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FS Sunday Sermon Will He Fail Me Now?

FS Sunday Sermon

Will He Fail Me Now?

When We Doubt the Faithfulness of God

By: Lewis Guest IV

Fear has been a constant, albeit unbidden, companion of humanity since the fall. Concerns can range between the jitters from many-legged creatures to the debilitation of a doctor’s diagnosis, but consider for a moment the prevalent fear, even among Christians, of our own faithlessness.

A cursory glance at the words of our Lord alone should produce in us a deep desire to not be faithless. It’s a matter of joy. Believers, above all things, are not to be atheistic. Eternity is at stake, and crowns get snatched from those who do not hold fast (Revelation 3:11). Warning passages abound that pave the way for empowering grace as we fight for the eternal validation our hearts yearn for — “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

And yet, this fear of faithlessness is not the one that keeps us awake staring at the ceiling in the dark night of the soul, or when hopes are dashed or finances dry up, or relationships crumble, or persecution bites.

Will He Come Through?

If we allow ourselves a moment of honesty, in times of trials and suffering, there tends to be a voice that does not strive against our faithlessness but calls into question the faithfulness of God.

Will he come through? Will he do what he has promised? Will he provide? Will he heal? Will he save? Will he strengthen? He will hold me fast. Will he?

The soul-crippling fear of the Lord’s faithlessness is worthy of a heated battle. Indeed, we must strive against the fear of the Lord’s faithlessness. How shall we fight against it? Might I suggest a trip through Narnia?

One of the deep delights of spending time in Narnia is the sights we get of Aslan. One stands out to me. As Lucy utters the spell to make hidden things visible from the Magician’s Book, Aslan appears to her once again. Lucy is taken aback by his assertion that she had a part to play in making him visible. “It did,” said Aslan. “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?” This hit me as I was reminded that my obedience to God is an obedience that occurs second: God keeps his word. He always remains faithful.

We Do His Word

Our obedience is certainly required in Scripture. We are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). In a real sense, a person’s soul hangs in the balance regarding his glad-hearted obedience or soul-deluding disobedience. As crucial as hearing God’s word is, the testimony of Scripture is that the end of proper hearing is action.

What James wrote propositionally, Jesus painted pictorially through the image of a constructed house.

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:46–49).

When we are hearers only of God’s word, we become deceived and in as much danger as a beautiful home without a solid foundation. By grace, resolve to be like the owner who built his unshakable house on the firm foundation by being a doer of the word.

Because God Keeps His Word

But there is a more significant and fundamentally firmer foundation. All of reality rests on this foundation. Creation, redemption, sanctification, and glorification rests on this foundation. Our God is a doer of his word.
Our God is faithful to keep what he has promised because he is righteous in his character. As Aslan asked Lucy, “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?” It is the testimony of Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 that our God will do what he said he would do. God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill (Numbers 23:19)? Did he say it? Won’t he do it?

Woven into the very fabric of the nature of God is his faithfulness. In the proclamation of his name to Moses, loyalty is no minor trait. He abounds in faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). Poetic imagery in the song of Moses captures who the Lord is through the picture of a reliable rock. “The Rock, his way is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Would there be any greater dismay in the entire universe than an unfaithful God who failed to keep his word?

Remember His Faithfulness

As Joshua prepared to exit stage left, his final charge to Israel included the reminder that not one word had failed of all the good things that the Lord promised — all had come to pass (Joshua 23:14). The Psalmist gives us good soul food for our hearts to feast upon every time we step outside and look up at the vastness of the sky. “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Psalm 36:5).

A beam of hopeful light pierces through the dark exilic clouds of Lamentations. “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23). Gladly we sing, “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” He is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Mightily we fight against the fear of a faithless God.

Human unbelief has no bearing on the Lord’s faithfulness. “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words and prevail when you are judged’” (Romans 3:3–4). There is a good reason why. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

The supremely tremendous and right declaration from the witness of Scripture is that above all things our Triune God is faithful to himself.

He Will Not Fail You Now

There is profound encouragement in knowing that our God is faithful to his own. Spiritual fortitude in the face of fear finds its source in God’s deeper commitment to himself. His faithfulness to us is the fruit of his allegiance to himself. Here is where hope in the most challenging circumstances finds fertile soil to flourish. Here is the battleground where the fear of the Lord’s faithlessness is fought tooth and nail. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you who is deeply and rightly committed to the glory of your faithful name (Psalm 56:3).

The ground of our hope is our Lord’s faithfulness to his word. He has promised us great things. Won’t he do them? Do you think he wouldn’t heed his own rules? If we are to be doers of his word and not hearers only, it rests fundamentally on the fact that God is a doer of his word. The fear of God’s faithlessness is an irrational fear. By grace, like Job, make a covenant with the eyes of your faith to keep them locked on the facts of God’s faithfulness.

Let us, then, hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).


FS Sunday Sermon
The Battle Is Mine
By: Chuck Swindoll


The beautiful thing about this story is that it’s a perfect example of how God operates. He magnifies HIS name when we are weak. We don’t have to be eloquent or strong or beautiful or physically fit or handsome. We don’t have to be well-traveled or brilliant or have all the answers to be blessed of God. He honors our faith. All He asks is that we trust Him, that we stand before Him in integrity and faith, and He’ll win the battle. God is just waiting for His moment, waiting for us to trust Him so He can empower us to battle our giants.

Remember, Goliath is still a giant . . . still an imposing presence. David had all the odds against him. There wasn’t a guy in the Philistine camp—or probably the Israelite camp either—who would have bet on David. But David didn’t need their backing. He needed God—none other. After picking up the stones, he approached the gigantic Philistine warrior.

The shepherd boy made the giant smile. What a joke! Just imagine! David stood before this massive creature unintimidated!

Intimidation. That’s our MAJOR battle when we face giants. When they intimidate us, we get tongue-tied. Our thoughts get confused. We forget how to pray. We focus on the odds against us. We forget whom we represent, and we stand there with our knees knocking. I wonder what God must think, when all the while He has promised us, “My power is available. There’s no one on this earth greater. You trust Me.”

Be assured, David’s eyes weren’t on the giant. Intimidation played no part in his life. What a man! His eyes were fixed on God. With invincible confidence in his God, David responded, “that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’s” (17:47). There it is. That’s the secret of David’s life. “The battle is the LORD’s.” Are you trying to do your own battle? Trying to do things your way? Trying to outsmart the enemy, outfox him? You can’t. But God can. And He’s saying to you, “You do it My way and I’ll honor you. You do it your way and you’re doomed to fail. The battle is Mine.

FS Sunday Sermon – What Prayer Does God Answer?

What Prayers Does God Answer?
By: John Piper


God never ignores his children. He is never too busy. Never lacking in resources. Never confused. Never ill-disposed. He is always attentive. Always gracious. Always eager. Always wise. Always loving. He hears every request from his humble, trusting children, and he answers with whatever is best. It always pays to pray. Always.

That does not mean a life of prayer is not perplexing. My aim is to encourage you in your prayers by answering three especially difficult questions: (1) what does it mean to ask God for things “according to his will” (1 John 5:14)? (2) Why are we not told to pray for the forgiveness of “sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16)? (3) What does “whatever” mean in 1 John 3:22, when it says, “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him”? I think a text-based answer to each of these questions is a great encouragement to pray.

I focus on these three questions because, in trying to answer the first one, I realized that the context led to answers for the other two as well. Here is the text that raises, and answers, the first two questions:

This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life — to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:14–18)

Two Wills in God

What does “according to his will” mean in verse 14? “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” There are two possible meanings for “God’s will” found in the Bible. On the one hand, God’s will is what he commands, or what he tells us is right to do. On the other hand, God’s will is whatever God decides will come to pass. We can call the first meaning God’s will of command. And the second we can call God’s will of decree.

For example, you can see God’s will of decree in Ephesians 1:11: “[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Or in James 4:15: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” In both of these texts, the will of God refers to God’s control over all that happens: “All things.” Staying alive and doing “this or that.” This is God’s will of decree. Everything that happens is God’s will in this sense. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3; cf. Psalm 135:6).

On the other hand, you can see God’s will of command, for example, in 1 John 2:17: “Whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Or Mark 3:35: “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Or 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” We can see that “will of God,” in these verses, does not mean “all that happens.” It refers to what God commands as right for us to do.

The fact that there are two biblical ways to speak of “God’s will” means that a single act might be God’s will in one sense, but not in another. For example, it was clearly sinful and contrary to God’s will of command that innocent men would be crucified. God commanded, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). But men murdered Jesus, according to God’s plan of redemption. Isaiah 53:10 says, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” And Acts 4:28 says that these murderers (Herod, Pilate, Gentiles, Jewish crowds) did “whatever [God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place.” So the killing of Jesus was God’s will in the sense of his will of decree, but not his will in the sense of his will of command.

Now, which of these is intended when John writes, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14)?

Do Born-Again People Sin?

The answer is found as we keep reading in verse 16:

If anyone sees his brother committing . . . sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life — to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.

This concern with “sin that leads to death” and “sin not leading to death” is part of John’s larger concern in this letter. From beginning to end, John is concerned to guard against two opposite errors: (1) treating ongoing sin lightly and (2) despairing that if a believer sins he is lost. Both are errors.

Some of John’s community seem to think that you can continue sinning and still be born again. Others seem to think that, if you are born again, you don’t have any sin in your life. To the first group, John says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (1 John 3:9). To the second group, he says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). In other words, Christians sin, but Christians do not settle in with the practice of sin. Born-again people confess their sin as abhorrent (1 John 1:9), and make war on their temptations (Romans 8:13).

Sin That Leads to Death

So when we come to 1 John 5:16 and read about two kinds of sinning, we should not be surprised. One kind “leads to death.” And the other kind does “not lead to death.” John is not referring to a particular sin. What, then, is he referring to when he says, “there is sin [not a sin] that leads to death”?

Verse 18 gives the clue. Right after saying, “There is sin that leads to death” (v. 16) and “there is sin that does not lead to death” (v. 17), John says,
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God [Jesus] protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)

So the sinning that does not lead to death is the sinning of those who are “born of God,” but whose sinning is restrained by Jesus. Jesus protects and keeps his own. He restrains their sinning. He does not make them perfect in this life. But neither does he leave them to the power of sin. He protects them. And the evil one does not touch them in the sense of bringing them to ruin.

This implies, then, that “sin that leads to death” is the sinning of those who are not born of God. Their sinning is not restrained by Jesus. In fact, they are not true believers. They may be part of the church for a time, but they give way to patterns of sin and fall away. John describes them in 1 John 2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

The reason I say they are not true believers is that John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1). In other words, saving faith is a sign that one has been born of God, and we just saw in 5:18 that those who are born of God are kept by Jesus. He does not let them go on sinning — that is, he keeps them back from “sin that leads to death.”

So I am concluding from 1 John 5:18, and the wider context of 1 John, that “sin that leads to death” is not a particular sin, but a pattern of unrestrained sin that leads one away from Christ, and shows that one was never born again (1 John 2:19; 5:1, 18). It “leads to death,” therefore, in the sense that it leads to destruction. Final ruin. Hell.

‘I Do Not Say to Pray for That’

Now we are in a position to circle back and see how verse 16 (“There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that”) sheds light on the meaning of verse 14 (“If we ask anything according to his will he hears us”). Does verse 14 refer to God’s will of decree, or to his will of command?

To answer this, we should ask why John writes, “I do not say that one should pray for [the sin that leads to death].” The reason is that there is no point in it. The prayer would be for repentance and forgiveness and life (as in v. 16a). But John has made clear that this sinning leads to death. There will be no life. That’s the whole point of saying there is sin that leads to death. If one could pray successfully for life, the sin would not be sin that leads to death.

Now here’s the implication for the meaning of praying “according to [God’s] will.” It is clearly God’s will of command that we pray for sinners that they would repent and be saved. Paul said, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1) — including those who are “accursed and cut off from Christ” (Romans 9:3). And he prayed for believers, that they would be “kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

So, if it is “according to [God’s] will” that we pray for straying people, why does John say, “I do not say that one should pray for [the sin that leads to death]”? The answer is because God does not intend to save them. They have crossed a line. They are like Esau in Hebrews 12:17, who had sinned in such a way that he could not repent and find forgiveness.

In other words, it is not God’s will to save those who have sinned in a way that “leads to death.” He will not grant repentance. His will of decree is to let them go. No praying will change it.

According to God’s Will of Decree

But why does John not come right out and say, “Do not pray for that,” instead of saying, “I do not say that one should pray for that”? It’s because he does not assume we can always know who these people are. To command us not to pray for them would imply we can always recognize them. But we can’t. We can’t always tell when someone has sinned to the point of being beyond repentance. So John only says that praying for them would be ineffectual. God has willed to leave them alone. “I do not say that one should pray for that.”
Which means that if you ask for their repentance and forgiveness, you will not get it.

But verses 14–15 say, “If we ask anything according to his will . . . we have the request.” Therefore, I do not take “according to his will” to mean “according to his will [of command],” because, as we’ve seen, it is according to his will of command that we should always pray for straying saints and unbelievers. Rather, I take “according to his will” in verse 14 to mean “according to his will [of decree],” because verse 16 shows that God has decreed not to save these people. So you need not pray for them, and if you do, you will not receive what you ask. It doesn’t accord with God’s will of decree.

So when John says, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14), he means, “If we ask anything that accords with God’s all-wise plan — his all-wise decrees for the world — he hears us and grants our request.”

This Does Not Make Prayer Pointless

A common response to this conclusion is that it seems to make prayer pointless, because answered prayer happens only when God has decreed that something be done. Wouldn’t the decreed event happen anyway? So why pray?

But that kind of response does not come from careful biblical thinking. Careful thinking would see that God really does things in response to prayer. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). God wills that events be caused by prayer. And careful biblical thinking would also see that, just as God decrees effects, he also decrees the causes of those effects. As he decrees ends, so he decrees means. As he decrees that a straying saint repent and return, so he decrees the prayers that bring him back.

Prayer is a real cause of real events in this world. God has willed it to be so. And so it is.

‘Because We Do What Pleases Him’

Now what about our third question? What does “whatever” mean in 1 John 3:22 when it says, “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him”? The answer is connected to what we have seen.


A different condition is laid down for answered prayer here in 3:22 than was laid down in 5:14. There the condition was that the answer to prayer comes, if we pray according to God’s will — according to God’s all-wise plan, his will of decree. Here the condition is that the answer to prayer comes, if we “keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

How do these two conditions go together?

What Pleases God Is Glad Submission to His Sovereignty

Here is my suggestion. The condition of 3:22 includes the condition of 5:14. That is, doing what pleases God includes consciously and gladly submitting to God’s will of decree. This decree will always be the wisest and most loving response to our prayers.

John says that whatever we ask we receive, if we “do what pleases [God].” What does please God? When it comes specifically to prayer, at least these three things:
According to 1 Peter 5:6, it pleases God if we are humble before God: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” So it pleases God when we gladly admit we are not God. We are in no condition to run the world, or to take the reins of the universe out of God’s hands.

According to James 3:2, “We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.” It pleases God for us to admit this. And the words “what he says” include “what he says in prayer.” We don’t suddenly become perfect when we pray. We are finite and fallible. We make mistakes. God is pleased when his people admit this.

According to James 4:15, Christians “ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” We ought to say this. That is, it is pleasing to God, when we actually say (in prayer!), “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that!”

From these three biblical descriptions of what pleases God when we pray, it seems to me that the condition we must meet, according to 1 John 3:22, in order to receive what we pray for, includes the condition we must meet in 1 John 5:14. The condition there was this: “If we ask anything according to his will [of decree] he hears us.” I’m suggesting that implicit in this condition is the God-pleasing disposition to embrace God’s decreed responses with confidence that they are best. In other words, what pleases God is a humble mind that confesses our finiteness and fallibility, and says, “If the Lord wills, the people we pray for ‘will live and do this or that.’”

‘Whatever’ Is Best for Us

What then is the answer to our third question — the meaning of “whatever” in (1 John 3:22)? “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

The meaning of “whatever” is shaped by the all-wise, all-encompassing, loving plan of God for the good of his children and the glory of his name. By “shaped” I mean limited or expanded, hastened or delayed, purified and completed, but never ignored. If we ask for bread, he will not give us a stone, but he may give us cake, or cornbread, or cod liver oil. If we ask for a fish, he will not give us a snake, but he may give us steak, or stew, or lutefisk (Matthew 7:9–11).

He is our Father. His resources are infinite. His love is perfect. His wisdom is unsearchable. He is never at a loss. Therefore, he will only give us whatever is good for us (Romans 8:28, 32; Matthew 6:33). That is what I think “whatever” in 1 John 3:22 means.

So, be encouraged to pray. Set yourself to please the Lord in all humility, admitting your fallibility, and submitting to his perfect plan and his all-wise decrees. He has decreed millions of things to do in answer to prayer. Our prayers are real causes of the events God planned — just as much as flipping a light switch is a real cause of light in the room, or turning a faucet handle is a real cause of water in the sink, or swinging a hammer is a real cause of a well-sunk nail. It is absolutely true that we “do not have, because [we] do not ask” (James 4:2). So, ask. Keep God’s word. Do what pleases him. And ask.

Of course there are things he will not do. That was the point of 1 John 5:16. He does not forbid us to pray for those, because we cannot always know what they are. But he does tell us that only his wise decrees will come to pass. And he calls us to please him by being humbly submissive to his sovereignty in what he brings to pass. Therefore, it always pays to pray. Always


FS Sunday Sermon- Refresh Your Soul with Humility – 02/02/20

Refresh Your Soul with Humility
By: Jon Bloom
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you may have memorized the following verses without trying, simply because you’ve heard them quoted so often:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
     and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
     and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
This promise is so beloved because it is so freeing. We are finite and there is so much that exceeds our understanding, it can be overwhelming. But in this command to trust the omniscient one, we find a place of refuge that allows us to maintain our sanity. We find peace in the promise that if we are humble enough to obey this compassionate command, God will direct our course.
I wonder why, then, given how less I’ve heard them quoted over the years, we don’t seem to be as familiar with the next two verses:
Be not wise in your own eyes;
     fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
     and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7–8)
I would think that the promise of God-given refreshment would be nearly as precious to us as God-given guidance.
Similar but Not the Same
It’s clear that the writer meant for his son (Proverbs 3:1) — and the rest of us — to read these eight lines (four verses) together. I doubt he intended them to be separated, because they form the kind of parallelism so common in Hebraic poetry and wisdom literature:
The command, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”, corresponds with “Be not wise in your own eyes”;
“Do not lean on your own understanding” corresponds with “fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”;
And the promise in verse 6 (“he will make straight your paths”) corresponds to the promise in verse 8 (“It will be . . . refreshment to your bones”).
The genius of this kind of parallelism is that it allows the writer to make related statements that are not redundant. There’s a clear connection between what verses 5–6 say and what verses 7–8 say, but they don’t say identical things. Trusting in God with our whole heart is not the same thing as not being wise in our own eyes (though we can’t have the former without the latter).
What God Gives the Humble
What the proverb is doing is turning the diamond of a profound truth in the light of God’s wisdom so that we see a different refraction of that light. What is this profound truth? We learn more explicitly further down in the chapter: “toward the scorners [God] is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor” (Proverbs 3:34).
Proverbs 3:34 is one of the most quoted verses in the whole Bible. If you don’t recognize it, that’s probably because you are simply more familiar with the Greek translation of the verse (from the Septuagint), which both the apostles James and Peter famously quote: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:61 Peter 5:5).
That is the truth-diamond the writer holds up in this chapter: God gives grace, his favor, to the humble. When he turns it one way, the light of God’s wisdom refracts verses 5–6 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . and he will make straight your paths”). When he turns it another way, it refracts verses 7–8 (“Be not wise in your own eyes . . . [it will be] refreshment to your bones”). Guidance in life and soul-restoration are both graces God gives to the humble.
But since we are so familiar with verses 5–6, let’s linger over the refraction of God’s wisdom we see in verses 7–8 and the grace promised us if we heed it.
You Aren’t as Wise as You Assume
First, look at the command: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
To be told, “be not wise in your own eyes,” has a different effect on us than “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It immediately heightens our awareness of and confronts the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16), the pride we all have as part of our sinful natures. This is the pride that assumes we can adequately understand the knowledge of good and evil, and judge rightly between the two. It is a perilous assumption.
The proverbial author knows how seductively deceptive this pride is and warns us against its folly throughout the chapter. What’s so seductively deceptive is how easily choosing evil can appear wise to us because of the benefits it seems to provide those who do. When we read his examples of evil behavior (Proverbs 3:28–34), we might be tempted to think we’re above such behavior. But the fact is, we notoriously underestimate how confusing things can appear in the pressure of real-life situations, when we are afraid or angry or suffering or threatened.
This command is a great mercy for the complex and difficult situations and decisions we all face. There are times when we need the soul-jolting, in-our-face, direct warning not to trust our own wisdom and to turn away from evil more than to be merely told to trust in God. We need to be reminded how untrustworthy our own wisdom is.
Humility’s Restoring Power
Lastly, look at the powerful promise to those who aren’t wise in their own eyes, but fear God and turn away from evil:
It will be healing to your flesh
     and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:8)
Note the words the writer chooses here: “healing” and “refreshment.” These are restorative terms. Why does he use them?
Because this experienced father knows the violence done to the soul by the doing of evil and the temptation to evil. He knows that “a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). He knows what David meant when he wrote, “When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Psalm 32:3). He knows how evil violates the conscience and creates terrible conflict with God and man. And he wants his son and all of his readers to experience peace (Proverbs 3:2), or to return to peace if he’s strayed into evil.
And the path to deep, refreshing peace from God is living humbly before God.
Humble Yourselves
The apostle Peter was thinking of the truth-diamond in Proverbs 3 when he wrote,
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5–7)
God gives grace to the humble. To those who humbly trust him with all their heart, he gives the grace of guidance. To those who humbly refuse to be wise in their own eyes, he gives the grace of refreshing peace. To those who humble themselves under his hand, he will give the grace of exaltation. And to those who humbly cast their cares on him, he gives the grace of carrying their cares.
It is good for us to be as familiar with verses 7–8 of Proverbs 3 as we are with verses 5–6. There are times we must remember to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and there are other times we must remember to not be wise in our own eyes. They are similar, related, complementary, yet different refractions of God’s wisdom. And both remind us that cultivating humility before God is among the healthiest things we can do for our souls.

FS Sunday Sermon – The Tabernacle Prayer – 01/26/20

Greeting Firestorm:

Sometimes it is good to go back to the basics.  When the disciples asked Yahshua how to pray and the gave them the what we call the Lord’s prayer in Matthew.  I recently came across this teaching by Pastor Chris Hodges that really spoke to me and I trust it will be a blessing to you as well.  If you have wondered how you are supposed to pray this is one example.  God bless you ALL, Becca Card.




Pastor Chris Hodges

Church of the Highlands

Birmingham, AL

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In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was the dwelling place of God, built to His specifications, where He would meet His people. As they entered the Tabernacle, they passed through seven stations, following Yahweh’s instructions, to experience His presence. Today, even though we no longer need the physical Tabernacle to meet with Yahweh, these same steps can help us connect with Him. This prayer model will take us through each station of the Tabernacle and use the purpose of each station to guide our prayers.

The Outer Court – Thanksgiving & Praise

The Israelites entered the Tabernacle with thanksgiving and praise, and we start our prayer time the same way.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  PSALM 100:4

Spend some time really thinking about all the blessings in your life for which you’re thankful. You can write down a list, sing your own song of praise, or just spend quiet moments reflecting on your gratitude and praise toward Yahweh.

Prayer: “Father God, You are good, and You deserve all my praise and more. Thank You for the many ways You have blessed me and for watching over me (tell Him specific things in your life that you’re grateful for. Thank Him for something new that you’ve never thanked Him for before). I want to experience Your presence and Your love in a fresh way today, Jesus. I thank you that Your mercies are new every day. I thank you for Who You are and all You have done for me.”

The Brazen Alter – The Cross of Jesus

In the Old Testament, everyone had to regularly bring animal sacrifices as payment for their sins. Today, we don’t have to do that because Yahshua paid for our sins once and for all with His blood on the cross.

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. PSALM 103:2-5

Thank God for the gift of Yahshua. Thank Him for His sacrifice and love. Let the power of the cross and what it means for your life really settle in your spirit. In addition to expressing your gratitude, claim the power of transformation and healing that the cross of Jesus has in your life.

The cross provides us with five major benefits:

• Salvation – God forgives all my sin.

• Healing – God heals all my diseases.

• Redemption – God rescues me and restores me.

• Transformation – God changes me into His likeness.

• Blessing – God provides everything I need.

Prayer: “Thank You, God, for making a way for me through Your Son. Jesus, thank You for the sacrifice You made for me on the cross. You saved me, and You set me free. I praise You for being my Healer. You have power over all disease and harm in my life (list specific areas where you need to experience God’s healing power). Thank You for being my Redeemer. You rescue me and give my life purpose. Thank You for transforming my life with Your love, for making me new. I want to grow to be more like You (give Him access to every area of your life). Thank You for blessing me. I know You have good plans for me and all that I have comes from You (thank Him for specific blessings in your life).”

The Laver – Cleansing & Preparing

The next step in the Tabernacle was a bowl of water where people were reminded of their sinfulness and their need to be cleansed and forgiven by God. Checking our hearts and motives and surrendering our lives to God is an important part of daily prayer.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can confess our sins to Him and receive complete forgiveness and a fresh start. In prayer, humbly and sincerely turn away from your sins and allow God to cleanse and renew you. Then, surrender your life and every part of yourself to Him.

Prayer: “God, I confess my sins to You and turn away from them (tell God any sin you know is in your life and confess it to Him with a sincere heart. Ask Him to show you any other areas that need His cleansing). Thank You, God, for freely forgiving me. As I turn away from my sin, I turn toward You, and I offer myself to You:

• I give You my tongue, to speak good and not evil.

• I give You my eyes, to focus on You and the needs of others.

• I give You my ears, to be sensitive to Your voice.

• I give You my hands, to do good for others.

• I give You my feet, to walk in Your ways and follow Your footsteps.

• I give You my mind, to be transformed and used by You I ask You, Lord, for the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, so that I can grow closer to You and make a difference in the lives of others. I ask for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

The Candlestick – The Spirit of Christ

The next piece of the Tabernacle was a seven-branched golden candlestick. The fire represents the Spirit of Christ and how we are called to be light in the world’s darkness.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2

When Jesus left the earth, Christians were given the gift of the Spirit. He calls the Spirit of Christ our “advocate.” We cannot do what God has called us to do without His supernatural power. It is through the Spirit of Christ that God comforts us, guides us, and empowers us.

Prayer – Holy Spirit, I ask You to fill me up. I need Your presence in my life, guiding, directing, comforting, and counseling me. I know that You are God.  You are the Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Might, and Knowledge. Give me a holy fear of the Lord, helping me to be in awe of who God is and what God does. Work in me, Spirit of Christ. Teach and transform me (pray through any areas where you feel the need for transformation today). I honor You and ask You to empower me with Your spiritual gifts for the good of the church.”

The Table of the Shewbread – The Word of God

In the Tabernacle, a table with twelve loaves of bread represented the importance of reading God’s Word for daily sustenance.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

God’s Word is an incredible gift and a powerful tool, and it has great relevance and impact in our prayer life. Here is how you can incorporate God’s Word into your prayer time:

• Take time to read and think about the Word\

• Claim God’s many great promises for your life and the world around you

• Ask Him for fresh revelation of His Word

• Ask Him for a Word to help you as you go throughout your day

“Thank You, God, for giving me Your Word. I commit to reading it, and I ask You to reveal Yourself to me through it. I want to know You more. Help me to grow more in love with Your Word and to be more dependent on it. I claim the promises You have for me, and I meditate on the truth of Your Word (pray any Scriptures that are on your heart or that God has given you in your current season). Give me fresh revelation from your Word today and every day! I am hungry to see You more clearly through Your Word.”

The Altar of Incense – Worship

A small altar of burning incense stood at the entrance to the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelled. The people of God entered God’s presence as they worshipped His Names. This altar represents worship and the pleasure it gives God when we worship Him.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Thank God for making His presence available to you. Praise His Names and worship Him personally and specifically for Who He is and how He has moved in your life. 

Prayer – Thank You, Yahweh, for Your presence. I know that You are here with me. I worship You and You alone. I know God, that You are:

My Righteousness – Jeremiah 23:6

My Sanctifier – Leviticus 20:7-8 My Healer – Exodus 15:26

My Provider – Genesis 22:14

My Banner of Victory – Exodus 17:15 My Peace – Judges 6:24

My Shepherd – Psalm 23:1

(As you pray through the different Names of God, focus on a few aspects of who He is that have been especially meaningful in your current season of life.) I know that You are always with me, God, and Your presence is life to me. You give me breath, joy, and purpose. I love you, God.”

The Ark of the Covenant – Intercession

The final place in the Tabernacle was the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelled. There, the priest interceded by praying on behalf of the people of God. In the same way, we intercede on behalf of those around us.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1 – 4

We can make a difference when we spend time praying for others. Pray for those with whom you interact and connect, including:

• Those in authority – leaders in church, government, family, and workplace

• Your family – both immediate and extended family members

• Your church – pastors, Small Group leaders, members, and missionaries

• Your community – people in your city, nation, and world

• Your relationships – friends, co-workers, acquaintances

Prayer – “Thank You, God, for creating a way through Jesus for me to have Your presence wherever I go. I want to specifically ask You to watch over those in authority over me – my spiritual leaders, the leaders of our government, the leaders in my family, and my employers (pray for these people by name). I ask that You give them wisdom and grace, watch over and protect them, help them to know and love You more. I ask You, God, to be present with my family. Bless them and keep them from harm (pray for any specific needs in your family right now). For those in my family who don’t know You, I ask that You meet them where they are and guide their hearts toward You. I ask You to watch over my church, God. Give my pastor wisdom and vision, bless the Small Groups and everyone who steps foot into our buildings. I pray that You will bring the lost into our church, and that they will have a positive experience and come to know You. Keep our vision rooted in who You are and moving toward Your goals.

I ask You to watch over my city, my nation, and our world. Bring peace and help us all take steps toward You (name areas where you feel a burden for your city, nation, and the world). I pray for anyone who comes across my path to see Your light in me. I lift up my friends, neighbors, and coworkers. I thank You for them and pray for Your blessing over them (pray for any specific needs of others). Lastly God, I ask You to provide for my needs. I know that You sustain me, and that You care for me. I lift up my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to You (share the needs on your mind right now). I lay my cares at Your feet. Thank You for loving me, choosing me, and calling me Yours. Amen.”


What Does Jesus Want for Christmas?

By: John Piper

What does Jesus want this Christmas? We can see the answer in his prayers. What does he ask God for? His longest prayer is John 17. Here is the climax of his desire:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am (v. 24).

Among all the undeserving sinners in the world, there are those whom God has “given to Jesus.” These are those whom God has drawn to the Son (John 6:4465). These are Christians – people who have “received” Jesus as the crucified and risen Savior and Lord and Treasure of their lives (John 1:1210:1117-1820:286:353:17). Jesus says he wants them to be with him.

Sometimes we hear people say that God created man because he was lonely. So they say, “God created us so that we would be with him.” Does Jesus agree with this? Well, he does say that he really wants us to be with him! Yes, but why? Consider the rest of the verse. Why does Jesus want us to be with him?

. . . to see my glory that you [Father] have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

That would be a strange way of expressing his loneliness. “I want them with me so they can see my glory.” In fact it doesn’t express his loneliness. It expresses his concern for the satisfaction of our longing, not his loneliness. Jesus is not lonely. He and the Father and the Spirit are profoundly satisfied in the fellowship of the Trinity. We, not he, are starving for something. And what Jesus wants for Christmas is for us to experience what we were really made for – seeing and savoring his glory.

Oh, that God would make this sink in to our souls! Jesus made us (John 1:3) to see his glory. Just before he goes to the cross he pleads his deepest desires with the Father: “Father, I desire – I desire! – that they . . . may be with me where I am, to see my glory.”

But that is only half of what Jesus wants in these final, climactic verses of his prayer. I just said we were really made for seeing and savoring his glory. Is that what he wants – that we not only see his glory but savor it, relish it, delight in it, treasure it, love it? Consider verse 26, the very last verse:

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

That is the end of the prayer. What is Jesus’ final goal for us? Not that we simply see his glory, but that we love him with the same love that the Father has for him: “that the love with which you [Father] have loved me may be in them.” Jesus’ longing and goal is that we see his glory and then that we be able to love what we see with the same love that the Father has for the Son. And he doesn’t mean that we merely imitate the love of the Father for the Son. He means the Father’s very love becomes our love for the Son – that we love the Son with the love of the Father for the Son. This is what the Spirit becomes and bestows in our lives: Love for the Son by the Father through the Spirit.

What Jesus wants most for Christmas is that his elect be gathered in and then get what they want most – to see his glory and then savor it with the very savoring of the Father for the Son.

What I want most for Christmas this year is to join you (and many others) in seeing Christ in all his fullness and that we together be able to love what we see with a love far beyond our own half-hearted human capacities.

This is what Jesus prays for us this Christmas: “Father, show them my glory and give them the very delight in me that you have in me.” Oh, may we see Christ with the eyes of God and savor Christ with the heart of God. That is the essence of heaven. That is the gift Christ came to purchase for sinners at the cost of his death in our place.


Lord, Help Me Endure One More Day

By: Josh Squires

Suffering is undeniably bitter.

Sometimes God’s people, with good intentions to promote piety, can undersell the heartache of suffering. Instead they look disapprovingly at any believer who would question the necessity of God’s difficult providences. To groan under the pains of life in a fallen world can be seen as the pitiable reflex of the spiritually immature. This view is difficult to square with our Savior’s own passionate, sweat-soaked, sleepless plea on the eve of his crucifixion, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).

And the confounding difficulty of suffering is not an experience reserved solely for the Savior. In Romans 5:3–5, the apostle Paul writes of a sanctifying chain reaction whose catalyst is our suffering:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Endurance. Character. Hope. All through the real heartache of suffering.

Don’t Pretend It Doesn’t Hurt

Notice the word “endure.” It combats our well-meaning Christian impulse to minimize the struggle we (or others) face in the midst of suffering. Endurance assumes difficulty. One does not have to endure that which is not bitter. No one asks others how they are “enduring” their favorite bowl of ice cream. No one asks the radiant, newly engaged couple how they are “enduring” their betrothal. To endure a thing is to live in spite of its difficulty, not to live in denial of it.

Thankfully, Paul writes in such a way as to highlight the fact that the process of suffering which leads to hope is not instantaneous. Endurance denotes time. In order to endure a thing, one must make it through its entire duration. That means there will be seasons, no matter how long or short, where we cannot see or feel the hope which we have been promised. These are dark and difficult times. We grieve while we grope our way through the valley. It’s in the wrestling with it, while strengthening ourselves with the promises of God, that we build endurance. In those seasons, we not only pray for hope; we pray for endurance.

Living from Tree to Tree

I once watched a documentary about the toughest school in all the military (or so the film claimed). It was the winter session of the Army Mountain Warfare School which contained unbelievable trials — physical and emotional — that seemed to assail the students from the time they arrived. But the event with the highest dropout rate was a multi-day hike up a snow packed mountain. It required traversing the whole mountain, from bottom to top, through over ten feet of snow drifts with a large, heavy ruck sack slung to their back and no special equipment. They had their feet and sheer determination.

On the morning of the infamous march, a drill instructor spoke to the soldiers. I expected it to be something full of bombast and bluster, urging the group to complete the task at hand or face swift retribution! Instead, the wise soldier simply said, “If you want to quit, look at the top of the mountain.” He went on, “But if you want to make it through, then just find the closest tree and tell yourself, ‘I’m going to make it to that next tree and then reevaluate.’ And then when you get to that tree, do the same thing again, finding the next closest tree. If you’ll do that, tree by tree, soon enough you’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain.”

For those in the midst of terrible suffering, looking for hope can be like looking at the top of the mountain, staring at it from the bottom. The thought is nice, but the climb seems impossible. In those moments, the next tree is simply praying for endurance: “Lord, get me through this season, this day, this hour, even this prayer. Do not let me go, that I may not ever let you go.”

How Satan Uses Suffering

And yet, there is the promise. The promise that this storm of suffering will break into the peace of joy and hope. That is the barometer of how we weather the difficult providences of this fallen life. Suffering that is endured Christianly produces character which yields hope. Suffering that yields bitterness, cynicism, and alienation is suffering gone awry. Satan loves to use our suffering in this way. He wants to create resentment in your soul rather than the hope that was meant to reside there.

How does Satan use suffering to create cynics rather than resilient believers? First, he wants to isolate us. Scripture is clear that in order to make it through this fallen world, we need a community. This community is meant to help us grow in our faith, celebrate our successes, learn from our failures, grieve through our losses, and give us strength in our weaknesses. The number one scheme of Satan at times of suffering is to make us think that we need to cocoon rather than to lean into the care of Christian brothers and sisters. He wants you to think that you don’t need the help, that you don’t deserve help, that true Christians don’t ever need help — and that others don’t want to help. All of these are lies.

Second, he wants us to focus on ourselves. When we turn our attention primarily inward rather than upward, Satan can trick us into thinking that our suffering is unique, ubiquitous, and ultimate. Our suffering is never any of those things.

Third, Satan wants us to lose sight of our sovereign Savior. There is no moment or place outside the control of our God — even in the places where it hurts most. Satan would have you believe that God is inept or incapable — that your suffering somehow falls outside of his providential care. Because if your suffering can live outside of his sovereign will, then so can anything. Even your immortal soul.

How God Uses Suffering

Suffering isn’t easy. It’s not designed to be. It’s the crucible of Christian hope, beating out its imperfections and smelting it into something more beautiful and pure. A hope unassailable by the world and the devil because it is rooted in the eternal and sure love of a gracious and merciful God.

Just as sure as God loves his people, Satan is out to scuttle their security by making them feel alone, overwhelmed, and incompetent. Knowing Satan’s game plan to rob us of the heavenly fruit of our horrible suffering, though, helps us to persevere in the most difficult times into a hope that is eternal and cannot be put to shame.


Stress Management: Don’t Worry!

By: Rick Warren

“Don’t worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6 NLT).

Work doesn’t keep you up at night; worry does.

God clearly states in the Bible what he thinks about worry. Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything” (NLT).

Why do you need to let go of your worry?

Worry is unreasonable. Here are a couple of reasons why that’s true. First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you noticed if somebody says something bad about you, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets? Second, worry doesn’t work. To worry about something you can’t change is useless. And to worry about something you can change is a waste of time. Just go change it!

Worry is unnatural. No one is a born worrier. You might think you are, but you’re not. Worry is something you learned. Since worry is unnatural, it’s also unhealthy. Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re telling the truth. Doctors say a lot of people could leave the hospital today if they knew how to get rid of guilt, resentment, and worry. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” (NLT).

Worry is unhelpful. Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you miserable! It’s never solved a problem.

Worry is unnecessary. God made you, he created you, he saved you, and he put his Spirit in you. Don’t you think he’s going to take care of your needs? There’s no need to worry.

The first step in stress management is to refuse to worry about anything. Why? Because it’s unreasonable, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (PHILLIPS).

God personally cares about you and for your needs. So all those things you’re stressed, anxious, and worried about?

Let them go. Give them to God.


You Can Be Anxious About Nothing

By: Kim Cash Tate

“Do not be anxious about anything.” The familiar words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians present something of a paradox — we love them adorned on artsy frames, on the one hand, and find them seemingly impossible to put into practice, on the other.

If we’re honest, we may secretly believe that we get a pass from obeying this particular command. We tell ourselves that it simply can’t mean anything. Not when we suffer trials that are altogether devastating. Surely God knows our human frame. He knows we can’t control the anxious thoughts that bombard us — nor the shortness of breath, the heart racing, or the restless nights that can accompany those thoughts.

Alternatively, we tell ourselves that “do not be anxious about anything” is for the spiritually mature saint, a verse to aspire to. And since we’re not there yet, we can dismiss this direct command for a while. Moreover, we’re careful not to burden others with it. If a fellow believer is battling anxious thoughts, we think it insensitive to bring this verse to bear on the situation. Better to show sympathy than to risk sounding trite.

But God has not given us an impossible standard or one to be attained only by spiritual growth. He’s telling us what’s possible by his Spirit. He knows the crippling effects of anxiety, and he’s telling us we needn’t submit to its tyranny. He’s blessing us with divine direction as to how to receive supernatural help.

Call to Prayer

Anxiety consumes. It commands the breadth of our thoughts, and fills them with dread. Unfurling its scroll of worst-case scenarios, it extinguishes hope and pummels our faith. A favorite tool of the enemy, it’s effective in silencing God’s voice and trumpeting our fears.

When we’re hit with the cares of this world, it’s hard to avoid those anxious thoughts. Our God knows. “Do not be anxious about anything” doesn’t mean we will never feel anxious. The verse is telling us what to do with it — give it to God. It reads in its entirety:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

We can be anxious for nothing because in everything — each and every trying situation — we are involving the God of the universe. Rather than bear the load ourselves and allow it to cripple us, we take it immediately to God, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Prayer Redirects Us to God

Prayer redirects our attention from the all-consuming problem to our all-powerful God. Before our thoughts can rehearse every hopeless scenario that could attend the problem, we intentionally set our minds on things above. We’re reminded that we have hope and help. We’re reminded that even this hardship is subject to the sovereignty of God, and that he remains in control.

And we pray against anxiety with thanksgiving because we know that God is good. Our perspective transforms when we cast the current dilemma in the light of who God is and all that he has done. We can never thank God enough for sending his Son, for the gift of eternal life, and for blessing us with every spiritual blessing.

As we pray, lingering in God’s presence, everything else has to bow. Prayer silences our anxious thoughts, and positions us to hear from God, including reminders of precious promises such as this: He is faithful.

Call to War

“Do not be anxious about anything” is also a call to spiritual warfare. It’s telling us to stay poised to reject every uprising of temptation. When a hardship hits and our minds begin to spin out of control, a battle is being waged. Galatians 5:17 is instructive:

The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Our flesh wants to be in control. It bears the burden of the hardship and works to figure out how to handle it. And when it determines that the hardship is beyond its capabilities — when we can’t see a satisfactory solution — anxiety sets in. This posture is at odds with the Spirit who implores us as believers to trust God — to walk by faith and not by sight.

This was the central issue when Moses, at God’s direction, sent twelve men to spy out the land God had promised. Ten of them couldn’t shake their anxiety over the giants that currently resided in the land. It didn’t matter that they’d already seen God’s faithfulness in fighting for them against a mighty enemy, Egypt. It didn’t matter that they’d seen God do miracles, most notably the parting of the Red Sea. In their minds, they could never defeat this fearsome enemy. Thus, they lost hope, saying, “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:33).

Only two of the spies — Joshua and Caleb — understood that the true battle was in their souls. They didn’t need to fear the giants; they needed to remember that “the Lord is with us” (Numbers 14:9). Joshua and Caleb implored the people to trust God and go forth, knowing that with him they would overcome. These two men could be anxious for nothing because they believed God and walked by faith.

Promise of Protection

That Philippians 4:6 verse which tells us, “do not be anxious about anything,” but in everything to pray with thanksgiving, is followed by this:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)

This is such a powerful promise. Such grace. When we look to the Lord in the midst of anxiety, his peace will guard our hearts and minds. In other words, his peace will stand at the gates, refusing to allow anxious thoughts to enter.

But, you may say, I’ve prayed, and those thoughts keep coming. Keep praying. In Christ, our lifestyle is prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We stay ever clinging to our Savior, mindful that apart from him we can do nothing. We can’t fight the battle without him. But with him, no matter what anxious thoughts may come, his peace is our most powerful protection. In Christ, we are promised a never-ending supply of grace.



The True Story of Thanksgiving

By: David Mathis

Come Thanksgiving Day each year, many of us give the nod to Pilgrims and Indians and talk of making ready for a harsh first winter in the New World.

But for the Christian, the deepest roots of our thanksgiving go back to the Old World, way back before the Pilgrims, to a story as old as creation, with a two-millennia-old climax. It’s a story that keeps going right on into the present and gives meaning to our little lives, even when we’re a half a globe removed from history’s ground zero at a place called Golgotha.

You could call it the true story of thanksgiving — or you could call it the Christian gospel viewed through the lens of that often undervalued virtue known as “gratitude.” It opens up a few biblical texts we otherwise may be prone to downplay.

Here’s the true story of thanksgiving in four stages.

Created for Thanksgiving

First, God created humanity for gratitude. You exist to appreciate God. He created you to honor him by giving him thanks. Appreciating both who God is and his actions for us — in creating us and sustaining our lives — is fundamental to proper human life in God’s created world.

As he describes in Romans 1 what’s gone wrong with the world, the apostle Paul gives us this glimpse of the place of appreciation in the created order:

Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)

Part of what the first man and woman were created to do was honor God by being thankful. And part of what we exist to do is honor God by being thankful — and thus the numerous biblical commands enjoining gratitude.

Humanity was created to appreciate God. But as we’ve already seen from Romans 1, ingratitude wasn’t far away.

Fallen from Thanksgiving

Second, we all have failed miserably in appreciating God as we should. In her book on gratitude, Ann Voskamp gives memorable expression to the failure of the first man and woman — and the devil before them — to rightly experience and express gratitude.

From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.

Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully ungrateful for what God gave.

Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sin?

Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other. (One Thousand Gifts, 15)

Satan the ingrate spawns unthankfulness in Adam and Eve, who pass it along to all of us. Both before our conversion and after, we are unthankful people. This is so painfully true.

And we not only fail to be thankful like we ought, but we also fail to get the balance right between physical and spiritual. Two obstacles often stand in our way to God-exalting gratitude. You could call them “hyper spirituality” and “hyper physicality.”

Perhaps hyper physicality is all too well known in 21st-century Western society at large. A milieu of materialists is so unaware of spiritual reality that even when there is gratitude for the physical, the spiritual is neglected, if not outright rejected. We can be thankful for the temporal, even while we couldn’t care less about the eternal.

But hyper spirituality is often particularly dangerous among the so-called “spiritual” types, even in the church. We can be prone to mute God’s physical goodness to us out of fear that appreciation for such would somehow detract from our thanksgiving for spiritual blessings.

In our sin, we fail again and again to get the proportions right. Only with divine redemption are we able to grow toward a balance that goes something like this: Christians are thankful for all God’s gifts, especially his eternal gifts, and especially the surpassing value of knowing his Son (Philippians 3:8), the Spirit-become-physical.

Redeemed by Thanksgiving

Third, God himself, in the person of his Son, Jesus, entered into our thankless world, lived in flawless appreciation of his Father, and died on our behalf for our chronic ingratitude. It is Jesus, the God-man, who has manifested the perfect life of thankfulness. If you’ve ever tracked the texts where Jesus gives his Father thanks, you’ll know it’s quite an impressive list.

Matthew 11:25 [also Luke 10:21]: “At that time [note the context of unrepentant and unthankful “cities where most of his mighty works had been done,” verse 20] Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’”

John 11:41: “ . . . they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’” [Jesus then raises Lazarus from the dead.]

Matthew 15:36 [also Mark 8:6]: Jesus “took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples . . . ” [See also John 6:11 and John 6:23 which refer to the location as “the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.”]

Luke 22:17–20 [also Matthew 26:27 and Mark 14:23]: “He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” [And so following Jesus’s pattern, Paul in Acts 27:35 “took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it . . . ”]

First Corinthians 11:23–24: Our “Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it . . . ”

Jesus is not only God himself but also the quintessentially thankful human. The God-man not only died to forgive our failures in giving God the thanks he’s due, but also lived the perfect life of appreciation on our behalf toward his Father.

Freed for Thanksgiving

Finally, by faith in Jesus, we are redeemed from ingratitude and its just eternal penalty in hell, and freed to enjoy the pleasure of being doubly thankful for God’s favor toward us — not only as his creatures, but also as his redeemed.

It is fitting for a creature to be in a continuous posture of gratitude toward his Creator. And it is even more fitting for a redeemed rebel to be in an ongoing posture of gratitude toward his Redeemer. The kind of life that flows from such amazing grace is the life of continual thankfulness. This is the kind of life in which the born-again Christian is being continually renewed, progressively being made more like Jesus.

And so the apostle Paul encourages Christians to have lives characterized by thanksgiving.

Colossians 1:11–12: May you be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Colossians 2:6–7: “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:15–17 [note the hat trick (3x) in this one text]: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

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.”

Only in Jesus, the paragon of creaturely appreciation, are we able to become the kind of persistently thankful people God created us to be and fulfill the human destiny of thanksgiving. For the Christian, with both feet standing firmly in the good news of Jesus, there are possibilities for a true thanksgiving which we otherwise would never know.