Archive for November, 2013

The Power of Saying “Thanks!”

November 27th, 2013 2 comments

Giving-Thanks“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

Colossians 4:2, NLT

The Power of saying “Thanks!”

In the passage above we see that God intends for prayer to be wedded with thanksgiving. Our prayers should always arise from a thankful heart. So what is the foundation for this thankfulness? Let’s take a look at the passage below for a few ideas:

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever… Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.”

(Psalm 107:1, 15, 21-22, NKJV)

The psalmist gave thanks to the Lord for three unchanging realities:

1] He was thankful for God’s goodness.

2] He was thankful for God’s mercy.

3] He was thankful for God’s workings in his life in previous seasons.

How about you? Are you grateful for the goodness of God towards you? Are you grateful for His mercy extended to you at the cross? Are you thankful for God’s faithfulness to you over the years you have been alive? Spend some time discussing these foundation pillars of thankfulness.

The Birthplace of Thanksgiving is Gratitude

Gratitude arises from contemplating the goodness and mercy of the Lord.

What can you give to a person who has demonstrated great mercy and blessing towards you? The only proper response is sincere, heartfelt appreciation and thanks.

“What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.”

Psalm 116:12, NLT

Gratitude is an inner emotion arising from the heart of one who realizes they have been the object of God’s blessing. Gratitude is hidden, secret, and internal.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, involves the expressing of our gratitude. When we praise the Lord we vocalize our love. Praise is the adoration of God, the celebration of who He is. Thanksgiving involves thanking God for what He has done. Thanksgiving is a public confession of the multitude of blessings we have received from Him!

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God… giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

Psalm 50:14, 23, NLT

The giving of thanks is foundational to prayer. We are not asking God for anything. We are simply enjoying Him and expressing our thanks to Him for Who He is and for all He has done on our behalf. Thanksgiving helps us focus on God’s faithfulness.

 Murmuring as Perverted Prayer      

Murmuring is simply a perverted, counterfeit for prayer. Instead of focusing on God’s goodness, it focuses on hurts, pains or disappointments. Instead of expressing thanksgiving for all God has done and will do, murmuring vomits out unbelief and ingratitude.

Instead of murmuring, God commands us to pray! Instead of worrying, God commands us to give thanks!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Philippians 4:6, NLT

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:18, NLT

 Are there worries or concerns in your life which need prayer? Where can you turn your murmuring into thanksgiving? Identify these areas and offer them to the Lord in prayer.

When Evil Screams at Silence

November 26th, 2013 No comments

nooseIn September of 2000, Dr. Laurence White, the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, delivered a stirring, prophetic warning to the pastors gathered at Midwestern Theological Seminary entitled, “The Sin of Silence: A Defining Moment.” In his message he demonstrated the tragic results that were allowed to take place in Nazi Germany largely because pastors and the people they lead were passive and silent in the face of growing tyranny and outright evil.

Reverend White writes,

In 1940 Nazi Germany was near her zenith, the nation’s power, prestige, prosperity unparalleled in history, her armies invincible on every front. The Jews had been systematically excluded from the life of the nation, deprived of the protection of the law and citizenship, gradually disappearing into a spreading network of concentration camps.

In that year 1940, at the height of Hitler’s power and popularity, a courageous young pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer denounced the church’s failure to speak out against the evil. In 1940 that lonely voice of truth proclaimed,

“We the Church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough the message of the one God, who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus and Who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself. She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions. She was silent when she should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent was crying aloud to heaven. The Church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred, and murder, and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. The Church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers of Jesus Christ. The Church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet, possessions and honor, to which she has no right. She has not borne witness to the truth of God. And by her silence, she has rendered herself guilty because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.”

White further adds, “Bonhoeffer’s warning went unheeded. He was dismissed by most of his colleagues as a single-issue fanatic. In less than 5 years, he was dead, hung naked from a piano-wire noose in Flossenberg concentration camp. Germany lay in ruins, her great cities bombed out of existence, cathedrals that had stood for a thousand years reduced to piles of broken brick and rubble.”

It doesn’t take an exceptional amount of discernment to recognize the same symptoms in the American pulpit and church today. Instead of courageously bearing witness to “the Truth,” we have become intoxicated with “security, peace, quiet, possessions and honor.” We need to be absolutely clear about one thing: If we fail to suffer for what we know is right, we will eventually suffer under the evil that will inevitably overwhelm us.

As we pause this Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks to God for His goodness and faithfulness, let’s examine our hearts to make sure we love Him and His Truth more than we love the blessings we currently enjoy. Our forefathers gave their lives in the service of Truth; we must be willing to do the same.

Do You Pray?

November 25th, 2013 No comments

prayer u“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6, NLT


Do you pray?

Isn’t it interesting that this simple question causes all kinds of things to be stirred up in our hearts? Sunday we discussed two common reactions:

#1. Defensiveness

 You might find yourself on the defensive, with your mind racing to remember all the times you have prayed over the last week… or month…or was it a year? I can’t remember!

Perhaps we feel defensive because we are trying to justify our spirituality or maybe we feel a nagging sense of guilt over our lack of true prayer.

#2. Spiritual “To Do” List

For some, they place prayer on their daily list of chores to check off upon completion. When prayer is viewed as a chore to be accomplished you miss the essence of prayer and set yourself up for perpetual failure.

We said prayer is not as much about what you are DOING, but about who you are BEING. Our prayer life reveals the health of our heart connection with our heavenly Father.  A healthy prayer life is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.

Prayer is the Sign of Spiritual Life

Compare the practice of prayer with natural childbirth. The very first sign of life in a newborn is the act of breathing. For the believer, prayer should be as natural as breathing.

In fact, prayer is absolutely needful to an individual’s salvation. While salvation is by grace, you don’t receive this gift without asking for it. So prayer marks the start of our relationship with God and prayer sustains us throughout our journey through life.

This is not true for the unsaved. In fact, the Bible tells us the wicked “Call not upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 14:4)

While prayer itself does not remove the possibility that it is heartless or even hypocritical [Jesus condemned the Pharisees for honoring Him with their lips but having hearts that were far from Him], the absence of prayer is clear proof that a man is not yet converted.

A pastor may preach from false motives. An author may write books from false motives. A religious person may “worship” from false motives. However, a person will seldom go into her closet and pour out her heart before God in secret unless she is sincere and genuine. The prayer closet is hidden from the eyes of men (Matt. 6:6).

Go Minister to Saul, the Christian Killer!

 Can you imagine receiving the assignment Ananias received from Jesus to go and minister to the notorious, ruthless Christian killer, Saul of Tarsus! I can just imagine his initial response, “Is that you, Lord? Ugh, how saved and sanctified is he? What if he backslides while I am there? How do you really know he is a changed man?”

When Jesus sent Ananias to Saul in Damascus, he gave him no other evidence of his change of heart than this, “The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.(Acts 9:11)

How did Ananias know that Saul was truly converted? The Lord said, “He’s talking to me right now!”

How can you determine if you have truly been born again? How do you know whether you are really a Christian? Ask yourself this question – Do you pray?

Prayer University

 I find it interesting that out of all the things Jesus’ disciples could have asked Him, they asked Him for some lessons on how to develop a prayer life with God.

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1 (NLT)

Notice it didn’t say, “Lord teach us HOW to pray, but TO pray.” This is a huge difference. We learn to pray, like we learn most everything else in life, by doing it.

And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to do with greater focus and greater reliance upon the Lord. Let’s pray!

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