Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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31 Thanks Living

Psalm 100:1-5

1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

The 100th Psalm was written to God’s people, the Israelites, reminding them of the basis for their Thanksgiving. The foundation for thanks is the Father. One of the real dangers is determining our thanksgiving on the basis of how much we have. It’s not what we have but who we have; the real riches are our relationship with the Redeemer. This is what the 100th Psalm emphasizes, in verse 1 we find the “name of the Lord.” In verse 2 and 3 we find the “name of the Lord.” In verse 4 it says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving,” and in verse 5 we find the “name of the Lord.” The basis for their thanksgiving is the Lord. But it is not just for them, look at who it is addressed too, the first verse says that it is addressed to “all the earth,” and the last verse says that it includes “all generations.” This message of thanksgiving is so deep and wide that it encompasses every person in every era in every stage of life, throughout all of time. This is an immense invitation for us to base out thanksgiving on a firm foundation. We need this reminder to not only be thankful but to base our thankfulness on Him because everything else will change, the only thing we have for sure is our relationship with the Lord. It’s here that we see not only the invitation to come but five calls to thanksgiving. The first starts with a shout, verse 1 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” The word shout here is the picture of a trumpet blast; it’s that shout of joy to the Lord that comes from the very depths of our being. We are not to be timid in our thanksgiving, are you holding back and holding it in or are you being bold?  In bible times trumpets were often blow to announce the arrival of the King and we should not be afraid to proclaim His power to all people. Are you proclaiming His praise from the depths of your being? Not only are we to joyfully shout but the second call says we are to, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” It doesn’t say serve the church or the organization, or even the preacher it says to serve the Savior.  The Word of God reminds us that when we witness on His behalf, when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit people in prison, or whatever we do we are to be serving the Lord. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” Why do you serve and who do you serve? Often we serve out of obligation; our motive is compulsion instead of Christ. We serve out of a feeling of fear, or we are goaded by guilt, sometimes we serve because of self, because we want to receive the recognition. We like the attention and the applause but the Psalmist says, “In whatever you do, serve the Lord with gladness.” Do we really grasp the motive for ministry, it should be the Master, is what is moving you guilt or God?  Not only are we to Shout and serve but we are also called to sing.  Some of us struggle to sing, from a worldly perspective our singing might stink, but Psalm 98:4 says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” These first three calls make it clear that God wants our journey to be one of joy. Yet how often do we reflect grumpiness instead of gladness? How many of us are serving and singing with scowls, because we have lost our joy in Jesus? When we make it about rules instead of relationship one of the first things that gets jettison is joy. Our service sours and instead of shouts of joy there is a chorus of complaining. Are you shouting in joy or are you just shouting? Many of us are just making a lot of noise, creating a commotion, not bringing Him praise. Are you shouting, serving and singing with joy, are you making it about Jesus?  The fourth call is for us to “Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” God made us, inside and out, and He made you the way He wanted you to be, that means we are significant and special because God doesn’t make junk. A group of students was asked to list what they thought were the present Seven Wonders of the World. Though there was some disagreement, the following got the most votes: 1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids. 2. Taj Mahal. 3. Grand Canyon. 4. Panama Canal. 5. The Empire State Building. 6. St. Peter’s Basilica. 7. China’s Great Wall. While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one quiet student hadn’t turned in her paper yet, so she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.” The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.” The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are: 1. TO SEE. 2. TO TASTE. 3. TO TOUCH. 4. TO HEAR.” She hesitated a little, and then added, “5. TO FEEL. 6. TO LAUGH. 7. AND TO LOVE.” The rest of the room sat in stunned silence. Those things we overlook as simple and ordinary are truly wondrous. The truth is you are not trash, careless thrown together, no you have been lovingly crafted by the creators hand. Not only did He make us but He is still making us. God wants to deal with out defects and the scars of sin. Not only were we created in His image but we were created to reflect Him but sin has distorted and deflected that. God wants to work in and on our attitudes and actions so that we reflect His righteousness. Not only is He our maker but second “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” The problem is that most of us want to be shepherds, not sheep, but we don’t know where the still waters and green pastures are. So in our search for satisfaction we invariably end up sin, stuck in the far country. Are you submitting to His leadership, have you surrendered to the shepherd? What is guidance your life is it God, or are you trying to call the shots yourself? Why don’t we experience rest and rejuvenation, because we won’t let Him lead. The last call is to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” In the Old Testament the temple symbolized the presence of God. When His people entered through the gates they knew that they had come into His presence. Their focus was on the Father, we are called to come in wonder and in worship of the one who made the whole world. God is not confined to a temple He is everywhere; He is with you on the highways and the byways of this life, in every moment of your life. We have a God who cares and compassionately comes alongside us, who wants to walk with us through the wins as well as the wounds.  Yet what if God started to treat us like we so often treat Him? What if God met our needs to the same extent that we responded to His rule and give Him control our lives? What if God stopped loving & caring for us because we failed to love & care for others? What if God took away His message because we refused to listen to His messenger? What if God answered our prayers the way we answer His call for service? What if God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we did refused to follow Him today? Are you thankful for the faithfulness of the Father? Are you joyfully shouting, serving, singing and saying thank you to Jesus?

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30 Transforming thankfulness – Part 3

Colossians 3:15-17

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. 16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

After instructing us to let the peace of Christ rule and the message of Christ fill our lives, Paul now reminds us to represent Jesus well. Not only is a thankful heart one where Christ’s peace is in control and His word is overflowing but it’s also where:

  • Christ’s name is lifted up

“And whatever you do or say” this includes everything, from our jobs to our parenting, to our driving on the roads. It includes both our walk and our talk. “do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus” Do it means every part of everything that we do, from the mundane and those things that don’t seem to matter to those that we think are monumental.  Because we are not just doing it for self or for the sake of getting it done, we are doing it as a representative of the Lord Jesus. Our attitudes and actions are an advertisement for the Almighty. How we live is a reflection on the Redeemer. What you do and how you do it will color what people think of Christ. How many have walked away from Christ because of His church, because our witness didn’t match our words? Are you representing Him right, does your public life match your private life? Are you revealing His righteousness? Are you modeling His mercy? Are you living out His love and Forgiveness? Are you reflecting holiness or hypocrisy? It’s here that Paul again calls us to give thanks, this time he calls us to focus our thanks on the Father. Living a life of thanks lifts His name a little higher. But it’s not just His name that is lifted but also our eyes, because thanking the Father causes us to look up and have an upward focus. But this upward focus is not from a position of pride but one of praise. While our head is turned upward in wonder our heart is bowed in worship. Our thanks flows from the realization that it is God who has bless us and granted us good gifts. James 1:17 reminds us that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” When was the last time you thanked God for His good gifts? Giving thanks to God is not just a vocal thing, it involves all of us and how we live our lives. Your life is God’s gift to you, but what you do with it is your gift back to God. Not only do we look up but we also need to look around as we give thanks to God. When was the last time you marvel at the majesty of His creation? When was the last time you payed attention to breathing in the blessing of the fresh morning air? When was the last time you smelled the dew on the dirt or the rain soaking into the soil and simply said thanks?  Are you taking His gifts for granted or are you grateful? When we take the time to look around us at His creation we are confronted by His bountiful blessings.  Many times, when we are depressed or despondent, it’s because we are only looking in one direction at one thing and at one time of our life. We get fixated on the problems instead of the praise. Take sometime today to look around and see what God has done as well as what He is doing. Count your blessings, soak them in and sing them out. Looking around forces us to be outward, are you struggling to find something to be thankful for? Then try looking outward and seeing those who have greater needs than you. Paying attention to other people can put our problems into perspective, when we see their trials our troubles don’t seem as big. Not only will our sorrows seem smaller but they will also seem fewer. Mother Theresa once told the story of ministering to an old woman dying from starvation: “One evening we went out, and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition. I told the sisters, ‘You take care of the other three; I will take care of the one who looks worst.’ So I did for her all that my love could do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand as she said two words only: ‘Thank you.’ Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience before her. And I asked: ‘What would I say if I were in her place?’ And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, ‘I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain,’ or something. But she gave me much more; she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. That is the way I want to die, regardless of my circumstances, not with whining and whimpering, not with complaining and bitterness of spirit, but with gratitude on my lips. If I am able to do this, it will bring a smile not only to my face, but to the face of God. Instead of getting caught up in complaining and wasting our energy on griping what if we were to extend a helping hand. Thanksgiving causes us to reach out, to be the hands and feet of Jesus touching others with His truth as we seek to bring them into His blessings. Thanksgiving causes us to trade our grumbling for gratitude, it turns our weeping into worship and our junk into joy. It’s as we look outward and see the needs of others that we realize what God has done inwardly in our lives. Those inward changes that have occurred in our character. These cause us to boldly look beyond to see past just the gift and to see the giver. Growing up like many kids Christmas was a special time for me, filled with excitement and anticipation over the gifts beneath the tree. When it was time to open them I rambunctiously ripped them all open, but in my haste I forgot to take the time to read the cards and tags tied to them telling me who the gift was from. The problem was that I got so wrapped up in the gift that I forgot about the giver. True thankfulness looks beyond the gift and sees the giver. It’s the lesson we learn from the one leper in Luke 17 who came back to thank Jesus, he looked beyond the gift of his healing to see the heart and hand of Jesus. The other nine were so wrapped up in the gift of healing that they forgot about the healer. As great as God’s gifts are their purpose is never to take His place but to point us to Him.  The greatest gift is not what God does for us; the greatest gift is God Himself. Have you gotten caught up in the gift or are you concentrating on the Giver? You may not believe that thanksgiving can be transforming, that having a heart full of thanks will change your life, but don’t take my word for it try it for yourself. Here is my challenge to you, for one week whatever happens in your life, find something in that situation for which you can give thanks. Find something to be thankful for each day and then express your thanks, tell those who have contributed to your thankfulness.  Don’t hold your thanks inside let it spill over in your speech, because your attitude of gratitude won’t just transform you it will transform your world. So let me start by saying thank you to God for the gift of writing. Three and a half years ago I started a journey with Jesus, the goal was to grown in God and to journal my journey. I set out to write a 365 day devotional, for my family both biological and biblical. Years from now or may be tomorrow, when I am no longer here but living with the Lord, I want to be a witness to a world in which I no longer live. I want to leave my family with a spiritual heritage, I want them to know my story, a story about out my Savior. So for three and a half years twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday morning I have posted a devotion, my walk through the Word, my time in the garden with God. There were weeks when I wondered how or when I would have the time to write, but the Father was always faithful. This devotional is my gift, a gift given to me by my God, a God who is not only great but One filled with grace and goodness. For those who have followed this journey, thank you for your faithfulness. My prayer is that you have been challenged to walk deeper with God and that your heart has been changed by His hand. Know that this is not the end of the blog just a milestone in the journey.