THANKSGIVING GOODNESS

Ps. 136:1 – Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever

This is one of the famous lines from the Psalms of David. It was sung at the dedication of Solomon’s temple and it was the song sung by the Levites as they marched before Jehoshaphat’s army leading them in victory. To me, it is a perfect song. It gives a glimpse of why we give thanks and worship the Lord, because He is good and His mercy endures forever. A glimpse of the goodness of the Lord brings us to a place of worship. When the paralyzed man was healed in Peter’s house everyone began to glorify the Lord, when the woman who was bent over for eighteen years was healed she began to glorify the Lord, when Jesus fed the multitudes they began to glorify God. Seeing His goodness brings us to the place of giving thanks to the Lord. Here is how Spurgeon describes this verse.

“We thank our parents, let us praise our heavenly Father; we are grateful to our benefactors, let us give thanks unto the Giver of all good. For he is good. Essentially he is goodness itself, practically all that he does is good, relatively he is good to his creatures. Let us thank him that we have seen, proved, and tasted that he is good. He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. For his mercy endures for ever. We shall have this repeated in every verse of this song, but not once too often. It is the sweetest stanza that a man can sing. What joy that there is mercy, mercy with Jehovah, enduring mercy, mercy enduring for ever. We are ever needing it, trying it, praying for it, receiving it: therefore let us for ever sing of it.”

The Lord’s very essence is goodness. We see His goodness in all His works, His goodness was on full display in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His goodness is poured out on all of us through the immersion into the Holy Spirit. What else can we say but, “the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever”.

ROASTED MEAT, WORSHIP AND AN OFFERING

Psa. 116:12,13,&17 What shall I render to the LORD

For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation,

And call upon the name of the LORD. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And will call upon the name of the LORD.

Have you ever thought about the atmosphere in the temple in Jerusalem? It was a very special place with the sounds and smells of worship and sacrifice. There was the sounds of animals, the bleating of the sheep, and the mooing of the cows. There was the sounds of the musicians and the singing of the levites. There was also the smells, the smell of incense and the smell of roasted meat filled the air. Jerusalem was constantly filled with these festival sounds and smells. The sounds and smells of holiday celebration filled the temple all year round, it was a happy place for the children of Israel to visit throughout their lives.

One of the offerings that was brought before the Lord was a thank offering. It was characterized by confessing before the Lord His goodness, His power, and His mercy. This is the idea Paul had in mind when he wrote in Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” As we come before the Lord, we confess to His name, His goodness, His power, and His mercy.

Thanksgiving Day reminds me of the Jewish festivals. These festivals were characterized by worship, preaching, celebration in singing and worship, and always plenty of good food. There was always one requirement that the Lord made for each of these festivals. You were required to celebrate before the Lord with joy. There could be no sadness at the Lord’s thanksgiving celebrations.

This Thanksgiving, people all over America are celebrating with their families. Many people will be with loved ones they only see on special occasions. This is a very special time. Just like the temple, there will be all sorts of sounds and smells at these family gatherings. There will be music, laughter, and the delightful smells of our Thanksgiving feast. There is nothing quite like it. Israel was the only nation on earth that had these Thanksgiving celebrations to worship and give thanks to their great Jehovah God. In the same way, Thanksgiving is uniquely American. Each year we remember what the Lord has done in our lives and we remember what He has done throughout history for our nation. We have a spiritual legacy, thankfully we can still embrace and celebrate our heritage.

This year as you gather with your family, stop and observe the sounds and smells of that day. Maybe for a moment you can be transported in time to those special days of joy in Jerusalem. Maybe if you close your eyes and listen and smell you can be transported to that first American Thanksgiving as our forefathers gave thanks to the Lord for their new land. Oh yeah, remember the Lord’s command, everyone has to be happy at His celebration.

ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Ps.100:4 – Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Thanksgiving week is upon us. I love it. I enjoy watching the secular news folks tie themselves in pretzels as they avoid the inevitable. Who are with thankful to? In order to be thankful we have to acknowledge the Creator. More than that, giving thanks points to the sovereign nature of our Creator. Giving thanks not only points to His sovereignty it also points to His goodness. In order to give thanks you must acknowledge the personal nature of the Lord, humble yourself acknowledging your dependence on His goodness, and respond to His goodness with worship bathed in giving thanks. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke……So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. Mercy permits us to enter his gates; let us praise that mercy……And into his courts with praise. Into whatever court of the Lord you may enter, let your admission be the subject of praise: thanks be to God, the innermost court is now open to believers….Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances; bless him in all his attributes, from whatever point of view you consider him.”

David said in today’s verse that we can actually enter the gates of His presence with thanksgiving. As we worship and give thanks for all He has done for us in Christ, we suddenly become flooded with the amazing sense of His presence. This attitude of thankfulness drags us out of the realm of self centered ungratefulness and brings us immediately into the courts of our King. Acknowledge Him and His kindness in your life. Lift up your voice and worship Him. As you do your enemies will be scattered and your heart will overflow with the goodness of the Lord.

VOICE OF THANKSGIVING

Ps.100:4,5 – Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.

Nothing like fervent, corporate worship. Actually, worship flows out from our love of God. Once you taste His incredible love that He has for you worship will be your response. One of the places we see this is in Luke where Luke describes a woman of questionable character who had tasted the love and forgiveness of Christ and could not pull herself away from His feet. She was caught up in fervent thanksgiving, washing His feet with her tears, her hair, and some expensive perfume. She was worshipping from her heart, responding to God’s love for her. Thanksgiving always follows love. Once you glimpse His love for you clearly demonstrated at the cross, your heart will overflow with the fervency of giving thanks. Here is a snippet from Jonathan Edwards Thanksgiving Day message from 1734.

“Love is a principal ingredient in the grace of thankfulness. There is a counterfeit thankfulness in which there is no love. But there is love in exercise in all sincere thankfulness. And the greater any person’s love is, the more will he be disposed to praise. Love will cause him to delight in the work. He that loves God, proportionably seeks the glory of God, and loves to give him glory. Now the hearts of the saints in heaven are all, as it were, a pure flame of love. Love is the grace that never faileth; whether there be prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. Faith shall cease in vision, and hope in fruition, but love never faileth. The grace of love will be exalted to its greatest height and highest perfection in heaven; and love will vent itself in praise. Heaven will ring with praise, because it is full of love to God. This is the reason that great assembly, that innumerable host, praise God with such ardency, that their praise is as the voice of many waters, and as the mighty thunderings, because they are animated by so ardent, vigorous, and powerful a principle of divine love.”

So are you ready for Thanksgiving this year? It’s a good opportunity to clear our heads and get back to what really matters in life. Determine this year you will enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

SONG OF HEAVEN

Matt.5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You ever think about the sights and sounds of heaven? In Revelations 14 John tries to describe the singing he heard in heaven. It sounds strangely similar to the way he described the Lord’s voice in Revelation 1. He said the singing had the sound of many waters, like the ocean. Why was the singing so different from the singing on earth? (You know John had heard some powerful worship in his lifetime). I think it all has to do with perception. When you see something worth worship, the worship takes on a new fervency. With eyes wide open the worshippers in heaven are totally unrestrained. Here is how Jonathan Edwards described that scene in his Thanksgiving sermon in 1734.

“They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency, that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.

’Tis from the little that the saints have seen of God, and know of him in this world, that they are excited to praise him in the degree they do here. But here they see but as in a glass darkly; they have only now and then a little glimpse of God’s excellency; but then they shall have the transcendent glory and divine excellency of God set in their immediate and full view. They shall dwell in his immediate glorious presence, and shall see face to face. Now the saints see the glory of God but by a reflected light, as we in the night see the light of the sun reflected from the moon; but in heaven they shall directly behold the Sun of righteousness, and shall look full upon him when shining in all his glory.”

So what about where we are today, do we have a heart of thanksgiving this Thanksgiving in 2018? If Jonathan Edwards is right maybe that is determined by what we have seen of the Lord. Take some time as we celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect on the beauty of the Lord. Maybe you will be struck by His magnificence and be caught up in the heavenly song.

Come and Dine

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Luke 22:29,30 – And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom…

Most people really enjoy the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Christmas all the way through the New Year we will find ourselves celebrating with friends and family. There is something inside of us that wants to be at home sitting around the family table. After all, there is no place like home. I believe that this is something that is part of our human makeup, part of what it means to be created in the image of God. This longing for community is actually a longing for the community that surrounds our Heavenly Father’s table. What a table that must be ! Can you imagine what that day will be like when we are actually in heaven, in our Father’s house, sitting at our prepared place at the table of the Lord? That is what our hearts are really longing for and that is why Thanksgiving and Christmas tables are so special. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the Father’s table.

“Heaven is the house where God dwells with his family. God is represented in Scripture as having a family; and though some of this family are now on earth, yet in so being they are abroad and not at home, but all going home: Ephesians “3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. God has many children, and the place designed for them is heaven; therefore the saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God. God is represented as a householder or head of a family, and heaven is his house. Heaven is the house not only where God hath his throne, but also where he doth as it were keep his table, where his children sit down with him at his table and where they are feasted in a royal manner becoming the children of so great a King.”

What a day that will be! So this year as I celebrate from Thanksgiving through the New Year I’m going to reflect on the greatest of all celebrations that is just ahead. The marriage supper of the Lamb is being prepared, the invitations have been sent out, the table is prepared; Come and dine, the Master is calling.

OFFERING OUR HEART IN THANKSGIVING

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PSA. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And will call upon the name of the LORD.

True spirituality is all about the heart. The world is filled with religious activities that really mean nothing to God. One of the most terrifying passages of scripture is found in Amos 5. It says,

“Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,

I will not accept them,

Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”

I think the Lord gets really tired of religious observances that have nothing to do with the heart. Now don’t misunderstand, the Lord loves worshippers. He even says He is looking for worshippers. The truth is He is only looking for one kind of worshipper; the authentic kind. He is looking for worshippers who worship in Spirit and in truth. That brings us to this question, “How does one receive an authentic heart of worship?” Actually it is connected to giving thanks. When we recognize the kindness and mercy of God our hearts are filled with thanksgiving that spills over in worship and praise. This is the work of God’s grace in our souls. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on giving thanks to the Lord.

“Being thy servant, I am bound to sacrifice to thee, and having received spiritual blessings at thy hands I will not bring bullock or goat, but I will bring that which is more suitable, namely, the thanksgiving of my heart. My inmost soul shall adore thee in gratitude. And will call upon the name of the Lord, that is to say, I will bow before thee reverently, lift up my heart in love to thee, think upon thy character, and adore thee as thou dost reveal thyself. He is fond of this occupation, and several times in this Psalm declares that he will call upon the name of the Lord, while at the same time he rejoices that he had done so many a time before. Good feelings and actions bear repeating: the more of hearty callings upon God the better.”

So that’s it, true religion by definition is a religion of the heart. It is not so much about the outward performance but the thankful heart poured out to God. Give thanks to the Lord, offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving, the offering of your heart.

CONTENT

Related imageHeb.13:5 ¶ Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.

I have been teaching the book of Hebrews in Bethesda for the last several months. The theme of the book of Hebrews is the supernatural life available to us behind the veil. In the last chapter we have today’s verse about contentment. Paul spoke about being content whether he had plenty or if he suffered lack. Obviously, Paul’s view of contentment was far different from what we ordinarily see. The reason is what the book of Hebrews is all about, our contentment comes from this supernatural life we have in Christ. Our contentment doesn’t come from our possessions or our accomplishments, our contentment comes from Christ alone. That’s why this message of fullness or the deeper spiritual life is so practical. Rather than compartmentalizing our life with the spiritual and the natural we see that the whole thing is spiritual. Our ultimate contentment can come from nothing more or nothing other than the Lord. Stepping into intimacy with God is the way to total satisfaction. Here is how Andrew Murray describes it.

“Yes, when God is the portion of the soul, it may well be content with what it has of earth. It is the consciousness of the favor and nearness of God that makes the soul rise above all that the world can offer. To lead the truly Christian life, the life of faith amid daily duties and daily care, we need the presence of God as our better and abiding possession. Our earthly and our heavenly life are more closely linked than we know. Too much of interest in or attachment to earthly things inevitably weakens our hold on God. True fellowship with God at once brings us into the right relation to earthly things. Let our faith study and feed on the promise: Himself hath said, I will in no wise leave thee, nor in any wise forsake thee. The faith that clings to its fulfillment will overcome the world.”
So where have you been focusing your attention to secure contentment in life? Is it financial security that you long for or a new title at work or a better house or a long vacation? Those things are all good but are just not what produces peace and contentment in our soul. Christ is more than enough and He is calling us near.

ARRIVAL

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John 1:1,2 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving which signals the beginning of our sure march to Christmas. This season has been called Advent for two millennia. We are awaiting the arrival of Christmas Day. This Thanksgiving my grandson James was at our house several hours before the rest of the family arrived for our Thanksgiving meal. James was beside himself; he couldn’t wait for the arrival of all the cousins. He was so excited as he anticipated the coming ‘festivities’. That’s exactly how it is for Christians; we are actually waiting for two arrivals. We are excited about the arrival of Christmas Day. It’s not the parties or presents that stirs our hearts, it’s the hope that Christmas Day brings that fills us with expectancy. That day is the celebration that light has entered the world and the age of darkness is about to close. The second arrival is even more mysterious. Just as the faithful in Israel were awaiting the birth of the Messiah at the time of Christ’s birth, we too are waiting for Him. We know His promise is sure and He will return soon in the same way He left. The celebration of His first coming fills our hearts with anticipation of His soon return. Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham on the arrival of Christmas.

“The word Advent means arrival, and it refers to the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. The “Advent season” usually starts four weeks before Christmas and concludes with the celebration of Christ’s birth. Some churches emphasize the Advent season more than others, but all Christians look forward to celebrating Christ’s birth during this season of the year.
Why was Jesus’ birth so important? The reason is because slightly over 2,000 years ago, God stooped down from Heaven and became a human being: Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV).
Think of it: God became a man! He did it because He loves us—and that’s what we should celebrate as Christmas approaches. Take time between now and Christmas to reflect on this great truth.”
I pray the blessing of the Lord be upon you and your house as we enter into this season of joy. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

THANKSGIVING 2016

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Psa. 116:17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the LORD.
Thanksgiving is ingrained in the fabric of our American culture and heritage. Despite the onslaught on our heritage in the last generation, Thanksgiving remains in the hearts of Americans. It began with a simple celebration in the 1600’s as some of our first Americans survived a very unpleasant and difficult winter. They were grateful that many had survived and a harvest had come in that year. All they knew to do was to call a special feast day and give thanks to the Lord. It became a practice of various colonies over the years and became part of our national heritage under our first President, George Washington.

In the 1860’s our nation was being torn by the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln called for a national holiday to give thanks and praise to the Lord which has continued on the fourth Thursday of November since Lincoln’s proclamation. Her is a brief excerpt from his proclamation.

“…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.”
President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Our country is torn again today. At the heart of this conflict is two visions of America. Are we a secular or a Christian society? The way we answer that question will determine our national destiny. Give thanks to the Lord for the Lord is good. His mercy endures forever.