THANKSGIVING IS A HIGH HONOR!

I am doing a good bit of embroidery since last Christmas when my beloved husband gave me an embroidery sewing machine.  Although I am certainly not an expert in using the machine and all its features, I am enjoying my new-found hobby immensely. 

20180418_134047

We joke that the machine is the “gift that keeps on taking”!

20180811_230305

Because of the continuing costs of fabric, embroidery floss, stabilizers, and, of course, embroidery patterns there is some basis for this assertion. 

20180509_115228

I was looking at new designs and found many with Thanksgiving as the theme, understandably so since, in the United States, we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22.

There were innumerable designs, many with expressions such as:

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

“A Grateful Heart is a Thankful Heart”

“O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”

“There Is Always Something to be Thankful For”

“Grateful Hearts Gather Here”

While it seems that our celebration of Thanksgiving often is more focused on the meal including the turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the real foundation for our Thanksgiving is not food, not even a great harvest: it is in our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the book of Leviticus, we read:

“”And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.  With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”

Leviticus 7:11-13

Thanksgiving was a part of worship throughout the Old Testament.

“Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.”

1 Chronicles 16:7

“And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.”

Nehemiah 12:8.  These folks were specifically set apart to be in charge of the thanksgiving songs of the people in worship.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 50:23

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving continues to be extolled in the New Testament as well.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:4

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

Thanksgiving will continue even after the end of the age and we are in Heaven with God. 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 7:9-12

Can you hear it?  Can you see it in your mind’s eye? 

Thanksgiving is not just something that is imposed on people.  Rather it is from the heart and it is ranked in the same category as “blessing”, “glory”, “wisdom”, “honor”, “power”, and “might”.  Listen as these words are sung in the Chorus “Worthy is The Lamb That Was Slain” as presented in Handel’s The Messiah. 

Thanksgiving is due to God because of Who He is and what He has done for His people.  Thanksgiving is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, because of His atoning work on the cross that paid the price of our sin, satisfied the wrath of God against us because of our sin.  Thanksgiving is due to the Holy Spirit for His quickening of our hearts which had been dead because of sin, and for His leading and guiding us as we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Make thanksgiving the norm, the modus operandi of your daily walk.  Look for opportunities to give our Lord thanks throughout the day, however murky and disappointing it may be.  At a minimum you could thank Him for life, grace, mercy, and His unconditional and unfailing love … that should provide sufficient fuel for you to lift your eyes and your heart to Him, even as the day is swirling around you.

Blessings to you as you journey along your walk of faith. 

Father forgive me for the multitude of times that I have accepted Your gifts with open hands without so much as a whispered prayer of thanks.  Forgive me for the myriad of days that have passed through my fingertips without any acknowledgment from me that the day is, in itself, a gift from You, a gift for which I should be profoundly thankful. Lord, forgive me for accepting the gift of mercy and grace, of salvation and of Your love without even humbling myself so as to bow at Your feet in adoration and thanksgiving for the great work that You did in securing my salvation from my sin.  Lord, have mercy and forgive.

SWEET

Sweet.  This is a word that has recently gone through a metamorphosis of meaning.  It used to mean, almost exclusively, something that was sugary, lucious or candied.  But now it has taken on a somewhat different turn.

The Urban Dictionary now defines “sweet” as:

An intensive used to express satisfaction, acceptance, pleasure, excellence, exaltation, approval, awe, or reverence. When used individually, the level of satisfaction expressed is most often directly proportionate to the duration of the vowel sound.   

Compare:

“Mashed potatoes for dinner!  Sweet.”
“I just won a million dollars? SWEEEEEEET!”

This week, I opened the window on the porch and immediately I was surrounded by the sweet aroma of honeysuckle combined with the knock-out roses beneath the window.  I had seen the roses begin to bloom, but I lost track of time and did not expect to have such a wonderful surprise.

Roses outside window cropped

Sweet aroma – what a glorious gift.  That was SWEEEEET!

Scripture talks of sweet aromas, in both the Old and New Testaments. 

In the book of Genesis, God created the plants and trees, commanding the earth to bring forth vegetation, including plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit which contains their seed, each according to its kind. Genesis 1:11-12.  The beautiful blooms and scents of the flowering plants are all part of God’s magnificent creation that evokes each of the senses, including sight and smell.

In the book of Exodus, God directs that “fragrant incense” be used in His Tabernacle.  His worship was not to be unlovely or boring, notwithstanding the fact that they were in the wilderness.  It was to include beautiful furnishings, draperies, clothing and golden ornaments; and I was to be bathed in fragrant incense.

The Psalmist talks of the sacrifices that he would bring to God, and says:

“I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah”

Psalm 66:15 NKJV

The Psalmist also says that the Lord wants our thoughts and meditations to be sweet:

May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD.”

Psalm 104:34

I can have sweet meditations with the Lord only one way, when I am living in sweet communion with Him and have His Word in my heart.  

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Psalm 119:103

The New Testament describes the sweet, fragrant offering that believers bring to God, through Jesus Christ:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

Indeed, Paul tells, the Corinthians that we are the aroma of Christ to God and those around us:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” 

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Finally, we read of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John, the last book in the Holy Bible.  There we read that the prayers of the saints on earth are brought to God with sweet incense:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Revelation 5:8

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Revelation 8:3-4  

Here we are told that the prayers of the saints was the incense that rose before God.  Can you imagine the depth of the privilege of prayer?  The prayers of sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb constitute the very incense in the temple of our God. Have we been praying diligently for God’s kingdom and for His children? 

So, Beloved, what kind of fragrance best describes you?  I don’t mean what perfume, cologne or after shave you use.  I mean, when you have an interaction with someone, what aroma do you leave with them?  Is it the smell of anger, hate, distrust, complaint, dissatisfaction?  Is it the stench of lies, abuse, deception, or arrogant pride?

Or is it the pleasing aroma that comes when the Spriit of God lives within the child of God?  Is it the aroma of a loving, kind and encouraging spirit?  Is it the sweet fragrance of God’s Word in action, giving aid to those in need and lending a hand to someone in pain? 

USED First rose of the summer

What scent do you spread when you walk through your world?

What do you smell when I pass by?

I pray it is the sweet-smelling fragrance of a heart and soul given to the Lord Jesus Christ, living for Him in witness to His great salvation and atonement for the Children of God.

Father, I pray that which the Psalmist prayed so long ago, may my meditation be sweet to You, Father, and may I be glad in the LORD Jesus Christ, my Savior and my King.

LOVE IS A COMMAND — NOT A FEELING!

We speak of love often in our conversation with others.  We love people, animals, objects and activities and it is usually a love that is conditioned on a multitude of different factors.  For example, we love those related to us in a different way than we do our general acquaintances. 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

We love some flowers and not others. 

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
Flower garden in Maine

We love certain foods while others wouldn’t eat it or even touch it! 

 

Fish at Dancing Bear Lodge
Sea Bass with head and skeleton. Delicious said our son, while his wife wouldn’t even watch him eat it!

In our modern culture, we fall in love and things are heavy with passion and emotion.  But, when difficulties arise or when someone younger/prettier/richer comes along, we fall out of love; and often there is just as much heated passion against the other party as there was when we fell in love in the first place. 

The bottom line is that there is almost always self-motivated volition involved in human love.  And, we consider love as an emotion, as something that we feel, and when the feeling is gone or when it is transferred somewhere else, so is the love.

But, not so with God.  Scripture says that God IS love.  It is one of the attributes of our God – it is part and parcel of His nature. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

Indeed, we are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!   In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus reiterated this commandment in Matthew 22:37 and then He expanded the command in Mark 12:29-31 by saying we are to love God as commanded in Deuteronomy, but then we are also to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

Jesus took love out of the emotional/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.  Love is action rather than mere emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are not to have mushy, mind consuming passion for our neighbor; we are to love him/her.

 The Apostle John elaborates on the commandment to love others when he says:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

We love him, because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

There it is in a nutshell – we love God BECAUSE He first loved us.  We cannot love Him on our own – we are sinners and He is holy.  We can’t do anything spiritually to make Him love us — all our “good works” are like filthy rags in comparison to the holiness of God.   See Isaiah 64:6.  BUT, God Himself gave His Son so that we could approach Him, so that we could love Him, so that we could love others through Him.

Since we received love while we were undeserving sinners, we certainly should not have any trouble following the commandment to love others, whether they are loveable or not, whether they return the love to us or not, whether they like us or not, whether they can help us achieve some goal or not. 

There should be no reciprocal obligation in our love to others.  God’s love to us is one directional – He initiates it and gives it to us through His grace.  Yes, we are to love Him in return, but the full commandment is that we love others as he loved us. 

That is the way we are to love others, especially those who are of the family of faith.  We may not agree with each other on various issues, but if we are Christians, if we have been adopted into the family of God, we are commanded to love each other.  

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

God loved us even when we were dead in our sin and unholy before Him.  He sent Jesus Who walked in love and gave Himself to the death on the cross so that we could be accepted by God, so that our sin would be paid for, and so that we would be granted the righteousness of Jesus.  When we understand the gravity of our sin and the holiness of God, we will see that we can and must love others unconditionally, because but for the grace of God we would be in the same condition before God. 

Others will know that we have been adopted into God’s family by the way we love them. 

In this new year, love others as He loved us.  Unconditionally, whole-heartedly, and without judgment.  Let our love for others be our witness of our love for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Take love out of the world of platitudes and put it into action, real life, concrete, discernible and undeniable action.

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love others as You have loved me. And I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You. 

 

HEAVENLY PRAISE, HERE AND NOW

What do we do in worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and of the Father, Creator of the Universe and Lover of our Souls?   Some of us go to large churches with beautiful scenes depicted in stained glass and a carillon ringing from the bell tower.

Church with stianed glass window
Large, stone, church with beautiful stained glass windows.

 

Others of us go to neighborhood churches that do not have the same type formal adornments but which provide a family atmosphere  among the members.

Church in neighborhood
Neighborhood church with large cross adorning the front of the building.

 

There are a variety of activities that we engage in as we worship in our local church, and those activities vary with the denomination of which we are a part.

 

However, I suggest that we could look at the worship in heaven and take that as a guide for our worship here on our spinning globe.

 

We have a beautiful description of the praise that is given to God in the vision that Isaiah had of the Lord, sitting upon His throne.  Read the words of Isaiah and then close your eyes and picture what he saw.  The heavenly creatures whose function is to praise the Lord because the Lord is deserving of all praise and glory:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:1-4.

Scripture continues to say that, in response to the incredible vision of the Lord, Isaiah fell to the ground proclaiming that he was a sinner, that he had unclean lips. Then, he was cleansed when the angel touched his lips with a coal from the fire, thereby allowing him to stand before God.  [I submit that a true understanding of who God is and who we are will result in terrible awe as we recognize that we cannot stand before God, without His intervention to cleanse us of our sin.  A holy God cannot look upon sinful creatures nor can a holy God tolerate or excuse sin.  However, back to the topic of praise!]

 

Isaiah is not the only one in Scripture who had a vision of the Lord and the praise rendered ceaselessly to Him.  This praise to the Lord is described by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”   And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:8-11

 

Clearly, we should praise God with our lives, our words and actions as well as the motives of our hearts.  But, our praise to God also extends beyond ourselves, even to our corporate worship each Sunday, for it is there that we glorify God in the presence of other believers as the Holy Spirit is present with us.  In fact, Scripture exhorts us to worship the Lord and give Him glory in all that we do, whether it is in church or not.

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31.

 

So, the question becomes:  “Do I praise the Lord every day?”  Do you?  Not with a plastic sneering grit your teeth mantra of “praise the Lord” whenever something bad happens, but with heart-felt humbleness as we remember all that God has done for us through Christ our Lord.  Even if a trial comes our way, if distress raises its head, we have the calm assurance that God is in control and He is sovereign.  He will use even the things we consider negative to teach us something about Himself and to draw us closer to Him.

 

Go ahead … join David when he says “Praise the Lord!”  In fact, the exhortation to “Praise the Lord” is found 49 times in Psalms alone.  Clearly, praise is important to our God!  Here are just a few verses from Psalms about praising God:

 

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!

Psalm 112:1

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Psalm 148:1

 

In fact, make praise the default position of our spirit no matter what comes our way.  Anticipate that God will use each situation for His purposes, and praise Him for having you in His hands and for Him being with you all the way.

 

How can I praise the Lord?  Sing.  Not only do Scriptures exhort us to praise the Lord, but we are told to sing to the Lord.  Here is a sampling of verses with this directive:

 

Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.

1 Chronicles 16:23

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Psalm 104:33

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

Psalm 147:7

 

Singing to our God is exhibited in the New Testament as well.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, … .

Act 16:25

… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, …

Ephesians 5:19

 

Praise God.  Sing a song, out loud.  [You don’t even need to be in the shower!]  Go ahead and let out your praise in prison, at home, in the car, in church, in the choir, wherever you are.  It matters not whether you can carry a tune or read music … your song will be transformed by the Spirit into heart tones that are pleasing to our Father and that will bounce back to you in enriching joy and peace, filling you with His comfort throughout the day.

 

Here is Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song entitled “O come, let us sing”  which features the text of Psalm 95:1-3.  This song was composed by Joey Holder and is on the album entitled The Power of Thanksgiving.  I pray that you will listen and memorize these verses so you will be reminded as you go through your day that the Lord desires praise and we can rightfully provide that praise because He is a great God and a King above all gods.

 

 

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:1-3

 

Go ahead, praise Him even now.  Lift your voice in song and praise the Lord!

 

Father, forgive me when I have gone through the day with a grumpy spirit, or with a frown on my face rather than the glow of your love.  Forgive me when I have forgotten all that you have done for me through Jesus Christ. Accept my petition and enable me to give You praise today, through my words, actions and thoughts.