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!
We live in a culture that opinions are a dime a dozen! We have no lack of opinion about various subject matters whether we have much knowledge about them or not. Developing opinions and critical thinking is part of our academic training, and it is a way that we show we have intelligence. However, God is not impressed with our opinions. As a matter of fact, our opinions are a hindrance to our spiritual growth and maturity. God sometimes, by His mercy, overrules our opinions to open our eyes to new possibilities and new levels of freedom. …
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?
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.
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!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40
Jesus answered a Pharisee by stating that the first commandment is to love the Lord with all our hearts, with all our souls, and all our minds. We may not pay much attention to this commandment because we have heard it many times! So it’s important to slow down, think about the different elements of this commandment, and what they mean to us!
First, what does it look like to love the Lord with all our hearts!?
Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, Proverbs 3:3
God desires for us to be full of mercy and truth. He wants us to write mercy and truth on the tablet of our hearts. That means that we need to be continually aware of God’s mercy towards us and just as the Lord has been merciful to us, we also need to be merciful to others. This is a reminder of the Lord’s prayer when Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:12, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Those who have received the love and the forgiveness of the Lord have the responsibility to bless others with mercy and forgiveness as God has forgiven us.
Furthermore, God wants us to write truth on our hearts. We need to spend time knowing God’s truth, meditating on it, and keeping it in our hearts. His truth keeps us anchored and helps us to stay on the narrow path. Our heart is the place where we keep those things that are dear to us. Are His truth and mercy dear and valuable to us!?
Furthermore, in John 1:14, the scripture tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” When we live and walk in truth and mercy, we represent the Lord Jesus and who He is to the world!
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
In addition to keeping God’s mercy and truth in our hearts, we also need to protect our hearts from all others desires, distractions, and pollutions. The issues of life are varied. We have many temptations coming at us causing us to think that there are more important things to devote our time and attention to. There are also many trends that try to influence our choices to be popular and relevant, and they attempt to derail us from God’s desires and priorities.
Sometimes, the issues of life could be just dealing appropriately with people and not allowing our hearts to grow bitter or cold towards others because they have failed to meet our expectations. It’s hard to love others and not be disappointed when they fail us. However, the scripture tells us to guard our hearts with all diligence. That tells me that it is not easy to protect our hearts, and it requires work, intentionality, and attention.
If we want to remain in a place where God has the first place in our hearts, it is like a person who decides to get married. When we make the decision and the covenant to get married, in effect we are saying that my heart belongs to my spouse, and it is guarded and protected from falling in love with any other person! Similarly, if our hearts are dedicated to the Lord, then we cannot allow other loves to come into our hearts and pollute us from our first commitment. We need to put a seal on our hearts that other desires will not be allowed.
Lord, our hearts belong to you! Show us if we we have anything in our hearts that has taken your place or it has crowded or polluted our hearts. We want to have a clean heart before you. Teach us to guard it. Help us to keep mercy and truth in our hearts and to represent you well to a lost world! Amen!