Thursday, November 28, 2013

It Is Good To Give Thanks To God

"Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"
Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31 (NKJV)

If we hear something once it might or might not be important.  If we hear something repeated two or three times we usually take notice.  But, when we see something repeated four times it is obviously something we need to pay attention to.  In Psalm 107 this one statement about being thankful is repeated word for word four times, that is significant!  This Psalm is filled with reminders of good things that God has done and it repeats the idea that it would be right for people who have experienced God's goodness to give thanks to God for all of the wonderful things He has done.

A good example of this is seen in the story of Israel coming out of Egypt and traveling through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  When you read the story of this journey, instead of seeing Israel giving thanks to God as they should, you see them complaining about how bad the wilderness is and how wonderful it was back in Egypt (where they were slaves), how they wished they had better food to eat (even though God's provision literally came out of nowhere to feed them), and how every difficulty brought crying and complaining (even though time after time God delivered them).

It is easy for us to say, "Well, if I was in that situation I would be thankful".  But in reality we are often just like the people of Israel, instead of being thankful for what we do have we wish we had something even better.  Certainly there are times when things could be better than they are but we have the choice about what we will focus on.  We can be thankful for what we do have or we can complain about what we don't have.  If we take some time to really consider the good things that God has done in our life it will help us to be thankful.  Make the choice today to be thankful and focused on the good things you have received and not be a complainer about what you don't have.  It is good to give thanks to God!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Following The Direction Of The Holy Spirit

"Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys."
Exodus 40:36-38 (NKJV)

In the Old Testament we find many great stories about God dealing with and helping His people.  There are many examples of spiritual truth in these stories.  One great example is how God led His people through the wilderness.  God brought them out of their bondage in Egypt to lead them into the place He had planned for them.  God did not just deliver them and then tell them to figure out how to get where they needed to go.  God gave Israel a means of continual guidance throughout their journeys, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

The story of how Israel was led by the pillar of cloud and fire shows how God directed His people to know when to move and when not to move.  This is a problem for many Christians.  We sometimes think we need to constantly be in motion and moving forward by doing, doing, doing.  But there will be times that God leads us to a certain place spiritually or even geographically and we need to stay in this place for some time.  We may feel like the scenery, spiritually or geographically, is too boring but unless God is leading us on we should not go further.

Another good example of this is found in the life of Jesus, He only did what His Father directed Him to do (John 5:19).  Jesus was not just doing something to keep busy, Jesus was divinely directed by God in everything that He did and even didn't do; this is a good pattern for us to emulate.  Sometimes it is better for us to stay where we are, doing what we are doing, for a time.  If we are always in a rush to move on to the next thing to do we might miss something that God has for us right where we are!  We need to follow the direction that the Holy Spirit gives us for every area of our lives; when He wants us to move, we follow; when He wants us to stay where we, are we stay.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your Real Life Is In Christ

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

There are a lot of things that we can use to identify ourselves.  Many people have a passport, a driver's license, an identity card, or something else that they can use to show who they are.  The same thing is true for us as Christians, we have something we can use to show who we are and to identify ourselves.  We are not just who we were born as naturally with the identity of a man or woman from some country with some ethnic background.  When we become born again we get a whole new identity and our new identity is found in Christ.

Some people base their identity on the family they come from, the color of their skin, their educational or economic standing, or some other external factor.  But, for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior we now have a new identity.  The Bible tells us in Colossians 3 that we need to have our attention focused on heavenly, spiritual realities because our life, who we really are, is hidden in Christ.  What is even better than this is that our new identity is described to us throughout the New Testament so we have an easy way to learn all about who we really are.

The Bible tells us that we are new creations in Christ, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  No matter what you have done in the past, good or bad, you have a new start with God in Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that we are now the righteousness of God in Christ, we have the same right standing with God that Jesus does!  These are just a few of the things about who we really are in Christ.  We need to learn about our true identity from God's Word and know who we are in Christ.  Once we know who we really are it will change how we live and help us to change the world!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prayer, It's Not Just For Emergencies

"Pray without ceasing"
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)

Prayer is a topic that is often misunderstood.  Some people think prayer is some mystical experience that can only be done by super spiritual people.  Others think that prayer is going to God and begging and pleading with Him to convince Him to do something.  Still other people think that prayer is nothing more than a desperate, last resort that is only used in great times of crisis.  But, none of these views are based on what the Bible says about prayer.  Prayer is simply communication with God and it can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul encouraged believers to pray without ceasing.  Did Paul mean that all Christians should be talking to God nonstop?  This is obviously not correct.  So what did Paul mean when he talked about praying without ceasing?  What else does the Bible say about this?  In Luke 18:1 Jesus talked about people always praying and not giving up or fainting.  In Romans 12:12 Paul told the believers to continue to persevere in prayer.  All three of these verses show us that prayer is something we need to do on a regular, persistent basis and we need to be ready to pray at all times.

Prayer should not be a difficult and strenuous activity that wears us down.  Prayer is communicating with God and it should be done on a regular basis and not just in an emergency.  Our foundation for prayer is what God has already said in His Word and as we pray we take our place as a child of our loving Heavenly Father to fellowship with Him and do business with Him, to bring our requests to Him and to receive His wisdom. We all need to have a lifestyle of prayer where we bring our problems to God but where we also come to worship God and to spend time with Him and to allow Him to speak to us.