Giving Praise to God

As I was reading up on my study of the book of Exodus this morning, I came across this from the Billy Graham website that I found especially timely.

“Five things will help position us to hear from the Lord. First, pray. Talk to the Lord. Have a conversation with Him. Second, affirm His greatness. God wants us to praise His name. Jesus taught us to do this upfront when He said: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Third, release any and all personal opinions and pet peeves about what you have and what you may think about this subject (idols). Tell the Lord Jesus you are letting go of anything and anyone other than God. Fourth, listen! We are surrounded and constantly accompanied by a cacophony of sound and distraction so that it is increasingly difficult to listen to God. Whatever it is, turn it off. Lay it down. Stop and listen, because the Lord will speak to you from the mountain. Remember, the Ten Commandments are God’s invitation to come up to where He is, rather than to go down to where man is. Finally, determine to obey. Make the decision to submit to all the Lord says, and you will be blessed indeed.” https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/march-2013/you-shall-not-make-for-yourself-any-graven-image/

The article also states: “Despite our blessings, we have become an increasingly idolatrous people. God cannot be pleased. We worship so many of our blessings instead of simply thanking God for them and enjoying them. We worship sport, celebrities, clothes, money, church buildings, politics, positions, abilities and capabilities. Idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than God.”

God deserves our worship and praise and He is certainly pleased when we do so with our focus completely upon him. We sang the song “Hosanna” during our worship service on Sunday and I have been listening to it all week. I hope that you are blessed by listening to this beautiful song that glorifies God.

 

Heavenly Citizenship

Philippians 3:17-21: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live accordingly to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

The following is a post from several years ago but with new readers, I wanted to share it again, as it fits so well with this passage from Philippians. As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be a citizen of heaven, however, you are already a citizen of heaven if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. As followers of Christ, we should be encouraged to live out our life here on earth with the constant mindset that we are citizens of heaven.

My grandfather, Cleve Simmons, was a deacon in his church, he was a farmer, and he was a good Christian man.  I spent a lot of time with him as I was growing up – and he always had many stories about his life to share with me.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these stories taught me many valuable life lessons that help to guide me even today.  My grandfather was wise in the way that you should live your life in order to please God.

He had so much wisdom that he would pass on to me throughout my teen years.  He believed and had a deep faith in God, and he did not doubt for a second, that God was with him each and every day of his life. He believed in treating other people fairly, helping out those in need, and loving his neighbors as well as his family.  That was the kind of life that he tried to live out in his small farming community in Banks County.

My grandfather lived all of his 89 years in his beloved Banks County.  In fact, he rarely traveled outside of the state of Georgia.  Whenever I would ask him to take a day trip with us to Atlanta or to go on a short vacation with us he would always answer me the same way, he would say, “Son – I haven’t lost anything there – so there’s no need for me to go.”  He was a citizen of Banks County and the United States and he was proud of that.  But more importantly, he knew that he was a citizen of another place, a place that he couldn’t see but he knew that it existed.  He was also a citizen of heaven and that was one journey that he looked forward to.

He and I talked a lot about heaven.  He would tell me what he imagined heaven to be like and how he would be glad to see his parents and his brothers again as well as his son who had passed away from cancer at the young age of 39.  He was dedicated to living a good Christian life while here on earth and showing kindness and offering help to those less fortunate.

The book of Hebrews tells us, “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” And it is that promise of our future home that should help us become better people here on this earth.

I was with my grandfather on the night that he passed away and left this earth. He would be conscious one minute and then he would drift out on us the next.

When I walked into his hospital room that night, he opened his eyes and said “Hey son, it’s good to see you.”  He would continue to be in this world for a few minutes and then he would have visions of heaven which he would describe out loud to those of us present.  I knew that he was about to experience that beautiful heaven that he and I had so often talked about and wondered about.

He saw his brothers and he called them by name.  And then he drifted out on us again.   I have often wondered about his arrival in heaven and who was there to greet him among his family that had gone on before him.  I often wonder who was in his welcoming committee in heaven.

His last words to me were, “Son, it’s good to see you”, and I imagine that when he arrived in heaven he was also told, “Son, it’s good to see you, welcome home to the place that I have prepared for you, for eternity.

 

God – Our Comforter and Sustainer

This morning, if you are tired, weary, restless, or you have a fear of something new or unknown, take comfort in these words of scripture:

Psalm 56:3-4: When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (NIV)

Psalm 62 5-6: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (NIV)

If you feel helpless, weak, or all alone, find reassurance from these words of scripture:

Psalm 55:22: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (NIV)

Psalm 63:7-8: Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NIV)

If you know God, but you struggle through life, wondering if God is paying attention to your needs, perhaps asking yourself, “Does God really care about me?” If you are struggling with these questions this morning, find contentment in these words of scripture:

Psalm 61:1-2: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (NIV)

Psalm 62:11-12: One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (NIV)

If you are seeking the things of this world instead of God, take notice of the words from this psalm of David:

Psalm 63:1: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NIV)

If you have felt God’s love and presence in your life, rejoice in this word of scripture:

Psalm 63:3-4: Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (NIV)

If you believe that God is still in charge and is ruler of both heaven and earth, then open your heart to these psalms of praise:

Psalm 66:1-4: Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name. (NIV)

Psalm 67: 1-4: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. (NIV)

 

Jesus, I Adore You!

Philippians 2:12-16(NASB): 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

The Apostle Paul penned these words long ago to the early church at Philippi. These early believers were living among many lost souls who did not know about the love of Christ. The church at Philippi was one of Paul’s greatest church plants. The brothers and sisters there quickly embraced and lived out the Gospel of Christ. Paul was so proud of how this church, in his absence, continued to “appear as lights in the world” or in the NIV text, “stars in the sky.” Paul was encouraging them to preach the Gospel in the way they lived out their everyday life of faith in the midst of unbelievers.

This message is relevant and crucial for those of us who are followers of Christ today. Many people in our world today are moving farther away from a personal relationship with Christ. Their minds and desires are firmly set on earthly things. Their god and their idols are found in the possessions and the things of this world. They are only concerned with living in the moment and do not give a thought about what their future holds. As followers of Christ, we are to be an example of how to live a life dedicated to our Risen Lord and Savior. We are called to present an alternative of how the unbelieving world lives – we are to “appear as lights in the world.”

We must not give into the many desires and pleasures of this world. Our duty as Christ followers is to appear different from those in our society who think only of themselves and the many pleasures and material possessions of this world. As believers, we know that our reward will be found, not on this earth, but in heaven. We are different because we follow the one who paid the price for us on the cross at Calvary. Because of the love that Christ had for me and for you, we should at all times “adore” Christ and follow him. By belief in Christ and through the all-encompassing love of Christ, we have been set free from a life of sin and death. As followers of Christ, we can proclaim with all the saints, “I will bless your holy name – Lamb of God – my savior, prince of peace – I adore you! Jesus you mean all the world to me!”

So this week in your daily walk with God – try to be different! Strive to “appear as lights in the world” and let your life be a witness to a lost and unbelieving world. Allow them to see Christ in you!

 

Having The Mindset Of Christ

Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB):

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

 In our relationships with others, we are to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Stop and think about that for just a moment. If, in our relationships with other people, we treated them as Christ would, think about how much better this world would be. Of course, that would require more humility and a mindset to put the needs of others before our own needs. We would need to have greater compassion for our fellow man and we would need to listen and truly feel empathy towards others. We would have to put others first and ourselves last. Sounds like a difficult task, right?

Well, it’s not if we are followers of Christ and have the same mindset of Christ. Think about what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Did he dine with kings in palaces or did he meet people where they were in life, as they struggled with their day to day existence and faith? Jesus spent time eating, listening to and talking with “sinners,” and all those that society had forgotten or pushed aside.

Our scripture passage today reminds us that “he (Christ) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” And that is our calling today as followers of Christ – to take on the very nature of a servant and go out into the world with the same mindset of Christ. I urge you in your daily walk with God to have the mindset of Christ. Look at other people as Christ would. Be humble and attempt to put the needs of others before your own needs. Show compassion towards those people you encounter during the course of your day. Strive to have the mindset of Christ in all that you do today and in the days ahead.

Christ-Like Compassion

Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB): Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

What makes you look different to the unbelieving world, if you are a follower of Christ? Do you give freely of your time and material possessions to those in need? Can you look at your fellow man and see him or her as a creation of God? Are you more humble than proud? Do you regard others “as more important than yourselves?” Do you only look out for yourself and your family and never take into account the needs of others? Those who have not accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior are looking to us and how we live out our lives for the answers to these questions. Will your life be a witness to those who do not believe in order that they might be led closer to accepting Christ into their own lives? How we conduct ourselves as Christians can impact the lives of those around us.

Many people go through life and only think of themselves. They give very little thought to the people they come into contact with. Sadly, many people today only care about themselves and how much wealth and recognition they can attain. The Apostle Paul warns of such a time when the world is focused on itself: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4 NASB).

What kind of a believer will you be this week in your daily walk with God? If you are a follower of Christ, make every effort to be kind and considerate of others you come into contact with. Ask God to put someone in your path that is in need of some love and kindness. This week, try to look at others as more important than yourself and try to help them instead of being judgmental. The unbelieving world is watching how we will react to those in need of the love and salvation that only Christ can offer. Will you ask God to help you look at your fellow human beings this week and view their lives as more important than your own?

 

The Christian Life: Worthy of the Gospel

Philippians 1:27-30(NIV): 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

The first sentence in this passage is something that I need to be reminded of daily. As Christians, we must always strive to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. But the first two words of this passage is something that we often fail to fully comprehend: “Whatever happens” can be two difficult words for most of us to fully embrace.

If you listen to those who preach the prosperity gospel, you will hear little mention of passages like this. It has been my experience that life is lived one day at a time and there will be good days and also difficult days. How we react to and handle those moments serve to define who we are as a Christian. We certainly fail to prepare new believers in their daily walk with God if we don’t help them to understand that – “whatever happens” – we must continue to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. And this is also true of not only new believers, but those who have been followers of Christ for a long time. We must all be reminded that non-believers will be watching to see how we cope with the difficult and tragic moments of life as followers of Christ.

This week, I have been reminded that so many unexpected and difficult times will come upon all of us, believers and non-believers alike. We can’t anticipate or prepare for these moments in life, but we do have the assurance of knowing that Christ will be with us as we go through difficult times, and will help us to emerge stronger for facing these trials. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Paul writes that we are to “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” The world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and it’s crucial that all believers pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to stand firm against those who oppose our faith. So far, I have not been asked to endure many hardships for proclaiming the gospel message but that situation could change very quickly in the future. Christ suffered and died for our sins and we are encouraged to view it as a privilege when we face adversities and hardship in the name of Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17). Will you view it a privilege to suffer for the name of Christ? Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are faced with that very question today. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

 

 

Philippians: To Live is Christ

Philippians 1:21-26(NASB): 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

In this passage from Philippians, we find Paul longing for heaven but knowing in his heart that he still had more of God’s work to carry out on this earth. Paul is looking forward to that day when his body will be made new and glorious and he will be in the presence of God. But for now, Paul is convinced that God still has plenty for him to do on this earth: “I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”

As I grow older, I often just get quiet before God and wonder what heaven will be like. I guess I owe that to my grandfather who would many times wonder out loud about heaven. We would often sit on his front porch and we would talk about heaven and what we imagined heaven to be like. For my grandfather, he longed to see many of his family who had gone on before him and he would describe to me what he thought that reunion would be like. But more importantly, he longed to be at home with the Lord and in the presence of God.

My grandfather would describe to me what he thought heaven might look like and the beauty that he described remains with me to this day. However, he would always caution me that, while it’s natural to imagine what heaven will be like, God expects us to continue on with the work he has given us on this earth, until the time comes when he calls us home. Paul is at this very place in his ministry, longing to be with Christ, but realizing that he still has plenty of work to do on this earth. Paul calls this “fruitful labor.”

I was thinking about my grandfather the other day and our many conversations about heaven. Those frequent talks have remained with me throughout my life and have given me hope during difficult times. One of my fondest memories is of me playing hymns on the piano and my grandfather singing along. One of his favorite hymns was, “Shall we gather at the river.” To this day, I can hear him singing along as I played this old hymn. After singing this hymn, he would often talk about his image of that beautiful river that flowed by the throne of God. I am so grateful that God put this man in my life in order to teach me about God and how to live a life that exists only to glorify God in all things.

God expects his followers to be “fruitful” in our labors for his kingdom. We must continue to be the hands and feet of Christ to a lost and dying world. But we also need to take a little time to just close our eyes and imagine what our eternal reward will be like; we need to take the time to imagine the beauty of heaven. It is moments like these that give us hope and encouragement to continue on in this world, until that day when we shall “gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.”

 

 

 

 

Philippians: In Chains but not Defeated

Philippians 1:12-14(NIV):12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

From the text today, we find Paul “in chains for Christ.” Paul is imprisoned, not because of an actual crime that he committed, but rather he is confined because of his courage to proclaim the gospel. And from scripture we know that the “whole palace guard” knows the truth behind Paul’s imprisonment. What seems like a hopeless situation for Paul and the spread of the gospel has actually served to be a springboard for the gospel to be presented to the “whole palace guard.” Paul trusted that God would take what seemed to be a hopeless situation and turn it into something that would introduce new people to Christ and ultimately glorify God. Paul did not let his chains keep him from doing what God had called him to do.

Romans 8:28 (NIV): And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What are the chains that are holding you back from being what God has called you to be or do?

  • Is it the chains of fear? Fear of what others will think about you or say about you?
  • Are you shackled with chains of doubt? Do you doubt that God can work miracles when it seems all hope is lost?
  • Is it chains of dependency upon something other than God?
  • Are you chained to an addiction and doubt the power of God to help you overcome your addition?

If you read the Bible, you will find that God’s greatest power and work is displayed when human beings are at their weakest point. God prefers to work in this way, so that you and I, and the world will know, the true power behind the miracle. Only God has the power to transform lives in such a way that everyone will know that is only by the power of God that such a drastic change has taken place. I wonder if even Paul could have imagined how even his imprisonment could not stop the spread of the gospel.

Think for a moment about Paul’s followers. They have heard that Paul is in prison and what did it cause them to do? Did they become afraid to proclaim the gospel? No! Our text tells us that “because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Notice that the text reads, “most of the brothers.” Not everyone had the necessary faith and trust in God to continue proclaiming the gospel. These were people who were still battling their chains of fear and doubt.

What chains do you need to break free from today? Pray that God will give you the courage, and the trust and faith in him, to break free from whatever chains are preventing you from being all that God created you to be. Remember that God does his best work when we are at our weakest point.

 

Philippians: Pure and Blameless

Philippians 1:9-11(ESV): 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As I continue my daily reading of Philippians, I find myself confronted with these challenging questions:

  • How do we gain “knowledge” and “discernment?”
  • How can we keep ourselves “pure” and “blameless” in anticipation of Christ’s return?
  • How can we be filled with the “fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ?”

For me, knowledge and discernment is found by making time for God, by having a quiet time to read His word and to pray. This time for me is in the morning, while it is still quiet and before my mind begins to wander in many different directions. I have to focus and be very intentional about making God a priority as I begin my day. It never ceases to amaze me how I will open up my Bible to a certain passage that I wouldn’t normally go to and how that passage can be used by God to give me knowledge and discernment. Quite often, God gives me a certain knowledge and discernment that I will need for that specific day.

Paul expressed this same idea in his letter to the church at Colosse: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

Why did Paul want the church to gain spiritual wisdom and understanding? He answers that question in the next verse: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:10-12).  

We live in a sinful, fallen world! That statement should not come as a surprise to you. For us who are believers, we must recognize that fact and we must constantly be on guard for anything that will cause us to stumble on our daily walk with God. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), however, we can certainly repent of our sins and ask God for help in overcoming sin, especially those sins that we seem more prone to repeat. We can pray that God will work within us to help us discern the best choices to make so that we can be an example to others of how to live a life that is pleasing to God.

What does a life look like that is led by the Holy Spirit and has been “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ?” Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, answers this very question. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:22-26).

God has been so merciful to me and he continues to show me mercy even though I am not worthy of His mercy and love. As the song below so beautifully exclaims, because of your (God’s) mercy, I’m overwhelmed by you!

 

 

My Daily Journey With God in Athens Ga.