Why is Giving Thanks so Hard?

Sharing today from Precept Ministries.

Why is Giving Thanks
so Hard?

What are you grateful for? I realize most of us have the same basic answers. We are grateful for Jesus, salvation, family, spouses, and children. If we are really honest a few of us will say we are thankful for coffee, warm beds, comfortable chairs, and chocolate.

But, in this day and time perhaps the question should not be “What are you grateful for?”, but “How in the world can you be grateful?” With so much change, so much uncertainty, and the whole world being turned upside down how can you be truly grateful for anything?

In our world worry, fear, stress, and anxiety seem more natural than thanksgiving. But, worry and fear are the cancer that destroys thankfulness, and at the same time thanksgiving is the cure for worry and fear. What do we do? Where do we find an anchor to hold us so we can look trouble in the eye and still give thanks?

The short answer is Romans 8: 28-39. The longer answer is the whole counsel of the Word of God.

The fundamental truth behind the ability to give thanks in all circumstances is this –

God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. – Romans 8:28

The simplicity of the statement is a little unnerving.

God causes ALL things…..

All means all. Whatever circumstances you face, God is at work causing those circumstances to work together for your good.

What are you facing? Cancer? Death of a loved one? Financial struggles? Job loss? A child walking in sin before God? Rejection from the one you love? You can trust the Father because all of these things are covered under that little word “all”.

God causes all things to work together for our good.

Did you notice that “things” is plural? All things – each individual thing – are working together for good. The stress and troubles of life are all working in concert together under the direction of the Master Conductor for our good. God is orchestrating the events of life so that they work together for our good.

This happens in such the grand scale of life and it is not necessarily seen in the moment by moment or day to day events. We all know that days, weeks, months, and years can be painful and heart breaking. But, even when I can’t see how God is working I can trust that He is working, and that He is causing all of my pain and suffering to work out for my ultimate good.

It is important to point out here that Paul did not say all things are good. Clearly not everything that happens to us is good. But God is at work

And in this, we can give thanks regardless of what we face.

Read the rest here.

Pity Us

Photo credit: FreeBibleImages.org

One of them, when he saw he was healed,
came back, praising God in a loud voice.
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—
and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Has no one returned to give praise to God
except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him,
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
─Luke 17:15-19

Pity Us

By Pat Knight

Had you lived when Jesus walked the earth, you may have required the restorative powers of the Great Physician, willing to comply to whatever Jesus requested to be healed of an incurable disease. With only a few minimally educated physicians and no medicines or hospitals available, debilitated people were desperate. Unless Jesus pronounced them cured, all hope of recovery was lost. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases of the day. According to Jewish law, once the disease was suspected, it must be confirmed by the priest. The person was then shuttled off to a colony outside of town, where all lepers lived in seclusion from the rest of society, an early form of quarantine. Because the disease was considered contagious, whenever lepers approached from a distance, they were required to shout “unclean” so contact with them could be avoided.

While traveling toward Jerusalem, Jesus met ten lepers who “stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And, as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him. ‘Rise and go: your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:13-19).

It was the one Samaritan who turned around amid his trip to the temple priest to thank and praise Jesus for his instant healing. Samaritans were considered half-breeds and despised by Jews, who normally refused to affiliate with them, but living conditions within the leper colonies necessitated relaxation of typical social segregation. The healed Samaritan was ecstatically grateful, demonstrating vocally in a loud voice and physically by throwing himself at his Master’s feet, a display of humility, unworthiness, and worship. As a result, Jesus granted the Samaritan the spiritual healing of salvation in addition to his physical healing.

The quintessential question arises: why did the nine lepers not return to offer gratitude and praise to the Great Physician? They were recipients of a divine miracle, visible immediately as their skin cleared to a perfectly robust condition. Was it their intent to rush to be checked by the priest? If so, they could easily have returned later to the site where Jesus was ministering, announcing the priest’s decision of complete healing to all of the people gathered there. Though we could offer plausible excuses, the behavior of the nine was inexcusable. Rather, through the ages they have served as the epitome of selfishness.

Before we rush to judge the nine lepers, let us consider how we may have reacted. Or, evaluate how we currently respond to similar gifts from our Lord Jesus. Is it our habit to thank God for medications to treat our illnesses, or for complete reversal of symptoms following surgery? Though physicians now have more knowledge, research, and technology at their disposal than at any other era in history, they are still incapable of curing disease.

Physicians treat; God alone heals.

The Lord is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, truth and righteousness, mercy and grace, and the conqueror of sin and sickness. He delights in confounding physicians with miraculous healings they cannot explain scientifically.

Though the Samaritan leper knew the least of the ten about Jesus and Jewish law, he unabashedly threw himself at the Healer’s feet. Jesus viewed the intent of his heart and discovered his desire to know the Master Healer and to repent in gratitude. What does Jesus see inside our hearts? Our motives are of utmost importance to God; an attitude of gratitude pleases Him.

Only when we are focused on God, when our hearts yearn to obey, love, and serve, will our lives overflow with thanksgiving in response to Christ’s atonement for our sin. For such an incredible gift, the psalmist vowed to praise God. “‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High’” (Psalm 7:17). Praise is a predictable result of deliverance, as demonstrated by the healed leper. How many times in our lives have we been rescued from health, financial, employment woes or social conflicts? How often do we praise God for His overwhelming protection and provision? “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NLT). No item or occasion is excluded from praise and thanksgiving.

 Adoration praises our Lord for who He is. Thanksgiving worships God for what He does. Praise exalts His character and His actions. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). To pray without ceasing is to recognize God’s constant presence in our lives and our dependence on Him; to acknowledge His supremacy and authority. He peers into our hearts to ascertain our intents, expressed by continuous submission and obedience to Him, revealing personal praise and thanksgiving that permeate all of our thoughts and actions.

When we view a gorgeous sunset, perfect rose petals, ferocious ocean turf, or snow-capped mountain ranges, do our hearts spontaneously erupt with praise for our Creator’s magnificent design and visual gifts for our enjoyment? Or, are we guilty of neutrality toward the commonplace—a ho-hum, I’ve-seen-it-all-before complacency? We are commanded to worship the One, true God and Creator of our universe, superior in character and accomplishments. “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:2, 6). We are commanded to worship the Lord in the splendor of His majesty.

On Palm Sunday, when Jesus inaugurated Passion Week by triumphantly entering Jerusalem, His followers publicly announced His royalty by spreading clothing and palm branches on His path, rejoicing and praising their Messiah and King with loud voices for His mighty works. “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9).

Jewish religious leaders were incensed by the public worship afforded Jesus. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples! ‘I tell you,’ He {Jesus} replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40). His religious opponents were livid that Jesus accepted public praise and refused to silence the large crowd. Jesus recognized the progression of events that must occur leading to His crucifixion. This was His time to be honored, praised, and glorified as Messiah and King of the Jews. He graciously accepted the reverence from those who worshipped Him then, just as He does from us today.

Humankind and inanimate objects are compelled to shout acclamations to the Messiah. If human praise is suppressed, then all creation will exclaim Jesus’ exaltations. Tangible objects stand as a testament to God’s creative powers, written in the sky and the earth’s landscape, motivating glory and praise simply by demonstrating the purpose for which each item was designed. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of a human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore, gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart.
─John Piper

As we reflect on the euphoric thanksgiving reaction of the healed Samaritan leper and the ungratefulness of the remaining nine men cured of leprosy, let us assess our own responses to the love and grace God lavishes upon us. Believers live thankfully. Pity the unbeliever who has no source of help or healing or the privilege of bowing at Jesus’ feet in worship.

They Sang a New Song

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

They Sang a New Song: Charles Spurgeon’s Reflections on the Heavenly Hymn in Revelation 5

By Randy Alcorn

In a sermon on “The Heavenly Singers and Their Song,” Charles Spurgeon wrote this:

“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). I must take away the poetry for a moment and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn.

The first doctrine is that Christ is put in the front; His deity is affirmed. They sing, “Worthy are you.” A strong-winged angel speeds his way over Earth and Heaven and down the deep places of the universe, crying with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). But no answer comes, for no creature is worthy. Then came One of whom the church cries in its song, “Worthy are you.”

Yes, beloved, He is worthy of all the praise and honor we can bring to Him. He is worthy to be called equal with God; He Himself is God, very God of very God. And no man can sing this song, or ever will sing it, unless he believes Christ to be true deity and accepts Him as his Lord and God.

Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice that it was when He had taken the scroll that they said, “Worthy are you to take the scroll” (Revelation 5:9). To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. We could never reach up to God except that Christ has come to bridge the distance between us. He places one hand on man and the other upon God. He is the mediator who can lay His hand upon both, and the church greatly rejoices in this.

Remember that even the working of providence is not apart from the mediation of Christ. I rejoice in this, that if the thunders be let loose, if plagues and deaths around us fly, the child of God is still under the mediator’s protection. No harm shall happen to the chosen, for Jesus always guards us. All power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth, and the church rejoices in His role as mediator.

But now notice: in the church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a mediator? The church says, “Worthy are you . . . for you were slain” (Revelation 5:9). Ah, beloved, when Christ undertook to be her mediator, this was the extreme point to which His pledge to be her substitute could carry Him—to be slain! Jesus is never more glorious than in His death. His substitutionary atonement is the culmination of His glory, as it was the very utmost depth of His shame. Beloved, we rejoice in our mediator because He died.

A thing that is redeemed belonged originally to the person who redeems it, and the redeemed of the Lord were always His. “Yours they were,” said Christ, “and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). They always were God’s. You cannot go and redeem a thing that does not belong to you. You may buy it, but you cannot redeem it. Now that which belonged originally to God became indebted through sin. We, having sinned, came under the curse of the law. And though God still held to it that we were His, we were yet under this embargo: sin had a claim upon us.

Christ came and saw His own, and He knew that they were His own. He asked what there was to pay to redeem them, to restore His ownership. It was His heart’s blood, His life, Himself that was required. He paid the price and redeemed them, and we tonight sing, “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

He has, by redeeming us, separated us to Himself and made us a holy people, bought with blood in a special sense out of all the rest of mankind.

This redemption is the grounds for the distinction of God’s holy people: “By your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).

God never wearies of the precious blood, nor will His ­people who know where their salvation lies. They do not, even in Heaven, say that it is a dreadful word to mention. I heard a man the other day say of a certain minister, “Oh! We want another minister; we are tired of this man. He is always talking so much about the blood.” In the last great day, God will be tired of the man who made that speech.

Read the rest here.

Roll Your Burdens onto God

Prayer is such a big part of our Christian walk so I hope you enjoyed the last few weeks of prayer posts. Here is a wonderful article about prayer from Desiring God.

Roll Your Burdens onto God 

By Scott Hubbard

There was no more money for milk.

Donations to the orphan house had been drying up for months. Week after week, they had gotten by with barely enough: a dollar here, some pennies there, drips compared to the river of provision they had once known.

The director rose from bed and thought of the hundreds of children still sleeping. They would wake up soon. They would come to the kitchen expecting milk, a staple breakfast food at the orphan house. And if God did not intervene, they would go away hungry.

He prayed on the two-minute walk to the orphan house. He asked that God would show compassion like a Father to his children, that he would not lay on them more than they could bear, and that he would somehow provide the money they needed for milk.

Poor and at Peace

If anyone had a right to be worried, George Müller did. For decades, he walked through trials of faith that would leave many of us shattered in mind and body. More than ten thousand children depended on him for food, clothing, and shelter throughout his lifetime. His orphan houses lived for years on the edge of poverty. And he had committed early on to never ask anyone but God for money.

But few people walked with more of the peace of God that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Over and over in his autobiography, or in his shorter book Answers to Prayer, readers find Müller poor, pressed down with cares, and yet at peace.

The key for Müller was prayer. John Piper writes, “When George Müller was asked how he could be so calm in the middle of a hectic day with so many uncertainties at the orphanage, he answered something like, ‘I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning’” (The Satisfied Soul, 308). How did Müller handle the burdens of ten thousand orphans? He took them, one by one, off his own shoulders, and he rolled them onto God’s.

In a sermon on Philippians 4:6–7, Müller tells us how.

1. Hear God’s Invitation

When we bring our worries to God in prayer, we will never meet a deaf ear or a reluctant glance. We will instead find a Father who gladly bends his shoulder to bear our burdens.

The children of God, Müller says, “are permitted, not only permitted but invited, not only invited but commanded, to bring all their cares, sorrows, trials, and wants to their heavenly Father. They are to roll all their burdens upon God.”

The command Müller has in mind — “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) — is just one example in a Bible full of invitations to roll our worries onto God. When we search the pages of Scripture, we see a Shepherd who gathers us up in his arms (Isaiah 40:11), a Bridegroom who makes our troubles his own (Ephesians 5:25–27), a King who hides us away in his tower (Proverbs 18:10), a Warrior who fights our battles himself (Exodus 14:14). On nearly every page, God invites us to come out of the howling winds of our worries and into the warmth of his home.

Our worries may feel close to us, but in Christ, our Father is closer. Hear his invitation, and come.

Read the rest here.

What is Prayer?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

Question: “What is Prayer?”

Answer: The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.

Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal. All prayer must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of the Lord Jesus (John 16:23), and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit” (“Prayer” by J. C. Lambert). The wicked have no desire to pray (Psalm 10:4), but the children of God have a natural desire to pray (Luke 11:1).

Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favor (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).

Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Worry about nothing; pray about everything.

Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything.

Read the rest here.

Prayer and the Difference it Makes

Today I’m sharing from Focus on the Family.

Prayer
and the Difference it Makes

By Robert Velarde

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help.” –Psalm 39:12 (NIV)[i]

“Lord, teach us to pray.” –Luke 11:1

“After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed.” –John 17:1

“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” –Acts 1:14

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18

“Pray continually.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. But what is prayer? What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?” And does prayer really make a difference? Before delving too deeply into the topic of prayer, it will be beneficial to first define the term, as well as the focus of our prayers—God.

Prayer and God’s Nature

Let’s start with the second part. In order to develop a clear idea of prayer, we must first have a clear idea of God. Biblically speaking, God is a personal being. This is critical to prayer because it means that God is a person we can interact with, that He has a will and that we are able to relate to Him on a meaningful level. If He were impersonal, then prayer would not be meaningful. If He were personal, but uncaring and distant, prayer wouldn’t serve a purpose.

Not only is God personal, He is also loving (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16). This is also important in relation to prayer. If God were personal, but uncaring or unkind, then prayer might do us more harm than good! But God is not only loving, He is all loving (omnibenevolent). In relation to prayer, this means that God always desires the best for us because He loves us.

God is also all powerful (omnipotent), meaning that no prayer is beyond His ability to answer, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). If God were less than all powerful, then we would have no assurance that He could answer or even hear our prayers.

The fact that God is all-knowing (omniscient) is also significant to the concept of prayer. If God were limited, then He would not know all that is happening in His creation. If this were the case, He might overlook our prayers because they might be beyond His knowledge. Fortunately, the Bible is clear that God knows everything (see, for instance, Psalm 139:2-4; 147: 4-5; Isaiah 46:10). In relation to God’s omniscience, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

God is also wise and holy. He knows what is best for us, as well as what will lead us to holiness rather than sin. He is also immanent, meaning that God is active in His creation in a personal way, not only directing greater matters of history, but also involved in the life of everyone. This means that no prayer is too great for Him, but also that no prayer is too small for Him.

While we cannot explore all of God’s attributes here, one final one to note, of utmost importance to prayer is God’s sovereignty. God is supremely in charge of everything that happens in His universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing happens in our lives without the knowledge of God, even though we may not always understand His actions: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

In hearing and responding to our prayers, then, we are assured that God will do so on the basis of His many attributes. His personal nature, love, power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, immanence and sovereignty all play a role in how we relate to God in prayer and how He relates to us.

Read the rest here.

Please and Thank You Prayers

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
—Philippians 1:4

Beloved, do you have a difficult time praying? Do you struggle with how to pray or what to say to God?

Personally, I do not want to keep repeating certain prayers in light of what God teaches us in Matthew 6:7: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” But the older I get, the more I find that my mind seeks the comfort of some kinds of prayers because I can easily remember them.

For example, before my feet hit the floor each day I pray something like this: Heavenly Father, thank You for a great night’s sleep and this new day. Please order the steps of my day so that in everything I say and do I glorify Your name and make You smile. On nights when I have been unable to sleep well, I start this prayer with thank You for getting me through the night. I have been praying in the morning like this for years after reading Psalm 37. I was reading the NKJV Bible at that time and verse 23 says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” I call such prayers my “thank you prayers.”

Now, having said that, my prayer life has been majorly transformed over the last few years.

When I pray what I call “please prayers,” I am asking God to be with me or someone who is going through something particularly tough. In this case, my prayer is that God will make His presence strongly felt as He is surrounding the person with His arms of comfort and teaching them what He wants them to learn through the situation. And depending on the person and situation, I often ask Him to grant the person perfect peace as described in Isaiah 26:3, usually praying that verse with the person’s name: “You will keep _________ in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he/she trusts in You.” Sometimes I will share this personalized prayer with the person for whom I’ve been praying. This passage in Isaiah never fails to comfort me and I pray that it will comfort others too.

I have also started thanking God ahead of time while I am still praying for something, in anticipation of whatever He has planned in accordance with His will. I believe God honors this kind of prayer because although I am typically praying for something specific, I end my prayer by thanking God for however He has already planned to settle the situation.

One thing God has taught me over the years is that praying is the best way to bring us as close to Him as is possible here on earth. The other thing is that although God already knows the outcome of a situation, He still wants us to intercede in prayer, gladly approaching Him with our concerns and hurts. He longs for us to come to Him as our Abba Father, to figuratively sit on His lap and share our hearts with Him—all our concerns, yes, but more importantly our love, praise and thankfulness for who He is and for what He has done and is doing as the Creator of all things. And since He is all of that and much more, we can experience contentment in His presence, no matter what the outcome of a situation, because we can rest in the knowledge that He always knows what is best for us.

In essence, although we know and trust that God has already worked out the details, He still wants to hear from us and loves it when we praise Him and His Holy Name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM;”
and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
—Exodus 3:14

Our holy God, YHWH (I AM): the meaning is powerful, even when translated into English. To say “I am” means “I exist.” But as a name, it also suggests timelessness, self-sufficiency, changelessness.¹

Our God is indeed awesome, holy, and unchanging. But He also loves to hear us talk to Him in prayer and He hears us when we pray. He tells us this in Jeremiah 29:11-13:

11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
12
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
13
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Many people consider verse 11 on its own, but we need to use it in the context of God’s true meaning, which is not complete without also taking into account verses 12 and 13. God begins this passage with the word “for” and completes it with what follows the word “then” in verse 12.

Beloved, we are told to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion” (Ephesians 6:18a). Praying should be like breathing is to us. We can’t live without being able to breathe, and we can’t stay as close to God as we should without talking to Him in prayer throughout our day.

Prayer: Abba Father, we are so thankful that we can come to You in prayer at any time of the day or night. You love us so much and are interested in every aspect of our day. Thank You for the blessing of being able to depend on You to see us through each and every day. 


¹ 100 Names of God Daily Devotional. Copyright © 2015 by Christopher D. Hudson. Published by Rose Publishing, Inc., Carson, California.