6]; and that not of yourselves [even the faith to believe comes from God]: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). What God asks of us is not that difficult: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). “Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

People like to quote John 3:16 because it expresses the love of God for the entire world, but two verses later it says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine). A choice has to be made. Because of Adam’s sin, we all begin from the point of “condemned already.” We all have the same choice: believe or disbelieve. Not choosing is actually choosing to disbelieve. And to remove any excuses, God’s creation testifies to His existence, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, emphasis mine). God reveals Himself in His creation. Without exception, everyone has a choice.

The charge that God is somehow unmerciful and unloving dissolves in light of His personal intervention on our behalf. God’s grace and mercy was expressed on the cross of Christ. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God has given sufficient evidence in His creation to make man wonder about his origin and about the origin of the world around him. God says, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God does not hide Himself. The fault is with man for rejecting the evidence God has provided and refusing to seek God. Jesus said that the way to destruction is broad, and many go that way; but the way to life is narrow and difficult to find, and very few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Answering the criticism of God sending people to hell: God created hell for “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), not for human beings. People choose to go to hell by not choosing God. God demonstrated “his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ [God in the flesh] died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine). What more could He possibly do and still respect our will and our right to choose? He could have made us animals, but He didn’t. He made each one of us unique, created in His very image. That is why He values us, and because He values us, He gives us the choice to either accept Him or reject Him. Because He cherishes us, He will not impose Himself on any one of us. But, if we reject Him, we make an eternal choice, but it is our choice. God didn’t create us for hell. Do you think for one moment that God has any desire to destroy His image! “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), but He respects our choice.

There you have it. Rather than criticize God for His methods with which we may disagree, why not simply submit to Him? He is God, and by definition, His way is right regardless of what we may think. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, emphasis mine). If we are truly concerned for those that are bound for hell, perhaps rather than criticizing God for His methods, we should be a light to show the way (Matthew 5:14).

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