Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks to God

Many times we think of giving thanks to God only around Thanksgiving. Celebrating Thanksgiving is definitely a good reminder. For those who believe in Jesus Christ there are many reasons for us to give thanks to God. We have a great and wonderful salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The facets of our salvation through Jesus Christ are innumerable.  We have been redeemed (Gal. 3:13), reconciled (Rom. 5:10, Col. 1:22), justified (Rom. 5:9), sanctified (Heb. 10:10), forgiven (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14) and so much more. The benefits we have from our salvation through Jesus Christ are amazing. We have been adopted by God (Gal. 4:5, Eph. 1:5); we are children of God (1 John 3:1-2); we have an inheritance (Col. 1:12), imperishable and undefiled reserve for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4) and much more. Just looking at these should cause us to continuously give thanks to God.

Do we give thanks continually in everything? 

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)*

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”  (Hebrews 13:15)

Do we give thanks in everything? Are we continually giving thanks to God? I was thinking about this the other day and it seems like whenever I am on a project for work or working on a project at home; if there is something that can go wrong it will more than likely go wrong. In the times of frustration I forget to give thanks to the Lord. Instead, I complain and ask Him why this is happening to me and later realize that there is a reason for everything. We may not realize what it is at the moment. After this summer’s projects I realized, the more difficulties in the projects I have to deal with, the more experience I gain, which makes me better at my job in the long run. The more difficulties that seem like they are impossible to handle, the more we are humbled and turn to God for wisdom and understanding. I am thankful that God allowed me to go through those difficulties and I am thankful that I can trust Him for wisdom and understanding.

Life in general is like that. We have a plan and we think that everything should work a certain way, but in the end we can look back at where the Lord has led us and some of the experiences were painful; some were encouraging; some were heart breaking, but in the end when we look back we can see how our faith in Jesus Christ has grown and we can thank God all the more for everything that He has done. 

Our offering to Him here on this earth is to be an “offering of praise, which is the fruit of our lips that give thanks to His name”. It is only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for us that we can come before the throne of the Father and offer our sacrifice of praise. We have so much to be thankful for. Let us remember all that God has done for us and let us continually, each and every day, bring our sacrifices of praise to Him; giving Him thanks for all that He has done and continues to do in our lives. Let us not lose sight of the giving thanks to Him continually. Our giving of thanks for all God has done, is doing and continues to do in our lives, should be a part of our lifestyle, not just something we do once in a while.

The thanksgiving and praise we offer to Him will not stop when we physically die here on this earth. We will continue to constantly give Him praise, glory and thanksgiving for all eternity.
I want to leave you with this magnificent scene in heaven of thanksgiving and praise to our Lord God with the hope that it will cause you to worship Him; giving Him the thanks and praise that He is worthy of; the thanksgiving and praise rightly belonging to Him.

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’  And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”(Revelation 4:8-11)

*All verses have been copied from the NASB

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Worship- A Short Thought on Prayer

I was recently thinking about prayer. A brother was speaking on Ephesians a few months ago and something he said struck me. I had never thought of it in this way. He took us to 1 Samuel 12:23. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” (NASB)
Samuel considered it a sin against God to cease to pray for Israel. What is it that Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18? “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) (Also see Ephesians 6:18-20) The will of God is for us to pray without ceasing, rejoice always and give thanks in everything. All of these things are acts of worship toward God. These are command words. An action is to happen as a result of the command. 

What if we, like Samuel, decided that if we were to cease from praying that it would be a sin against God? Would we hold prayer as something we should be doing all the time? I think sometimes prayer gets shoved in the back of our minds. Maybe we see it as just a time set aside during the day to just make requests of God. Is it only to be reserved for before meals or only on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights? Of course not! I am guilty of doing these things day after day. Sometimes I will even say I will pray for someone, but then I forget to. Thinking about how Samuel viewed prayer has changed my perspective on prayer.

We get the privilege to communicate our thoughts, prayers, thanksgiving and praise to the Creator of the universe, by just simply talking to Him. That is amazing! We don't have to go through a ritual or go to a certain place or to a certain person in order to "call" God. We have direct access to call upon Him anytime, anyplace and anywhere. A child can pray. Old and young people can pray. No one can prevent us from praying. Prayer is truly an act of worship toward God that cannot be taken away from us. We get the privilege of worshiping God without ceasing through prayer every day. Now that is amazing! So what is keeping us from following this command to pray without ceasing? Do we desire to spend time with our Lord? Do we desire to worship Him continuously throughout the day? 

When we fix our eyes on our selfish desires and our self-sufficiency, our focus is no longer fixed on God. We no longer desire to rely on our Lord. We no longer worship God, but begin to worship ourselves for all the great things “we” have done. We no longer feel a need to pray. This should not be how it is. We must continue to rely on God and worship Him alone. One way to do this is through prayer. Let us take hold of the privilege we have to pray and with joy, pray without ceasing. Not because we feel obligated to but because we desire to. Let us desire to spend our whole day in worship of our God through prayer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

To Live is Christ, But To Die is Gain.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”-Philippians 1:21-30 (NASB)

I was reading this passage in Philippians before work the other day. Paul has two desires that seem to be pulling him in two directions. He says in verse 23 “I am hard pressed in both directions.” What could be such a hard decision? In verse 21 he explains “To live is Christ.” If he continues to live on this earth, he gets to continue to serve Christ on this earth. “To die is gain”. When he dies in his fleshly body, he gets to be with Christ.  He explains the better decision is to depart from this earth and be with Christ. But to live on this earth is necessary at this time for the Philippian Christians sake. Paul’s desire to be with Christ is great, but he is convinced that he will remain to continue his work with the church at Philippi. He then challenges the Philippian Christians to “stand firm in one spirit and one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel” even if he was not able to make it there to see them.  But what I found the best part in this whole passage is the very last two verses of the chapter.

“It was granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake.” V29 (NASB) We as Christians, already have believed in Jesus Christ. That is the reason we are called Christians or followers of Christ. We also have been granted or permitted to suffer for His sake.  What a privilege that is. Who else would call suffering a privilege? Most people would not call it a privilege. Would you call it a privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake?

Christians in America call out for justice if a Christian is held a prisoner in a foreign country. They say that is not good or just. They would even say that it is not a privilege, but that it is an atrocity. They call on man to help them bring this person out of suffering for his faith, instead of allowing God to work. Paul looks at this in a different way. The same way as we should be looking at it no matter what country we live in.

The result of suffering for Christ’s sake is this conflict that Paul has within himself. Whether to depart and be with Christ or to stay and continue in fruitful labor on this earth. We as Christians in America and in other countries don’t really understand suffering all that much. We do not look at it as the privilege that Paul looked at it as. Should this be our attitude? Should not we be experiencing the same conflict Paul is having? Of course we should. Paul even tells us this at the the end of verse 30. “experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” Suffering for the sake of Christ makes this conflict become more apparent to us. It is not to say that we do not experience this conflict if we are not suffering, but suffering makes us desire, all the more, to be with Christ.

It is not easy to suffer for Christ’s sake. Paul went through a lot of suffering for Christ’s sake. (See 2 Corinthians 11:21-30). Yet Paul writes 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (NASB) Paul’s attitude is that suffering on this earth is a momentary light affliction compared to what heaven and being in Christ’s presence will be like. What an amazing thought. Our desire should be to be with Christ. Is that what we desire?

 I find myself thinking about these things often. If the Lord gave me a choice to finally go home to be with Him or to stay here and continue to labor for His sake would I beg the Lord not to take me and let me continue my work here on this earth for Him or would my response be joyous that I finally get to be with Him? Indeed the greater thing would be to be with Christ. I am thankful that I do not have that choice, but that He will decide when I get to finally be with Him.

When talking to people about Africa and spending time there people often ask me why I want to go to Nigeria and put myself in danger. I could be beaten or robbed or tortured or suffer loss. When I am in Nigeria I do not feel like I am in danger and if danger comes, what do I have to fear? Christ has given me the promise that He is with me always. (Matt. 28:20) I could be scared that I would die there or that they would torture me or do other things to me, but what is the point in worrying about what someone might do to me, when there is a need to share the gospel with people and show them who Christ is. If I spend time worrying about what is going to happen to me, I have wasted time not doing what the Lord wants me to do.

 With a perspective of suffering as a momentary light affliction and a privilege it makes it something that we do not have to fear or worry about. We know that Christ is with us always and that the Holy Spirit is with us. Whether it is ridicule or torture that the Lord wants us to go through, He will also give us the strength to get through it. We will not be alone through it. Let us desire to be with Christ and let us not get stuck on desiring to be here on this earth out of selfish desires, but let us desire first and foremost to serve Him while we are here for this short time. We can look forward to that day with great eagerness when we get to be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Are you looking forward to that day?