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Praise and Thanksgiving

The Bible makes it clear that Thanksgiving and praise/worship go hand in hand. Just a few examples: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His Name.” (Psalm 100:4) “Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22) And one more:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples.  Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

Psalm 105:1-3 (NASB)

In today’s Covid-19 world, it can be hard to be thankful. Perhaps you’re not able to visit with family or friends in order to stay safe. Perhaps you’ve suffered economically, physically, or emotionally this year due to all the changes brought on by the pandemic. Perhaps you’ve even had a loved one die this year, from Covid-19 or something else. Does God still expect us to be thankful? Yes: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

But how can we be thankful and praise God when things are not going well? The passage from 1 Thessalonians gives us a few suggestions. First of all, notice that it says to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Whatever the circumstance you’re in, look for something within that circumstance that you can be thankful for. And no matter how difficult the circumstance, God promises to be with those who know and trust in Him. (Matthew 28:20) Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? God allowed them to be thrown into a fiery furnace, but he joined them in it. Secondly, note that in the 1 Thessalonians passage, between the exhortations to be joyful always and give thanks in all circumstances, are two simple words that help us do both: pray continually. When we pray, we can pour our heart out to God, and if we will listen, He will show us what we can be thankful for, no matter the situation.

Psalm 105 is a great model that shows us not only a way we can express thankfulness, but by doing so, it helps us to be thankful in all circumstances. In verse 1, 2 and 5 of that psalm, we are encouraged to remember what God has done for us in the past and tell others about it. This reminds us of the goodness of God, leading us to worship Him. What is just as important, by telling others what God has done, we glorify God, point others toward saving faith in Jesus Christ, and encourage those who already believe. The psalmist then practices what he ‘preaches,’ by using the rest of the psalm (verses 6-45) to give a detailed account of many of the things God did for His chosen people.

This Thanksgiving, I thank and praise God for all the things He has done for me this year. To name a few: He has allowed the business I work in to not only survive, but thrive. He has kept me and my family healthy, and <relatively> free from cabin fever during months of mostly isolation. God helped me to finish a basement build-out, creating a rec room and office, by placing different people and resources in my path when I needed them. Even when we had some minor flooding in our basement, right after I had finished the framing, it “just so happened” that our plumber was already in our neighborhood and so was able to come rather quickly to replace our sump pump before any significant damage was done.

So this Thanksgiving, I recommend that we all take some time to be thankful, to spend time in prayer, and to remember what He has done for you this year – and I especially encourage you to “make His deeds known among the peoples.”

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


How We Can Worship God with Our Lives

You know how you can read a passage of Scripture multiple times, and God can bring new insight to your mind when you read it again? I have posted about Romans 12:1-2 before, but recently I was reading it in a slightly larger context, through verse 8. This time, I believe God wanted to show me a deeper meaning to these words, to show how He looks at what we do with our lives as a potential act of worship.

If you’d like to read the whole passage: Romans 12:1-8

In verse 1, God urges us to offer our bodies (our physical lives) to God’s use:

  • sacrificially – we often have to sacrifice our will to follow God’s
  • holy – be willing to set ourselves apart for God’s use
  • when we do this, God is pleased
  • why? because God is merciful to us, we do it as a response of gratitude

It is not easy to do this, because we are naturally inclined to do what we want, and because we do not like giving up control, even to an all-knowing God. Sometimes, it’s hard because we may not know exactly what God’s will is in a given situation. But verses 2-3 show us how we can offer ourselves to God in this act of worship:

  • Don’t just go along with the ways of the world/culture (v2).
  • Transform how you think by renewing your mind with God’s Word (v2).
  • Don’t be conceited, but be humble. Realize that whatever measure of faith (or gifts or talents) you have, comes from God (v3).

The passage then goes on to describe how each believer in Christ is to be a functioning member of the body of Christ. So I think one of the main ways God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to offer this kind of worship to God, is to use the gifts, time and talents that God has given us to support other Christians. Of course, God also wants us to serve those outside of the church. There are many passages of Scripture that teach about that. However, the focus in this passage is on serving fellow believers in a local church body.

It is important to keep some things in mind as we participate and contribute to the body of Christ in a local church.

  • We should do the best we can with our gifts (v6-8).
  • We should serve each other humbly, not comparing our contribution to that of others, because all tasks have to be done, and it is God who decides what each person should do, through the gifts He gives (v3,6).
  • Serving others in humility is easier if we take the perspective that, as members of the body of Christ, we belong to each other (v4-5).

It is this sacrificial service to others, by allowing God to use us however He wants, that in itself is an act of worship, because we’re acknowledging God as Lord over our very lives.

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