I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; 2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.[a] 3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.[b]
4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, 5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138: 1-8 (ESV)
A thankful heart is the expressive attitude of a follower of Jesus Christ. When one comes to understand who HE IS and what HE has done, and what HE plans to accomplish with you and me, one can only drop to their knees with a grateful heart and thank HIM.
A thankful heart is the byproduct of gratitude which also leads to a more outgoing concern for the needs of others; and the heartfelt compassion and generosity are also balanced with truth and justice.
A thankful heart acknowledges God has given you and me boundaries to operate with for our good and the good of others. Instead of ruling over others, we serve them. Instead of showering others with empty rhetoric and fortitudes, the thankful heart understands the value of the individual human spirit facing challenges and encourages them to grow and mature.
A thankful heart is not swayed by pompous living and make-believe-utopias, but by the simple, natural understanding of human needs and the marvelous creation given to us to explore and experience.
A thankful heart bestows blessings on others without expectation of any returns.
A thankful heart knows when to lead and when to follow; and who not to follow.
A thankful heart loves to share their blessings with others.
A thankful heart sees the best in others.
A thankful heart also sees the lies, hypocrisies, and false impressions of others and avoids their illusional imprisonments.
A thankful heart is a repentant soul understanding their need for a Savior.
These are just a few of the thoughts that came across my mind this morning. For those who want to bathe their mind with more thankful thoughts, click on the links below to read past blogs:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Family is the basic building block of a healthy society. Within the healthy family, one learns values, builds character, shares the joy of victories and sorrow of defeats. The healthy family teaches us the importance of relationships and provides a safe haven for each member. The strong family lays the nucleus for a strong society.
On the other hand, a dysfunctional family leaves its mark on each individual member which carries with them throughout their life. When a child is raised by a single parent, or an abusive parent, those memories and scars are imprinted and carried in a person’s entire life. A destructive family weakens the social fabric of any nation.
Yet Jesus, raised by a Jewish family structure whose culture emphasizes the importance of family stated that HE is more important than family.
Yes, family is important; probably the most important social fabric in your life. Yet as a disciple of Jesus Christ, family takes a secondary priority of roles. The trap is believing family is all you need.
Typically, God, family, and country are three values many Americans adhere too. And they are good, wholesome values worth keeping. The tripping point though is making family or country the central-core of one’s life rather than God. We see this happen often when children leave home and start their lives apart of their parents. Mothers who typically have made their children the central focus of their life have a greater difficulty handling the transition then those mothers who have lived a life with the Triune God their central-core of living.
When God is the central-core of life, our identity is found only in HIM. We do not confuse our roles with our identity. The role of father and mother do not identify us. They are temporary assignments. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ which is permanent and the foundation of our life. When we place him above family and ourselves, we reap the benefit of having a meaningful relationship and guide for the rest of our life. And that includes a guide with helping us navigate the difficult challenges of parenthood.
When we compare Jesus with our family or ourselves, the attitude of hate which Jesus used, is a strong language that demonstrates the priority of placing HIM first in relationship with ourselves and with family. When Jesus is the central-core of our lives, everything else falls into its proper place. Life takes on more meaning and purpose.
In fact, the road of discipleship with Jesus is one adventurous journey worth pursuing that includes your family, friends, and country. Yet, to be effective, Jesus needs to be the central-core of your life. Enough said.
And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practice them. (ASV)
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! (Message)
God uses multiple ways to train us through discipline. One way is by giving us what we desire even though HE has expressly instructed us such an item will negatively impact us. Yet because of our rebellious and prideful heart, HE may remove a portion of HIS favor upon us so we taste the world without HIM. The experience may feel like God’s wrath has come upon us, but in reality, HE is being merciful and teaching us by experiencing the pain of how life apart from HIM is unsatisfying for the long term.
The first chapter of the Book of Romans outlines how God deals with people who do not accept HIS authority in their lives. The Bible speaks about the wrath of God which is the attitude mankind has toward a God who doesn’t give them what they want.
Like a two-year-old who is upset and angry at their parents for denying them her desire because the parent believes it will be harmful for them, the child looks at the decision as an act of malice. She may call her parent mean and state she hates them, but is emotionally upset and may not understand the entirety of the situation. You and I as children of the living God may occasionally act the same way toward our heavenly Father.
Again, the first chapter of Romans shows that when God pulls his favor away from people, they begin to act with a reprobate mind; a worthless mind which loses any sense of value. The ability to determine right from wrong, good from evil, and up from down soon disappears. The person becomes like an animal without divine attributes.
We witness in the Book of Daniel, when God disciplined King Nebuchadnezzar by allowing him to experience life as an animal because of his prideful attitude. After seven years, God restored his human spirit and the king glorified God learning from the ordeal. From a human perspective, one could easily get angry at God for such an act. Yet when understood over time, one learns that God has our best intentions in mind.
The first chapter of Romans also outlines the type of behavior one naturally craves when God’s unmerited grace is removed from everyday circumstances of life. Initially, one begins to worship the creation rather than the Creator (24-25). Soon thereafter, people forget what it means to be human. Instead of living life in the image of their Creator, they follow animalistic tenancies. Their sexuality becomes deprived (26-27). Soon thereafter their carnal, debased, destructive attributes become the norm (28-32).
A reprobate mind causes harm to the person and those around them. The love of God is missing. The care for human life is gone. The purpose of living and building a prosperous society for the next generation is replaced with a now only attitude. Fear becomes the standard measurement for decision making. Me, myself, and I become the three amigos which each person hangs around with. Marriage is replaced with unwritten partnership contracts; commitments last only as the feeling stays. The human race is subdivided into skin color or classes and pitted against each other. Though rich in material possession, the reprobate mind doesn’t know how to enjoy his riches in peace. The person is screaming for help but still refuses to turn to God who knows what is best for the person.
Like a prodigal child who takes his Father’s inheritance and spends it on himself until broke, busted, and beaten, he needs to burn himself out to truly realize what he needs and wants is a deep relationship with his Heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-32). Sometimes this is what it takes for us humans to fully understand our need for Jesus Christ.
Mankind may think they know what is good, moral, righteous, and virtuous, but one’s opinion is another person’s anti-opinion. Unless there is a God with absolute, objective values who reveals HIS knowledge of goodness, men & women only think they know. Humans need Jesus Christ to fully understand the logic, meaning, and purpose of life. As many theologians and non-theologians have observed, if there was not a God, mankind would need to make one if they want to survive as a human race. The problem has always been to narrow the scope and identify the real deal rather than man-made religious beliefs. When one studies into the life of Jesus Christ, one can only leave with the understanding that HE is who HE claimed to be, or he was a liar or lunatic.
When history completes its final chapter, hindsight will reveal the answer for many who fail the choice to believe HIS claim. So rather than wait until then, if this be you, how about making today the first day of throwing away that reprobate mind and participate with Jesus Christ in HIS way of life?
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. 4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. 5 They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. 6 Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8 The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. 11 We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13 transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. 15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.(ESV)
While reading Chapter 59 from the book of Isaiah, I couldn’t help but reflect how something written over 2,500 years ago could be speaking about current affairs. It doesn’t matter the culture, nationality, or time period, but human history is a lesson of mankind repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Governments have come and gone. Nations have come and gone. Tribes have come and gone. What they all have in common are the lessons of how difficult it is to govern people. For people want freedom with security, but the battle between the two without God as the center, leads to slavery for the masses.
History is the empirical evidence of human nature living life with and without God’s wisdom and favor. The tiny nation of Israel is a reminder for all to witness the influence God bestows on his people. Most people hate Israel for no other reason than their anger and ignorance of God. There is so much hatred built within people that peace has no room within them. Yet because of a God who keeps his commitments, Israel still exists today even with multitude of people bent on its destruction.
History shows sincere people think they are the ones who can best govern the masses. Yet, history also shows these same people may start off with the greatest of intentions, but human nature eventually takes over and leads people into controlling people to get done what they believe is best.
When people have to control others to get what they want, tyranny rules. But when nations practice the principles of Kingdom living, countries flourish.
History has shown that the best government are least governed. When people exercise self-responsibility to govern themselves under principles and values which allows all people to be free, flourish, and fine fulfillment, the results are quite remarkable.
The Bible reveals how historical Israel was initially ruled by judges; no kings, no bureaucracy, no redistribution of wealth, just people living under a code of the ten commandments. When they followed its teachings, they flourished. When they did not, they were disciplined. When they had a dispute between parties, a judge with Godly understanding and wisdom would decide the matter.
God’s Kingdom is built on self-govern principles. Jesus Christ is the King and we are all HIS subjects. HIS Spirit lives in us and leads us to practice values which lead to freedom, flourishment and fulfillment for the masses without bureaucratic interference. You do what is right because it’s the right thing to do.
Until human nature’s heart is changed, people will continually live-in fear and keep repeating the same, unproductive and destructive behavior which leads to pain and misery for most. Thankfully, our Triune God has revealed a way of life which brings love, joy, and peace through its practice now. Though many shun the means of grace because of experiencing a counterfeit faith, there are still many who are grateful for God’s intervention in their life and opening their eyes to understand and participate with HIM today in living life under HIS Kingdom domain.
The Triune God has given us the means and capacity to follow HIM and HIS ways. But we need to choose and walk it out with Jesus Christ along with the Holy Spirit. When we do, we experience the joy of real living. When we choose not too, we are left on our own to govern and manage life’s circumstances. The result is the destruction sown over and over again. This is why Jesus taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Only when we discover that HIS government is the best way for all mankind to flourish and find fulfillment will there be total worldwide peace and prosperity.
God is Purposeful. Everything he does has a focused reason and mission. He doesn’t waste anything. Even when HE rests, there is a purpose behind HIS actions (Gen 2:2-3).
You and I, like little gods, have been designed with an internal drive for purposeful living. Without purpose, one never truly discovers meaning for life.
Since God is the Author of life, HE has already established meaning and purpose for life. When we understand HIS macro plan and understand our role within HIS story, the doors to live out our micro plan become more meaningful and exciting. Many of us try to discover our purpose apart from God. The situation is like being the letter “c”.
The letter “c” is the third letter in the English alphabet. Alone, apart from the alphabet, it stands by itself until someone assigns meaning for it. But when belonging with the other 25 letters of the alphabet, one is given the means to communicate with others. The letter “c”, uniquely designed, then becomes a partner of others to help communicate ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc. And depending on who their partnering with, the sound may be slightly different. For example, the “c” in cat generates a different sound then the “c” in church. Yet it is the same letter, but changes their sound when associated with others.
People are the same. We are uniquely designed and our natural abilities and purpose for living become known by the people we associate with. Just like the letter “c” has certain characteristics, you and I have certain natural abilities and personality which make us individuals. Alone, we have very little to offer. However, when we join others, we discover our purpose and derive meaning for living.
Though this is a simply analogy, I hope to demonstrate that when we partake with the Triune God on HIS mission to raise a universal family, train them in HIS family business, and make HIM known to others, opens the door to living a more meaningful life now.
And while we learn to walk with HIM now, we also learn to serve others. As we learn to serve others, we discover our unique design and natural abilities. Over time, we begin to purposely focus our uniqueness with the opportunities which come our way and when we view life from the rear-view mirror, we then will spot the invisible hand leading us through all the stuff that makes up life until we arrive where we are today.
Yet while we stagger along, hesitant yet faithful, testing and failing, celebrating the smallest of victories and gracefully learning from our poor decisions, we become more secure in our walk with the Lord’s macro mission while HE strengthens us and lives HIS life in us while we also pursue our micro mission on earth today.
As I have mentioned many times, life is a ballroom dance with the Almighty. As HE works on HIS macro-objectives, we follow; As we work on our micro-objectives, HE walks with us teaching us along the way. Just like the letter “c”.
When your purpose is centered around HIM, then you learn the joy in serving others, and your purpose and meaning for life will follow.
So, when you get to heaven, what do you think you will be doing? Laying around on hammocks? Taking short walks through the countryside? Fishing on your favorite river?
What does the Bible imply?
When Christ returns and we who have followed HIM in this life will be resurrected and join him in his plan for humanity. This is the first resurrection. As today’s Scripture indicates, we who are resurrected will be given assignments which involve being priests (serving ministers) and will reign (govern) with Jesus during the millennium.
Yes, we will be serving and governing God’s way.
So, what does that indicate you are learning now in this life to prepare you for eternity? Correct, we are learning how to serve and govern God’s way.
As married couples, we are learning to mutually serve one another. As parents, we are learning to govern our households. In the marketplace, we are learning to serve others through our work. In the community, we are likewise learning to serve when we volunteer to help a worthwhile mission. If we have been given the opportunity, we may also be learning to govern in the marketplace and community depending on our leadership abilities.
In fact, each day you and I are learning to become more effective leaders while serving and governing others. Not like this world teaches, but as Christ teaches. We lead and govern not by lording over another person, but humbly serving them from a position of love for our Father God’s glory. We realize each person we meet is a child of the living God and is likewise being trained in godly character. They may not realize the full importance nor accept the authority of the Triune God in their life yet, but in time who knows the future. Nothing is impossible for God.
So, the next time someone asks you what you will be doing in the world tomorrow. Let them know its what you are doing today – learning to serve and govern God’s way.
When it comes to reading and understanding the Bible, there are at least five main schools of thought people use to interpret Scripture. They are:
Grammatical, Historical View
The Allegorical view was used by many of the early church fathers. Everything they read was viewed from a mystical, spiritual platform. There was no literal, concrete understanding of Scripture applied from a known real world. Interpretation was solely a subjective understanding of a non-physical, super-natural dimension.
The Liberal view analyzed Scripture from a current, cultural worldview based on man’s reasoning capabilities. If science cannot justify it, it must not be true. If it is not rational, then there is some error. Scripture becomes a personal, subjective study of its contents.
The Neo-Orthodox view Scripture as God’s spoken word to specific people at specific times and not necessarily meant for everyone everywhere at all times. However, when God’s written Word becomes meaningful and purposeful to the individual is when then God speaks to the individual.
The Devotional view simplifies Scripture to a “what’s in it for me” approach. It views the Bible as a self-help book extracting principles and values for personal enhancement. It at times focuses on the narrowest topic and excludes the global overview of the subject matter.
The Grammatical, Historical view looks at the context of the writings from the then culture when written and the known historical and literature data accumulated from then to arrive at its meaning and purpose at the then time. From there, Scripture is transferred to the present time under current conditions and made applicable and relevant in today’s culture.
Most of us, depending on our upbringing, will initially start reading Scripture from one of these viewpoints. Slowly though over time, as we become more of an amateur theologian, we will eventually fall into the Grammar-Historical view. Though we will occasionally, depending on the context and subject matter, entertain the other viewpoints, our main emphasis will be to become more and more a historical student of the Bible.
With the internet and libraries of stored reference, everyone who desires to know more about the Bible and its contents can become an avid student of Scripture. No one person on earth has the corner knowledge of Scripture. We are all studying and discovering more and more of Scripture’s practical implications for today. Yes, it takes time, but what you gain is a more confident reassurance of the Triune God’s involvement and love for you and humanity.
The bottom-line: no matter which viewpoint you use, the main focus is still Jesus Christ. When we realize HE is the centralized character of the entire Bible, then the various chapters and sections always seem to better align themselves built upon the foundation of the Incarnate Triune God. This is why we learn, integrate, and grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ through the application of Scripture in our everyday world. We discover more of who Jesus Christ IS and God’s overall purpose and plan for humanity.