Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thank Offerings

The last thing we want to do when things are going bad is thank God. We plead, we ask for help, we complain, but we don't typically give thanks.

That's why scriptures refer to the sacrifice of praise. "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name" (Hebrews 13:15).  Isaiah says, He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God" (Psalm 50:23). When we sacrifice thank offerings, we prepare the way for God's salvation. Amazing! 

The only way to give thanks and praise in bad times is to intentionally shift focus. We look away from terror to Truth, from fear to Faithfulness, and we change. Not only do we find strength to persevere (see Hebrews 12), but we experience an other worldly peace that keeps our hearts and minds focused on what is true and lovely (Philippians 4:6-8)--a far cry from anxiety.

It's not Pollyanna thinking. We have to admit our challenges before Jesus our Intercessor. But as we start looking for things for which to give thanks, the Holy Spirit cleans our lenses and adjusts their focus. We become more aware that God's power and love far surpass our needs. Soon we learn to see the Almighty's hand in our lives even after we've shrunk back from some of the ugly gift wrapping.

This rediscovery (that we can trust God) prepares us to lay down worry and fear. It deactivates our default complaint button. The sacrifice of thanks and praise accustoms our eyes to behold our Savior in grander dimensions, including ones that speak to our needs.

While it's not easy or natural, sacrificing thank offerings honors God. It lays out the red carpet for Jesus, our Savior, to show us the stuff of His salvation.


Is there a situation in your life that is dragging your attention away from Christ and diminishing your sense of God's great care and presence? How might your sacrifice of thanksgiving impact your well being?

What aspect of God's salvation in your life is God revealing? 

Thank God anew for a time when your sacrifice of praise refocused you on God's presence and perspective. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jesus Wants You

"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted" (Mark 3:13, NIV).

I almost overlooked it.

He wanted them. Yes, Jesus chose them, but He wanted them. Every last one of them, including Judas.

Mark tells us that He appointed them so they could be with him (verse 14, italics mine).

He wanted their company. He wanted to teach them. He wanted to send them out to preach good news and to have authority to drive out demons. He wanted each one, and their names are recorded in the Scripture.

Jesus' desire to have these men spend time with Him was so they could experience, not merely teachings about God, but God in flesh. He would reveal Himself through miracles, teaching, disappointment, grief, and triumphs. There was no way to know what they would discover: awe, confusion, suffering, and joy. At the time of their call, they had already encountered Jesus as the compassionate healer and the authoritative rabbi. Their years with Him would expand their pebble ideas of God into wondrous mountain ranges.

Encouraging, isn't it, that Jesus also calls us to Himself. He wants us to bring His Kingdom near through His presence in us. But more than that, He wants to reside in us,  express His love and delight in us, and make us one with God. Eventually, as we give ourselves to God's purposes, we discover that in all turns of life, God is working to etch Christ Jesus in and through us.

Oh, dear Lord, thank you for wanting me. Thank you for calling me to spend time with You, and for giving Yourself to me so completely!

For Your Consideration

Reflect on your life. Why does Jesus want you to spend time with Him?

What key lessons has Jesus taught you in recent years about (a) His love for you, and (b) your part in letting Him love people through you?