Gratitude

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”             Hebrews 12:28-29

The reason for the gratitude that naturally flows from our hearts is twofold.  We are grateful, of course, for an eternal home that has been prepared for us in the presence of our Mighty Creator and the Lamb, who purchased us with His own blood.  This is a home that is better than anything we have ever experienced or hoped for on earth, and it is an eternal one which shall never be taken away or destroyed.  (Hebrews 10:34, 11:16, 35, 1 Peter 1:3-5)

pexels-photo-842876.jpegSecondly, this is a reassuring confidence, in light of the wrath we might rightfully expect for our selfish and rebellious attitudes and actions.  The contrast between what is deserved and  what is received is astounding and motivating.

Gratitude is the natural response when dread of this shaking is transformed into relief and rejoicing for our permanent home in His kingdom.  Reverence and awe are the product of this gratitude.  Our unshakable kingdom is both unexpected and undeserved.  This is grace.  Reverence and awe produce action in keeping with the wonder we experience within.  Our hands, feet, and lips respond in service that is acceptable to our gracious God who redeemed us.

Lord let my thoughts, words, and actions reflect gratitude appropriate for Your undeserved favor.

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Examine me, O Lord . . .

Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
”      Psalm 26:2

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
”         Psalm 139:23-24

One way God shows us what is within us to to put us through testing, for our benefit, so that we may see dangers in our character and habits that could lead us to personal loss and harm to His kingdom.  spilled waterWe find out quickly what is within a glass when it is shaken or bumped.  There were proving grounds near my childhood home where new car designs were tested by pushing them to the limits on the road course.  Other products are tested for strength before release to the public, to assure our safety.strength testing

I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
 Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of
suffering.”           Isaiah 48:10

Of course, our great Physician knows where to poke and prod to make His diagnosis.  He helps us to see what is in our hearts, what occupies our minds.  What are my loves?  My idols?  What do I love more than Him?  What fills my thoughts as I go through each day?  What am I worried about?

I should welcome such helpful, but painful diagnostic efforts.  When He shows me the ugly habits of thinking and acting within me, then I can offer them back to Him for cleansing and needed mid-course corrections.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my anxious thoughts!

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Keep your eye on the ball

Paul teaches us that our true life is in heaven, despite what is apparent to us in day-to-day living.  “. . even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, . .”         Ephesians 2:5-6

After he states the same glorious news in Colossians 2:12-13, he goes on to apply that reality to our everyday living:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”     Colossians 3:1-3

golfAs the golfer must “keep his eye on the ball,” to hit accurately, so must we keep our spiritual goal in front of us.  The focus of our mind’s eye has everything to do with accomplishing our goals in life.  As Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  If then the eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

This can take enormous concentration to shut out other distractions competing for our attention.  biathalonA biathlon athlete must ignore lungs that are screaming for oxygen, a rapid heartbeat that makes his trigger finger and whole body shake, and the distraction of other athletes firing around him.  But to hit his target, he must ignore them and focus on the target.  He even waits until between heartbeats and breaths to pull the trigger.  Similarly, we must fight to keep the earthly concerns of our life in proper perspective, such as job, health, family, friends, entertainment, and hobbies.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”      Colossians 3:13-14

Help me, Lord, to fix the eyes of my mind on my true life, which is hidden with Christ in You, putting in proper perspective the fluctuating details of my earthly existence.

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Cleansing, for Fruitfulness

We want badly to be useful to our Master, to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”         2 Timothy 2:20-22
What fuel we feed the engine of our heart will determine how well it will run.  coal on trainHow blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”                    Psalm 1:1-3

Jesus cleanses us with His Word, for the purpose of usefulness for His kingdom.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”    John 15:3-5

. . . Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. . .”     Ephesians 5:25-26

Cleanse us, O Lord, as we abide in You, fixing the eyes of our hearts on You, through the medium of Your Word.  Restore us to usefulness for Your kingdom purposes!

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God forbid that we should trample the spring!

We are ambassadors for Christ, God’s representatives on earth.  (2 Corinthians 5:20)  Like earthly ambassadors of states, we are to represent our country and Leader in the very best light possible.

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”                               1 Peter 2:12

fountainAlthough this our assignment and goal, we often fail to represent our Master’s beauty clearly.  We can distort His image.   “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”        Proverbs 25:26

If our hearts are misdirected to the visible world and the satisfaction our own selfish ends, we will be poor ambassadors of our King.  It is a heart issue.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil;  for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”      Luke 6:45       For this reason, we are to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”      Proverbs 4:23

How are we to do this, to watch over our hearts?  One strategy is to guard what goes into our hearts.  We should keep a “doorman” at the gateway to our minds and hearts, only allowing entrance to edifying thought-guests, those who have His invitation to enter, and out-going passage to word-guests and actions which honor our King.  eyesThe eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”        Matthew 6:22-23          

Guarding of the door of our hearts goes far to cleanse our innermost being, that we will not pollute the well or trample the spring of God’s reputation on earth. 

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God works through you

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”        Ephesians 2:10      NASB
wedding-dresses-fashion-character-bride-157757.jpeg“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.   It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.     Revelation 19:8
 
Although believers dress for their marriage to their Savior the Lamb in clothes composed of the righteous acts they have performed in life, these clothes were given to them by Another.  In Ephesians, Paul might have said that it is God who makes appropriate “clothes” for us to wear.
I realize I can never please God in my own strength, never correct my own faults by self-improvement.  So I rest in Him, and He works His will through me.  He does perfectly what I have never been able to successfully do all my life.  He empowers me for holy living, but it is still I who have to execute it, as I rest in Him.  He lives His righteous life through me.
pexels-photo-274026.jpegI am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”       John 15:5
 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who livebut Christ lives in me;  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”   Galatians 2:20
gloved handUsing a hand-in-glove analogy, God is the hand doing the good works He intended us to do, and we are the glove through which He does good things in His world.  Our job is to let Him do that.
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He pursues us

As I grieve over family and friends who have not yet found a nourishing relationship with the Almighty, I am comforted by this love story:  In an unlikely but wonderful way, the Creator of the Universe courts us.  Unbelievably, He pursues us in creative ways.  He longs to date us!  He is eager for us to respond to Him.  Through the prophet Hosea, the Almighty God likens himself to a kindly, forgiving husband, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her. . . And she will sing there as in the days of her youth. . . And I will betroth you to Me forever;  yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.  Then you will know the Lord.”       Hosea 2:14, 15, 19, 20

Can you hear Him crying out to you, beckoning for you to come to Him?  “Ho!  Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.   Isaiah 55:1

Half Dome at SunsetOne way He woos us to Himself is through the overwhelming beauty and complexity of Creation.  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God;  and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”   Psalm 19:1-2

And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O Lord; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.  For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord?”   Psalm 89:5-6

praying over BibleA second way God extends His heart to us is in His word.  “How sweet are Thy words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! . . . Thy for is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. . . The unfolding of Thy words gives light;  it gives understanding to the simple.  I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments.”     Psalm 119:103, 105, 130-131    (See also Jeremiah 15:16.)

A third way God calls us to Himself is showing us Himself in Christian character.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, ads they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”     1 Peter 2:12

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”   Acts 4:13

As I pray for my friends who have not yet formed a friendship with God, these are three windows I pray will open for them, that they might see their Heavenly Lover and invite Him in.

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