Thanksgiving on the Clearance Aisle

 

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One stroll through such retailers as Target, Wal-Mart, Dollar General, etc., and you might be left with the impression that we went straight from Halloween to Christmas! Tucked over in a corner, like it was an afterthought, are the remains of fall decorations already clearance priced. What happened to Thanksgiving?  Did someone misplace it?  Did the Grinch steal it, too?

Aww, never fear!  Thanksgiving is always here!

Thanksgiving is every day.  In the words of Pastor Rick Johnson, “Soak your soul” in the following living words of God:

Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:18- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.

This morning, as I have done in past years, I am daily logging a “note of thanks” in my journal.  A focus on gratitude redirects our selfish hearts to hearts warmed by the goodness of God seen all around us, even in the hard times.

How about joining me this month?  Start a thanksgiving journal. Communicate each day with others your note of thanks.  When asked, “How ya doin’?”— share your thanksgiving note!

Don’t let thanksgiving be on the clearance aisle.  Put it up front for all to see and hear!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

That Dimmed Look

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There she sat, all prettied up, seated in her comfy chair, and a silent stare etched on her sweet face and a dimmed look in her eye.  The TV was playing on old rerun of Gunsmoke. When I entered the room, she lifted her clouded eyes and smiled a bit, but she did not recognize me.

I knelt down on one knee beside her, greeted her warmly, and began a conversation that was mostly one-sided.  She handed me something that was very real to her but only imaginary to me. That dimmed look was one of struggle as she tried to put words together to form a sentence, but she could only mumble a few recognizable words at best.  She called me by another name, “Mr. Gilbert,” which reminded me of the many years of hearing her say, “Well, there’s my pastor!”

That dimmed look, eyes a bit foggy, soon was changed.  As I began to quote Psalm 23, she joined me word-for-word and her countenance was lifted.  Then I began to sing How Great Thou Art to which she chimed in.  Her precious, melodic soprano voice was clear and precise. Our duet continued through two stanzas of Amazing Grace and one verse of In the Garden.

When we finished our mini-concert of praise, I had prayer with her.  She hugged me, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for coming to see her, once again struggling to put words together. As I headed for the door, she returned to her dimmed look with that bit of a silent stare.

As I walked down the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about what came to her mind so readily and caused her dimmed look to be one of hope-filled anticipation. She probably learned Psalm 23 as a child and has sung those songs for years because of her personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.

If I were in her shoes . . . would I have the same response?  Have I filled my mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8)?  Have the praises of God and His Word been my meditation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) while I still have the capability to do so?  Or is my mind filled with worry, fretting, anxiety, fear, lies, lust, bitterness, useless trivia, and “breaking news”?

In time her memory will totally fade unless the Lord calls her Home before then.  But in the meantime, that dimmed looked is brightened when the chords of her heart are reminded of what really matters . . . the eternal things, the Eternal One  . . . the One she will see and know forever when her faith becomes complete sight.  No more dimmed look.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

 

My Savior First of All

When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Chorus:
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.

2 Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.

—- Fanny Crosby

A Touch of Heaven

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It is now 355 days away, and yes, I am counting, until we gather again for the Friday evening session of Men’s Prayer Advance!  Every year, I must say that it is a “little bit of heaven on earth.”  There is a genuine spirit of expectancy; a passion to worship in song, prayer and praise; a longing to hear the Word preached again; and an unparalleled unity among men before the Throne of God!

How is it that over 600 men gathered in one auditorium are singing with all their heart and voice, even if they have no musical ability?  How is it that these men are uninhibited in their expressions of love for God and surrender to God?  How is that men are willing to clap and/or raise their hands in praise, shout for joy, and even move to the altar in conviction even during a sermon, pray with such honesty and transparency, and not be ashamed to confess Christ before their peers?

I believe the answer is found in Exodus 14:30-31, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. 

And then note their response to the Lord’s working as recorded in Exodus 15:1-3 and following,

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

2 The Lord is my strength and my song,

    and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

    the Lord is his name.

The Children of Israel had been exposed to the character and works of God!  They saw, listened, believed and then worshiped!

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The Friday night service is a touch of heaven because we arrive on Thursday afternoon in need of a touch from God, a heart-change.  From the very first general session until Friday night, we are exposed to powerful, convicting preaching; many times of prayer with another man or in groups; CPR prayer (confession, praise, requests) in our Thursday half-night of prayer; Sweet Hour of Prayer on Friday mid-morning; breakout sessions that deal with men’s heart issues; and music that magnifies Christ, glorifies God, and lifts the soul!

So, when Friday night rolls around, you have over 600 men who are ready to worship because as we heard this year, “we are not cleaner, we are CLEAN” before the Lord!

You know, Sunday services at church, for instance, should be times of awesome worship, too, if we are being exposed every day to the Word and broken in prayer!  When you have a daily fresh encounter with God Who is your Holy, Loving, Just, Righteous, Awesome, Transcendent Heavenly Father, it will affect your worship!  And as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, worship is 24-7 . . . not just on Sundays or Men’s Prayer Advance.

So, are you giving God Exodus 15 kind of praise today?

Are your co-workers experiencing salt and light (Matthew 5:14-15) and seeing Matthew 5:16 fulfilled in their lives because you have been exposed to the Son?

Will today in your home before your family and next Sunday at your church be a touch of heaven because you are clean?

As we were so challenged this year, we must “keep the clay wet” (Jeremiah 18:6); “shut the door” (Matthew 6:5-15); and “stay in faith” (Hebrews 11:6).

(If you want to watch the services, check out this site as well as the other links: Thursday NIght Service 1.26.17)

Jesus Ministered Again on the Sea of Galilee

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As I prepared my heart and mind for another trip to Israel, the thought of riding on the Sea of Galilee again brought a renewed spirit of great expectancy!

Five years ago as the boat pulled away from the dock, my wife and I stood near the bow and fixed our gaze all around us.  “This is where Jesus spent so much of His early ministry!”  We envisioned Him walking on the water, travelling along the shore, calming the storm, reaching out to Peter, healing the maniac of Gadara, as well as other events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

In a few moments, the owners of the boat began to play over the loud speakers, “How Great Is Our God.”

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Several of us, gathered at the bow, began to sing along, tears streaming down our cheeks.  The calmness of the sea, the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the person of Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) and  the fellowship in worship of brothers and sisters like us in Christ was so absolutely awesome!  Once again, Christ was ministering on the Sea of Galilee!!

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Well, fast forward to three weeks ago, and once again, we experienced the same, but this time on a much deeper level.  How wonderful to sing “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”  With hands and voices raised up to heaven, our hearts overflowed with praise to our great God for His Son, His salvation, and His grace! Then we heard the Word of God preached to us while we sailed along.  The Christ in us ministered once again on the Sea of Galilee to each of us.

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Of course we are back home now, and the same Jesus continues to minister to us as we obey His call recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The same Christ, Who through the Holy Spirit, taught us, led us to worship, and ministered to our hearts on the Sea of Galilee is ready and willing to do the same today.  All you must do is open the Word of God and let Him speak to you from the pages of His eternal, life-giving book of absolute truth!

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So, come along with me today and let’s “ride the boat” as Jesus ministers once again to His redeemed ones!   Go ahead and sing, too!! (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

Give Him Praise!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)

This was one of the first passages of Scripture that I learned in my early days.  To this day, it evokes a heart of praise and worship that stirs me and causes me to anticipate the day when we will all acknowledge that Christ is Lord!

Note the action/descriptive words in this psalm:  joyful noise (shout), serve, gladness, singing, know, enter into, thanksgiving, praise, and bless.  Now all those words describe in some way the blessing of worship.  When we know, understand, meditate upon, and acknowledge that . . .

  • The Lord, He is God,
  • God made us; we did not,
  • We are God’s people, children,
  • We are the sheep of His pasture; what a Shepherd (Psalm 23),
  • The Lord is good,
  • The Lord’s mercy is everlasting,
  • The Lord’s truth endures to all generations . . .

what better response to these absolutes than worship?  Give Him praise!  Shout and serve Him!  Enter into worship corporately with other born again believers!  Bless His holy name!  Sing joyfully to the Lord!

Enter into your family supper gathering, visiting with friends, corporate worship, small group Sunday School class, or car on the way to work or school with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise! Respond to Who God is by every praise, every word of worship, giving Him the glory due to His name!!  Give Him praise today!!

Overflowing Gratitude

Recently, a friend of mine, Ken Turner of Ken Turner Ministries, a frontline outreach to high-risk and fatherless teens in Dayton, TN, sent out the following testimony via email:

The other day I led a Bible study at the Mountain View Juvenile Development Center in Dandridge, TN with a group of high school age boys. Since we are in the Thanksgiving holiday season, I decided to address the topic of… you guessed it… Thanksgiving. To be honest, I had to really pray about this and think it through carefully. How do you teach on the topic of gratitude to a group of high school guys who are locked in a detention facility and will spend Thanksgiving away from family and loved ones? How do you communicate the Biblical truth “in everything give thanks” when there could be so many things to steal your joy? After praying and asking God for help, I was led to share Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3. We studied Ephesians 4:17-32 and Colossians 3:12-17. After absorbing the truth of these passages and seeing a clear and specific list of things God wants us to “put off” and “put on” the guys came to the conclusion that you cannot be truly thankful if your heart is not right with God. Colossians 3 tells us to “let the peace of God rule in our hearts… and let the word of Christ dwell richly in us… and to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to Him.” Once they “got it” I closed the Bible and asked, “Okay, so what do you have to be thankful for?” And that’s when the gratitude began to flow freely. They didn’t struggle to think of things worth thanking God for. The list included, a warm bed top sleep in, three meals each day, a secure environment, family, people like us who care enough to come share the Word with them and even more interesting were things like “eyes to see, ears to hear and a nose to smell.” They got it! As much as I was worried about how awkward it might be to study Thanksgiving from a Biblical perspective I left knowing that on this Thursday morning, a group of boys locked in the detention facility in the mountains of Tennessee are going to wake up and thank God for some very specific blessings He has bestowed upon them. If they can be thankful… so can we.

When you consider the greatness and goodness of our God, overflowing gratitude should pour from our heart and lips every day, and especially today!  As you gather with your family, friends, co-workers, or . . . maybe you are alone, consider the awesome majesty of God!  Begin to praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for all He has done!  I promise you that the praises will begin to overflow! Indeed, if young men in prison can be grateful, so can we.

Psalm 9:1-2

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all Your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in You;

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

HAPPY, BLESSED THANKSGIVING!!

Ken Turner Ministries

I Rest My Case At the CrossI’m resting in my justification in Christ and praising, shouting, weeping, overflowing with gratitude when I hear this song!

We Were Made to Praise the Lord

TWO HYMNS OF PRAISE TO THE LORD

Psalm 96 – Praise of God’s Greatness & Glory

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved;
He shall judge the peoples righteously.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.

You Are Always Good This is the second song of praise.  The whole video will be a blessing to you, but the song begins at the 31:00 mark.  A testimony about the song begins at 27:00.

Yes, while I live I will praise Him, but forever in Glory, our praise will be pure, perfect, and eternal!!  We were created to praise Him!

Good, Pleasant & Fitting

Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting (Psalm 147:1).

Psalms 146-150 are known as a Hallel (praise) collection of descriptive praise hymns.  These psalms were used daily in prayer and worship within the synagogue.  This particular psalm begins with a familiar tune (Psalms 104:35; 106:1; 113-118; 146:1) which is a call to praise God in song.

Music, a divine creation, is an awesome way to express grateful praise to our God!  In this passage we we learn that praise to God in song is:

Good because it is to God; it draws the heart from earth to heaven; and it declares the character of God.

Pleasant because God is pleased to hear it; the words agree with Who God is; and it always agrees with the heart of a born again believer.

Fitting because we were made to praise the Lord!

What a joy to gather with the saints of God on a Sunday morning or evening in congregational praise!  There is something special and awe-inspiring to sing a text that pulls the truth from your heart through your lips in praise and adoration of our God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Today, whether you are alone in the car, with your family at devotion time or gathered with believers in your small group or in assembly at church, Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting!!

Nothing Ever Can, Nothing Ever Will – This has become one of our favorites at BCBC since June 2014.  The song begins 1:10 into the video.  What a joy to be in the audience on that Sunday night in Lancaster, CA, to hear it for the first time!  Awesome truth, awesome song!!

Marmaduke Size Worship

One of my all-time favorite single cartoons has Billy Winslow standing at the drug store soda fountain watching the waitress load up his ice cream cone.  Just as she begins the process, Billy seizes the opportunity of perhaps frightening the server into put more on the cone than usual.  So he turns to his Great Dane pet and says, “Bark now, Marmaduke! Bark now!”  Billy didn’t want just a child-size portion, he wanted an overflow portion!  He wanted that ice cream to fill the cone and run over!

Question:  When you attended church yesterday, was your worship child-size portion or did you worship out of the overflow?  What I mean is, did you come to church expecting to meet with God?  Were you excited about joining with other believers in corporate praise?  Did you sing to Lord with all your heart, give to the Lord with all your heart, serve the Lord with all you heart? Did you hunger to hear the Word, and then respond to what God said to you?  Did you leave the service saying, “I have seen the Lord!  I met with Him today!  Here is what He said to me.”

Could much of Psalm 96 been written to describe your worship from yesterday?

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.

Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.

Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.

Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.

12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice

13 Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

My challenge to you today is to so spend time in the Word this week sitting at Jesus’ feet letting the Holy Spirit teach you (Matthew 11:28-30; John 16:13-15), listening to worship music though out the week, talking to others about your God and your Savior, meeting with Him on your knees, mediating and memorizing the Word so much that when you come to worship next Sunday, you don’t need Marmaduke to bark.  You are more than ready to worship out of the overflow.  You don’t need someone or some group to lead you into worship.  You have lived a life of worship all week that is so rich and God-glorifying that Christ will be magnified by your overflowing worship!!

See you next Sunday!  I’ll be ready to shout to the Lord, give Him praise, listen to His voice through the preached Word, and join you in preparation for that eternal day of worship and praise!  Let’s come with an “ice cream cone that is running over!”

Give Him Praise!

While reading Psalm 149 yesterday morning, the following stood out to me, Let the high praises of God be in their mouth (149:6a).  What does the psalmist mean by high praises?

  1. Praise is speaking or singing specifically of the greatness of God, Who He is, His attributes. Since He is the transcendent God, the God above all gods, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, then I must give Him the high praise, the highest praise.
  2. High praise means that my praise must be elevated. Weak, timid praise does not glorify my God.  I need to elevate His praise in my heart, before the hearing of men, and in priority.  Charles H. Spurgeon said, “We praise a great God! We should, therefore, praise Him with high feelings, feelings wound up to the highest point of high delight and high desire!  Our praises should climb up to heaven’s gate—running up Jacob’s ladder even as the angels did—till we cast our praises right at the foot of the eternal Throne of God.”
  3. High praise must be in my mouth. This means “in their throat.”  Our praise should come from deep within us, from a heart that adores our God and loves Him with my all!!

Psalm 149 begins and ends with these words:  Praise ye the LORD!  How do you begin your day and how do you end it?  What is found in your mouth in between the beginning and the end?  Let the saints be joyful . . . let them sing aloud . . . let the high praises of God be in their mouths (149:5-6).