Exalting God, Edifying Believers, Evangelizing the Lost

In Everything Give Thanks

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we tend to shift our focus from the struggles of everyday life to the “good” things for which we can thank God.

James 1:17 reminds us,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

So we know that all the good things in our life come from God’s hand and we can thank Him for them. But what is interesting is that this verse is at the end of a section of Scripture that begins with this admonition: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various kinds of trials” (James 1:1). 

James is telling us that EVERYTHING we receive from God, both blessings and trials, are God’s good gifts to us, and therefore, we should be thankful to Him for the trials as well as the blessings.  That is why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us, In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget to also thank God for the hard times of your life, for it is through these that He wants to draw us closer to Himself.

The Components of True Worship

 

What do you need in order to worship God?

Many people believe that worship is an emotionally based experience, and therefore they need something to stir up their emotion before they can enter into real worship of God.  That is the reasoning behind many churches using emotionally-charged music as the centerpiece of their services.

In John 4:24, Jesus said,

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

There is nothing about emotion or music in His description of true worship.  There are only 2 components of true worship here: spirit and truth.

What Christ was saying is that true worship is an internal response of obedience from the heart and mind of a believer as he submits to the authority and the content of God’s truth.

True worship does not begin with emotion. True worship does not even begin with music.

If we need to become emotionally stirred up through music before we “feel” like we are worshiping God, the only thing we are worshiping is ourselves, and our focus of worship is not God, but the emotional “high” we get through the experience.

Worship Like a Dog

Dogs are referred to as “man’s best friend,” mainly because of their loyalty and their desire to be with their master. I am sure we have all seen how a dog reacts when his master walks through the door after being gone all day. The excitement of being back in the presence of his master cannot be matched.

We can learn a lot about worship from the actions of a dog. Psalm 122:1 tells us the response of the Psalmist to coming into the presence of his Master:

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Although our worship of God should not be defined by only our emotion, we should be excited about coming into the presence of our Master. As believers, the place we should want to be the most is near to our Lord.

That does not mean that the only time we can be in His presence is at church, though. We can draw near to Him at home, at work, on vacation, or just sitting in the car. We can worship our Master anywhere and at any time.

What defines our worship is not what we are doing, but whether we are drawing near to God in our spirit. James 4:8 tells us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

If your greatest desire is to be in the presence of your Master, that is something to get excited about.

The Creator Cares

Have you ever been out in the country where there are no lights around, and looked up at the millions of stars shining in the sky?  The sight itself is a little overwhelming, but when you think about how big each star is and how it got there, it is beyond comprehension.

How could the immeasurable God who created all of that with His breath know and care about us tiny human creatures who are but a speck in the universe?

Psalm 8:3-4 echoes this sentiment:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Jesus said in Matthew 6 that God knows our needs and has already made provision for them, even down to our food and clothing.  The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to “cast your cares upon the Lord, for He careth for you.”

More overwhelming than the stars of heaven is the fact that God DOES care about each one of us down to the tiniest detail of our lives.

It is comforting to know that the God who created the immense expanse of the universe brings that same power to taking care of each of us on an individual level.

What a great God we serve!

Understanding Matters

As a young person, I would often speak very fast and slur words together in my haste to get my message out.  My mother called it “lazy tongue.”  She would continually correct me, saying, “Speak more slowly and clearly so that people will be able to understand what you are saying. Otherwise, you are just wasting your breath.”

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college when I got a “D” my first oral assignment in Speech 101 that I realized how right she was.

The same truth applies to us today as we share God’s truth with each other.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:9,

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul was referring to the fact that when people in the church spoke in unknown tongues, no one could understand them, so no one was edified.

But the principle is broader than just speaking in tongues.  When we are with other people and share the Word of God, pray, or even sing a spiritual song or hymn, we should do it so that others can understand the message.

If no one understands what we are saying or singing, then we are just throwing our words into the wind.

And if no one is edified, then God is not glorified.

Love is the Greatest

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, we are told,

“And now abideth faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.”

But why is love the greatest?

The answer is found earlier in the chapter when Paul says talks about the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge.  He says that all three of those will eventually cease to exist (verse 8).

In fact, all of the spiritual gifts will eventually cease to exist, because they are only needed while we are here on earth.

Furthermore, he says in verse 7 that faith and hope are embodied in love, that they really cannot exist apart from love.

We will not need faith and hope in heaven, because everything we believe and hope in is fulfilled when we stand in the presence of Jesus Christ. But our love for our Savior and His children will continue to go on forever, just as God’s love for us will never end.

So why not start practicing now what we will be doing for eternity.

Love Endures All Things

In 1 Corinthians 13:7, we are told that

“love endures all things.”

The word “endures” in this verse comes from a Greek military term that refers to an army fighting desperately to hold a strategic position on the battlefield while being barraged from all sides.

For many people, “love enduring all things” means that because we love someone, we are able to put up with the petty annoyances and inconveniences that they may cause in our lives. But the Apostle Paul is reminding us that true love from God will continue even though there are people attacking us from all sides who are intent on destroying us.

I suspect he had our Lord Jesus in mind as he wrote these words, picturing Him hanging on the cross, looking down on those who had just nailed Him there. And the words that Jesus spoke: “Father, forgive them.”

The love of Jesus endured toward His enemies even as they murdered Him. Because that is what God’s love does.

Is that the kind of love that comes out in your life when enemies begin their attack?

Ask God to help you have His love, even for those who are the most unloving.

Burping and Other Unseemly Behavior

When I was a child, we were not allowed to burp at the table. My mother continually reminded us that it was rude and that it offended other people.

While my two brothers and I were self-controlled in my mother’s presence, we frequently engaged in burping contests when she was out of earshot.  Although it was funny to us, it was not enjoyable for others who had to endure our unseemly behavior.

What we failed to consider was how our rude behavior affected other people.

In 1 Corinthians 13:5, we are told that love

“does not behave itself unseemly.”

You can replace the word “unseemly” with “unbecomingly” or “rude.”  Basically, the verse is saying that when we love as we should, we will be careful not to let anything we do be offensive to others.  Our behavior affects those around us.

Therefore, before we do anything, we should always ask the question, “How is this going to affect others?”  If there is the slightest possibility that our behavior could be considered rude or inconsiderate, then out of love, we should step back and reconsider what we are doing.

Love always considers others first, and that is why rudeness of any sort has no place in a Christian’s life.

Judging Love by the Heart

There are a lot of people who consider themselves to be loving people based on how much they do for others.  But the real test of love is not just what we DO for others, but what we really THINK of others in our hearts.

God does not judge our love based on our actions–He looks at our hearts. It is the attitudes that we harbor in our hearts that demonstrate if we truly have the love of God in us.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, the Apostle Paul lists several attributes of true love that are attitudes, not actions:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

We may try our hardest to help people outwardly, but if we are not patient, if we envy others, if we are proud and boast to others about how “loving” we are, if we are nice outwardly but inwardly cannot stand certain people, then God says that we really don’t have the love of God in us.

1 John 4:7 commands us: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Do your attitudes, as well as your actions to others, show that you truly love God and have His love in your heart? Let’s all strive to live in God’s love because that’s the only real love.

The Greatest Force in the World

What is the greatest force in the world? What is the one thing that when applied makes the greatest change?

The answer, of course, is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy emotional love that we see in Hallmark movies and Valentine’s cards.  The love that makes the greatest changes in our world is God’s love, “agape” love.

This is the kind of love that makes an all-out commitment to the good of someone else, no matter what it costs you. And this kind of love is more important than anything else in the church.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that we can have spiritual gifts galore, we can speak in tongues or preach with eloquence, we can give everything we have to help others, including giving up our own lives. But unless love is the central motivating factor, it all comes to nothing.

It doesn’t matter how great our faith is or whether you think you are doing everything you should be doing as a Christian. Without love, we are nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:13 sums it up:

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Is love the greatest force being displayed in your life?