This Thanksgiving season is a perfect opportunity to give thanks to God for His great mercies towards us. The Lord is awesome, and He is worthy to be praised! He is the provider of every good thing. He has placed everything in order, including the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Lord has created everything for His purpose and for our enjoyment. The varieties of shapes, colors, and sizes in animals, bodies of water, flowers, trees, and fruits are all amazing and incredible!
The Good Shepherd’s goodness and mercy
A shepherd thinks and cares about his sheep all the time. He knows that he cannot afford to forget about his responsibility in taking care of his helpless lamb. Similarly, God knows the helpless state of humanity and desires to shepherd His people! Do you recognize that His goodness and mercy follow you? Are you dwelling in the house of the Lord?
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought judgment on the entire earth, and it separated humanity from a holy God. God instituted animal sacrifices offered by priests as a way for people to cover their sins temporarily (See Leviticus 16). However, the coming of Jesus changed everything in our access to God! …
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
The blessing of salvation and our new relationship with Christ is that we didn’t do anything to earn it. God initiated this relationship and we just responded to His loving kindness towards us. It wasn’t our idea. We didn’t just decide one day that it’s a good day or a good age to accept the Lord into our lives. He is the one who placed the conviction in our hearts that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Then as newborn babes, He put a hunger in our hearts to desire Him and grow in Him!
Paul reminds us that salvation is a gift of God. We have nothing to boast about or to become prideful about. We can’t look down upon others for not being saved. If it wasn’t for the Lord and His rich mercies, we would still be in sin and would be living in guilt and shame that was piled upon us from years past. Praise be to God and the Lord Jesus Christ whose rich mercy and grace freed us from sin and brought us to the Kingdom of God! We live this life in humility knowing that we are totally and utterly dependent on the Lord on daily basis!
The beauty and the blessing of being accepted by the Lord is that He is the one who started the good work in our lives and He will complete it! He didn’t leave us in charge of our spiritual lives. We continue to only respond and partner with Him in this journey called life. He has a plan for the work that He has for us before the creation of the world! This is a relief from striving or trying to figure out what we need to do!
Many believers including myself have struggled to figure out what good works we are supposed to do. How should we impact the Kingdom!? We want to be good stewards of our time, treasure, temple, and talents. The problem is that those kinds of questions sometimes lead us to strive We try to figure out with our minds how to please God and achieve His objectives. Sometimes, we come up with creative ways to do the work of the Kingdom, and at other times, we just join a group and try to do something to ensure we are serving and ministering. All along we may not be sure if the Lord is doing directing all the “good works” or if it is our restlessness that makes us just want to do something.
The above scripture reminds us that God has already prepared the good works that He has for us. He actually planned them long before we were born or accepted Jesus into our lives! The good works that He has for us are not separated from the good work that He does in our lives. They are the outworking and the byproduct of a life lived out under His Lordship and obedience. Just as God has planned for us to be transformed into the image of His son, He also has a plan how He will use us in the Kingdom to reveal that image to others. Isn’t that awesome!? We can’t transform ourselves into the image of Jesus. We only respond to His promptings and surrender our will, so He can develop and shape us in Jesus’ image. Similarly, we can’t conjure up good works for God. We don’t see Godly Biblical characters coming up with ideas to keep themselves busy in doing good works. The Lord directed them to it, and He will direct us to it.
In the meantime, we do the best we can with all the other responsibilities we have before us. We get to fellowship with the Lord, remain in His love, Listen to His voice, obey His word, and be available to what He asks us to do. We love our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers on our path. The above scripture tells us that we will walk in the good works that He has for us. In the course of daily life, we will come upon those people and situations that require our attention.
Our challenge is to believe that our good works for God will not always happen in the context of ministry. It is not a job, a role, or a task that needs to be done. It is a relationship with the almighty God who instructs and directs us to do certain things at certain times. When we don’t have a specific task to do, we can rest assured that God still loves us and we can be secure in His love not our works for Him.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
Paul began the letter to the Ephesians by explaining our redeemed relationship with Christ. He explained that the Lord has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ and that He chose us before the foundation of the world! God’s desire for His people is to be in fellowship with Him and to live in His acceptance!
God created Adam and Eve perfectly to live and walk with Him! Because of the sin that they committed, Adam & Eve lost their relationship with a holy God and sin brought blame and shame into the world. By the time, it reached the next generation, murder had already entered the human experience through Cain (see Genesis 4:3-7).
After Adam and Eve, the blame and shame had grown to such a degree that Cain could not handle Able’s success and acceptance by God. Cain did not offer what the Lord had asked of him but instead of trying to make it right with the Lord, he became jealous of his brother and envied his acceptance. Consequently, Cain killed his own brother because he did not feel accepted by the Lord. His lack of acceptance had nothing to do with his brother. It was easier to push the blame on his brother rather than dealing with his lack of security before God and the shame and inferiority he felt!
Because we were all born in sin and shaped in iniquity, every person carries a sense of inferiority in them, which they try to compensate through various means such as performance, victim mentality, aggression, control, conformity, etc. Unfortunately, the world’s voices including many parents’s voices is the voice of blame and shame, so people grow up not ever feeling good enough. There is nothing we can do to feel good enough and holy enough. The good news is that God never desires for people to remain in a state of sin, blame, and shame. Jesus, the holy Son of God, was the only one who could bridge the gap and bring us back into the right standing with God and remove our shame, blame, and the guilt of sin.
As a matter of fact, Jesus made our relationship with God better than what Adam and Eve experienced! Adam and Eve were God’s creation but God did not call them son and daughter. Jesus came to open the door for a different kind of relationship. Jesus brought us to the Lord as adopted children, sons and daughters, inheriting all the spiritual blessings through Jesus’ work on the cross! Thank you Jesus!
In the original relationship, God gave Adam and Eve the dominion to subdue the earth. In the new relationship, we have the keys to the Kingdom of heaven (See Matthew 16:10) Jesus gave us authority over all powers and told His disciples that whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever they lose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Praise the Lord!
In the new relationship, we get to explore God’s majesty, goodness, kindness, mercies, and grace and grow up to become more like His Son Jesus. This is God’s pleasure to reveal Himself to us and to allow us to be partakers of His divine nature. The more we become like Him, the more the lost world will see God on the earth and His glory and moral attributes will be revealed through His children! All glory to His name!
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10
The truth is that we were all enemies of God. Some aggressively rebelled against Him and others just lived their lives making their own plans apart from God’s laws and ways! All of us were born under sin and shaped in iniquity. We inherited the nature of sin from Adam, and we also committed our own sins in variety of ways. Every sin is a declaration of our will over God’s will, laws, and ways!
Praise God for Jesus’ obedience to the cross and for the Lord’s resurrection power raising Jesus from death to life! His death, burial, and resurrection gives us hope for an abundant and eternal life! He has the power to forgive every sin and to give us a fresh start in life.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 21:21-22
Just as God breathed life in Adam, Jesus breathed life in His disciples. What Adam lost in the Garden of Eden, Jesus regained on Calvary and gave it to His disciples. Jesus reconciled us to the Father by being our advocate and for dying for our sins, so we can be free from the sentence and the punishment of sin. We no longer have to carry the burden of shame and guilt in our lives, but we can lay it down at the cross and pick up His forgiveness, restoration, and hope for our lives. Now we can walk as living beings having our relationship restored with the Father! We are no longer enemies of God, but we have been accepted in the beloved! Because Jesus lives, we can live a life fully dedicated to the Lord. His peace is our peace!
I am reminded of the Lord’s Prayer that He taught His disciples. He began by declaring that our Father is worthy to be hallowed and honored. Jesus changed our relationship to a Holy God. We are no longer distant from a Him but we can call Him Abba Father! Through the cross, we are adopted as sons and daughters of the living King! We belong to the Kingdom of God, and we become partakers of Jesus’ nature who is the firstborn among many.
Whether we were saved years ago or just accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we continue to be in need of Him. Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will is done on the earth as it is in heaven and that His Kingdom is being established upon the earth. Furthermore, He told them to ask for their daily bread and forgiveness and instructed them to forgive others as well. He also taught them to pray that they are not led into temptation and that the Lord would deliver them from the evil one. Every area that Jesus mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of our desperate need for the Lord and His presence, mercy, grace, enablement, protection, wisdom, and discernment. Our job is to listen to His voice, surrender our will to Him, and do what He asks us to do. This is the life of a believer in a nutshell. It requires faith, hope, love, and obedience, and in the process we grow and mature in the fruit of the spirit and become more effective for the kingdom of God!
That’s something to shout about and praise the Lord for! Lord we thank you for sending your son to die for our sins and for the sins of humanity. Thank you Jesus for your obedience to the Father. Thank you for the Holy Spirit that we are no longer orphans in this world, but we have the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us into all truth and righteousness. Thank you Lord for your kindness towards us. Thank you for revealing yourself to us. We pray that you would reveal yourself to our loved ones and that they can experience the love, forgiveness, restoration, and deliverance of Jesus and the power of Resurrection in their lives!
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith. Isaiah 26:1-2
Isaiah declares that the greatness of the city is because God has established it. He is the one who protects its walls with truth and salvation. A righteous nation is one that understands salvation comes from God’s mighty hand and by His grace and mercy the country endures. It is not something that we deserve, nor is it something that can be done apart from Him.
The truth is that many people in our country have forgotten who is the giver of our true freedom. They also thought that it is our ingenuity and hard work that has allowed them to reach the level of success enjoyed by many. Of course, people have worked hard and have been diligent, but unless God enables a person or a nation, we cannot accomplish anything valuable.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17
Success is a blessing when it is founded upon humility and when one truly understands that everything good comes from the Lord! Sadly, in our nation, the greater the success, the more people have placed themselves on the throne. They want to define morality and truth and make every attempt to push God out of public square in order to move forward with their agenda with no limits and hindrance. For others, success has become a distraction from the right priorities in life caring more about having the perfect house rather than a pure heart before God!
The current pandemic is a reality check on who is in control! Three months ago, some people presumed that we can control the climate! Today, the world and all its activities have abruptly come to a halt over a virus! If the Lord were to allow these kinds of issues to happen on a yearly basis no country would be able to enjoy any peace or success. Governments would run out of money, the unemployment rate would be massive, the amount of travel would shrink drastically, and celebrations would be minimized. Basically, people would not able to even enjoy the fruit of their labor.
This moment of time gives us the opportunity to reflect of the giver of every good and perfect gift! Without Him we can do nothing! What are you thankful for!? Take time today and reflect on God’s goodness, protection, and provision in your life! Thank Him for who He is and what He does for us on a daily basis! The world may be in a panic, but to the believers it is time to testify that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy, we would never know what peace and prosperity means. He holds the world and the nations in the palm of His hands. He gives them the power and the opportunity to succeed in their works. We all need to humbly go before the Lord and thank Him for His mercies that are new every morning! Acknowledge Him as the giver of every good and perfect gift and pray that people would recognize God’s mercy and grace in their lives!