Charles Stanley – The Reach of Our Thanksgiving

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1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Have you ever noticed that the Bible contains some very brief commands, yet gives no explanation about how to carry them out? We know that Scripture contains everything we need in order to obey God. Yet sometimes we have to search additional passages for further instructions. For instance, verse 18 in today’s passage simply says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Now that’s a very tall command! We’re all quick to thank the Lord for blessings, such as a new baby, home, or job, but what about illness, heartache, difficulty, or loss? How can we possibly be grateful for these? The answer is, we can’t—unless we recognize that God brings or allows pain and hardship in our lives for His good purposes and glory.

Joseph is an example of this truth. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery, yet God used his difficult situation to save the lives of many people, including those very brothers (Gen. 50:20). When we choose gratitude instead of bitterness, blame, or anger, we’re acknowledging that the Lord is good even when circumstances are not.

Are you dealing with a situation that is tempting you to question God’s love and goodness? Have you wondered why He would allow such suffering or difficulty in your life? There are many things we will never be able to understand this side of heaven, but here is one truth we can know with certainty: Our God is good. What’s more, His purposes are good, and He has promised to be with us in every circumstance. When we believe this, we can give thanks in everything.

Our Daily Bread — A Lesson In Praise

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Psalm 150

Praise the LORD! —Psalm 150:1

Psalm 150 is not only a beautiful expression of praise, it’s also a lesson in praising the Lord. It tells us where to praise, why we’re to praise, how we’re to praise, and who should offer praise.

Where do we praise? In God’s “sanctuary” and “mighty firmament” (v.1). Wherever we are in the world is a proper place to praise the One who created all things.

Why do we praise? First, because of what God does. He performs “mighty acts.” Second, because of who God is. The psalmist praised Him for “His excellent greatness” (v.2). The all-powerful Creator is the Sustainer of the universe.

How should we praise? Loudly. Softly. Soothingly. Enthusiastically. Rhythmically. Boldly. Unexpectedly. Fearlessly. In other words, we can praise God in many ways and on many occasions (vv.3-5).

Who should praise? “Everything that has breath” (v.6). Young and old. Rich and poor. Weak and strong. Every living creature. God’s will is for everyone to whom He gave the breath of life to use that breath to acknowledge His power and greatness.

Praise is our enthusiastic expression of gratitude to God for reigning in glory forever. —Julie Ackerman Link

Let every creature rise and bring

Peculiar honors to our King;

Angels descend with songs again,

And earth repeat the loud amen! —Watts

Praise is the overflow of a joyful heart.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 30-32; 1 Peter 4

Insight

The focus of this psalm is obvious. The word praise is used 13 times in these 6 short verses. Praise is defined as “expressing approval of or admiration for someone or something.” But this definition seems dry and stiff. In today’s psalm, praise is an occasion for celebration—involving music and dance. Praise of the Lord is a joyous occasion, a celebration of who He is and what He has done. The psalmist simply assumes that joy, excitement, and happiness are all part of our praise to God.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Indignity of Giving Thanks

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The spirit of thanksgiving runs against the temptation we face as human beings to assert our self-sufficiency. Few of us enjoy the feeling of indebtedness; a fact easily demonstrated by our oft-unsolicited readiness to return a favor once someone has expressed kindness to us. I owe you one, I will return the favor, and I am in your debt are some of the ways in which we express this attitude. Such responses, together with the more modest one, please let me know what I can do for you, allow us to express gratitude without acknowledging the chronic shadow of dependence that so rudely dogs our entire threescore and ten.

Not only does this inability to express gratitude without our own autonomy stealing the show sometimes rob of us of the joy of affirming the contribution of others to our wellbeing, it also shrivels up our desire to worship God. An unexamined sense of self-sufficiency instills in us a subtle but false attitude of entitlement, thus making it difficult for us to accept the sense of vulnerability that is part of true gratitude. Ever since the tempter said to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “You will be like God,” human beings have never given up the temptation to either elevate ourselves to the level of God or pull God down to our level, so we can deal with God as equals. We are always looking for a chance to say to God, “I can take it from here.”

Such an attitude of entitlement, I believe, occupies a central role in the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17. While all ten are healed by Jesus, only one of them returns to express gratitude. In his editorial comment, Luke informs us that the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan, and Jesus refers to him as a foreigner. Undoubtedly, this implies that the other nine were Jews. Could it be that the Jewish lepers felt entitled to the services of this Jewish prophet and their God? If God were to begin to right wrongs in the world, wouldn’t the most logical place to begin be among his own chosen people? Judging by Jesus’s expression of surprise in the passage, it seems the only words one would have expected from the mouths of the nine lepers would have been, “It’s about time!” Without a clear sense of how little we are entitled to, we cannot really come to terms with the need for gratitude—for an attitude of entitlement is an effective impediment to gratitude.

But everything we know about ourselves and our world speaks loudly against this tendency to self-sufficiency. As human babies, we all begin our lives at the highest level of dependence, and none of us really outgrows all degrees of dependence. We depend on parents, teachers, peers, coaches, and others to open doors for us in life. Even in places where commitment to personal autonomy is likely to produce more martyrs than religious conviction, dependence on others is still a living reality whose attempted concealment is gradually unveiled by the onset of old age. From the inventions that give us comfort in this world to the young soldiers who give their lives in the battlefields to protect our livelihoods, an unobstructed view of our lives reveals the fact that we all owe debts that we can never repay. We will never begin to worship God until we recognize that we are bankrupt debtors, for an attitude of gratitude is an indispensable impetus to worship.

Like skilled gourmet chefs spicing up their delicacies, Scripture writers sprinkle their words with admonitions and exaltations regarding gratitude, frequently tying it together with worship. For example, in the midst of a dark catalogue of humanity’s journey away from God, the apostle Paul lays the blame on our unwillingness to glorify God or give thanks to God. Similarly, the author of Hebrews grounds our worship of God in gratitude. He writes, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). It is impossible to worship God without gratitude, and it is impossible to be grateful while clinging to self-sufficiency and entitlement at the same time. Yes, there is some vulnerability in gratitude sincerely expressed, but that is because we are relational beings whose deepest needs can only be met in partnership with others and ultimately with God. While an attitude of entitlement is an impediment to gratitude, an attitude of gratitude is an indispensable impetus to worship. Show me a person whose life is characterized by gratitude, and I will show you a person whose soul is poised to worship God.

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alistair Begg -The Sweetness of Forgiveness

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The forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.  Ephesians 1:7

Could there be a sweeter word in any language than that word “forgiveness” when it sounds in a guilty sinner’s ear, like the joyful notes of liberation to the captive Israelite? Blessed, forever blessed, be the dear star of pardon that shines into the condemned cell and gives the perishing a gleam of hope amid the midnight of despair! Can it be possible that sin, such sin as mine, can be forgiven, forgiven altogether and forever? Hell is my portion as a sinner—there is no possibility of my escaping from it while sin remains upon me. Can the load of guilt be lifted, the crimson stain removed? Can the unbreakable stones of my prison-house ever be loosed from their mortices, or the doors be lifted from their hinges?

Jesus tells me that I may still be cleared. Forever blessed be the revelation of atoning love that not only tells me that pardon is possible, but that it is secured to all who trust in Jesus. I have believed in the atoning sacrifice, even Jesus crucified, and therefore my sins are at this moment and forever forgiven by virtue of His substitutionary pains and death. What joy is this! What unimagined bliss to be a perfectly pardoned soul! My soul dedicates all her powers to Him who by His own unpurchased love became my Savior and provided for me redemption through His blood. What riches of grace does free forgiveness exhibit! To forgive at all, to forgive fully, to forgive freely, to forgive forever—here is a panorama of wonders.

And when I think of how great my sins were, how dear were the precious drops that cleansed me from them, and how gracious was the method by which pardon was sealed home to me, I am in a maze of wondering, worshiping affection. I bow before the throne that absolves me, I clasp the cross that delivers me, and all my days I give to serve the Incarnate God, through whom I am this night a pardoned soul.

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The family reading plan for November 27, 2014 * Micah 2 * Luke 11

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Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

 

Charles Spurgeon – A woman’s memorial

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“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” Matthew 26:13.

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The evangelists are of course the historians of the time of Christ; but what strange historians they are! They leave out just that which worldly ones would write, and they record just that which the worldly would have passed over. What historian would have thought of recording the story of the widow and her two mites? Would a Hume or a Smollet have spared half a page for such an incident? Or think you that even a Macaulay could have found it in his pen to write down a story of an eccentric woman, who broke an alabaster box of precious ointment upon the head of Jesus? But so it is. Jesus values things, not by their glare and glitter, but by their intrinsic value. He bids his historians store up, not the things which shall dazzle men, but those which shall instruct and teach them in their spirits. Christ values a matter, not by its exterior, but by the motive which dictated it, by the love which shines from it. O singular historian! You have passed by much that Herod did; you tell us little of the glories of his temple; you tell us little of Pilate, and that little not to his credit; you treat with neglect the battles that are passing over the face of the earth; the grandeur of Caesar does not entice you from your simple story. But you continue to tell these little things, and wise are you in so doing, for truly these little things, when put into the scales of wisdom, weigh more than those monstrous bubbles of which the world delights to read.

For meditation: God usually bypasses those who look great to the world and in their own eyes; he desires people who are after his own heart, however inconspicuous they are in the world’s sight (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 3:1-2).

Sermon no. 286

27 November (1859)

John MacArthur – Bearing the Reproach of Christ

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Moses considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:26-27).

When you suffer for Christ, you bear His reproach.

How could Moses, who lived 1,500 years before Christ, bear His reproach? Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew title Messiah, the Anointed One. Many Old Testament personalities were spoken of as being anointed for special service to the Lord. Some have suggested that Moses was thinking of himself as a type of messiah, for he delivered his people from the Egyptian bondage. They would translate verse 26 as, “Considering the reproach of his own messiahship as God’s deliverer.”

However, it seems best to see this verse as a reference to Jesus Himself, the future great Deliverer. We don’t know how much knowledge Moses had of Jesus, but certainly it was more than Abraham, of whom Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

The Messiah has always been identified with His people. When they suffer for righteousness’ sake, they suffer in His place. That’s why David said, “The reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me” (Ps. 69:9). Speaking from a New Testament perspective, Paul made a similar statement: “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

There’s also a sense in which Christ suffers with His people. When Jesus confronted Paul, who was heavily persecuting the church, He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? . . . I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5).

Moses chose to turn his back on Pharaoh’s household and identify with God’s people because he knew that suffering for Christ was far better than enjoying the riches of Egypt. At some point in time you too will be persecuted for Christ’s sake (2 Tim. 3:12), so be prepared. When that time comes, follow Moses’ example of faith and courage, knowing that God will be your shield and your reward (cf. Gen. 15:1).

Suggestions for Prayer; Follow the examples of the apostles by thanking God for the privilege of bearing a small portion of the reproach that the world aims at Christ (Acts 5:27-41).

For Further Study; Memorize Psalm 27:1 as a source of encouragement when facing difficulty.

Joyce Meyer – Joy Is a Decision

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This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalm 118:24

Enjoying the abundant life Jesus died to give you is based on a decision you make, not on your circumstances. Thankfully, you can decide to be happy right where you are and to enjoy the life you have right now on the way to where you are going. You can make a firm decision to enjoy your journey.

You can begin by saying out loud, “I am going to enjoy my life.” Until you get that thought established in your mind, every morning when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, I encourage you to declare out loud, “I am going to enjoy this day! I am seizing the day! I am taking authority over the devil—the joy thief—even before he tries to come against me. I have made up my mind that I am going to keep my joy today!” Having a right mindset always helps in every situation.

Prayer of Thanks I thank You today, Father, that I can choose to live in the abundant life Jesus died to give me. I don’t have to live a miserable, unhappy life. I can choose to celebrate Your goodness and enjoy the life You have given me.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Saved From Trouble

 

lonytnsthnkgv“Yes, the Lord hears the good man when he calls to Him for help, and saves him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:17).

You and I have one of the greatest privileges ever known to mankind – that of calling on God with the assurance that He will hear and answer us.

No trouble we face today will be too great for us to bring God, who has promised to save us out of all our troubles.

True, He suggests certain conditions that must be met for such praying to be effective, but these conditions are not grievous. They are attainable by “whosoever will.”

One of these conditions is referred to by the psalmist, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18, KJV). According to God’s Word, that means I must not even allow wrong feelings and critical attitudes against others to fester in my heart and mind, but rather I must confess them the moment they arise and then trust God for the forgiveness He promises.

Another condition is suggested in the well-known verse on revival: “If my people…will humble themselves, and pray…” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV). Even before that time of intercession with the Lord, I must be sure to humble myself, to recognize God as my Lord and Master, and His Holy Spirit as one who sits and rules and reigns on the throne of my life.

As a result, God will produce in my life those qualities of the supernatural life.

Bible Reading: Psalm 35:1-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Confession and humbling will precede prayer in my life this day, so that I may be sure God hears and will answer

Presidential Prayer Team; A.C. – Look Ahead

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No one knows when Jesus Christ will return to Earth. That seems clear enough, but disregarding those words led to one of the most highly anticipated – and most disappointing – days in American history.

Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he.

Zechariah 9:9

In the early 1800s, churches in the northeastern United States experienced one revival after another. These new believers had little theological education, but possessed great fervor. From their ranks rose William Miller of New York, who did a study of the prophesies in Daniel and concluded Christ would return on October 22, 1844. Enthusiasm for Jesus’ second coming was so great, prophetic charts were added alongside stock market listings in newspapers. When the big day came and passed without event, many Christians grew disillusioned. Unbelievers became cynical. The failed prediction became known as “The Great Disappointment.”

Today’s verse accurately foresaw the first coming of Jesus Christ. Your salvation is the anything-but-disappointing benefit of that initial arrival. As you remember God’s blessings on this Thanksgiving Day, look ahead to His second coming – whenever it is – and what it means to you and to America. Ask the Lord to move in your life with specific direction on how you can declare His love to your friends and neighbors this holiday season and beyond.

Recommended Reading: Colossians 3:1-14

Greg Laurie – With the End in Mind   

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You, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. —1 Timothy 6:11

Many of us will put ourselves into situations we don’t need to be in. We hang around with people that we don’t need to be hanging around with. We watch movies that we don’t need to be watching. We listen to music that we don’t need to be listening to. And it will affect us.

Granted, we cannot control every circumstance we will face in life. I would acknowledge that all of us end up in situations in which we think, I wish I hadn’t seen that. . . . I wish I hadn’t been exposed to that. But if we live in the real world, then we will see and hear things that we don’t want to. Unfortunately, it is part of life.

Some may say, “Oh, it doesn’t affect me. I can handle it.” But it does. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” We will reap what we sow. It may not be dramatic. It may not be overt, initially. But it will have its effect.

It is a lot like sowing seeds. You don’t sow a few seeds today and have a forest tomorrow. You sow a few seeds today, and then down the road, you have some sprouts. A little bit later, you have plants. And in time, you will have your forest.

The seeds we are sowing today will be reaped eventually. And if we are sowing seeds of corruption, then we will reap the tragic results later. If we are sowing spiritual seeds by doing the right thing, then we will reap the blessed results of that as well. The seeds we are sowing today will be reaped in the years to come.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Max Lucado – The Cure for Ingratitude

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First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in everything!” In everything? In trouble, in the hospital, in a fix, in a mess, in distress? Interruptions? Jesus did. When five thousand people interrupted his planned retreat, he took them out to lunch. Matthew 14:19 says, “He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food.”

Jesus was robustly thankful. He was thankful when Mary interrupted the party with perfume. When he hugged children and blessed babies and watched blind people look at their first sunsets, Jesus was thankful.

The cure for ingratitude? Look up. Look what God has done! Thank you, Jesus, for modeling gratitude. Thank you, King Jesus, for working all things together for your good. Thank you….for letting love happen.

From Before Amen