Thankful People

The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, the one element of the Tabernacle that was God’s special dwelling place. David set out to bring the Ark home, and the people and their king were ecstatic with joy and gratitude. They celebrated with sacrifices and offerings to the LORD and joyful thanks. 1 Chronicles 16:41 says, “With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD, ‘for His love endures forever.’” Did you catch that these priests were “chosen…to give thanks to the LORD”? Their sole responsibility was to lead the Israelites in songs and expressions of gratitude to the LORD who was again dwelling among His people.

You and I are chosen by God to be His royal priests. We are chosen to give thanks. We have been given the special calling of leading our families, churches, communities, and nation in gratitude to the God who created us, sustains us, provides for us, and, most importantly of all, saved and redeemed us and made us His dwelling place through His Holy Spirit. You and I are God’s priests , chosen to led the way in thanksgiving. Yes, even in 2020. Especially in 2020. As long as there’s breath in your body Beloved, you have a reason to give thanks.

Wanted. Chosen. Loved.

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Recently, I had the most practical example of the helmet of Salvation. I had been reading in Luke 15 – Jesus’ parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Satan, who will twist even the Word of God into a fiery dart, began to taunt me: “You are a lost cause.” “You are always in trouble and God is getting tired of pulling your butt out of the mud.”
Almost simultaneously, my sister-in-law called me with a word. She had no idea what was going on in my head. She felt compelled to shared Isaiah 41:9-10 with me: “You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, For I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Then she reminded me of John 15:13-17 and Jesus calling us His friends. One verse jumped out at me: “You did not choose me, but I chose you . . . ” (v. 16). One word in both passages caught my attention: “Chose.” God chose me.
For a kid who grew up being the last one chosen in P.E., that was huge and it became my helmet of Salvation. I am chosen. He didn’t choose me because of anything good or worthy in me. It was because of His love. Nothing more and nothing less. God chose me, despite my tendency to fall into the mud. I am not a lost cause. I am chosen. He chose me and saved me – I belong to Him and He loves me.
The helmet of Salvation is given to protect our mind – the enemy’s favorite target. Every lie and accusation he speaks to us can either sink deep into our psyche or it can bounce off of the protection of Christ’s salvation. Beloved, if you are saved by the blood of Jesus, nothing the devil says has any authority over you. Nothing. Not one thing. Keep the assurance of your salvation as a covering for your mind and let the enemy’s taunts bounce back at his feet.

Chosen for Thanksgiving

“With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the Lord, ‘for His love endures forever.’” 1 Chronicles 16:41

Today is Thanksgiving – and, prompted by the Spirit of God, I began to research the word “thank” in Scripture.  There are more than 130 verses in the Bible that speak of thanks, thanksgiving, thankfulness, etc.  Jesus often spoke to His Father saying “I give thanks…” Paul’s letters are filled with thanks, and I am convinced that his grateful heart was one of the biggest contributors to his joyfulness in spite of his circumstances.  And Paul had some mighty unpleasant, difficult, life-threatening circumstances.  But I believe Paul could be grateful because he knew who he was, and more importantly, he knew whose he was.

At least twice in his letters, Paul identified himself as “called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1), and “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1).  The word “called,” in its root meaning is “chosen.”  Paul knew that he had been chosen, and the One who chose him was Christ Jesus.  Did you know that you are also “chosen”?  I discovered at least seven verses in the New Testament that express exactly that.  My favorite is 1 Peter 2:9 which says: “Buy you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light” (emphasis added).  You and I are also chosen and called by the same Savior who called Paul.  We have been chosen to be God’s unique and special people – not by anything was are or have or do – but only by the mercy and grace of Him who chose us.

I am especially drawn today to our key verse – 1 Chronicles 16:14.  Let me set the scene for you.  The Ark of the Covenant, the one element of the Tabernacle that was God’s special dwelling place, had been captured by Israel’s enemy, the Philistines.  David set out to bring the Ark home, and the people and their king were ecstatic with joy and gratitude. David, the Psalmist and musician, crafted a beautiful Psalm of Thanks, which I encourage you to read in 1 Chronicles 16.  They celebrated with sacrifices and offering and much joyful thanks.  Now look again at our key verse.  Do you see that there were specific priests who were “chosen…to give thanks to the Lord”?  Their sole responsibility was to express gratitude to the Lord who was again dwelling among His people.  They led the Israelites in songs and exclamations of thanks.

You and I are chosen by God to be His royal priests.  We are chosen by the Lord to give thanks.  We have been given the special calling of leading our families, churches, communities and nation in gratitude to the Lord, the God who created us, sustains us, provides for us, and, most importantly of all, the One who saved and redeemed us.  We are God’s priests in this age, chosen to be thankful people.   Oh, hear the words of John in Revelation 17:14: “But the Lamb will overcome them because He is LORD of lords and KING of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.” Now that’s something to be thankful for!

 Holy Father, You have called me out of darkness and chosen me to be your royal priest.  Thank you for your wonderful mercy and grace.  You are the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17), and I am forever grateful.  Amen.

What Do You Think…

“What do you think…” Matthew 22:42a

What are thinking about right now?  What should I make for supper? What is that noise in the engine of my car?   What are my kids up to now?  Every moment, a vast number of thoughts are running through your mind, many you are not even conscience of.   Did you know that your thoughts make up who you are?  Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (New King James Version) Your attitude, beliefs, words, and actions are all the culmination of your thoughts.  Perhaps it is time to think about what we are thinking about.  I think there are at least three important thoughts we need to consider.

We should think high thoughts of God – When Jesus asked the question we see in our key verse, He was speaking to the Pharisees.  He asked them specifically “What do you think about the Christ?” The fact that He was addressing the religious leaders of His day makes it all the more important.   These learned men spent their days pouring over the Holy Scriptures, the very words that not only described Christ, but were inspired by His very Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)  Yet they still missed the essence of who Jesus was – they could not see that He was God.  Because they did not have the right thoughts about God.   Their image of God was cast in their own minds from their own image.  They had a very human view of God.  I wonder if Jesus were to ask the same of you and me, how we might answer.  Truly, it all depends on how we think.  We are to have a high view of God. We are to think of God as He has described Himself in His Word. Leviticus 19:2 is God’s most important self-declaration: “Be holy, because I, the Lord Your God, am holy.”  When we think of God, we must first and foremost think of His holiness. Jeremiah 9:24 gives another high view of His attributes: “I am the Lord, who exercises … righteousness on earth.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  The Lord is righteous in all His ways. He has also testified to His might and power: “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1).  Jesus identified Himself as one with God when He said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) It is only as we think rightly of God that we can see Him as He is – Holy, Righteous, and Mighty; the Way and the Truth and the Life.

We should think loving thoughts of others – In addressing the question of (again) one of the Pharisees, Jesus reiterated the Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He then added a new wrinkle: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39)  In addition to thinking high thoughts of God, we are to think loving thoughts of others.

Paul expounded on Jesus’ words in Romans 13:9 when he wrote, “Whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He is simply stating that when we regard one another in love, as Christ has commanded (John 15:12), we will never think of lying, cheating, envying, stealing from or harming others in any way.    He says we are to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves,” (Romans 12:10) and adds that “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”  How would your life and mine be changed if we thought of others with honor and brotherly love?  How would their lives be different if we sought the good of others before our own?  Paul said that we have a “debt to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) It is a responsibility that we bear as Christians to express love to others – it is the commandment of our Lord and Savior, who showed His love for us on the Cross.

 Lastly, I believe God would have us think true thoughts of ourselves.  One of the hardest things for us to do is to think of ourselves as God does.  Perhaps that is because the world and Satan continually works to focus our thoughts on what is wrong with us.  The message of the world is that we are terribly flawed if we are not the right height, weight (especially weight), or body shape. If we don’t have the right hair style or perfect white teeth, if we don’t drive the right car, have a successful spouse or brilliant children, we are of no value.  If that weren’t enough to destroy our sense of worth; Satan works on the flaws in us that others cannot see – flaws that we know are there.  He taunts us with temptations, then ridicules us because we succumb to that same temptation.  He continually reminds us of every failure, every wrong thought and every harsh word; and when we grieve these terrible things about ourselves, he drags us even further into the pit by insisting that in God’s eyes we are worthless.

But God wants us to know that Satan and this world are liars.  He wants us to think of ourselves as His Word declares: We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), “accepted by Christ” (Romans 15:7), “the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians5:21), “chosen , holy and blameless before God” (Ephesians 1:4), “redeemed and forgiven” (Ephesians 1:7), “God’s workmanship, created to produce good works” (Ephesians 2:10), “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8), “chosen of God, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12), and “made complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10). The ultimate evidence of your worth is the same evidence of God’s love for us – “it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18, 19)  The truth is that Christ thought so highly of you and me that He gave the most valuable thing He had to redeem us – He gave Himself.

Philippians 4:8 is a great lesson in how to manage our thought life, we would do well to put these principles into practice. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Holy Father, High and lifted up, please keep my mind focused on praising You, loving others and thinking rightly of myself.  Transform my mind Lord to think thoughts that please You. Amen