30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 21 – The Patience of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Jeremiah 44:22

“The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day.”

Since the beginning of time, God has patiently been drawing us to Himself, revealing our sin that we might come to repentance and renounce our ways. The weary pattern of our stubborn sin and His merciful redemption is repeated incessantly, revealing God’s great patience. As we wind up in the mud pit again and again, darkened by our own counsel, He picks us up, dusts us off and sets His love on us again and again and again.

In His great kindness and patience, we are not consumed. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All have been offered salvation, but not all have accepted it.

Some have been in awe over the patience of Job, but it cannot even be compared with the patience of our God. Job complained of his plight, while God willingly chose His own suffering to win our hearts.

What patience of God to see our wickedness and to triumph over it with mercy. With mercy. Our flesh would not do as much. Such lavish patience is foreign, undeserved in our eyes. But then so is His amazing grace.

Patience is not permission to sin without consequence. It is not the abuse of grace or the casual acceptance of such an astonishing sacrifice on our part. Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience. It is in the suffering for our sins that our eyes can be opened to recognize our sin and our need of God. Even in our failures, God works patiently to redeem them and us with His mighty salvation.

Oh patient God, lover of our souls! Lord, You are so patient, longsuffering and kind. Thank You for opening our eyes to understand how great Your salvation is. May we never take for granted Your mercy and live lives worthy of Your great sacrifice.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 11 – Veterans

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Thank you, veterans, for being such an example of what it means to live a selfless life.

Scripture of the Day:

John 15:13

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

It is perhaps the most fitting in this month of expressing gratitude that we pause and thank those who have given up so much to serve their country.

The gratitude for the sacrifice given for strangers and a country that has often not expressed enough thanks cannot adequately be conveyed.

Like Christ, veterans willingly choose to forgo their personal concerns and safety. They give up their comforts and leave loved ones to place themselves in harm’s way in an environment that is often intolerable. In extreme heat, cold, a wall of noise or a tentative silence, our veterans face it all nobly with no regret.

Thank you, veterans, for being such an example of what it means to live a selfless life. We applaud you and pray you would be rewarded abundantly for your sacrifice!

Lord, thank you for our soldiers and veterans who have given so freely of their time and lives. Bless them and encourage them that it is not in vain.

 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 5: Root Repair – Jealousy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

Scripture of the Day:

James 3:14-16

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 27:4

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

One more “cleaning house” principle in the caretaking of our roots before we get on to cultivating gratitude the remainder of this month. For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

If you have ever been the recipient of jealousy, you will never want to be the one guilty of it yourself. Jealousy is essentially saying that we are not content with what God has provided. It is coveting what someone else has and sometimes takes on a brutal fashion of trying to take down the other person in an effort to get what we want. Yuck.

So how does jealousy prevent thankfulness? When we are absorbed in wanting something we cannot get or focusing on our lack of having something that someone else has, there is no place for gratitude. Jealousy is the antithesis of thankfulness; it is actually thanklessness and discontent with our status or situation in life.

We root out jealousy by endeavoring to create an atmosphere of humility. God has different plans for us all and we would never want to step outside of His sovereign will to strive to get what someone else has – He won’t bless it.

Examining the attitude of our Savior Who was King over all but chose to serve humanity with the laying down of His own life inspires us to do the same. Victory comes as we lay down our agendas, pride, striving – all at the feet of Jesus – and pick up gratitude that He died for our sins, instead.

There can be no jealousy that remains when we compare our perceived lack with Christ’s chosen path of sacrifice. Whatever we hoped to gain is now all loss as we bow at the cross in utter gratitude that He gave it all for us.

 

Holy Week: “Good” Friday

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Matthew 27:45-46

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

1 Peter 2:24

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Not every culture refers to Good Friday as “good”.  To the casual observer, God being crucified cruelly on a cross is not a good thing.  The day when God the Son chose to be rejected by God the Father in order to save the entire world is not adequately described by the word “good” either.

In His justice and righteousness, our Holy God exacted a punishment and a consequence for sin.  The wages or cost of our sins was death.  We were in need of an intermediary, but the perpetual slaughter of animals could not cleanse us of our habitual sin pattern.

In the middle of that desperate need, God provided Himself as the sacrificial Lamb. Bearing all of the abuse, infirmity and suffering in all the world, He, for the “joy” set before Him, chose to pay our debt.

How is it that we should obtain such grace?  That the One Who made us and saw every sinful inclination of our hearts would look on us with love and choose to die, knowing we were enemies and cheering on His death?

One of my biggest pet peeves is fake people – when people pretend to be my friend but talk about me behind my back or secretly plot harm against me.  They think I do not see. Christ was not fooled, either.  We are all just as guilty of unfaithfulness before our God Whose costly sacrifice was given on our behalf, even while we faltered in our devotion to Him.

Jesus did not entrust Himself to any man, but He gave Himself for every man.

The most powerful Being was the most humble, lavishly loving those Who were not worthy of such love.

With such a sacrifice offered for us, may God help us to die, too – to sin – and live Holy lives to bring Him glory and others to salvation.  His death seemed like an end, but Christ conquered death in dying when He overcame the cross and the grave.  Now that is not just good news, but the best news ever.

Lord, thank You for dying for us.  We can never thank You enough.  Help us to live grateful lives, spent sharing the message of the cross and the empty tomb.  You are Good, God, and all You do is good.

Truthful Tuesday: Sacrificial Worship

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Real worship is not consumerism, but being consumed by God’s greatness.

Scripture:

Genesis 22:7

“Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?””

Romans 12:1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

As a worship leader, I am constantly seeking ways to provoke myself to sincere, passionate worship.  This morning I was reading “Face Down” by Matt Redman and read his perspective on the discussion between Abraham and Isaac when they went to the region of Moria to sacrifice to God.  This same place is said to have been the place where Christ was ultimately crucified.  What a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s provision.

Abraham and Isaac were going to worship God.  Everything that was necessary for their act of worship was there, except for one thing – the sacrifice.  The son noticed the need and willingly provided himself.  God provided the Lamb.

When we come to worship God, whether it is in our homes or at church, where is our sacrifice?  The music is there, the stage is set, and we need to respond.

In an entertainment-saturated society, it can be easy to approach worship in a consumer-like fashion, but worship is not worship if it does not cost us something.

What does this sacrifice look like?  It will be different for everyone, but it begins with a contrite heart, provoked to in Holy fear to be in awe of the sacrifice that God made for us. Complacency is not on the altar, nor distracted sheep going through the motions.  No, just grateful hearts, spared death, alive in Christ, laying down their burdens and overcome with God’s amazing love.  Basking in His Word, afresh with new revelation, we lie prostrate before the King of kings.

Lord, we worship YOU!  You are Holy, perfect and beyond our comprehension.  Help us to worship You in spirit and truth.  Be glorified in our worship services and provoke our hearts to sincere worship. 

Scriptural Sunday: Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name.”

Today as I was leading worship at my church, the LORD was speaking to my heart about a song I had written a few weeks back.  As I prepared to share it with the congregation, my heart’s desire was that the congregation would know that the message in this song was for them, that God loves them so much.  I prayed for healing and that they would know He came for an imperfect, broken people; that His love and grace cover all of our sorrows and shame.

Sometimes people do not understand how someone could stand in front of 500 people, or in front of anyone, for that matter, and sing a song.  What drives a singer/songwriter to do that?  A sacrifice of praise.

Innately, I am a shy person who wept when the LORD first called me to be on the stage to share songs before man.  I grew up playing a mini-tuba (ok, I could say Euphonium, but most of you would probably not know what that was, lol), with the music stand in front of my face so no one could see me.  Now I have a piano in front of me that I have played and led worship with for 24 years.  I like it that way.  Somehow I am hidden and people will see Jesus, not me.

God is glorified in the weak things, and when He enables me to step out of my shy place of comfort to testify how Holy and awesome He is, it is a miracle indeed!  It is an incredibly humbling experience to share a song that was between me and God.  It is as if it is a part of my soul that I am being vulnerable enough to share as an offering – a private moment of worship and thanksgiving to my God, released as a fragrant aroma to Him.

All too often musicians can feel, though, that they are being evaluated – their motives, their desires, their performance. What was acceptable to God can be picked apart.  This speculation makes it even more difficult to step out, but passion for worship of God drives the worship leader on.  If you have ever wondered what is going on in the mind and heart of a worship leader, know that they are imperfect beings who long to worship God and feel an accountability to do so with a pure heart.

We all share our abilities to serve the body of Christ, but ultimately, all our talents are presented to the King of kings as a gift for Him.  Some serve God by greeting the congregation, some serve by caring for children.  Some teach, some preach, some clean, some serve refreshments, some work the sound system and some sing and play instruments.  All are needed and important, all are an offering.

Not one role should be evaluated as better than another.  Jealousy can lead to a bitter root and cause divisiveness that should not take place in the body of Christ when we consider that our positions might look different, but all are an offering to Him.  We would not want to complain about our place and dismantle the sacrifice of praise while we pursue our own glory. It is in those moments that we have to remember Whose glory we are seeking and to just love one another.  That is part of the sacrifice – loving one another despite our different positions in the body of Christ.

If you serve on the worship team, God bless you!  Your labor is not in vain!  If you are led each Sunday by someone serving on the worship team, please encourage these worshipers.  Their hearts are poured out for you and for God.  Indeed, it is a sacrifice but an amazing privilege, as well.

Lord, be glorified in our lives in our worship of You, in everything we do.  Whether we worship You through singing, serving, or in everyday life, may all of it be pleasing in Your sight.

If this blog has ministered to you, perhaps the music ministry of Seeing Deep will, too!  We are raising support to record a new CD.  You can be a part and pre-order the music at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep

Sacrifice of Praise

Photo Credits  thedeepcalls.com

Photo Credits thedeepcalls.com

2 Samuel 24:24 – “…I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”

Hebrews 13:15 – “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

Romans 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

I missed blogging one day this week and as I was driving, the Lord whispered to my heart, “bring me the sacrifice of praise”.  I started to ponder this word sacrifice and wondered if my praise was truly a sacrifice – truly what God desired.  I am grateful that we no longer need to offer animals to pay for our sin.  I think our family dog is grateful, too.  I tease my family that we would be having barbeques 24/7 if we were still under the Old Testament law, to cover all of our iniquities.  Not barbeques with meat we casually purchase on sale from Wal-Mart, no, live animals slaughtered because of our sin.  I fear, though, that we are so far away from the Old Testament that the meaning and significance of sacrifice is lost today. Do we take for granted the high cost paid for each and every sin committed?  I want to be ever mindful of God’s very life laid down when I am tempted to sin.  I do not want to cheapen the grace given to me by permitting or excusing sin, no, the sacrifice which was completely free to me was much more costly than that kind of treatment.  It is this awareness that makes me so grateful that I burst into praise and meditate on God’s unparalleled greatness and mercy.  A sacrifice of praise.

Perhaps most of the time, though, I can go through the motions, if I really am reflective enough to consider my praise.  I have been worshiping God for over 26 years as my Savior and even though every time I have the privilege of leading worship at church and have moments of being in awe of God, I daresay it falls short of a sacrifice.  Sacrifice speaks of cost – it is not easy, it is not mere duty.  Much like a spouse would not be thrilled with a passionless love, our God deserves an all-consuming passion; He deserves our very best.

Abel understood what it meant to give his best – he was thrilled and eager to do so.  David, too, said he could not give something if it did not cost him.  How beautiful.  Today, when I am cognizant of my sin and need for God’s covering, I cannot slaughter an animal, but I can die to self.  To be a living sacrifice – dying daily to the flesh, consecrated to the Lord moment by moment, that is something that glorifies God.  The symbolism of the death in the Old Testament is lived out today as believers no longer live for their own way, but offer themselves to God and let Christ reign in them.

Mankind was the same then as today – people sometimes tried to offer crippled animals or not the best of what they had to pay the required atonement.  May God help us to never grow too familiar with His amazing gift and to endeavor to live lives worthy of His perfect sacrifice.  May we fear God and seek to give Him our first fruits and not rationalize our actions away that fall short of His glory, but instead run to Him and offer our sacrifice of praise, praying that He will once again cover us with His love.

Lord, thank You that You have forgiven my sins and shown me how to love sacrificially.  Help us to honor You with our very best and never lose our zeal.  May we worship You with all our hearts in full abandon.