Anticipation

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Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

“I wonder what color it will be?” “Did they get the one I circled, with the special features?” Anticipation, it’s happening all across the globe this Christmas. It means to regard as probable, to expect, or predict.

It’s a word that contains so many others, faith, excitement, hope, and waiting. It’s the expectation of what we’ve been waiting for. To a child at Christmas, it might be a bicycle, to Isaiah, it was a baby.

An old man puts down his quill to day dream. He’s just, under God’s anointing, written his seventh chapter. In Isaiah’s mind, he travels to his anticipated day. He imagines meeting Christ and hoping for the real event.

David, and those before, Abraham, Moses, and Jacob longed to see Him. They anticipated, they believed, they expected. “He will be born… He will accomplish… He will fulfill!” They faced trials, battles, and all out war, but the anticipation kept them going.

We get to read about Him, Christ’s birth, His Nativity. What prophets and kings would pay to know, are passages we’ve committed to memory. In the midst of the turmoil of your season, don’t allow it to steal your anticipation. The expectancy of hope that is Christmas is more than wrapped gifts under a tree.

You may ask, what is there to anticipate for us, this side of Bethlehem? We’ve seen the Angels, read about the wise men, and watched the flight to Egypt. What is left to anticipate? The fact that, every morning not just on Christmas morning, it is real again to us. The heartbeat that filled the stable, now beats within a Christian’s heart!

Christ is born, Hallelujah, Christ is born in us! It’s the anticipation that He still is patient, still is forgiving, and still is kind. He cradles us the way Mary cradled Him. We get to expect His mercy, though not take it for granted. Oh better still, we get to expect to see Him!

It may sound old fashioned, and out of date, but it is still true. Many doubted Isaiah’s prophecy, but He was still wrapped in swaddling clothes. They mocked Christ when He said He would give His life and rise again, until He did. As surely as the manger was filled, and the tomb was emptied, The Lord Jesus is coming.

This Christmas Eve, as you anticipate tomorrow’s gifts, and the new year beyond, take some time. Anticipate what it will be like to bow at His feet, not at a manger, but a throne. Whether as a cooing child, or a loving King, all sorrows end at The Master’s feet. An until that day, we can kneel in prayer, anticipating, expecting, and finding Him there.

Awe At Hope

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Joy fills the night
Awe at hope, now instant
Day is born in moonlight
Life Eternal, a small infant
Mary cradles our dreams
Joseph guards a Heavenly gift
From Herod’s twisted evil screams

Their lives will now be swift
Israel to Egypt, and back again
Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem,
Christ’s climactic battle with sin,
God, man, and wrongs will meet,
Soul’s rescued gladly kneel,
Death conquered at Mercy’s feet

Joy fills our night
We awe at hope eternal
Heaven in our mind’s sight
Mary’s Child now internal
Our hope on Heart’s throne
Shining, Guiding, and calling,
Each of us now His own!

Wonder At our Present

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Matthew 21:15

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

The word is Wonder, or as they said in Old English Wundor. I like Wundor. Wonder is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it means “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” Today I’m thinking of course, of the wonder of Christmas.

As a verb, it means to “feel admiration and amazement; to marvel.” A child this week knows what it means, even if they don’t know how to put it into words. It’s the day before, the day before, the day before Christmas. The very thought of it is wonderful to them.

We adults though, we’re jaded. We say things like “It’s too commercial.” “It’s become too much about this or that …” I’m not here to defend what some have allowed it to be, I come instead with hope. Individually, we don’t have to celebrate what others have made it.

You and I can still wonder at Christmas, irregardless of how others see it. Our celebration doesn’t revolve around neon lights and cash registers, it centers on The One in the manger. We can still approach it with the excitement of a child!

Yes, little ones are excited about a gift. If we adults were that way, we’d be afraid of being called shallow. The truth is, we should most definitely be excited about a gift. The gift of Christ!

It is that precious gift that kept Adam’s heart beating. The realization of the promise of Abraham, the dream of Joseph, and the hope of David. He is Isaiah’s Wonderful Child!

Yes, we should wonder at Christmas! Whether you like the lights, the tree, and the cookies or not, personally I do, all can agree on this. We can all return to kneel beside a manger, where God crossed Eternity to save us. The Creator Of Light now swaddled as an infant.

Wonder of wonders, Jesus is born, not only in a messy stable, but in messy hearts. The stable was no accident, it was planned. He was saying, “I Am here to clean up your mess. I’m here to swaddle you as you’re born again, not of this world, but of the one to come.”

Jesus was telling us that our mess is not greater than His mercy. That night changed everything for all mankind. An even though He was most likely not born in December, we celebrate it on that day, and hopefully every day.

So, get excited, dream, even giggle like a child on Christmas morning. Let us wonder at our present, in two ways. Both in the gift of Christ, and the gift of our present condition. We are not yet what we should be, but we are no longer the things we used to be.

Let us wonder at His love, honor His sacrifice, and rejoice at the promise of His soon return! It’s almost here! Get ready, and smile, it’s the day before, the day before, the day before Christmas!

Masters Children, Not Misfits

 

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Luke 7:35
But wisdom is justified of all her children.

“Too often The Master’s Children were mistaken for misfits. That’s okay, we’re in good company. They said the same thing about Him.”

“We’re a couple of misfits”, it’s a line from the classic tv special, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s sung by Rudolph and his Elf Dentist friend. I couldn’t help but think if Joseph and Mary wouldn’t have described themselves the same way.

Yes, they were called of God, and oh yes, they’re willingness helped changed the world, but they recognized the irony. Joseph knew, to others, from the outside, he looked naïve. He knew better, even if they didn’t.

Mary knew, that inside her, was God Incarnate. She knew that God had selected her, regardless of the lies and snickers. Mary knew what God had called her to do. She knew that inside her was The Hope of all mankind.

Still, they were mocked, but that was okay. The Lord reminded me of something tonight, Mary and Joseph were not the first to be mocked. Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going, but God knew. David ran when others said run Saul into the ground. They didn’t get it, The Lord understood.

In short, God was saying, “I know how to bring you through this. I’ve brought others through what you’ve never experienced.” As my Dad would say, our problem is not God’s first rodeo.

He knew how to care for them, even in the midst of doing what even God had never done before, becoming a man. The Lord encouraged Mary by sending her to Elisabeth. Once Joseph received the dream, he never looked back. God sustained them through a desert of loneliness.

Whatever you’re facing, take hope in the fact that He’s brought others through it. God never sends us on a journey that He hasn’t already mapped out. He went to Calvary and back to chart out our Salvation. God knows the cost of what we face. He spent Himself to purchase our redemption.

Your not at the end of your road, you’ve just never walked this way before, He has. See that well, that’s where Jacob stopped to rest. It’s also where the woman of Samaria met Jesus. That place of discouragement you’re at, Moses stopped there too. Of course, just a few yards beyond it, was a burning bush.

At our Church, Point Of Mercy, Pastor Denny Livingston has spent the last year reminding us, that we are not misfits. We are Fitly Framed in the plan of God!

The Baby Prince

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Years ago, before Christ was born,
Still both children, moon and sun,
The earth was new, and smiles were worn,
God and man laughed together, rejoicing, having fun,
Until sickness and sadness slipped in,
Man opened the door to a trickster called sin.

It caused man a mighty fall,
God and man’s relationship breached,
Because of sin’s fast constructed, evil wall,
Our Lord established the journey He’d reach,
Finding the road To rescue His friend,
Never quitting, always working, He would defend.

The vow to lonely ears He gave,
Whispering to everyone that did pray,
Victory over sin, death, and the grave,
God would make a way,
The promise reaching man did sound,
A Prince will come, and joy abound.

In a stable, God slipped into the cave,
Spanning the wall, and entering the globe,
He’d walk the path to free sin’s slaves,
Not as a towering God with a royal robe,
His people, He came to call,
But as a swaddled Babe, a Savior for all.

There on Bethlehem’s starry plain,
Filled with joy, both God and man,
Joined by an Angel’s refrain,
They laughed together, hand in hand,
And like a clock Sin did know,
It’s days, just numbered grains of sand,
The Baby Prince would grow.

On that night Christmas was born,
It’s greatest gift, The Baby’s cry,
But far better was that glorious morn,
The day The Prince climbed sin’s hill,
Jesus’ silenced evil with a victorious sigh,
Toppled it’s wall, and brought man nigh.

Now, though the sun is old,
The moon no longer young,
When Sin tries to scare with lies so bold,
A tune is heard, a song is sung,
Men are new, Christ has won,
We laugh together, rejoicing, and having fun.

Cherish

 

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A Wikimedia Commons Image

Cherish, it’s an old word. We don’t hear it much any more, other than at Weddings. Sadly, in some marriages, that’s the last time the word is ever used, and one of the few times its modeled. It means to protect, or care, for someone lovingly.

It’s a concept that we should practice everyday of the year, but how much more so than at Christmas? Loved ones who make you smile, hearts that beat as one, and friends that are there for each other. We should cherish them.

I love words, whether as a student of God’s Word, or as a writer, they amaze me. One of the synonyms of cherish is foster. That word means to encourage or promote the development of something good. If cherishing doesn’t come easy to you, you can foster it, this just takes practice. Anyone can define love in another’s life, if we will.

When an orphan is placed with a foster family, it can be awkward. The uncomfortableness can be as thick as, well eggnog. There is a level of mistrust, a feeling of what do you want frome me, over time that can fade. If the foster parents cherish the child, they’ll work towards making them feel loved.

Who in our lives do we value? Is it a family member that you once argued with, but couldn’t live without? Perhaps it’s s friend that you’ve kept at arms length, but who you always want within an arm’s reach. Maybe it’s a coworker, or someone desperately in need of being valued, or cherish.

That’s really what this old word is about, valuing those who are priceless to us. We put our money in banks, and our phones in cases, but what protective layer do we wrap our loved ones in? Find those you care about today, and show them you love them.

You don’t have to stand in Wal-Mart holding a banner singing their praises, that would be awkward. Though it’s used in them, cherish isn’t about the ceremony, it’s about the relationship. It can be as simple as a smile, a cup of coffee, and a conversation.

Sure it may be old school, or retro, but you let them know you cherish them. We should cherish our loved ones, at Christmas when we celebrate how He cherished us enough to be born. Each of us though should cherish as Christ did, and does, by showing it 365 days of the year.

Better Than Neverland

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Ecclesiastes 7:8
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

A few hours earlier, the peacock network aired a live version of Peter Pan. You’re familiar with the story, and the famous tag line, “I won’t grow up.” It seemed to me that our problem isn’t with growing up, it’s with growing old. Upon further thought, essentially, we fear endings, or landings if you will.

It is appropriate that Peter Pan’s home is called Neverland, because we really seem to hope to never land. Endings scare us, they haunt our dreams. When in reality, if we’ve met Jesus, they shouldn’t.

Revelation 1:8
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

He alters the state of time, by inserting the present after mentioning both the beginning and the ending. The Lord Jesus further stretches our vision by placing the past, after both the future and the present. He finally wraps it up by giving us a new future to look too.

What does all this mean? It means that, with Jesus, in our present, our past doesn’t define us. It, and our future bow to His will, not our mistakes! He is The Almighty, and will silence all voices that seek to stop us. Isaiah said it like this.

Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” In other words, there will be no stopping of our future. We fear an end because of the finality we attach to it. Jesus promised to eliminate that. He doesn’t only promise us life without end, He promises it in spite of endings.

The word end occurs in The Bible 291 times. However in the KJV, the word ending appears once, this stopped me in my tracks. In other places He says I Am the beginning and the end, but here, the ending.

The Greek word for both end and ending is Telos. They also used the same word for purpose or goal. Christ is our purpose. He is our goal, and The One we hope to stand beside of past the ending of all things. We do not seek Heaven, we seek The Creator of the Heavens.

The boy in green tights seeks to take people to a place where they’ll never reach their full potential. If all followed this idea, growth would completely die. No grown ups would mean no parents, which would mean no children. Those dreams of, “when I grow up”, would never be fulfilled. We don’t want Neverland, we seek something better than Neverland.

Jesus promised us that something better. One of the meanings of ending is eternal. He promised us, not the avoidance of something, but the completion of it. The Lord Jesus also promised that our every journey would have purpose. He was saying that each of us is important. We all can make a difference.

John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

We look at Christ’s promise and think it means life after death. In reality, it means life, before, during, and beyond death. He promised us life, and abundant life. God’s focus wasn’t on death, but eternal life.

What’s the difference? He stood at the grave of Lazarus unintimidated by death’s attack. In fact He knew it before Lazarus wasn’t even sick. He stood at the grave, ignoring death, and commanding Lazarus to live.

In Christ’s Ministry, when He raised the dead, He never rebuked death. He simply commanded for the person to live. The only time He spoke to death, was to mock it after His resurrection. He was saying that only He determines the ending. Our endings are not determined by the limits of our world.

It’s not pixie dust to believe in a Creator that has brought us through all the trials that we’ve faced! We’re not tied to a wire, harnessing man made ideas. We do not hope for a land of make believe.

Christians stand in faith, with our eyes raised towards The Maker of all things, believing for something far greater. Our song is not the impossible rant against fulfillment and purpose. Our song is that of The Resurrected Lamb, who has proven His claims.

In short, we can take comfort in this on opening night. When the music plays, and the trumpet sounds, the voice we hear won’t spend time saying what He won’t do. His voice, that clear matchless voice will say, “Come Up Higher”, or to put it in the context of this post … “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Mentoring Like Jesus

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Alfred was an out of work architect who set out to build a board game. The result was Scrabble. Perhaps your familiar with the board, the tiles, and the rules. The man who invented it, had been trained to translate his vision from a drawing to concrete, glass, and stone.

As I write this, one of my mentors sets a chair away. He’s preparing for a message. I began to think of how his words, and God’s Word through him, has shaped my life. It is more though, than just what or how he has said it, but also when he said it.

I’ve been playing a lot of Words With Friends lately, and I know the difference that a well timed triple word square can make. It isn’t only about the weight of the word, it’s knowing how to maximize its potential. A good Mentor will do just that.

The question I have today is, are you and I good Mentors? I can truly say that I am who I am because of the influences of great leaders. My hope is that we can influence others, as helpfully as others have impacted us.

The path to do this, doesn’t involve power, prestige, or position. It’s about pure motives. The men and women in my life never desired to have power over me, they simply wanted to pour into me. What they unselfishly placed inside me has helped to sustain me through the hardest trials of my life.

Am I doing the same thing? Am I seeking to bless them, or impress them? If my concern centers around me, then I’ll never make the type of impact that others have made on me. If, instead, our focus is the welfare of those we care for, we can’t help but add value to their lives.

It isn’t about impressing them, nor is it about propelling them towards our idea of their future. It’s about equipping them to become what God has intended for them to be. In Scrabble, you never know what word the other players will connect to yours. Even The Divine Creator isn’t going to force His children to step into His hope for them.

He will reveal their potential, and supply the tools to get there. The Lord Will provide the opportunity, but it’s our choice if we’ll listen. The reason we listen to Him, and others, is we know they truly love us. They have proven that their only goal is our well being.

Have we truly reflected this same love in those we know? The difference between interacting and impacting is investment without seeking a personal return. Once we commit wholeheartedly to serving them, our viewpoint shifts much higher.

We go from pointing to where we expect them to arrive, to strengthening them for the trip they were called to make. Too often I’ve forgotten, the destination doesn’t produce the result, the journey does. May we provide them with words of inspiration along the way.

If we can do this, then what we say, how we say it, the skill of our words, all that means nothing. What means something is this, we seek to build, not their future, but their well being. Our desire to influence will then take it’s cue from where all good things originate.

John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The object of a Christian is to be like Jesus. The Lord knew this, but instead of focusing His Earthly Ministry on this, He focused on loving people. He sought to friend them, in order to free them, even though that meant Calvary.

If we wish to impact others, the only word we must concern ourselves with, is the word servant. If we seek to serve, and serve unselfishly, then we will make a difference in every life we touch.

Not Rejecting, But Neglecting

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He sits alone, hoping that one of the children will at least call. Many times they do, but their conversation begins with I need this. I wonder how many times the thoughts come to mind, “I was there for them when … And now they don’t even speak.”

I’m not referring to a relative per say, although, too often He is a forgotten Father. “At least some will visit at Christmas, it’s the only time they stop by. Even then, they act like they can’t wait to leave.” In much of our lives we are guilty, not of rejecting God, but neglecting Him.

This isn’t a post to condemn but more to confess. We take for granted His goodness, but we say we’re thankful. When is the last time that we woke up in the middle of the night and the thought of prayer entered our mind? Sadly, it probably coincides with the last bout of fever or crisis.

This time of year, which is my favorite, we have lights that twinkle, stars that point to Him, and language about Jesus. My question is this, “How often do we talk to Him?” Other than a dried up two minute prayer, or a wonderful corporate service, when was our last quality conversation with The Master?

Isaiah 29:13
13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

One of the definitions of removed is recede. It doesn’t happen over night. Like a river washing away a bank, over time the cares of this life attempt to erode our connection with Him. Perhaps not our relationship completely, but our intimacy. That closeness that beats with the same heartbeat as our Savior.

It may surprise you to know that this verse lead up to a prophecy of The Messiah at the end of this chapter. He talks of Jesus rescuing His people. Yes He mentions the opening of the blinded eye, but in a different way than you might think.

Isaiah 29:18
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

The word obscurity here is defined, among other things, as spiritual un-receptivity. In other words, Jesus came not only to heal the human eye, but to quicken our vision. He wanted to rescue us, not only from sin in the form of wrongdoing, but also sin in the sense of separation from Him.

Matthew 15:8-9
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

He quotes this Scripture, in Matthew 15:8, when rebuking the Pharisees. He withstood them, not for not talking about God, but for what they had turned serving God into. They had taught the people that serving God was more about traditions than about a personal connection with God. The Pharisees had turned a relationship with Him into something very dry.

Let us not be guilty of the same thing in our personal walk with Jesus. I want my Lord to expect to hear my voice everyday, but to also expect for me to listen in return. I don’t want to only visit on the holidays, or “hospital” days.

We have Service two days out of the week, and I need them both, but we should seek more. Our pursuit of Jesus must be more than a one time experience, or even a frequent visit. It should be a daily chasing of His will, His heart, and His voice in our lives.

So we end by returning to our first paragraph, when was our last personal talk with Jesus? Not so much to tell Him about all our troubles, but to say thank you. When’s the last time that our question to Him wasn’t about asking for anything, but seeing how He was?

Think Thankful

IMG_2273.JPG The following article is taken from a lesson that I was blessed to share at our Church, Point Of Mercy, in Nashville, TN.  The Senior Pastor, Pastor Denny Livingston ask me to speak, and it was my honor to do so. Colossians 3:15 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. The first time we find any form of the word Thank in the Bible is in the word Thanksgiving in Leviticus Chapter 7. It is a form of Peace Offering, referred to in this chapter, as the Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving. You don’t see the exact word again until Nehemiah chapter 12. The Apostle Paul picks it up in The New Testament, and uses it several times. The only other writer in The New Testament to use it is John in the book of Revelation. Paul thought it was so important that he commanded us to Be Ye Thankful. He was saying, it’s not just a pleasant outlook on life. It’s not one of those things that would be nice if you did it. It isn’t just an optimistic viewpoint, it’s a command. The same God that said Be Ye Holy said Be Ye Thankful. Tonight I’d like to share with you why, and specifically, why it’s so beneficial to our lives.

I. Elevates Our Focus

What makes this concept important enough to be a sacrifice in The Old Testament, and a Command in The New Testament? Because of what it does and what it prevents. We don’t think of it this way, but Thanksgiving is a weapon. It’s a defensive weapon that is powerful enough to withstand any foe. I think it’s because Thanksgiving is designed for us to focus on something besides ourselves. The Hebrew word for Thanksgiving is Todah, and the Greek word is Eucharist. One means to stretch out your hands, and the other is where we take a term for The Lord’s Supper. Thanksgiving is so much more than what it appears on the surface. It’s engrained in the very nature of being a Christian. Both outstretched hands in praise, and the act of The Lord’s Supper are pointing towards God and away from self. Consider this for a minute. The difference in the word Think and Thank are the letters I and A. When our focus is on what I’m going through, it can narrow our viewpoint, and limit our vision to only our own problems. When we take the time to say Thank you, or to be Thankful, it elevates our horizon to see All of the blessings that God has given us. We see more than just “I” level stuff, we see All of those He has brought into our lives. It shifts our focus from us to The Almighty. The One that loved us enough to die for us, and rose again so that we could live through Him! Before I share with you all it’s benefits, I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions about Thankfulness. Growing up, Mom and Dad used to tell me, You need to accept what you cannot change, and to change what you can. I thought accepting that certain things couldn’t be changed was admitting defeat. They weren’t saying that at all. What they were saying was to focus my energy on the very real difference I could make, and not to waste it on what I couldn’t do. People view Thanksgiving the same way. People who take time to be thankful can be viewed as not being driven. You hear things like, “Well, isn’t that cute? It must be nice not to have a care in the world.” Really? The world looks like they’re coasting on their laurels, they’re just smelling the roses. To be Thankful doesn’t mean that you don’t have any passion, it means that you recognize what you do have. I submit to you that Thanksgiving, or being Grateful, and Ambition are not rivals. In fact, when functioning correctly they are partners. Together they will achieve more than you ever thought that you could.

II. It Brings Clarity

Psalms 17:15 15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. Satisfaction and Content are two very different things. David said I’ll be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness. Paul said whatever state I find myself I’m content. The two didn’t disagree. David was saying I won’t be satisfied until I’m like Him. It’s still about being like Jesus, it’s not about going to Heaven. As Pastor’s Dad says, Heaven isn’t the goal of the Christian, it’s his destination if he achieves his goal of being like Jesus. God doesn’t want you satisfied, He wants you content. Thankfulness is part of that contentment. Satisfied in Psalms 17:15 means fulfilled, Content in Philippians 4:11 means independent of external circumstances. It’s still not about what happens to you, it’s about what He’s doing in you! A Thankful heart doesn’t do nothing, but it does do independently of its circumstances. Gratitude propels you forward, it doesn’t keep from action. We’ve seen, through countless examples this year, people who had enough reasons to give up. Yet, they didn’t give up, or go under, they said Thank you for what they had, and they went after their dreams. We are not to be Satisfied with our mission until every Soul that we have touched has at least acknowledged the love of God in their lives. However, being content is a matter of survival! Thanksgiving brings you clarity, and that clarity is a shield against wrong mind sets. Psalms 100: 4 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, [and] into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, [and] bless his name. The famous Psalm says to Enter into His Gates with Thanksgiving. We view this as a celebration, and it is, but let’s look at it the way David would have viewed it. We know from Pastor’s Teaching that Gates are made for a defense. David was a King, a Jew, and a Warrior. Thanksgiving here means the same as in Leviticus, it’s a sacrifice, a peace offering. Some Jews say roughly at least 100 different types of Thank You’s to Heaven daily in prayers called Berachot. In 1 Chronicles 23:30, David appointed Levites to praise and thank God everyday.

III. Regulates Our Point Of View

1 Chronicles 23:30 30 And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even; David knew you have to protect the gates, and I submit to you that there was no weapon in all of David’s arsenal as great as a thankful heart. Thanksgiving is defensive because it aligns us as Pastor has been teaching, vertically with God and horizontally with each other. We have the realization that God is the cause of both our success to this point, and the source of our continued prosperity. He has Fitly framed us all in the manner that pleased Him. This eliminates a lot of things. First, it should help us to overcome our fears. If we recognize that The Lord is for us, then truly who can be against us. This doesn’t mean that you won’t fight worry. Unfortunately, I’m by nature somewhat of a negative person. Truth be told, I expect things to go wrong, but I’m working on it. I believe with all my heart that my God will take care of me! I struggle with my own fears and insecurities, but when I’m thankful, I’m no longer looking at what I can’t do. Instead, He reminds me of All He has done, is doing, and has promised to do in my life! It also guards against other things that can creep in due to a wrong mindset. Let me give you an example. As Christians, especially at our Church, we don’t have much trouble with greed. I can use it as an example without offending anyone because you are all so generous. It’s not something that you struggle with. Let’s look at a character who did. It didn’t happen over night, you don’t wake up one day an become Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge didn’t become Scrooge overnight. When we meet him, he’s a full-blown scoundrel. His nephew comes in and is happy about Christmas. Scrooge says what right have you to be merry, your poor enough. His nephew says what right have you to be dismal, you’re rich enough! Scrooge didn’t become the way he was overnight. A Father mourning the loss of his wife, the abandonment of that father, unbalanced ambition, the loss of the woman he loved to his own arrogance. The death of his beloved sister, the nephew’s mother, all gave Scrooge the excuses to slip into what we see at the beginning. Greed is an ugly monster, it can’t seem to hide its claws. It’s not what you call a door opener, but it has a partner. Greed’s sister is a lot better dressed. She can look very sympathetic when she sits down beside you. When she says you deserved that promotion, you’re just as good as she is. Look at her, she’s got what you should have had. She’s got what you should have, and what have you got? Before you know it, Envy has unlocked the door and let greed, hurt, anger, and a whole horde of things in. Maybe you don’t have a problem with envy. Fair enough, maybe your opponent is regret. Maybe you’ve messed up, made mistakes, failed, and flopped time and again. I’ve been there. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. By my physical nature, it would be easy to wallow in them, and I’ve made that mistake before. But I have the choice to choose not too. Just as the example of envy bringing in all forms of hurtful things, Thanksgiving ushers in wonderful benefits. Happiness, peace, hope, and reassurance. Instead of regret, I can choose to be thankful. It’s hard to be thankful and to be miserable at the same time. It’s hard to stay angry when you remember that God forgave you of those mistakes. Yeah, but look where I could have been. Okay, let’s do that, but from a point of thanksgiving for a minute. You could have died in your mistakes, but God forgave you. You could have been rejected, but the problem is He accepted you and I.

IV. Valuing Others

Thanksgiving is about value, valuing in the right way, what and who God has given you. We should be Thankful to Him for all He has given us. This includes all the people who He has placed in our lives, even the ones we don’t like. They serve a purpose, if not, He wouldn’t have put them there. I don’t like kale, but it’s good for me. We should value both who and what has been placed in our lives. We’re not to be materialistic, but we should be thankful for the materials that we have. The Jews freely gave their gold to build the Tabernacle, but they had gold to give. You and I may not have gold, but then we didn’t go through 400 years of Egyptian bondage either. We should be thankful for what and who fills our lives. When we are thankful, it tunes our senses. It isn’t only about smelling the roses, it’s about keen senses. The same nose you smell the roses with, will also smell smoke if your house is on fire. If you have a cold, you may not smell it. If your ears are clogged, you won’t hear the alarm. If your eyes are so blurred by what you don’t have, you won’t see all that you already have. Thanksgiving helps you appreciate what you have, but puts your tasks ahead in perspective. We are thrilled with the response from the Conference, but Pastor and Pastor Jason and everyone already have plans to make it bigger next year. Not because we aren’t thankful, but in fact because we are. We are so grateful that The Lord used our Church to minister to Kingdom workers. The more we can reach, the more impact in their lives, the more impact they will have on others, and the more souls that will be reached. Thanksgiving will reduce stress, reminding us that we are all souls that are here, not for our own glory, but to help The Loving God who gave His life for us and to help rescue more souls from a very real, very near hell! Yes, we have problems, but we have a great God. You have reasons for your sadness, your point of view. You don’t see it as not being thankful. You’re just dealing with the problems, but in dealing with our issues, have we remembered to be thankful? I look around this room and I see people who have been dealt massively unfair battles, and then I remember the video testimony we saw Sunday. My Grandfather was a paraplegic Pastor for forty years. Sis Jennifer, like you, he taught us what a smile looks like from unexpected places. He refused to spend his time sad. Thankfulness overwhelms heavy hearts with the fact that God loves you. I know what it’s like to have a negative bent, but I also know what it’s like to lift mine eyes unto the hills. You see there were times when David called Him the Lifter Up of mine head, and there were times when David said I will lift mine eyes into the hills. You don’t have to wait for God to do the lifting. He lifts your load, but we can always lift our eyes in His direction. It’s hard to be Thankful and to be angry at the same time. Thankfulness combats both anger and depression. Is it easy to be Thankful when you’re angry, or when you’re depressed? No, but that’s why its first introduced in Scripture in the form of a Sacrifice. It’s a Peace Offering, it brings Peace. God, knowing our future struggles, included Thanksgiving in the sacrifices of Leviticus for that very reason.

V. The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving

Leviticus 7:11-17 11 And this [is] the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD. 12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. 13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer [for] his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings. 14 And of it he shall offer one out of the whole oblation [for] an heave offering unto the LORD, [and] it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering [be] a vow, or a voluntary offering, it shall be eaten the same day that he offereth his sacrifice: and on the morrow also the remainder of it shall be eaten: 17 But the remainder of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burnt with fire. We can understand the sacrifice of Praise. We get the act of praise when we are tired, but we don’t think of Thanksgiving the same way. Thanksgiving is an insulator, it keeps out cold and harsh things. It is an incubator, it gives birth to miraculous things. To understand it better, I looked up the words. Sacrifice means the slaughter of an animal, Thanksgiving means outstretched hands. The act of Thanksgiving was meant to honor God for His provision in the eyes of all of the people, and to bless the person by whom God spoke to His people. If the sacrifice of thanksgiving was voluntary, it went further, they had two days to eat it instead of one. Voluntary Thanksgiving has long-lasting benefits. One of the translations for Thanksgiving is Confession, though not in a remorseful sense. In the sense of I’m confessing to the world that God has been so good to me! When I confess His blessings, I’m reminding those around me of what He has done for me. I’m Thanking God for His blessings, encouraging myself, and I’m encouraging those around me. David could rejoice about a King building him a house because the last king tried to murder him in his house. David could dance before The King Of Kings on the streets of Jerusalem because he had hidden from Saul in a cold, dark cave. When I’m reminded of what He has delivered me from, it’s much easier to be thankful. Our problem is that when we’re miserable, we don’t want to do the reminding. That’s one of the many reasons that God has connected Thanksgiving with the Ministry. It’s easier to say woe is me, than it is say wait a minute, God’s been good to me. I was lost, but now I’m found. I was alone, now I’m a part of the people of God. I know what it’s like to live in a one bathroom duplex, now we live in our own home. It needs new windows, new carpet, etc, but it’s ours! Why does He specifically connects Thanksgiving with the Priest? For two reasons. Number one, the Thanksgiving Offering was meant to connect us, in a relational way, to the Ministry to preserve our mindset. The Lord intends for us to always recognize the contribution that The Man Of God makes to our lives. God does this, not because His Prophet seeks recognition, but to ensure His people hold tight to their connection with God’s Spokesman. Acknowledging The Man Of God is also an acknowledgement of who sent The Man Of God into my life. I don’t use the term man in a chauvinistic way, but a grammatical way. It shows Who is the source of the Messenger’s message. Everything in The Old Testament is a type and shadow of The New. God wants us all to realize the direct link between the good things in our lives, and our relationship with The Man Of God. When I recognize the lifeline that he is in my life, then I refuse to allow anything to alienate me from that relationship. That includes my own depression, hurt, or situation. Why does that matter here? Because God knows that there are going to be so many times when we are bombarded by our own battles. It would be easy to dismiss the council that He sends through The Man Of God. Except for the annoying fact that He’s right, He’s speaking what God told Him, and I had better listen. It’s saved me from the brink of destruction countless times. When you come to Church, God has a message for you. He has a method to get you out of your mess. He has a Messenger to present it to you, and a Miracle once you receive it. That’s why The Man Of God is so important in your life. Thanksgiving is a form of Peace Offering, our Peace comes through The Prince Of Peace, and is published in our lives through His Leaders. The Pastors God has given us touch our lives with God’s Word, it’s a three-fold chord. In Canada, they celebrate Thanksgiving in October, on a Monday. There, it isn’t about rejoicing over Harvest, it’s about celebrating survival on their journey. We are in a journey together, we are part of each other. I need you, and you need me, and we all need the Church. We are not on this journey alone, we are in this together. That’s the second reason Thanksgiving is connected to Ministry, we all are a part of each other! We are not only to be ministered to, but our gifts, including our Thanksgivings, are designed to minister to each other. Thankfulness recognizes that, Thanksgiving celebrates that. That’s why it’s not an individual act, but one that touched all of Israel. The God receiving it, the Israelite submitting it, the Priest sacrificing it, and the Congregation that witnessed it. Thankfulness enables us to see our brother that is hurting, and to lift their load. In lifting his load, it lifts my load. In making someone else smile, it removes the frown from my face. This isn’t merely about when everything is good and coming up roses, it’s about not checking out when times are hard. Instead of unplugging in the bad times, God has called us to come together, to close the gaps. It’s hard to be sad and be thankful. It’s hard to be angry and to be thankful. You’re asking how can I make the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving? How do I get from just saying I’m Thankful with gritted teeth or sad eyes to that smile. Do something for someone else. The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving wasn’t only about blessing God, it was about blessing both the Man Of God, and the people of God. When you make someone else smile, it’s hard to stay sad, or mad. Statistics show that the very act of gratitude makes the person serving someone else happier. It makes their lives better. When you give a gift to a child, you can’t frown at that precious smile. When you give food to the hungry, I challenge you to remain angry. When you give someone without a place a stay a home, I defy you to hold on to your own misery. Sure you could do it, but the problem is you have to try to stay miserable. God commanded Be Ye Thankful. He also commanded to do whatever you’re doing with all your might. Are you giving Thankfulness everything you’ve got? Are you smiling because you have to, or because God smiled on you while you were in your sins? Thanksgiving isn’t just a day in October when they eat turkey. I love our man-made trappings of the day as much as the next. I’m the Macy’s Parade guy, watch it every year. But and I’m sorry if this offends you, it is not Turkey Day, it’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day when during War, Lincoln took off his iconic hat and bowed his famous head to a God that he believed did exist. He did this to thank Him for preserving the Union that Washington fought for. The same God that, at Valley Forge, Washington knelt to thank for keeping them through Winter. The same act that the Pilgrims, who almost starved to death in their winter, thanked Him for keeping them alive to see Harvest. It is emphatically Thanksgiving Day! We celebrate Thanksgiving because our God traded the robes of Heaven for human flesh. He set aside His glory, to bow His iconic head on a cross. To bring you and I out of a harsh and hopeless future. He did this to make us a part of His Kingdom, and give us an Eternal Harvest. I say again, every day should be an emphatic Thanksgiving! #ThinkThankful