Preparation for Advent. Idolatry – all about Our Name or ALL about God’s Fame? Some Hidden Lessons from the ‘ancient’ Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 11:1-9 NKJV

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and one [a]speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and [b] bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called [c]Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I cannot tell anyone how many times I have read this passage, prayed through this ancient text and thought and believed I knew at least a few truths about it.

Yet, as I sit here pondering this text for this devotional about our preparation for Advent with a particular emphasis upon Idolatry – these two verses hit me:

Genesis 11:4-5 NLT

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!

Many stories in the Hebrew [Old] Testament can be difficult to understand.

From Noah, Abraham to the prophets, sometimes the Bible can be downright confusing. Or maybe we unknowingly misunderstand the lesson of the story.

Take the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, for example. My wife and I were talking about this story this week, and she asked me what I thought it was about.

I told her what I thought I knew, but then I thought I had better look at it again.

It must have been the Holy Spirit nudging me in my rib cage because, although I thought I knew a lot about it, I realized that I had totally missed the main point.

The tower of Babel is not just about a brick tower some people built. It’s all about pride, rebellion, and the importance of being obedient to God’s Word.

A New Covenant

The story of the tower of Babel occurs just after Noah’s death in Genesis 11:1-9.

Noah’s Death: (Genesis 9:28-29 NLT – 28 Noah lived another 350 years after the great flood. 29 He lived 950 years, and then he died.)

But to fully understand what’s going on, we need to turn back a page or two to the part when God had established a new covenant with His creation, the earth.

After Noah and his family leave the ark, Noah builds an altar and raises incense the aroma of which is described as pleasing to God’s heart. He was so pleased with Noah’s burnt offerings that God decided to never flood the earth again.

“And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22

God then tells Noah and his sons about the new covenant in Genesis 9:13-17 including the very telltale sign of His covenant—the hanging of a rainbow:

13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.” (NLT)

Sandwiched in between God thinking about His new covenant and then telling Noah’s family about it, God tells Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).”

Aged Noah only had three sons, but his family had no trouble fulfilling God’s command. They were so prolific that all of Genesis 10 is dedicated to listing all of their children and their grandchildren by name, and there were quite a few.

With the passing of each generation, each son’s family eventually established their own tribe and claimed their own nations.

So, while many were claiming territory, still many other people continued spreading across the earth and filling it.

It was during one of these migrations east that a certain group of people found a great place to build a tower.

Building a Great Tower

In the middle of nowhere in the land of Shinar (historical Babylon and currently Iraq, approximately 60 miles southwest of Baghdad), a group of migrants under the mighty leadership of Nimrod decided to stop there to build, create a village.

Nimrod was the grandson of Noah and the son of Ham.

If you remember, Ham was the son Noah cursed for teasing and making fun of his dad after he found his dad drunk and naked one night (Genesis 9:20-27).

According to the Bible, it was Noah’s curse that created the Canaanites because all of Ham’s family was then considered disobedient.

One day while the people were building the village, someone (perhaps Nimrod himself) suggested they build a tower that reached to the heavens.

When we say “heavens” we’re talking about three different heavens, the highest one being the holy throne of God.

So, these villagers are talking about creating a tower that reaches unto God Himself.

Though they knew they couldn’t actually build such a tower, their intention was clearly to make it as tall as was then humanly possible.

Why would they build such a tall tower?

Let’s look at Genesis 11:4.

“And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens. Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Their goal was to create something that represented their great abilities and establish a famous reputation among the other tribes.

They obsessively desired to be the very highest envy of everyone across the land. Their pride was bad enough, but that is not what got God really upset.

Remember,

they were supposed to multiply and fill the earth, but this group of people had decided to stop, put down roots, and show off how smart and skilled they were.

Their pride led the people to rebel against God’s command, to steal His glory.

God was not going to have any part of that, so there was only one thing to do.

The Lord’s Verdict

After the tower was built,

God came down to take a closer look at what the people had created, and He decisively decided he did not like it nor did He appreciate the people’s efforts.

He then had a little conversation with Himself.

“Indeed, the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Genesis 11:6

God notices exactly how “united” they are, and they all have one language, one vocabulary which allows them to do whatever it is which they wish to do. And respect for the Lord’s commands isn’t important. So, He comes up with a plan.

“Come, let Us [the Trinity] go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (v7)

God did not destroy the tower, an abandoned monument to monumental pride.

But He did scatter the people.

How He did it the Bible doesn’t say. But they were all driven away, the village construction was never completed, and their language was suddenly changed.

Now, certain groups couldn’t understand each other anymore. Those who could communicate gathered together and created new nomadic tribes, which is why, how some scholars believe is how today’s languages were originally created.

It’s interesting to note that the person who first came up with the idea to build the tower said in verse four,

“Let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

It turned that his prophecy was fulfilled.

So, God called the tower Babel, which means “noisy confusion” and is where the later kingdom of Babylon was later established by Nimrod ~ 2200 BCE and became an empire which reigned from ~1900 BCE to ~539BCE when they were weakened by several wars with Assyria and Persian Cyrus II conquered the city.

Avoiding the Tower of Babel

With stories like this, it can be hard to understand what the lesson might be. On the surface, it just looks like a historical account of an early nomadic tribe.

But when we take a closer look, we see can observe that God is illustrating for us the critical importance of obeying and respecting Him. We also note the danger of becoming prideful, arrogant, and thinking and believing we do not need God.

God is reminding us (again) of the consequences of sin.

Some consequences are great, and some are not.

In the case of Nimrod’s tribe, their behavior and attitudes were so bad God completely scrambled their language and forced them back upon the road to “multiply and fill the earth.”

This is the power of God and is why we need to be careful about our choices.

Genesis 11:4 NLT

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

One the surface, the people of Babel seem like a stellar example of what humans can accomplish as a team.

They created a gigantic tower in order to stay unified and become a powerful community.

However, to God, this was not good. If they could use their teamwork and build this tower, nothing would have been impossible for them (Genesis 11:6).

Why would God have had a problem with this?! Isn’t this the human flourishing God himself commanded in Genesis 1:28, to fill the earth and subdue it?

Because the people of Babel would take all of the glory and all of the recognition for their own handiwork and not glorify God for his blessing upon them; if God had said nothing, left them to themselves, none of them would have found him.

One must wonder how many ministries or churches with good intentions fall into this trap. We might think an enormous building with our name on it will give God the glory, honor, praise, but bigger isn’t always better in God’s eyes.

Throughout the Bible he used men who had little experience or leadership qualities and guided them to be the Godly men their situation required.

We all struggle with the temptation to rely on our works, glorify ourselves for our hard fought success, those of our congregations, instead of relying on God.

Remember this as we who are the Body of Christ ministers to others. God can use you to do a mighty work without a large following or famous church; you have the same God who created the heavens and the earth working through you.

Matthew 7:13-14 NLT

The Narrow Gate

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell[a] is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

As we prepare ourselves and our churches for this new season of Advent, as we each consider the contemporary relevance or irrelevance of Idolatry – choice of all of the glory upon our name or upon God’s fame as being the only #1 priority,

As Christians, we ought to brutally examine our hearts and minds every day to make sure we are staying on the path of humble obedience while maintaining complete and absolute respect for God’s power.

The road to hell is wide, its gate is quite wide for the many who choose the way.

Straying off the narrow road which leads straight to abundant life, eternal life in God in Christ, creates a tower of Babel— “noisy confusion” —in our lives.

Stick to God’s path.

Please! Take time today to give all of the honor to God in your accomplishments.

Follow His way, and you’ll never go wrong. His way is always the best way.

Psalm 119:105-112 NLT

Nun

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.
106 I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:
    I will obey your righteous regulations.
107 I have suffered much, O Lord;
    restore my life again as you promised.
108 Lord, accept my offering of praise,
    and teach me your regulations.
109 My life constantly hangs in the balance,
    but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
110 The wicked have set their traps for me,
    but I will not turn from your commandments.
111 Your laws are my treasure;
    they are my heart’s delight.
112 I am determined to keep your decrees
    to the very end.

John 14:1-14 NLT

Jesus, the Way to the Father

14 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.[c] From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Sometimes getting to where we want to go in life can be incredibly confusing.

After Jesus told his disciples he would be leaving them, Thomas said he didn’t know where Jesus was going or how to get there.

I like Thomas’s honest questions.

He doesn’t hide his confusion.

Sometimes Christians think they need to know all the answers.

But Jesus does not scold Thomas for not understanding.

He gives him directions.

Jesus tells Thomas the way to navigate successfully.

And that way is Jesus himself.

If the goal of life is to get with the Father, to get with God, then Jesus is the way.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

It might help to think of it this way: each one of us has a God-shaped void in us that only God can fill.

As we long to be filled with the abundant life of God, Jesus is the way there.

The truth of his Word will guide us.

And along the way, his life in us gives us the power to stay on track.

What a wonderful journey!

What a wonderful Lord and Savior!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, I pray You would teach me all there is to learn from the wise and foolish decisions made by the post Diluvian people and the rebellious self-centered attitudes they fostered in their heart. Thank You that You are my God and Creator and my center, and that You have given me all I need for life and godliness. Help me to make the wise and right choices in life and to refuse to adopt the sinful ways of the world which unwisely encourage independence from You. May I look to Jesus day by day and rest my hope and future in You. This I ask in His dear name’s sake, AMEN.

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Preparation for Advent. Idolatry – We Become Who and What we Worship. Idols and Images and God. Psalm 115:1-8

Psalm 115:1-8Amplified Bible

Pagan Idols Contrasted with the Lord.

115 Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth and faithfulness.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

The idols [of the nations] are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
Nor can they make a sound with their throats.

Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We do not talk about idols much these days.

And when we do, it’s probably about a pop super­star or an American Idol winner.

Neitzsche who famously once wrote, “God is dead,” also wrote, “If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”  

That is a core issue in our idolatrous hearts.

We would kill God so that we can be God.

It is not that we deny God; we just replace Him with ourselves.

Recently some fans of a rap artist named Kanye wrote a book called “The Book of Yeezus” where they take the Bible and replace God with the rappers name.

The “famed” rapper even has a song called, “I am God.”

This is the reality of an idolatrous heart.

Therefore, we always have a desire to be our own authority, our own god.  

Even to deny God, is to fill that gap with ourselves as the sole determiner of what is true or not. Denying God is in itself an act of making oneself God.

Ancient idols, ancient graven images were nothing more than symbols used to get what we selfishly desired. 

In our modern materialistic society our deities are no longer objects that need to be appeased or placated, but rather things that appease or placate us. 

That is the ultimate goal in idol worship.  

Genesis 11:1-4 NASB

The Tower of Babel

11 Now all the earth [a]used the same language and [b]the same words. And it came about, as they journeyed [c]east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and [d] settled there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and [e] fire them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.”

I have heard it said of idolatry “that it is to embrace an insufficiently educated form, and wholly inadequate view of God or to make God seem more like us.”

The outcome of this idolatrous attitude is preferring to do things for our namesake (Genesis 11:1-4), not the Lord’s.

This idolatry of self-desire is ridiculously rampant and ruinous to the utmost. 

But when the Bible talks about idols, it usually means carved images that stood in for false gods.

The Bible issues strong warnings about that sort of idol.

On their own, idols are powerless.

As Psalm 115:4-7 says, they may have eyes and ears and hands and feet, but they cannot see, hear, feel, or walk!

Yet when people worship idols, they give power to them, destructive power.

That’s why, for example, the Bible warns against greed. Greed makes an idol out of wealth.

And when wealth is worshiped, it has the power to turn people into Scrooge like misers or “Grinch” like mobsters and thieves and joy killers or market frauds.

We have all hear it before – False gods, and their images, are utterly dangerous!

John Calvin famously said that “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.”

I do not believe there is anyone reading this who would not say Mr. Calvin was anything but absolutely right!

What Is Idolatry in the Bible? Its Definition and Significance ….

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Idolatry is “image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object.”

Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25: men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption (Romans 1:28).

The forms of idolatry are,

  • Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.
  • Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.
  • Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

Idolatry in the Bible

In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as of heathen origin, and as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with heathen nations.

The first allusion to idolatry is in the account of Rachel stealing her father’s teraphim (Genesis 31:19), which were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban’s progenitors “on the other side of the river in old time” (Joshua 24:2).

During their long residence in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry, and it was long before they were delivered from it (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7).

Many a token of God’s displeasure fell upon them because of this sin.

The first, second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form.

Individuals and communities were equally amenable to the rigorous code.

The individual offender was devoted to destruction (Exodus 22:20).

His nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment (Deuteronomy 13:20-10), but their hands were to strike the first blow when, on the evidence of two witnesses at least, he was stoned to death (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).

To attempt to seduce others to false worship was a crime of equal enormity.

An idolatrous nation shared the same fate.

No facts are more strongly declared in the Hebrew [Old] Testament than the vigorous extermination of the Canaanites was the punishment of their idolatry, and the calamities of the Israelites were due to the same cause (Jeremiah 2:17).

“A city guilty of idolatry was looked upon as cancer in the state; it was considered to be in rebellion, and treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants and all their cattle were put to death.”

Jehovah was the theocratic King of Israel, the civil Head of the commonwealth, therefore to an Israelite idolatry was a state offense (1 Samuel 15:23), treason.

On taking possession of the land by battle, the Jews were commanded to destroy all traces of every kind of the existing idolatry of the Canaanites.

The history of Israel is clearly outlined in the Bible.

For generation after generation, they repeatedly fell prey to being drawn away from the Lord to serve false gods.

This did not only happen to the common people, but to their kings, priests, and prophets, as well. 

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:4).

The sin of idolatry, or worshiping other gods, is in violation of the Law of God.

As a matter of fact, it breaks the first two of the Ten Commandments.

It is important to remember that disobedience is the original sin and therefore encompasses all sin. 

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Ex. 20:2-4).

I have observed two areas concerning idolatry which I would like to mention:

First how it shows itself in our attitude towards church

Second, how it strains, places pressure upon our understanding of salvation.

1. Our Attitude Towards The Church

Living and worshiping with this culture centered, internet, technology driven idolatrous heart creates a dangerous consumer driven church mentality.  

When it comes to church, often the question is how does this service suit me?

How does the worship make me feel or how does it appease my senses?

Did I find the sermon appealing to my “I need to feel good today” needs?  

Was the message something I felt I wanted to hear?  

In our sinful hearts we have not gotten rid of our idols, we have only Christianized them.  

As I have mentioned earlier in this devotion, John Calvin said that the heart is an “I feel good, I will be good now, I am good” because the sermon said so” idol factory and this truth shows up in the church, moves through the week and the cycle will inevitably be repeated week after week because who expects different.

Keep this in mind, and we learned this in the Garden of Eden from that single conversation between the serpent an Eve: If Satan cannot keep you from your worshipping the true God, then he will do his best to pervert that worship.

One of the greatest perversions of worship is to make it about us.  

This includes those serving in church and those receiving the message.  

When we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see that we are to do all things for the glory of God. It is to lift up God that we worship and serve. When we look at Ephesians 2:10, it shows we were made to do good works not just receive.

Philippians 2:3 states rather succinctly,

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  

This is clearly seen in Jesus taking on flesh and humbling Himself to the point of death, for the sake of all mankind.  

Jesus demonstrated this so well when, like a slave He washed the feet of the disciples, in John 13.  

In this same chapter, the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, yet Jesus took the role of a servant.  

Even on the Cross our Savior prayed for those that persecuted Him (Luke 23:34) and ministered (Luke 23:43; John 19:26-27).  

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45).  

The point is, our idolatry makes church about service to us.

It makes worship about what appeases us the only quality worship we want.

True worship is about what we give to God because He alone is worthy, never about what we can get.  

We are called in love to serve the church, seek to serve, not seek to be served.

2. Strains Our Understanding Of Salvation

Having this idolatrous heart wrongfully makes salvation about us and about our ability to save.  

When I studied world religions, the theme of man earning his own way to God came up time and again.  

Every religion in the world is about man working and earning his salvation.

but in Christianity, we have believing with our whole heart, confessing in God and believing on His Son Jesus Christ as Savior as the way of salvation for man.

In other religions, the followers must come to their God to some how appease, earn favor and therefore still serve themselves because the ultimate recipient is the person doing the appeasing.

Systems like these work well to alleviate guilt over sin.  

We all know we are guilty.

I do not have to prove to you that you have done wrong.

I do not have to prove to anyone that they have sin.

I only have to present the evidence from their own life that condemns them.  

We live in a world full of people falling into religious systems or humanistic self-pleasure systems of worship to alleviate or numb the feelings of guilt.

When salvation is idolatrous it looks to put the power to achieve salvation in man’s hands rather than God’s.  

It will make mankind the end goal, or the highest benefactor of that salvation.

Against this is the reality that God saves us.  

In the Hebrew [Old] Testament when God saved His people, it says in Ezekiel 36:21-23 that He did it for His holy Name’s sake.  

In the New Testament in Acts 15:14, it states that God saved people from among the Gentiles “for His name.” 

Throughout Scripture, God desires to save, but the ultimate reason is for His own glory.

God saves us based upon His own purpose and desire.

In response, we who are saved return to Him a sacrifice of praise.

As His children, we praise Him, we thank Him an we pray to Him in worship for all He is and for all He has done and will do for us. Even though we receive the benefits of salvation, the ultimate purpose is to magnify the great name of God.

But then there is Jesus.

Jesus is the EXACT image of God (Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1)

That’s why he can say,

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

And that’s not about his eyes, ears, hands, or feet. It’s about power.

Because when we see Jesus, we see the Father’s love.

And there is power in that love.

It’s the ­power that saves the world – (John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:7-21).

It’s the power that makes us what we were always meant to be: not idols, but images of our heavenly Father.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6NKJV

Christ’s Epistle

3 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

The Spirit, Not the Letter

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the [a]Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

We become what we worship. When we worship — or pursue as ultimate — idols, we become powerless, discontent, and disconnected, just like they are.

We become WHO we worship. When we worship – or pursue as ultimate idols, we become powerless, discontent and disconnected, just exactly like they are.

But when we worship Jesus, we are made more and more like him – The way you and I view Jesus determines exactly how you and I will fervently pursue him.

Worship of our Pride and our Selfish Ambition will inevitably melt away before the undeniable greatness of our God who suffered and died and rose again. 

Do we see that as the star of the show, the hero to be praised is Jesus Christ?

When we see this indescribably grand demonstration of God, we can do nothing less than make everything we actually are all about, be about Him and His glory.

Psalm 29New King James Version

Praise to God in His Holiness and Majesty

A Psalm of David.

29 Give[a] unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
2 [b]Give unto the Lord the glory [c]due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the [d]beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord [e]divides the flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
11 The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Let us humbly come before God

Let us humbly receive His Living Word to get the full picture of who He is.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O Lord, Mighty in Power, Perfect in Your Love, Perfect Author of my life. You say that I should have faith in You so that I will be upheld. Sometimes I do, an sometimes I fail and put more faith in myself than I know is righteous. Mighty Lord. I desire to place all my faith in You. You strengthen me. Your holy force keeps my spirit alive and burning fiercely for You. I know that with You I can overcome anything. Thank You for remaining faithful to Your chosen people. Thank You for guiding me in my life and helping me to become a vessel for Your will. I pray that I continue to put my faith and trust in You because You know all things. You know what the hearts of Your people need, and I know You will help me through whatever this life brings. Amen.

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Christian Thanksgiving: ALL Thanks be unto God for His Unshakable Kingdom. Hebrews 12:25-29

Hebrews 12:25-29 Easy-to-Read Version

25 Be careful and don’t refuse to listen when God speaks. Those people refused to listen to him when he warned them on earth. And they did not escape. Now God is speaking from heaven. So now it will be worse for those who refuse to listen to him. 26 When he spoke before, his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, “Once again I will shake the earth, but I will also shake heaven.” [a] 27 The words “once again” clearly show us that everything that was created will be destroyed—that is, the things that can be shaken. And only what cannot be shaken will remain.

28 So we should be thankful because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And because we are thankful, we should worship God in a way that will please him. We should do this with respect and fear, 29 because our God is like a fire that can destroy us.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Buildings will eventually crumble, countries will rise and empires will fall; truth: nothing in this world is permanent and it will one day come to an end.

As Christians, as the Body of Christ, as God’s Church, however, we have something which will never come to end; we have the kingdom of God.

Let us be thankful for this!

Let us be thankful that whether we live or die, we have an imperishable, inheritance in an unshakeable kingdom to come (Hebrews 13:14).

Let us be thankful that this unshakeable imperishable kingdom was designed by the great designer, God himself (Hebrews 11:10).

Because of all of these truths, we can be infinitely thankful for a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

The kingdom of God will always be, no ruler or natural disaster can destroy it.

Think about this in relation to all the turmoil that is happening in the world with wars, socio-cultural-economic problems, and great natural disasters.

Our only innate, instinctive response to this amazing truth is one of worship!

Let us worship with reverence and awe because our God is a consuming fire.

Our God is bigger than any skyscraper touching the tip of the sky.

Our God is more powerful than the mightiest ruler.

Our kingdom is ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Our temporary home may be breaking, quaking and shaking under us right now, but our soon to be permanent home is always standing as firm as ever.

Hebrews 12:28-29Authorized (King James) Version

28 Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Wherefore we are receiving a Kingdom ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/heb/12/28-29/t_conc_1145028

We are Receiving ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3880/kjv/tr/0-1/

A Kingdom ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g932/kjv/tr/0-1/

Which CANNOT be moved ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g761/kjv/tr/0-1/

Immovable!

Unshakable! 

Unshaken! 

“A kingdom that cannot be shaken.” 

“We are receiving a kingdom.”

Please exercise careful notice of how the anonymous author wrote this.

This present participle in the Greek emphasizes followers of Jesus Christ are now in the process of receiving this gift, that this process will continue into the future.

This unshakeable kingdom is not the gift of a constitution, or government or any other human institution or process—it is the gift of God.

It is a continual, continuing gift of God, who is “a consuming fire” —literally, one whose indescribable, unviewable glory would consume us as he warned Moses and others if we ever looked upon him directly.

This continual, continuing gift of an unshakable kingdom, whose giver is God himself, and whose incarnation is Jesus Christ, is a gift that comes with power.

It is an awesome power and an undeniable glory which sends us to our knees in humble prayer, thanksgiving, praise and worship, with maximum reverence and maximum awe. That’s the only natural posture appropriate to such a great gift. 

The unshakable kingdom we are receiving as followers of Jesus Christ, as the Body of Christ, is not any single global movement or a global church denomination.

It is quite literally, an quite awesomely, quite magnificently: the reign of God.

American philosopher also known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation Dr. Dallas Willard captured the Biblical essence of this “kingdom” as

“the range of God’s effective will, where what God wants done is done.”

Therefore, it is defined by the clarity, authority and inspiration of God’s revealed word, the Bible.

The unshakable kingdom is summed up:

in the person, reign, and ministry of Jesus Christ, in whom “all things hold together,” “all the fullness of God dwells” and through whom “all things in heaven and on earth” are reconciled to God (Colossians. 1:17-20).

In other words, wherever Jesus Christ reigns as Savior and Lord—in our lives, our friends, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our communities—now, and with increasing reign, there we’ll find and receive the unshakable kingdom.

A dear brother in Christ reminded me of these verses as together we have faced this question:

What is at stake for followers of Jesus Christ as we face a culture conflict that is increasingly shaped by the forces of aggressive secularism, moral relativism, religious pluralism, individual autonomy, a utopian hope in secular authority (however repressive it may need to be)?

A people with a Kingdom focus, called to be an instrument of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for the healing of communities, and nations.

If you dwell on that whole statement as I just did—with the whole Body of Christ in attendance at one time—you realize this is a GARGANTUAN picture.

The man, Master Rabbi Jesus said, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20).

The ‘finger of God’ is a phrase that is also used in Exodus 8:16-20 by Egyptian priests referring to the plagues that God sent upon their whole entire nation.

In Deuteronomy 9:10

it refers to the method by which God himself inscribed the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone that Moses brought down after 40 days, from Mt. Sinai.

During our prayer times, during the course of our praise an worship times, we welcome “the imperceptible touch of the finger of God” in healing ministries to the whole person (body, soul and spirit), in deliverance ministries (following Rabbi Jesus’ example) and in many patient, caring, quiet counseling and small group venues where we witnessed real people changed by real the power of God.

Contemplate this if we dare to:

Human dignity is restored—in the image of God.

Not in the image of any faith Denomination

– but in the IMAGE of GOD ALONE!

You see, a people who are receiving that unshakable kingdom of God, who have that exclusive, unshakably prioritized kingdom focus, will, with all eyes on God 

unhesitatingly welcome and invite that power beyond ourselves to change ourselves—through the utterly unshakable power of the intercessions of God, the Holy Spirit.  

This Biblical world view is a sharp, stark alternative to the materialism that omits the sovereignty of God entirely in the secular utopian (even culturally Marxist) world views dominating our global socio-economic-culture wars.

If we think and ponder and prayerfully meditate: Frankly, a people with this kingdom focus will be the only ones who can offer true hope to people in need.  

In Romans 14:17, the Apostle Paul hints at this when he writes to the followers; “for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 

In keeping with such joy and peace,

he then prays

“May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13).

As the Body of Christ, this kingdom focus is meant to create a culture that is supposed to be overflowing with hope precisely because of our confidence in the matchless and unshakable power of God—not in our limited weak kneed selves. 

It is supposed to be highly contagious.

In my days of working with homeless veterans I heard so many testimonies of people who walked off the street because of a personal invitation into program.

Meetings and small groups were overcome by the love of God, overflowing with hope, and led into the gentle and redeeming reign of Jesus Christ in their lives!

But we have such hope to offer in and through the reign of Jesus Christ and the unshakable kingdom of God.  

The Body of Christ, the Church in the world, even as we try to diagnose all of the problems and try mightily to engage our dying culture in praise, worship and in prayer, we must do so with the Gospel – Good News of our only Savior Jesus Christ. 

What needs to come from our testimonies is this: There is an alternative, a world-view where Jesus Christ reigns as Lord and Savior, where the poor are lifted up, prisoners set free, people healed, the oppressed released, human dignity restored and God’s favor poured out in abundance (Luke 4:16-21).

Isaiah 2:1-4 AKJV

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass in the last days,
that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established
in the top of the mountains,
and shall be exalted above the hills;
and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say,
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths:
for out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

The Body of Christ, Children of God with a Kingdom of God focus, called to be an instrument for the healing of all the diverse arrays of local communities, for the healing of all worlds nations – swords into plow shares, learning Shalom alone? 

What an incredibly unshakeable theology for the Body of Christ to LABOR for!!!

Steadfastly and Immovably and Unshakably, Do We Dare to Go Where God IS?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You that I have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. Thank You that His kingdom can never be shaken and that in my Savior Christ Jesus, this kingdom is my inheritance. Accept my humble praise and everlasting gratitude for all that Christ has done for me. May I live my life in reverence to You and may the things I do, and say, be acceptable in Your sight. I ask this in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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Earthquake! Unleashing the Power of Praise and Thanksgiving! Acts 16:22-34

Acts 16:22-34NASB

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

22 The crowd joined in an attack against them, and the chief magistrates tore their [a]robes off them and proceeded to order [b]them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 [c]and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the [d]stocks.

25 Now about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And the jailer asked for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas; 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The Jailer Converted

31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of God to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set [e]food before them, and was [f] overjoyed, since he had become a believer in God together with his whole household.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Allow me to ask the question:

Exactly what amount of praise is too much to give to a God who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and filthy habits? How much worship is over-the-top for a God whose own Son shed His blood so that we might have abundant life?

Some say that Praise is embarrassing or will turn people away from the church.

Yet those same people will spend 2 hours at a secular concert with their hands in the air, never once thinking that they might “turn off” other potential fans.

Some say preachers should never be loud and boisterous when they speak, but yet those same people cannot stand to hear a lifeless sportscaster or boring talk show host blather on about some obscure topic which has no connection to life.

The truth is this, the world is max hungry for the real thing: Genuine worship from genuine people, offered up to the only God who is worthy of our praise.

An old song from a secular artist said, “it might be the devil, or it might be The Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

On that note, I would definitely have to say, even shout this at the top of my lungs: it might be for the world, or it might be for Jesus Christ, but you WILL lift your hands, you WILL lift your voice, you WILL move those happy little feet.

Church, we cannot make apologies for being exactly who we are in Christ.

Psalm 150 NASB

A Psalm of Praise.

150 [a]Praise [b]the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty [c]expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flute.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Everything that has breath shall praise [d]the Lord.
[e]Praise [f]the Lord!

As Christians saved ONLY by the Charity and Grace of Almighty God, we are called to unleash the power of praise and thanksgiving every day of the year.

What power?

An Earthquake! reaching, breaching, to the very gates of the devil himself.

The power to defeat the devil, setting him on his heels and unlock victory!

Most people think and even believe that praise is what you do ONLY after you get what you are believing or praying for, but that simply isn’t true.

The devil wants to keep us from thinking about praise and thanksgiving while you and I are in the process of believing, being faith-filled and faithful because he knows too well it’s a vitally important key to our achieving breakthrough.

Remember when Paul and Silas were locked up in the bowels of a prison?

Things definitely looked pretty grim. Most people would be begging and pleading with God to get them out, or considering all the ways they’d served Him and wondering how they could possibly deserve what was happening.

Instead, Paul and Silas just sat there in that dank prison, in their chains and leg stocks and they “were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25, NIV). 

The result?

“All the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (verse 26). All the doors. Every chain. All because of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Do you and/or I need an Earthquake?

Do you and/or I need a breakthrough?

In bondage, max imprisoned to sin, do we need that prison door opened?

The “unbreakable” Chains of sin to come loose or just plain shattered apart?

When you learn what can be accomplished in the spirit realm, you will want to activate and then unleash the max power of praise and thanksgiving in your life every day, unleash the max power of praise and thanksgiving with these truths.

1. Praise and Thanksgiving Balance the Scale

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Notice how the Apostle Paul phrased Philippians 4:6 to say we are to fervently present all our requests to God “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

Quite often, we get so wrapped up in our needs and desires that our prayers can end up sounding like a long list of what we don’t have, what we want and what we need, without much time spent praising the One whom we are petitioning.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for God’s help, but we should also be taking the time to thank God for everything He has done and is doing for us.

Praise and worship and thanksgiving balance the scale in our prayer lives and can quite literally mean the difference between receiving and going without.

Does the fervency of our praise and worship equal the fervency of our prayers?

Is your and mine scale balanced? Don’t wait to offer praise and thanksgiving to God until things are just as you like them to be—praise Him in every situation,

Praise Him for who He is and what He’s done in your life.

Praise Him that you and me are saved, delivered, healed and headed for heaven.

Praise Him with everything we have and with everything we are because He is God, as our Creator, Restorer, Friend, Counselor, Comforter and Strong Tower.

There was, is and forever will be so much for everyone to be max thankful for!

Take time to thank Him each and every day.

Then, watch as power is released and overwhelmingly unleashed into your circumstances in a way that scared and begging prayers can never accomplish.

2. Praise and Thanksgiving Neutralize the Devil

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

Ever wonder why the devil tries to get you to mumble, complain and grumble?

He knows it is a strength sapper, a faith drainer and a dream killer, a separator.

He knows it will keep you wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years, instead of arriving in your promised land in 11 days. (No! Nope! thank you!)

More importantly, he doesn’t want you to know this: Praise and thanksgiving neutralizes the attention we give to the devil – they are like kryptonite to him.

Praise and thanksgiving are powerful spiritual weapons that come from highly developed faith, and they are often the final step before receiving from God.

They are sure signs you have Proverbs 27:17 trust and faith in His Word, have eradicated all unbelief, and have fixed your mind and soul solely on His Word.

That is truly an extraordinarily powerful, Earthquake generating, place to be!

“Praise is much more than just music; it is a powerful, spiritual warfare tool. God never meant for you to fight your battles alone—Praise will shift the battle from you to God. Praise gives you strength and stops Satan in his tracks.”

How do praise and thanksgiving give you strength?

They build your faith and keep you thinking right.

They keep you and me on the right path towards the abundant life in Christ.

When you and I slip into wrong thinking, Satan can gain access to our lives.

Praise and thanksgiving are vital weapons in our warfare against Satan.

So, when you and I are standing in faith and things start to look opposite of what you and I are believing for, keep the highest praises of God on your lips.

Continue to praise Him for the answer.

Continue to worship Him for the answer.

Continue to pray to Him for God hears you and He IS definitely the ANSWER!

Don’t be moved, slowed down by circumstances; keep your eyes on God’s Word; pray, praise and thank Him as the “ant hill” mountain in front of you is moved.

Earthquakes from our Praise and Prayers will always send the devil packing!

Even physical weariness has to flee when it’s faced with real joy-filled praise.

The next time the devil tries to stifle your effectiveness, to drain you of the strength and wealth and victory that are yours in Jesus, turn him back with those powerful weapons – lift both of your hands higher an higher yet, your whole voice and your whole heart to God. Give Him praise and thanksgiving!

You an I ought to be shouting praises to God our whole way to work and also shouting our way back home and as we enter our homes to greet our family!

If there’s anything the devil can’t stand, it’s an Earthquake generated by praise.

If you and I have taken territory from the devil and he’s coming against us to get it back, this is not the time to sit down and whine about how things aren’t working out. It’s not the time to decide God has taken His hand off your life.

It IS time to get into the Word and get yourself re-anchored in God’s promises.

It’s time to keep those promises constantly before your eyes and in your heart.

It’s time to pray the prayer of faith and take your stand on the basis of His provision.

It is time to continue to do the things you know to do.

When Satan starts shaking your mountain, don’t retreat and run for cover. Speak to the mountain with the authority you have in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Then, when we are done with that, start to unleash praise and shout the victory!

3. Praise and Thanksgiving Bring God on the Scene

But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered].–Psalm 22:3 (AMPC)

Do you ever feel like you really need God to show up? You’ve been fighting the good fight, but boy, are you getting tired! That’s OK—but giving up is not. God never loses a battle. And when you do things His way, you and me won’t either.

So, what should you do? Start praising. Praise when you don’t feel like it and keep praising because praise and thanksgiving bring God on the scene.

He inhabits the praises of His people!

You can praise your way to healing, praise your way to a financial breakthrough, praise your way out of any circumstance, any catastrophic event in your souls.

When there is trouble—unleashing praise and thanksgiving bring victory!

You can see an example of that in 2 Chronicles 20

where a multitude of forces was marching against Israel, leaving the army of Israel so outnumbered, they literally didn’t know what to do. So, they fasted and prayed, praised and worshiped until they had received a word from God.

“Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (verse 15, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).

Do you know what they did in response to that word?

They put together a praise choir!

That’s right.

They appointed singers and praisers’, and sent them out in front of the army! 

And when that choir began to sing, the Word tells us that “the Lord set ambushments against the men…who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered” (verse 22).

When it was all over, not one Israelite had fallen—and not one of their enemies had escaped.

What’s more,

when they came to take the spoil, they found so many cattle, goods, garments and other precious things, it took them three whole days to haul it all home.

Now, that’s an Earthquake generating victory!

And it all began with an Earthquake of praise.

Are you looking for that kind of victory today?

Then stand up and shout, “Glory!”

After all, you and I are in the same situation those Israelites were.

You and I have an army marching against us, but Jesus has already defeated it. He won that battle for you on Resurrection morning.

That is the kind of power you can have right now in your life.

If you are not familiar with praising God, or it makes you feel uncomfortable, ask God to show you how.

You can start by reading the Psalms aloud.

They speak of the great and mighty works of God.

They praise Him for His goodness, power and mercy.

God is faithful to perfect your praises!

Praise is not something you do when things are rosy.

God is always worthy of your praise.

The Bible says to offer the sacrifice of praise—that means when it feels like a tough thing to give.

More importantly, praise and thanksgiving are more than a pleasant song or a few uplifting words about God.

They do something.

They release the very presence of God Himself.

When the presence of God comes on the scene, your enemies are turned back.

Sickness and disease can’t stay on your body.

Poverty can’t stay in your house.

So, when you praise and worship and pray,

“enter into his gates WITH THANKSGIVING, and into his courts WITH PRAISE: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4, KJV). 

Praise and thanksgiving are integral parts of prayer.

They are you and God working together—your prayer and His power. 

You can pray amiss, but you can’t praise amiss.

Praise God.

Praise Him in the morning. Praise Him at noon. Praise Him at night.

If you and I have never max praised God in our life, then get started right now.

Praise Him for freedom.

Praise Him for healing and Calvary. Praise Him for the Name of Jesus.

You’ll even find that when you have a need, if you go to God and simply praise Him, you’ll get your answers while you’re thanking Him!

That’s why Philippians 4:6 tells us to mix thanksgiving in with our prayers. There are so many reasons to praise the Lord!

Now we know how to unleash the power of praise and thanksgiving, we can take these truths, put them in remembrance as we pray, engage in spiritual warfare. 

Never underestimate the importance of praise, worship and prayer.

It’s one of the most powerful spiritual weapons you have!

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 NASB

The Mystery of Resurrection

50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does [a]the perishable inherit [b]the imperishable. 51 Behold, I am telling you a [c]mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised [d]imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this [e]perishable must put on [f]the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this [g]perishable puts on [h] the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God will generate that Earthquake ….

God will project that Earthquake into the direction it needs to go.

God will get definite and decisive results from that Earthquake!

God will definitely achieve a decisive breakthrough ….

Miracles will definitely happen ….

My Miracle will definitely happen ….

Your Miracle will definitely happen ….

Because He has already done it for His own Son – The Tomb is still EMPTY!

And all praise and thanks be unto God, we have access to the throne of God.

Ephesians 2:17-22 NASB

17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the [a]saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the  cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy  [b] temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father, Miracle-Worker, You raised Your Son from the grave. We have seen the empty tomb with our own eyes. We believe the witness of Your Scriptures, therefore I put my trust and my faith in You because I know that nothing is impossible with You. Just as You told Sarah about the coming birth of Isaac, I know You will make a way when there is no way. You raised Lazarus from the dead. You made the dry bones have flesh again and then made breath enter them. Father, You look out for Your people, and for that, I praise You. You are the same God today as You were then. I believe in the power of Your hand. I believe in Your intervention. My mind has silenced the critics. I cannot hear the non-believers. All I hear is You, my Father. What harm can come to me when I walk with You? Gloria! Alleluia! Amen.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Praise and Worship Him with our whole hearts too….

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When You Cannot nor Do not Feel Like Being Thankful this Thanksgiving, Why Should we Pray? 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18English Standard Version

Final Instructions and Benediction

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Signs of the Thanksgiving season are everywhere this week.

Everywhere we go we are consistently reminded by everyone an everything we see we are to give thanks for all that we have, especially our friends and family.

But what if maybe you an I do not feel thankful?

Maybe this year we are unable to locate one single reason to be thankful.

Maybe you an I are lacking close relationships or recently have gone through a major breakup or loss of a loved one. Maybe you an I do have others in our life, but our relationships are too complex, too conflictual or way too disappointing.

Perhaps the economic climate in our families precludes our usual shopping day.

Perhaps we have lost our job or have serious or chronic health problems, which make it difficult to feel thankful.

Or we might struggle with homelessness, a new high risk of homelessness or addictions, or depression or other mental health problems that make getting through every day a huge challenge we do not feel like confronting.

Maybe there is someone in our family who has become seriously ill and is now unable to participate in the festivities, maybe they have moved far away, there is no money anywhere for anybody to travel the distance now between you both.

Maybe our loved ones are members of the Armed Forces of our countries and the situation is such that no one is able to get those “orders” to travel home.

Perhaps we now have no home to go to because of major weather events which have destroyed the home or flooded it out or made it uninhabitable an unsafe.

Perhaps the home you knew or had just bought, has burned to the ground.

Perhaps the home you knew is now the home you can never go back to because you are a refugee or an immigrant fleeing a dangerous and unstable situation.

If one of these situations resonates with you, or resonates with me, we might not be feeling very thankful this season and we pray others to leave us alone.

For some other people, reminders to be thankful can bring joy. But what are the effects of being prompted to be thankful when you just aren’t feeling thankful?

Unfortunately, when you aren’t feeling thankful, even the minutest, smallest of reminders to be thankful are “offensive,” can make you and me feel even worse.

When you are struggling, being prompted to be thankful may seem insensitive.

You may feel misunderstood, alone, or isolated.

You might feel like everyone around you is thankful and full of joy, and you are alone in your thanklessness.

You may feel annoyed or even angry if it seems that others want you to be thankful to fit their schema for the holiday. If you have tried to feel thankful and just cannot bring yourself to do it, you may feel disappointed in yourself.

I confess… some days I don’t feel thankful. On those days I can still make of list of all my blessings, but instead of it propelling feelings of gratitude it makes me feel that much more guilty its not there, you cannot put it there. 

It’s a horrible feeling to be trying with everything you have to feel something you know you should be feeling but are not and do not believe you are allowed. 

Does that ever happen to you?

Is this a familiar sensation?

If this is how you feel, getting through the holiday can be challenging.

Here are some ideas for making it a bit easier.

1. Accept your feelings and be compassionate with yourself. 

You may think that you are supposed to feel thankful on Thanksgiving.

This is especially true if there are some aspects of your life that are positive, such as good health or a steady job.

However, sometimes our struggles weigh heavily on us, making it difficult to appreciate our blessings.

If this is happening to you, that is alright.

It happens to the best of us.

Not being able to feel thankful doesn’t make someone a “bad person.”

You may be having a tough time, and the tough times may be fleeting or may be more longstanding.

Either way, please see yourself as a good person, and treat yourself with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.

Accepting your feelings is important because it can bring you more peace than trying to fight them.

In addition, accepting your feelings is important because denying feelings can lead to other problems.

“Fake it till you Make it?”

If you are determined to stride into Thanksgiving pretending to feel something that you don’t, this façade can crumble in a hurry during the day, leading you to feel embarrassed or even worse than when you started in the first place.

2. Make a plan for challenging interactions. 

Many holidays have fallen apart as a result of quibbling throughout the day or full-blown arguments.

If you somehow anticipate being annoyed, irritated or provoked by someone during the day, whether it’s your mother-in-law, third cousin, or own spouse or child, make a plan now for how you will react. First, foremost – Pray to God!

Thanksgiving dinner is definitely not the most opportune time for proving that case you are right or making a case for something controversial that is vitally important to you, especially if you are out of sorts and not feeling your best.

Instead of trying to win those arguments, try embracing the goal of getting through the day with as much of God’s grace and God’s peace as possible.

To do this, you need to think about what you will do when someone sets you off or gets under your skin that will deescalate the tension.

This could be ignoring a comment, agreeing if you can, agreeing to disagree, changing the subject, or saying you aren’t going to talk about a particular topic.

Doing any of these things will probably mean that you are being the bigger person. This may not be “fair,” may seem like you are avoiding, but it will increase the chances of you making it through your day with less stress.

3. Make a plan if you are going to spend the day alone. 

For any number of reasons, many people find themselves dining alone on Thanksgiving when they rather would spend the day with others.

There are ways to get around this: inviting others to your home, asking a friend if you can join them (even if doing so is a little awkward), or volunteering at a church or at a homeless shelter or other location serving Thanksgiving dinner.

If none of these ideas appeal to you or are possible, you can still make peace with the holiday on your own. The irony here is that many of us would typically be thrilled to have a day to ourselves with no expectations for productivity.

However, the day can feel mightily empty when it’s a holiday.

Now is the time to start re-framing how you think about this day on your own.

This may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have.

So, how can you make the best of it?

What would you do if the day were not a holiday?

Thinking about this now is important so you can research what shops or restaurants will be closed and gather whatever you need for your day now.

Remember too that a good plan does not necessarily mean that you won’t have feelings of sadness or disappointment.

But a good plan for filling the time with things you enjoy should help the hours roll by faster and with more pleasant moments.

4. End the day with something to look forward to. 

What do you most enjoy doing in the hour or two before going to sleep?

Maybe it’s a cozy spot with a good book, or a bath and glass of wine, or a long drive, or walk outside.

Whatever it is, do it.

If you have a busy day with friends or family, prioritize carving out and protecting this time.

If you are on your own, save these activities for the end of the day.

Doing this will serve two purposes.

First, you will have something to look forward to as you make your way through your day.

Second, it is a way of rewarding yourself.

By evening, you will have made it through a day that you found challenging.

This is not an easy feat, and you should take pride in what you have done.

How Does the Word of God encourage Us during particularly Hard Times?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18New American Standard Bible

Christian Conduct

12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and [a]are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you [b]instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [c]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

As believers, we are taught to pray.

But what are we taught to pray?

The Word of God for the Children of God

– Begin to Reflect upon something an someone far, far greater than yourself,

Upon God, the Father an Go the Son and Holy Spirit,

Even if you do not know the words – Sing Psalms ….

For example ….

Psalm 42English Standard Version

Book Two

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.

42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

But why should we pray when we do not feel like it?

But why should we pray when we cannot bring ourselves to do it?

Prayer, even the most silent and most anguished of prayers brings us into a time of sacred communion with God, the maker and sustainer of the universe.

God gives us life, and he sustains our daily living.

We should pray because God has everything we need and wants us to flourish.

What’s more, we should pray, even in silence, even when we feel like crying because in prayer we give thanks to God for all that he is and all that he does.

In prayer, even the most silent and anguished prayer, we recognize our ­utter dependence on God. It can be hard to admit that we are completely dependent.

But at the same time every anguished prayer opens our hearts to more fully experience the breathtaking scope of God’s amazing grace and mercy for us.

Thanksgiving in prayer is not just a good idea or a suggestion, though.

It’s a command, as the apostle Paul reminds us.

By rejoicing always, praying continually, we obey the will of God for us in Christ Jesus who taught His disciples to pray, under any and every last circumstance:

From the Scriptures:

He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
–Luke 11:1-4 (NRSV)

Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others of their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
–Matthew 6:9-15 (NRSV)

Sometimes we think of such “continual” commands as an even worse burden.

But obeying this command (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)will bless us beyond measure, put us in the best position for loving and serving God in the world.

So when you pray today (and always), spend time communing with God, ask him for whatever you need, in the living Word of God and feel the strong rush of his grace and mercy resulting in a sense of gratitude that shapes all you do.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Creator God, your mighty hand threw chaos aside, your hand created heaven and earth, your hand threw the stars into space and the same hand which created me, now reaches down to me with the very gentlest and healing of touches. Yet God, I don’t have the strength to deal with the situation I am facing right now. I pray please uphold me with your stronger than my own righteous right hand. I don’t know what else to do now, or who else to turn to, please help me. You say that I do not need to be afraid, do not need to let my heart be troubled or dismayed because you are my God and you are with me. Still I hurt! Help me to know your presence in the midst of my circumstances and draw strength from you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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Today, I am Pondering the Goodness of God, Who Is My Savior. “God is Great. God is Good. Let us Thank Him for ……..” Psalm 65:4

Psalm 65 Amplified Bible

God’s Abundant Favor to Earth and Man.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song.

65 To You belongs silence [the submissive wonder of reverence], and [it bursts into] praise in Zion, O God;
And to You the vow shall be performed.

O You who hear prayer,
To You all mankind comes.

Wickedness and guilt prevail against me;
Yet as for our transgressions,
You forgive them [removing them from Your sight].

Blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near
To dwell in Your courts.
We will be filled with the goodness of Your house,
Your holy temple.


By awesome and wondrous things You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,
You who are the trust and hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;

Who creates the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power,

Who stills the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples,

So they who dwell at the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs [the evidence of Your presence].
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.


You visit the earth and make it overflow [with water];
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You provide their grain, when You have prepared the earth.
10 
You water its furrows abundantly,
You smooth its ridges;
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
11 
You crown the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths overflow.
12 
The pastures of the wilderness drip [with dew],
And the hills are encircled with joy.
13 
The meadows are clothed with flocks
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy and they sing.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

If you grew up in a Christian home, you may have learned this childhood prayer:

God is Great
God is Good
Let us thank him for our food
By His hands we are fed
We thank You for our daily bread. Amen.

While simplistic, that prayer covers one key characteristic of God: his goodness.

This simple, yet powerful prayer, reminds us, each day that as it is quietly said around our family’s dinner table that God is, indeed great, good and that God is providing for us, His beloved children, out of the abundance of His great love.

Although this prayer is the simple prayer of a child, it recounts the living truth of an eternal God who cares for His children. The same God who provided for the Hebrews in the desert, the same God who fed thousands, with but a few loaves of bread, He is the same God who is present with us at the dinner table.

Is it really true that God is good all the time?

Absolutely—but many people don’t live like they believe it. It can be hard to believe in God’s goodness for many reasons, including when we’re in pain.

We forget it when we’re in conflict.

We think it’s for everyone else except us when we’re depressed.

And when we’re worried or stressed out, we can’t seem to find—much less think about—God’s goodness, even when it’s right in front of us.

So how can we trust in God’s goodness when we don’t feel it?

His Word reminds us of his goodness over and over: 

“The Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation” (Psalm 100:5 TLB).

Focusing on God’s goodness is so important to your life because it gives you perspective on your darkest days, when you need it the most.

When you forget God’s goodness, it causes all kinds of difficulties.

God wants to give you a life of confidence, even on your most difficult days.

He wants to give you assurance.

He wants to protect you.

He wants to give you a life of influence and abundance.

He wants to give you a life filled with generosity.

Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t need that?

When you believe and understand the goodness of God, it will revolutionize, transform your whole life and your relationships. You and I won’t be the same!

There are any number of holy Scriptures through which we may joyfully and continually remind ourselves of the eternal Goodness and Greatness of God.

Our passage in Psalm 65 is a celebration of God’s goodness.

It is a call to count our blessings – number them one by one.

It is God’s gracious reminder to cultivate thanksgiving and give praise to God for all that He has done for us and all that He is doing for us.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to [the Lord] . . .” (Psalm 92:1). 

Psalm 65 instructs us in how to do that.

It leads us in a celebration of God’s providential care and provision.

This Psalm of Corporate Worship was probably sung during the fall feasts in celebration of the harvest.

It references the atonement and rejoices in God’s care and provision.

It was particularly appropriate for the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. 

Psalm 65 was designed for corporate worship, although any of us can find it useful in our private devotion.

Tehillim 65:1-4 Orthodox Jewish Bible

65 (For the one directing. Mizmor Dovid. Shir). Tehillah (praise) is due Thee, O Elohim, in Tziyon; And unto Thee shall the neder (vow) be performed.

2 (3) O Thou that hearest tefillah (prayer), unto Thee shall kol basar come.

3 (4) Divrei avonot (instances of iniquity) overwhelm me; as for peysha’einu (our transgressions), Thou hast made kapporah for them.

4 (5) Ashrei is the one whom Thou choosest, and causest to come near unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy khatzerot; we shall be satisfied with the tov of Thy Beis, even of Thy Heikhal Kodesh.

The two Hebrew words in the title “calls it a Shur and Mizmor, a combination of psalm and song. . . [it] may be said or sung. . . .”

Keep in mind, the titles of these Psalms were God inspired along with its words.

We will read the whole Psalm to get a sense of the overall flow.

Then we will make a few observations and applications.

Psalm 65English Standard Version

O God of Our Salvation

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

65 Praise is due to you,[a] O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
    O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
    being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it;[b]
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

This Psalm opens with a RESPONSE of praise:

“Praise is awaiting you, O God, in Zion.”

Zion is representative of the gathering of God’s people. 

When we gather for worship, we are gathering unto God and we are joined by angels of God.

We are a part of “the general assembly and church.” It is an awesome event, even for two or three to gather in the name of Jesus (Matthew 18:20).

We must begin with an understanding of the significance of corporate worship.

The world is impressed with huge crowds and lots of confetti.

But it is the invisible presence of God that makes our gathering awesome.

The angels want to participate in the event.

If we do not know the significance of gathering and worshipping in the name of Jesus, we will not show the maximum reverence, maximum respect it warrants.

We may not appreciate the privilege being enjoyed.

Israel’s communion with Yahweh was limited.

It was genuine and ordained by God.

But the level of intimacy we enjoy is far superior.

Demons tremble when God’s people gather in true worship.

But more importantly, the Father’s heart rejoices (John 4:23).

God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).

God absolutely delights in His thankful children.

We should begin our corporate worship with an appreciation of the privilege afforded us by God.

Praise that pleases God flows from the heart.

A parrot can mimic words, but it is infinitely inferior to praising God with a heart of understanding alone versus one coupled to a heart of experiences.

How do we prepare ourselves to praise God from the heart?

We begin by pondering His goodness.

We consider His works done in our behalf.

We meditate on His love and care for us.

When these subjects have filled our hearts, then praise flows with passion.

Jesus condemned empty, superficial worship in Matthew 15:8-9.

Quoting God’s Prophet Isaiah He said,

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me. . . .”

God forbid that He would ever say that about our worship.

I have been in Praise and Worship services that felt like people were just mouthing the words. Their hearts were somewhere else. They were going through the external mechanics of worship, but their hearts were not in it.

David would not allow himself to worship God that way.

Listen to the command he made to his own soul in Psalm 103:1: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!”

With ALL that is within me, I will continually bless His holy name.” Our God is worthy of more than mere lip service. We will bless Him with all our hearts!

It’s impossible to do that when our thoughts are not aligned with our words.

In this Psalm David gives good rationale for praising God. He fills the Psalm with specific works of God that promote gratitude in our hearts and minds.

This Psalm is a wonderful reminder of our Savior God’s great and gracious goodness to our lives.

And that is such an undeniably good and great and gracious preparation for our genuinely praising Him with every word and thought emanating from our lips.

The first verse of our text says, “Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion. We have addressed the phrase “in Zion.” It sets the context of the praise: “in Zion.” We gather in corporate worship to praise the Lord our Maker. But there is a revelation here that is easily missed in the English translation.

The Hebrew word translated “awaiting” is duwmiyah.

It carries the connotation of silence or stillness.

The imagery I get from that is a crowd of people quietly awaiting the entrance of a dignitary. That entrance is so important to them that it has captured their attention, they are not visiting with one another, they are not on their iPhone.

Each and everyone is sitting still, at attention waiting for the dignitary to enter.

The moment this dignitary into the room, they all stand and clap in celebration of his presence.

Psalm 100English Standard Version

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.

100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

“Praise is awaiting You, O God.”

During times of revival, I have seen people arrive early to the meeting just to prepare their hearts for the worship.

Most of the time spent in worship services today is consumed just getting our minds on the Lord, setting aside all the preoccupation with other things.

By the end of the worship service, we are prepared to praise God aright.

Think upon the difference if we all entered with our hearts and minds already fully filled, occupied with the goodness of God before we walk into the church sanctuary!

Imagine if you and I can of our witnessing a worship service which begins with every heart and soul already abundantly overflowing with gratitude towards God!

I understand why we often come short of that.

I too come short in this regard.

But we should at least understand the ideal.

We should at least know the difference between what is common in our churches and what could be.

A key principle for effective worship is the fear of the Lord. By that I mean such a reverent respect for who God is we are in awe of His majesty and goodness.

Another key to effective worship is stated in the second half of verse 1: “And to You the vow shall be performed.”

We will live up to our covenant commitments to the Lord.

In the context of Psalm 65 people often vowed to give a freewill offering to God—a grain offering or a lamb or something like that.

The point of the text is they followed through with the covenant commitment.

It was a “natural and instinctive” part of their worship of God their Savior.

The praise was accompanied by instinctive faithfulness to the vows made.

When you got saved you made a vow to the Lord.

You dedicated your life to Christ and vowed to follow Him.

Your water baptism was a public affirmation of that vow.

It is impossible to separate our worship from our lifestyle. When worship flows out of a lifestyle of obedience, God receives it as sweet incense pleasing to Him.

We typically make a vow to God in one of two scenarios.

When we get into trouble, we say something like this to the Lord:

“If you will get me out of this mess, I will serve You or I will never mess with that evil again.”

Out a state of desperation we make a fresh commitment to serve the Lord.

It can be appropriate to make a vow like that, but we must do it with sincerity and dependence on the Lord. 

Ecclesiastes 5:5 says it’s better to not make a vow than to make it and not fulfill it. Don’t make it flippantly.

Hannah made a vow to God that she kept.

She lived in deep sorrow because of her infertility.

In that culture it was a severe reproach to be childless.

In her desperation she cried out to God for a son and made a vow to the Lord.

1 Samuel 1:10-11 records her vow:

“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’”

God answered that prayer and gave her a son: Samuel. She kept her vow and dedicated him to the Lord. And Samuel became a mighty prophet of God.

The other occasion when we are prone to make a vow is during a time of great gratitude toward God—times when our hearts are filled with love for God.

In my very early experiences with God, I had several occasions when I was so filled with His grace, His love and His mercy that I consecrated myself deeply—I committed to go wherever He told me to go and to do what He told me to do.

Sensing His call on my life, I vowed obedience to that call.

One night, I fell on a patch of black ice. I was trapped on the cold ground, I was unable to move, unable to speak above a whisper without the greatest of pain.

Then I quietly uttered this prayer – “O my God, not this, I am going to die!”

God heard that quiet prayer shouted over the silence of my voice, the stillness of my broken helpless body against the mounds of piled snow and hidden by a car.

I was a 41 year old “anti-all things of God” man recovering from a surgically repaired, severely broken left hip when I said that; later I obsessed with the thought, prayer, I could never just walk away from it and do something else.

Thankfully God was faithful to His vow of hearing all of our Prayers.

By His great goodness and abundant mercy He lifted me up, introduced me to, brought me into agreement with all of His great prophetic words of Psalm 65:1 > “And unto You the vow shall be performed.”

So the theme of praise is established in the first sentence of this Psalm.

It is a praise that flows out of a heart that is grateful for God’s goodness.

It is a praise that is accompanied with faithfulness to vows made.

First we have this response of praise set forth.

Then we find in Psalm 65 many REASONS for the praise.

(1) God answers prayer.

Verse 2 addresses God this way: “O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come.” David essentially ascribes this title to God: “You who hear prayer.”

Psalm 34:17 lets us know that it is the kind of hearting that is followed up with an answer.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.”

When you need help, He will help you.

When you pray, He hears you.

And when He hears you He acts in your behalf.

(2) Another reason to praise God is that He forgives our sins.

Where would we be if that were not the case?

A leopard cannot change his spots, and we cannot cleanse ourselves from sin (Isaiah 13:23).

In Psalm 65:3 David confessed, “Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.”

Those Old Testament saints exercised faith in the cross by offering the blood sacrifices commanded by the Law.

We exercise faith by looking back at the cross and receiving the forgiveness of sin Jesus provided for us.

For all of us, the atonement is found only in the cross of Jesus Christ.

We must all confess that our “Iniquities prevail against [us].”

We cannot defeat them on our own.

We need a Savior just as surely as David did.

And Jesus is the perfect Savior.

Is this not a sufficient enough reason for us all praising God today? “

“as for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them.”

David could only say, “You WILL provide atonement for them.”

But with even more confidence we can say,

“You HAVE eternally provided “permanent atonement for them.”

If God never did another thing for us, we could praise Him forever for that atonement.

Those who value the cross of Christ are people of praise.

Praise is a natural fruit of that revelation.

Consider where you would be without it! You would be without hope.

You would have no chance of deliverance from sin.

You would have no destiny other than hell. (Luke 16:19-31)

But in the cross and in the person of Christ our destiny in heaven is secure.

No wonder Apostle Paul wrote, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”

May all our boasting be found in what Christ did on the cross.

God alone is Good!

God alone is Great!

God alone deserves every last ounce of glory.

(3) Furthermore, the Psalmist rejoices in God’s call on his life. 

Psalm 65:4: “Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts.”

Are you and I such a person?

If you and I know Jesus Christ as Savior, you and I are!

For Jesus himself said,

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . . . (John 6:44).

John 15:13-16 English Standard Version

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

You didn’t find the Lord; He found you. He sought you out because He loves you.

He caused you to approach Him. 

Ephesians 1:3-6 declares that work of God in your life.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

A genuine realization of all that should cause praise to well up in our hearts.

Is your name written in heaven? If so, rejoice in that today (Luke 10:20).

You could have never made that happen.

But your God loved you and me before you and me ever even minimally knew Him. He absolutely made it all happen for us. Rejoice and again I say rejoice.

But God does not just let us approach Him. He invites us to dwell in His courts. He welcomes us into His family as His own dear children.

Look at our text again in verse 4. “Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts.”

To dwell in the courts of God is the highest of privilege.

To be numbered with the redeemed of the Lord is favor beyond imagination.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

If God only allowed us into heaven as the lowest of servants, we would still have every reason to forever praise Him for His mercy, for He has made us His own.

He has clothed you and me with the righteousness of Christ.

He has crowned you and me with His goodness and made you and me joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

How could we not praise Him?

Such a praise! Will we not also allow the rocks to declare His glory in our place (Luke 19:40). Will we long hold our peace when God has done so much for us?

(4) David makes this additional statement in Psalm 65:4: “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.”

While declaring the works of God toward people, 

Psalm 107 pauses to make this reflection in verses 8-9:

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

If God does that for humanity in general, how much more for His own children who dwell in His house.

He has provided for us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

“No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

There are many good things (both natural and spiritual) to our Father’s house.

The heavenly refrigerator is always and abundantly full.

The heavenly cupboards are always and abundantly overflowing.

There are always and forever abundant fruit bowls full of tasty fruit.

There is always an abundance of good, great things in our Father’s house.

For all these we give thanks.

We praise Him because He satisfies us with His goodness and greatness.

(5) The remaining verses are filed with additional reasons for praising God.

We only have space to mention these additional blessings.

David talks about the way God waters the earth and crowns the year with harvest.

It is a beautiful reminder of all the natural blessings we enjoy—blessings so plenteous that we can easily take them for granted.

And there are spiritual applications we can make to these natural provisions.

God refreshes and waters the earth with the former and latter rains.

Psalm 65:9 says, “The river of God is full of water.”

But John saw “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1).

There are times of refreshing in nature when the rains water the earth.

But God also gives “times of refreshing” when the Holy Spirit renews our strength with His presence (Acts 3:19).

During your private time, meditate upon the providential care in this Psalm.

Meditate on some of these reasons for praise.

The specifics in this Psalm will fill your mouth with endless songs of highest praise and greatest thanksgiving.

It will undoubtedly, undeniably, produce indescribable worship from the heart.

“Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard.”

This great holiday season – of Thanksgiving, of Advent and of Christmas ….

Pray! Devote the preponderance of your thoughts unto God’s Great Goodness.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

What mighty praise belongs to You, O God,

for Your great acts of love and faithfulness toward us!

In Your mercy You hear our prayers,

You forgive our sins,

You provide for our needs.

From one end of the earth to the other,

You inspire worship and praise!

Even nature celebrates Your goodness.

We, too, would offer our praise and thanksgiving

for Your mercy and Your faithful love toward us.

Receive our adoration,

our confession,

our thanksgiving.

Through the power of Your Holy Spirit

make Your presence known among us

that we may hear Your Word and know Your will.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Intercessor, we pray. Amen.

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Only But By The Grace of God: When God Lets You See Victory. Psalm 118:5

Psalm 118:1-7 AKJV

Psalm 118

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
because his mercy endureth for ever.
Let Israel now say,
that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let the house of Aaron now say,
that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let them now that fear the Lord say,
that his mercy endureth for ever.

I called upon the Lord in distress:
the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear:
what can man do unto me?
The Lord taketh my part with them that help me:
therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

To lighten the mood, after all, we are approaching a season of thanksgiving;

For some, happiness during this season is a most challenging concept to grasp.

So, first, permit me to share a little humor which someone just sent to me ….

I pray that I may raise a smile on your face an the joy of the Lord in your Soul.

A priest decides to paint the outside three walls of the Youth Sunday School Room on his church one day.

He goes out and buys some paint, comes back to the church, and then he realizes he miscalculated and that he did not buy enough paint to do the job.

He realizes he doesn’t have near enough money to go back to the hardware store so he tries to make what he has to work, spread it out as far as he can.

So he just adds some water into the paint and mixes it inside a larger bucket.

Right before he starts to work, he looks at the length, breadth and height of the three youth room walls again, decides he probably still will not have enough.

So, he adds some more water and spends the whole day painting his church.

Later that next night, there’s a barrage of gusty wind, rain and thunder storm.

When the priest wakes up, he rushes outside, he runs around the Youth Room and he discovers all the rain washed away all of the paint from the building.

He throws his hands up, He looks up, prays, “Lord Jesus, what should I do?”

He hears a loud and clear voice that says

“WILL YOU BELIEVE ME NOW? GO! REPAINT, AND THIN NO MORE!!!”

I pray you are smiling at least a little bit ….

A small(?) but self-evident(?), very visible(?) gift from God, a testimony of victory over what just might be or had been a not so small “down-in-the-dumps” life moment.

If not, then count the victory of the energy you saved by smiling even a little bit because it takes it takes a whole lot less muscle energy to generate a tiny smile than it does to keep an “ear to ear” frown pasted all over the front of your face.

Life is full of degrees and measures and all kinds and sizes of victories.

Some are easy to see.

The strongest team gets the trophy.

The luckiest team gets the last second field goal – wins the game on the very last play – time runs out on the opposing team – no time for any comeback.

The prize is given to the fastest.

The reward is earned by practice and preparation.

There is exercise and rehearsals and run-throughs and it is obvious to everyone watching who is the best prepared team, the most excellent, the greatest and the most deserving of the title of victory for that day’s efforts.

Then there are other victories that are not so obvious.

These are the victories that take place within us.

Internal victories.

Like when you are about to get angry and about to “blow your top” at everyone in the room but instead you calm down, settle back down, and stay in control.

Or, there is a temptation.

Maybe just a few seconds of pause, where you think about something just brief enough, for you to realize the terrible consequences and sinful outcome, so you choose in that exact, exacting moment to move beyond it and you overcome the temptation before you act upon it, before you need to ask for forgiveness and so you are graced by God with His Peace, victorious in your walk of faith with God.

Solomon in his wisdom saw how the world is twisted by sin and called life unfair. He said,

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV

There are some battles that you are expected, supposed to win because you are the odds on favorite. But out of nowhere comes a “Hail Mary” pass and a shot is made at the final buzzer, you lose, and the crowd goes wild – just not for you.

There are some fights you are expected and supposed to lose.

You are so outnumbered.

You are obviously out manned, over matched (notice College Football Scores!)

You are obviously the underdog.

No one thinks or believes or expects you are going to win.

Even your family members have that look on their face. (Yea…, you know…, the look.) The defeated look that says, “look, just go out there and do your best.”

Your friends say “it’s not about who wins or loses but how you play the game.”

(You only hear that when you are expected to lose.)

“It’s not about who wins or who loses it is just about having fun.”

“It’s not about who wins or who loses its also about learning how to lose with dignity and grace, with honor, integrity and sportsmanship because those are important life lessons to learn and to teach others – “you cannot win them all.”

That can be true when it is just a game.

What about when it is not just a game?

What about when the outcome is much bigger than having bragging rights?

Today we are going to talk about “When God Lets You See Victory.”

I. In tight circumstances God and only by His Grace, lets me see Victory.

From distressed situations, God sets me free.

The Lord is on my side – no reason to be afraid.

Psalm 118:5-7 ESV

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
    I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

We have all used the phrase, “Wow! That was a close call.”

That phrase means: “Something almost happened.”

It does not necessarily mean something bad happened.

It just means “Something almost happened.” It could mean: “You dodged a bullet.” (What would you say?) “Wow! That was a close call.”

It could mean: “Some crazy driver almost ran you off the road, but they didn’t” (Road Rage aside – What would you say?)

“Wow! That was a close call.”

It could mean: “The doctor ran a series of tests.” But when the test comes back the results are good. (What would you say?) “Wow! That was a close call.”

David said, “I prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered me and rescued me.” Psalm 118:5 NLT David was in one of those exceptionally tight circumstances.

Let me ask you a question to think about.

What Do you believe about the power of prayer?

As you consider the words of this devotional – do you .01% believe in prayer?

The longer you are a Christian and the older, more mature you are in your faith, you grow and you prayerfully begin to understand there are not only different types of prayers but are also just a few different ways God answers our prayers.

Prayers of gratitude where you are thanking God for His blessings and favor.

There are prayers of adoration where you are worshiping and praising God for His greatness.

There are prayers of love where you are expressing your love for God because you are object of His love.

Prayers of repentance where you are seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy.

There are prayers of petition when you are asking God for things we need.

All kinds of different ways to name and state these different types of prayers.

There are all kinds of different ways God answers our prayers.

When you think about, where you are at? What is happening in your life? What your prayer is intended for really depends on how you expect God to answer.

But the real key is to have faith, no matter what your circumstances are God will faithfully answer.

No matter how long it takes. God will answer.

No matter what your need or desire is God will answer with what you need.

In tight circumstances God has been with me, in His name, has let me win.

II. I Have Seen God Do Great and Mighty Things

Acts 16:25-34 ESV

The Philippian Jailer Converted

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[a] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

The jailer had fallen asleep while a couple of prisoners were singing hymns.

When he was jolted awake by an earthquake, the prison doors were open.

He had failed miserably at guarding the prisoners. He worried that his superiors might even torture or kill him. He began to think suicide was the only way out.

Soon, though, he learned that he had overreacted.

The situation was not as bad as he had thought. He had assumed the prisoners had escaped through the open doors, but they spoke to him, were still there!

In that moment of crisis, the jailer realized that those two singing prisoners had something he didn’t have.

How could he be saved? Paul and Silas gave a simple answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved–you and all of your household.”

Many people discover Jesus after a brush with severely negative thoughts.

In many cases, they overreact to a situation that is not really as severe as they originally thought. But at the time, everything seems hopeless. Just in time, however, something stops them from destroying their lives with rash actions.

Then something wonderful happens.

They realize that they are missing something.

They start asking questions, and, like the jailer, they grow to believe in Jesus.

Also like the jailer, they are filled with joy, they have come to believe in the one true God of their salvation, their Savior, the only way from despair to delight.

III. God always does something Bigger, Better, than what we have asked for.

I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.” Psalm 118:5 KJV

“The Lord answered me with wide-open spaces.” Psalms 118:5 CEB

David was on the battle field.

David was in a tight situation.

He was trapped in a small place.

The enemy was closing in on him.

I believe David, in his distress: was praying for God to rescue him.

To let him retreat.

To let him slip through the enemy lines.

To let him find a safe place to take refuge in, to hide.

To give him refuge and safe sanctuary.

To let him withdraw. To let him give ground, so that he and his men could regroup. But that was not even close to the answer that God had for David.

Instead of picking David up and setting him over to the side out of danger, God picked David up and set him down in a large place.

He answered David with wide-open spaces. Now I know a few things about battle strategy. After all I was on the Chess Club in my High School. Go ahead and please smile, that is true but I understand and it was meant to be funny.

I know that if you want to win a fight you need to be on the high ground.

Or you need to have ground cover for fortification an protection. You don’t want to expose yourself on the front line or right straight out in the middle. Those are the people taking the maximum brunt of the battle, are most likely dying first.

But that is exactly what God did to David. God put David right down into the heat of the battle. 

Psalm 118: Verse 10 the hostile nations surrounded me.

Verse 11 they surrounded me and attacked me. Verse 12 they swarmed around me like bees. Verse 13 they tried their best to kill me – but David still lived!

David prayed for one thing but God gave him something else.

This is one of those times that David is not supposed to win.

He is out numbered. He is over extended. He is exhausted. He is in distress. He fervently prays for rescue. But God puts him into the middle of the battlefield.

I’m not even going to ask if anyone here can identify with what is happening to David. The Battlefield is/was, a very real place with very real, lethal dangers.

Because if this has never happened to you, then you should learn to fully respect those who have borne the brunt of those battlefields and to shout “Thank You!”

We should jump up and down and shout praises unto God and come forward to the altar and thank God they lived, survived “from the frying pan into the fire.”

But if you are like me, I committed almost twenty years of my life to my country and in these last several years I have spent more of my Christian life in the fire, with God teaching me invaluable lessons about how to fight my enemy Satan.

This is how God gets us to do what he wants us to do. He prepares our arms for war, our hands to fight an our hearts an souls to care for widows, orphans.

“He loved us unto Savior Jesus’ death on the Cross.” (Hello? Did you hear that?)

Because it takes that kind of testing and struggling and conflict and fire, and fighting the enemy to teach us to trust and obey.

To teach us how to pray. “For there is no other way…, than to say thanks, trust and obey, but our toil he doth richly repay

BUT NOT until we put all of ourselves to lay all the way upon the altar of God.”

There is a significant lesson for everyone to learn in those words of that hymn.

A significant lesson in victory, victorious living, in and through Savior Christ!

Psalm 118 verse 6 David looked to his left…, “The Lord is for me, so I will not be afraid.”

Psalm 118 Verse 7 David looked to his right…, “The Lord is for me, he will help me.”

And God set David down into the middle of the most wide open place where he was most exposed, most vulnerable, where he was his weakest.

And God, by His Grace and His Grace alone – Let David Win!!!

And then God tells us, “How that you and I are going to ‘Win against Satan,’ because we are in a spiritual battle for our soul and the souls of others.”

God says to David,

Psalm118:22 “I’m going to take a stone that all the other builders will reject.”

A stone that all the other architects and designers are going to look at.

They are going to pick it up and look at it and examine it and toss into the pile of rubble and say, “No we are going to do it our way. We are still going to trust in the sacrifice of bulls and goats and rams. We are not going to believe in Jesus.”

Jeremiah 33:1-3 ESV

The Lord Promises Peace

33 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth,[a] the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you,  and will tell you great and marvelous and hidden things that you have not known.

But God is going to do something impossible. God is going to do something marvelous. God in His providence is going to do something that they say can’t be done. God is going to take the discarded stone that is rejected by the builders and make it the absolute foundation and the cornerstone of salvation by Grace.

Master Rabbi Jesus explains what is meant by these words given in Psalm 118 to David in Matthew 22:43 

Jesus says, “What it means is the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the nation that will produce proper fruit.”

Time and time again God tries to point us straight to the cross.

We ask him for small things, He wants to do something bigger than what we are even asking him to do.

We ask God for this little corner over here for protection.

God says, I’m going to give you this wide open space. We ask Jesus to help us make it through from month to month. Jesus says, If you will do what I say, I will give you the Kingdom of My Father. I will give you the Kingdom of God.

In tight circumstances God has often let me win.

And I have seen God do Mighty things in my own life.

God often does something Bigger than what we have asked for.

In conclusion, I don’t have to win every fight to be victorious.

Sometimes it is enough just to survive and pray and learn my lessons, learn of God. His Grace, His Grace alone is going to let us win those impossible battles.

We are not supposed to be able to fight the Devil and win.

But God gives us the victory through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Read Psalm 118:1-7 Amplified again and again … for as long as God requires!

Thanksgiving for the Lord’s Saving Goodness.

118 O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness endures forever.

Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness endures forever.”

Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness endures forever.”

Oh let those who [reverently] fear the Lord, say,
“His lovingkindness endures forever.”


Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me free.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can [mere] man do to me?

The Lord is on my side, He is among those who help me;
Therefore I will look [in triumph] on those who hate me.

1. What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Refrain:
Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

2. O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
(Refrain)

3. What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
(Refrain) Elisha A. Hoffman

In the name of God, the Father an God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O Lord, my God you are my refuge, and my strength and my Salvation. You are my ever-present help in times of trouble. When it seems like my world is crumbling around me and I am thrown around by the storms of my life, take away my fear. When I am weak, you are my strength. When I am vulnerable, you are my refuge. When I cry for help, you will answer. Remind me Holy Spirit that you are always with me, you will never leave nor ever forsake me. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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We Are Saved By The Grace Of God. Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46New King James Version

The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [a]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer [b]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we save for you our highest thanks and praise that through your Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ, you have revealed your glorious will for our lives, and have redeemed us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word and the grace contained therein, that we might come to gain a deeper appreciation for all that our Lord has done for us, and come to embrace him as our redeemer. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.

Today, we celebrate another Sunday of our church year, a Sunday, just as every other Sunday which preceded this one – we will honor Jesus the Christ as King.

It is a day to remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls us to acknowledge Jesus, and Jesus alone, who alone is the only One worthy to be our Lord, an our Savior – who will one day come, judge the world in righteousness.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of two of Christ’s teachings on the subject of his future judging of the world, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

The first occurs at the end of what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus says:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

In this passage, the judgement of condemnation seems to fall upon those who use Jesus’ name in a casual manner, as if they really did not know and did not understand Jesus from the very deepest depths of their hearts and their souls.

Simply engaging in acts of ministry is not what Jesus wants. He wants us to know him in such an intimate way, that all of our actions, and all of the ways that we live our lives, naturally flow from our koinonia relationship with him.

Our Gospel lesson for today, the emphasis of our Lord’s judgement again seems to fall upon truly knowing Jesus from the heart, in such an intimate way, as we encounter persons in need, we respond to them as Jesus would have responded.

Just listen to how personal and intimate, Jesus makes his judgement.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The interesting thing about our lesson for today is the fact those who did what Jesus would have expected, did so without trying to earn our Lord’s good favor.

Because they knew Jesus so intimately, so personally, they didn’t even realize that they were acting the way that Jesus desired.

From knowing Savior Jesus, their life had been so dramatically and thoroughly changed, in such a way they just naturally responded to care for those in need.

It was not as if they knowingly set out and acted in such a way to earn brownie points from our Lord come judgement day.

The fact that those whom our Lord blessed and invited into the kingdom of God, did not even know that they had done these things, is a clear statement that it is not our deeds that make us righteous, but our intimate relationship with Jesus.

As the story goes, in a large Christian University, two persons were called upon to recite the 23rd Psalm of David, in a study group focusing on how hearing the Word of God proclaimed, can effect us in diverse, various ways, even change the meaning of a certain text.

One chosen to recite the psalm was a PhD professor trained in the techniques of Biblical Story Telling, speech, drama and music.

As a result, he intoned the psalm with great beauty and power.

When he had finished, those in the class applauded with enthusiasm, and asked him to repeat those verses, they again might hear his beautiful performance.

Then the second person was asked to recite the text.

She was a young first year student, who had yet to pick a major.

With no musical talent or inclination, she chose to recite the whole psalm from her own memory as she was taught to by her mom and dad, her grandparents.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

When this young first year non-matriculated student finished reciting that psalm, not one single sound came from anyone the class, even the teacher.

Instead, the students sat quietly, in a deep mood of prayer and devotion.

Finally, the professor stood and addressed the class.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.

“The difference between what you have just heard from my student, from what you have also just heard from me, is that with all of my years of education and of my training. I may know the psalm, but she knows the psalm and loves the shepherd.”

Now I share this illustration with you today, not to simply point to the merits and differences between someone reciting the psalm versus intoning the psalm.

I personally enjoy intoning the psalms, because I deeply believe that is exactly how they were intended to be spoken and heard and felt in a worship setting.

They were ancient hymns and meant to come from the very depths of our souls.

But what is important to me, is that we intone or recite or sing the psalms with maximum conviction, as if we realize that they are written by persons who did know the Shepherd, who understood the context of the shepherd, to convey full of their relationship with God, so that we might come to know God, as did they.

And I believe that this is where these lessons of Jesus about the final judgment ask us to focus our maximum attention on not just Sundays, but every last day.

To honor God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as sovereign.

It is not so important to know a lot of facts about Jesus, as it is to know Jesus.

Of course, the fact that I have just said this, may give maximum impetus to my readership to question why I have them learn so many facets about the Bible and Jesus. But through learning those facets, it is my hope and prayer that they might come to know God, and begin to relate to Jesus as their redeemer King!

It is for that reason, I have stressed to my readership that doing their daily devotions is more important than scoring aces on their “worldly” quizzes.

Even if my readership misses a few major points here or minor there, I can always tell, through their participation in ‘class’ if they understand truth.

And I can an do try to teach a lot of truths in the long course of my writings.

But TRUTH is – I can NEVER teach them to enter into a relationship with Christ.

That is something I have to prayerfully hand over to the grace of God, and the matchless power of the Word of God, Jesus, and His Spirit, to bring to fruition.

I think Luther put it as well as it can be stated, when he said:

“I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him as my Savior. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.

What a marvelous insight, for here Luther is insisting that even our belief in Christ is not something that we can take credit in.

For if it would not have been for the love of God working through the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we would not even have the opportunity to have heard of Jesus the Christ, let alone come into relationship with him.

But all the highest praise and thanks be to God that he has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit, which has inspired his Beloved Children and church to proclaim his Word, and celebrate the Sacraments, that we might all come to know Jesus, and allow him to become, not only a part of our lives, but through our intimate relationship with him, experience the only direction by which we live our lives.

I remember this story from years past, from my own non-matriculated days.

During the French revolution, a mother of two children wondered through the woods for three days, trying to survive on roots and leaves.

On the third day, she heard some soldiers approaching and quickly hid herself and the children behind some bushes. Several of the young soldiers prodded the bushes with their bayonets, to see what a slight rustling noise might look like.

When they saw the starving woman and her two children, they immediately gave them loaves of brown bread from their own meager soldierly rations.

The mother took them eagerly, broke one into two pieces and gave one piece to each of her children. “Is she not hungry,” said the soldier’s comrade. “No,” he said, “It is because she is a mother and loves her children more than her self.”

Matthew 26:26-30 NKJV

Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, [a]blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the [b]new covenant, which is shed for many for the [c]remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Well, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it and shared it with us all. Then he lovingly gave up his all he had on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, and was mocked as being the King of the Jews. Well, today, today celebrate that he is the King, not only of the Jews, but of the world.

As we solemnly approach this coming Thanksgiving – this time of family and togetherness, this coming season of Advent as we remember and recount the ancient story and prophetic passages from God’s Holy Scriptures, to again be aware of how they have impacted those who came before us, how they impacted our lives, how they will continue to impact them and those of our own children, and every single countless future generations of all the children yet to be born,

Then we enter into the wondrous season of Christmas, the season of gift giving, that absolutely positively the greatest gift in all history was the gift of our God,

In a matchless expression of His matchless Charity and Grace – His own Son!

Immanuel – God with Us and God within Us – Alpha to Omega – for all time!

Jesus Christ – Our King!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord!

Jesus Christ – Our Savior!

Ponder that for a while – a long while, an Alpha to Omega while.

Experience what God will most certainly do for you …..

Until then, ……

We might want to get a little more Alpha to Omega practical experience in ……

Psalm 23 AKJV

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:3-4)

This I shall yet in everlasting praise, Pray to the Shepherd King of my life ….

To our God and soon coming Savior, I give You thanks. God, I pray today that You will reveal yourself to me and those in my life. May we have an encounter from the true and living God. I pray that the desires of our hearts shall be to seek after You that we may know You and that we will be men and women after God’s own heart, Amen.

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About Our Holding On To Our Past – Grudges and Resentments, Regrets, And Remorse’s. Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3:7-16Authorized (King James) Version

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Max Lucado tells a story about the late champion boxer Muhammad Ali taking someone to his barn where he stored his trophies and awards.

Standing in the doorway, he pointed to his many trophies and said, “It ain’t nothing.”

His body and his mind wracked by debilitating illnesses he had come to the conclusion when all is said and done, his accomplishments meant very little.

Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul looked back on the whole of his life and on all the things he had been successful at, all of his education he was proud of, and said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss. I consider them rubbish.”

Apostle Paul said this not necessarily because he had a debilitating disease like Muhammad Ali but because he had met the Lord Jesus who surpassed all of it.

He had come to the conclusion he was ready to let go of whatever was behind him so that he could serve the Lord, live only by the power of the risen Savior.

As we are about to enter into Thanksgiving, Advent an then Christmas and then the New Year, are we too ready to ultimately let go of all the things that might keep us from our experiencing the maximum power of Christ’s resurrection?

Are we ready to let go of all the things that at one time seemed all-important?

Are we ready, willing and genuinely able to finally an for all time, ask the Lord today for the grace to toss out everything that stands in the way of serving him?

Today,  I would like to address “Holding on to our past,” our resentments our grudges, our regrets and our remorse’s, viewing an interpreting them each as something which can inhibit not only our personal relationships, our outlook on life, but also our sense of self-esteem, identity and spiritual growth in Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14Amplified Bible

10 And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 11 [a]so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on [b]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own.  13  [c] Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Here, Paul is pointing out a significantly insightful truth … a significant fact,

“I have let go of the past, have strained myself towards my future in Christ.”

To obtain our future in Savior Christ – We must NOW leave the past in the past.

Yes, we must learn from it but press on … straining forward to what lies ahead.

Press on toward the ultimate goal which decisively, definitely lies ahead.

You and I cannot relate to the present … or look forward to relating to any part of our future if you and I are still choosing to remain stuck, reacting to the past.

Sadly … We bring the burden of so many, truthfully, far too many, unresolved, nonsensical, trivial, long forgotten problems into … our present relationships.

We are prone to carry, burden ourselves … emotional garbage around with us.

We rehash … We rewash – re-launder our age old grudges and resentments.

We mull over, we obsess over this stuff like a bad movie, the bitterness we hold.

We project our angers, resentments, grudges toward the those that have hurt us – we hammer them – as iron sharpens iron – so resentments sharpens grudges.

Those things we have feel guilty about, and the “if only” regrets.

It is as if we cannot get them out of our mind. “Only if”?

We rehearse our resentments, and we replay our regrets.

And many of us are weighed down by indescribable weight of all those wasted times and seasons and opportunities to receive grace upon grace upon grace.

And when we feel down … when we feel depressed?

When you carry the emotional garbage of rehashing resentments, remembering regrets, and reinforcing remorse?

Well … it tends to cause you to react to life rather than enjoying life.

Yet Paul shares with us a solution hear God’s word.

BIBLE “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind (Forgetting what lies where … in the past) and straining forward to what lies ahead. END

Beloved … Jesus is clear BIBLE “‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” END (Luke 9:62)

Until you and I choose to intentionally stop looking backward you and I are not fit for kingdom service on this side of eternity.

If you and I are looking back … if you and I are holding on to “If Only’s …” well, then, you and I are not making a very stout effort towards walking in God’s will.

Truth is … No one is immune – we each definitely get stuck there sometimes.

So … how do we approach such an “impossible” idea -stop – let go of the past?

Well first you must let go of your bitterness of your grudges.

Paul shares this truth to the believers gathered in Ephesus.

Ephesians 4:30-32Amplified Bible

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. 32 Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave [a]you.

Get rid of all bitterness.

Get rid of all rage.

Get rid of all anger.

Chuck it!

Throw it away!

Eliminate it!

Beloved do not hold on to resentment.

If you do, it will ruin your relationships.

There are few things in life that can cause more danger to a relationship then bearing grudges and resentment beyond their useful shelf-life (one second).

Beloved bearing grudges and resentments does not resolve anything.

Remember when you are bearing grudges, being resentful, it probably does not upset the other person over much, it only … it only upsets you.

You remain the one who hurting.

Resentment never affects or hurts the other person it only affects you.

Hear God’s word from Job: BIBLE “to worry yourself to death with resentment would be foolish, senseless to do …… you are only you’re hurting yourself with your anger.” (Job 5:2 and Job 18:4)

Yes … we can backpack our grudges around over our shoulders, be resentful towards people who have hurt us … but they will never … change the past.

Resentment is a clear waste of time … or as the scriptures state … it is foolish … because it never resolves the problem …… it only makes it infinitely worse.

And the truth be told … Our resentment …. makes us a slave … to the one …. we resent.

When you say to somebody, … “You are making me so mad” … you are in essence … admitting to a weakness.

You are making me mad.

That means … we are admitting that we cannot control our own emotions.

You are admitting that others control you …. Others have the power to make you happy or mad.

Beloved, know this truth nobody … no one can make you mad without your permission. REPEAT

Some of us may have been hurt in the past.

But that past does not have to keep on hurting us in the present.

Lay that resentment at the Cross and allow God’s grace and power, to move within you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you.

Psalm 51 Amplified Bible

A Contrite Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David; when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness and guilt
And cleanse me from my sin.


For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them;
My sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned
And done that which is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak [Your sentence]
And faultless in Your judgment.


I was brought forth in [a state of] wickedness;
In sin my mother conceived me [and from my beginning I, too, was sinful].

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with [a]hyssop, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness and be satisfied;
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins

And blot out all my iniquities.

10 
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right and steadfast spirit within me.
11 
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted and return to You.

14 
Rescue me from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will sing joyfully of Your righteousness and Your justice.
15 
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 
For You do not delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 
My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.

18 
By Your favor do good to Zion;
May You rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 
Then will You delight in the sacrifices of righteousness,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

We must learn to yield the past to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you and I holding resentments … grudges against someone from the past?

A brother a sister? A father or a mother? A spouse, a coworker?

A Church?

A Denomination?

I have found many adults are still fighting their parents unconsciously.

They feel they were unloved, ignored, verbally abused, physically abused, intimidated … manipulated.

Many have buried that hurt deep and have never addressed it.

And if they have buried it … in essence they are still holding on to it.

We need to dig it up and let go; we need to lay this at the foot of the cross.

Beloved we will not be able to fully relate to our present relationships if have allowed bitterness to take root … if we are still holding on … to the past.

The anonymous writer of Hebrews puts it this way: 

Hebrews 12:14-17Amplified Bible

14 Continually pursue peace with everyone, and the sanctification without which no one will [ever] see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment [bitterness] springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 and [see to it] that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that later on, when he wanted [to regain title to] his inheritance of the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no opportunity for repentance [there was no way to repair what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made], even though he sought for it with [bitter] tears.

Make NO Mistake about this: every last ounce of that bitterness, that Bitterroot if it takes a secure hold of our hearts and of our souls, will absolutely, definitely, decisively, directly, maximally impact all our every single current relationships.

Some of us may have allowed bitterness, anger, hurt to pile up from the past.

And instead of taking it out on that person … you take it out on your husband … or on your wife … or on your children, your friends, your neighbors, churches.

Beloved that is wrong … and that’s worse than wrong … is not definitely fair.

So … let go and let God move and have his way in your life.

Trust that he loves you.

It’s time to move on … to strive forward … in your new life in Christ.

It’s time to forgive and to lay this bitterness at the foot of the cross.

Remember the prayer that we are taught to pray on each Sunday?

Father forgive us … forgive me my trespasses … only … only as I forgive others.

We must also be willing to give up our gloom.

Gloom a word not used very often anymore.

Gloom a combination of Sorrow, grief, sadness, heartbreak, and worry.

Everyone experiences some type of gloom in their life.

Many of you have experienced major losses, some in the past several years.

And loss, … gloom, … hurts.

And mourning … grieving is a natural part of life.

There is nothing wrong with mourning.

In fact, the scriptures are clear, 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14Amplified Bible

A Time for Everything

3 There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven—


A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.


A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to [a]tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to keep silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there for the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the task which God has given to the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

God Set Eternity in the Heart of Man

11 He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good as long as they live; 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and see and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, it endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor can anything be taken from it, for God does it so that men will fear and worship Him [with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is God].

In fact, Jesus says “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

It is alright … it is OK to grieve and to weep.

We know that Jesus Wept at the Tomb of Lazarus. (John 11:35)

Yet there is a significant difference between mourning and moaning.

Moaning is self-pity … “poor me”.

When we moan, we empower gloom … we allow gloom to rule the outlook… of our life.

Beloved … pain is a part of life.

Everyone experiences pain.

Everyone hurts and has heart aches.

Yet, … hear me on this … do not allow your pain to make you … it’s prisoner.

So (1 finger) let go of your grudges (2 fingers) And let go of your gloom.

If you don’t, … they will strangle you.

Yet … how do we let go of gloom… when it is strangling us?

Well, … except … what cannot be changed.

Many of you may be experiencing pain … from events … that happened … many years ago.

The key to Peace of Mind can be found in one word… and that word is … acceptance.

Acceptance of God’s will.

Allowing God’s way … in your life.

God is on his throne … and he is working … all things together for your good.

All Things … The Good … the bad … and the ugly.

Let go of your grief and give it to Jesus.

And if you do, it will release you … from the clutches of its pain.

Play it down … and pray it up.

Spend more time praying then complaining.

Or as a seasoned Christian friend would always say … “Go to the throne … before you go to the phone.”

Beloved … focus on what is left … not on what is lost.

You might be saying … you do not understand how much I have lost … and how little is left?

And you are right … I will never fully understand.

But this I know … little is much … in the hands of almighty God.

For he takes all things … the good … the bad … and the ugly … and works them for good… for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:28)

Beloved … self-pity … is more damaging to you. more dangerous … and to your life and my life and the life of the church … than any tragedy we will ever face.

Why? Because … self-pity perpetuates pain, and ultra magnifies resentments.

Let go of your grudges.

Give up your gloom. And lastly give up your guilt.

Some people refuse to accept forgiveness from God.

They hang on to their guilt.

In fact, … many … hold on tightly to it … like an iron clad security blanket.

In a way … they have locked themselves in a prison … and thrown away the key.

And allowed the guilt … of what they have or have not done, to play … over and over and over … to rent space at no cost nor given consequence in their mind.

Beloved … That is not the message of the Gospel.

We have a forgiving gracious God, … a God of second chances.

But you need to lay your guilt down.

Yet how do you let go of guilt?

Well there are two approaches one is right and the other is wrong.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10Amplified Bible

For even though I did grieve you with my [a]letter, I do not regret it [now]; though I did regret it —for I see that the letter hurt you, though only for a little while— yet I am glad now, not because you were hurt and made sorry, but because your sorrow led to repentance [and you turned back to God]; for you felt a grief such as God meant you to feel, so that you might not suffer loss in anything on our account. 10 For [godly] sorrow that is in accord with the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but worldly sorrow [the hopeless sorrow of those who do not believe] produces death.

These two approaches to guilt and both illustrated in the lives of two of Jesus disciples, Peter, and Judas.

Both Peter and Judas, on the night before Jesus was taken into custody, denied and publicly Jesus.

They both sinned.

Yet as we know … they both responded very differently to this guilt.

One response was right, and one response was wrong.

The way Judas responded was self-condemnation.

Here God’s word: BIBLE “when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse. Then he went out and hanged himself.” END (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas took his life in his despair.

He allowed his despair … his sin … to overwhelm him.

He felt that life was no longer worth living … so we went out … and took his own life.

Peter, … on the other hand, … his response … was not condemnation but confession.

Again, hear God’s word BIBLE “then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken and he went outside and wept bitterly.” END (Matthew 26:75)

Peter also experienced remorse but he wept bitterly and obviously … confessed his sin and sought forgiveness.

How do we know he did that, … because not many days later God … used him in a mighty way.

You can almost hear him say Jesus I failed, I let you down Forgive me.

Have you ever said that?

Jesus I have let you down, I have been unfaithful, I have not followed your ways?

Beloved we have a forgiving God.

We have a God who forgives.

And that can be seen in the life of Peter.

For on the day of Pentecost Peter spoke and 3000 people were saved.

We must come to the throne and confess our sins and we most come to the throne for forgiveness.

Hear again God’s Word: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Thank you, Lord, for this glorious promise.

Thank you, Lord, for this ancient and glorious promise of a future beyond all;

Isaiah 2:1-4English Standard Version

The Mountain of the Lord

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

And the House of the Lord will be established above all houses.

On the highest of His mountains and not upon our wee little ant hills.

and many peoples shall come, and say:

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that HE may TEACH us HIS ways and that we may WALK in ONLY HIS PATHS.”

HE shall judge between the nations (and the churches and the denominations).

HE shall decide the DISPUTES.

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations will not lift up swords against nations, or resentful angry words be lifted up and raised high against and between churches and denominations.

Neither shall they learn war ANYMORE!

How much emotional garbage are you and I still carrying against each other?

Lay that worldly garbage down at the cross.

Give them all to Jesus.

Let go of the past and embrace God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit so His joy can permeate the present and all things can become new.

Beloved you and I are a new creation In Christ Jesus.

As beloved Children of God,

You and I are sanctified and continually being sanctified.

Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross and look into your Saviors’ eyes.

He loves you and wants your entire life to be filled to the brim with His joy.

Sing, Sing and Sing some more.

Give them all … give them all

give them all to Jesus

and he will turn your sorrows,

he will turn your sorrows,

Yes, He will turn your sorrows, into joy.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O God, my Strength, I put my trust in You. You have never forsaken those who seek You. You have never let me down. I know that You never will let me down because my life so far has been a living testimony of Your greatness and not to my many resentments and my multitude of grudges. Mold me into Your image, and hold me close to You. Reveal to me thy grace, how to mature as a Christian and daily improve on my walk of faith. Steady my trust in You so that it never wavers, no matter what battles I face on this earth. I declare that my faithfulness to You will be strong at all times and in all places and during even the very worst of circumstances. Amen.

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Individually and as God’s Church, How Can We All Avoid Letting a Bitter Root Grow Out of Our Lives? Hebrews 12:15-17

Hebrews 12:15-17 English Standard Version

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Arugula, Coffee, Dill, Dandelion Greens, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Sesame Seeds, Turmeric, Ginger, Lemons and Limes and Grapefruits, Peppermint, Cocoa, Eggplant, Green Tea, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cranberry, Cabbage.

What do those foods have in common?

Your up and coming Thanksgiving Day feast – all those old family recipes lovingly passed down from the meal tables of one generation to the next?

Your own modern and contemporary efforts to load up the dinner table with an array of healthy salads, healthy spread of fruits and vegetables for the children?

Great ideas all around – healthy habits, physical health and wellness matter!

Well worth the time and effort for everyone whose task it is to prepare meals to foster a healthy body and a healthy mind through an array of very healthy food.

But, actually ….

The real intent of my listing the food items is for what they all have in common.

They all have a bitter taste when consumed.

We have probably overlooked or learned to cover up all those bitter flavors by adding various other food items such as some spices and sweet salad dressings.

Most of the time that is what is required to get us to eat those foods because the tasting of that bitter taste, learned early enough, means we rush to avoid them.

Despite the fact their nutritional values and their long historically well known healthy benefits for our bodily functions should interrupt, preclude our hates.

The bitter taste left in our mouths from these foods leaves a lasting memory.

Do we go out of our way to avoid them at all costs or decide to keep them on our tables, in our stomachs and in our lives – taking advantage of their healthiness?

On the other side of that “bitter taste” of food is ….

The bitter feelings associated with such emotional experiences as betrayal and anger and sadness, fear and anxiety and worry and depression.

Most of us have experienced the feeling of bitterness at some point, and can agree that it is a distressing emotion.

And once it rises, and takes “roots in our hearts” and “root in our souls” the feeling can linger and spread for a long time unless it is dealt with correctly.

The writer of Hebrews wrote this verse hoping to protect the early believers and the early church from the inevitable, undeniable destruction bitterness causes.

The image of a sour root growing up among a body of believers was a powerful way to remind God’s people about the dangers of letting unforgiveness and discontent well up within our hearts.

And as Ironic and even laughable as it will surely sound to some reading this, to say that if we are not careful, it can happen before we realize there is a problem.

Fortunately, the living and active Words of God’s Holy Scripture offers us the prevention and the sure reminder that there is a remedy and there is a sure cure.

What Is This Verse Talking About?

Simply put, Hebrews 12:15 is a clear instruction about guarding and protecting the integrity of a church body.

Each section conveys a sense of urgency to the command.

“See to it…”

This directive is given to everyone who is part of the church – leadership and lay members alike. All who would go to the greatest lengths possible to call themselves part of the family of God need to be ready to respond in obedience.

“… that no one falls short of the grace of God”

Repeatedly, according to our God’s Holy Scriptures, wrong heart attitudes like unforgiveness and self-righteousness can keep a person from receiving grace.

God will never force Himself on us, and so if we trust in our own goodness and lack humility, then we will all definitely miss out on the working of His healing grace not just in our hearts and minds, but in our neighbors’ hearts and minds.

“…that no bitter root grows up”

The lack of God’s grace in our lives results in a sense of bitterness. For when we are self-centered, we expect others, and God, to fill our needs all the time. We are more impatient, and more bothered when things don’t go the way we plan.

“…to cause trouble and defile many.”

What kind of trouble?

If our inner attitudes and thoughts are full of that bitterness, it will appear in outward words and actions and deeds that significantly impact those around us at home and in church negatively – and perhaps reach into the world beyond.

The Apostle Paul was very aware of this possibility in each of us. And he had no doubt seen how one person’s behavior could compromise a whole congregation’s health, and its influence in the world. He often mentioned this idea in letters to churches he had planted.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Ephesians 4:31

“Your boasting is not good” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:14).

This idea harkens back to warnings Jesus gave His disciples using the image of yeast, or leavening, being spread through bread dough and affecting the whole loaf. This represented how the wrong teachings of the religious elite would contaminate the minds and hearts of His followers, and weaken their witness to others.

“’But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11-12).

“…Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’” (Luke 12:1).

Luke 12:1

What Is the “Bitter Root”?

Bitter roots have been born out of simple disagreements, or unintentional offenses.

However they start, it’s essential that the initial upset, frustration or hurt is dealt with. If the air is not cleared, the seed for division and pain is planted.

Once bitterness has settled into a person’s heart, into their souls it eventually comes out in harsh words or in actions that often impact others they talk to.

What Is the Message of Hebrews All About?

Authorship of Hebrews has long been debated.

Scholars have found evidence both for and against the Apostle Paul being the one who wrote it.

Other suggestions include Luke, Barnabas, Phillip and Apollos.

Whoever the anonymous author was, the purpose was to prove the authority of Christ and encourage believers to be encouraged, persevere in their faith walks.

The Epistle to the Hebrews was an attempt to reach at least two specific groups in the church at that time: specifically, Jews who had converted to Christianity but felt the need to pull back into the ways of Judaism which they understood, and new believers who had not yet fully learned and embraced following Jesus.

Many Hebrew Christians at the time were going through both severe social and economic, sometimes physical persecution from both the Jews and Romans.

Some were considering returning to their former religious life.

The Epistle to Hebrews was an attempt to remind these believers of Biblical truths, and to encourage, reassure them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

What Else Happens in Hebrews 12?

Hebrews Chapter 12 starts with the word “therefore,” which is used to refer to something that has already been stated, and also to build on it.

The author goes on, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” and gives and impressive list of people of faith from the previous chapter. The author gives this directive to the followers of Christ:

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Hebrews 12:1-2

The next several verses talk about how we should welcome and value God’s discipline in our lives.

It is meant to bring us good, and to make us stronger spiritually.

And as we grow, we will begin to seek a new unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ – enrich ourselves in the taste of God’s Word (Psalm 34:8) shared at a time of meal and koinonia fellowship, communion – crucial part of God’s plan.

How We Can Apply This to Our Lives?

Those who truly want to follow Christ are called to a higher standard of behavior. Scripture gives us lots of guidance about what that looks like.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13).

Colossians 3:12-13

This verse can be lived out in both spiritual and very practical ways.

In these contemporary times, in terms of our inward heart attitude: 

– Do not let old grudges fester or allow new grudges to take root
– Be content with what God has for you (Philippians 4:10-13)
– Study the Scriptures, Pray regularly together for others to be blessed

In terms of what we say and do outwardly:

– Avoid gossip
– Use our words to encourage and support each other
– Be ready to gently guide others in this area

In terms of how we communicate with each other:

– Share if you’ve felt offended or hurt by someone
– Be willing to try and work an issue out together
– Ask for help if you’re struggling with bitterness

Depending on our own current situations and circumstances, from whatever perspective or angle or theology or ideological bent life has dictated to us all;

You are either going to accept or will take great offense at the next statement:

Hebrews 12:15 contains a significantly encouraging message which can be as timely (mightily ironic and laughable also) today as when it was first written.

Ironically – For as humans, how we so easily, freely and decisively and directly we can be easily tempted to let disagreements or trouble make us hard-hearted.

But as God’s chosen and much beloved children, if we really want to, we can all ask for His power to cut away any root of bitterness and keep it out of our lives.

Ironically, while I was reading and praying and considering Hebrews 12 the other day, I just wondered, “Is it more difficult to live in peace or to be holy?”

Or is it easier or even tastier or more palatable to sit together at a table sharing and quietly or noisily or bitterly bearing our burdens, and smiling at each other.

Of course, when God commands me to do two things, I must 100% try doing both – steadfastly, immovably, whole-heartedly, obediently and faithfully.

Then I read, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Does that mean I will not see the Lord unless I am holy?

Or that others will not see the Lord unless I am or they are holy?

And is living in peace also required in order for me and others to see the Lord?

If others will see the Lord only through my peace and holiness, I consider that as an overwhelming and awesome an terribly accountable responsibility.

If I won’t see the Lord unless I am peaceable and holy, that is a terrifying threat.

The next verse, however, speaks about grace:

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God.”

Of course!

Without grace, none of us can live peacefully together, and none of us can be holy. Without grace, we can’t be a peaceful, holy influence on others either.

That made me feel better.

Living in peace and holiness are important and necessary—and what a comfort it is to know that God’s matchless grace empowers us to live that way for him.

And when we fail, that same grace will forgive, accept, and encourage us to “make every effort” again.

It always comes down to grace.

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
(Refrain)

3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.
(Refrain)

4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
(Refrain)

If we genuinely want to receive the grace in the spirit in which it was first given!

If we truly want to receive the grace in the moment in which it was first given!

What should we all do, both individually and together, do to make these verses from Hebrews to come alive, to be made relevant and true, a revelation of God?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, search my heart an search my soul, oh God, and help me to identify any seeds of bitterness that may be lurking within. There may be bitterness from recent events in my life or from things that happened long ago, but the bitterness still remains in my heart. Lord, by your grace please root out this bitterness and replace it with Your grace and forgiveness, mercy and kindness. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

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