The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Cost of Christmas

“. . . but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” – Philippians 2:7


Christmas is the most expensive holiday of the year. Statistics vary a bit, but The American Research Group [1] notes that over the last ten years (including this year’s projections) Americans have spent on average per person:

  • 2014 - $861 (predicted)
  • 2013 - $801
  • 2012 - $854
  • 2011 - $646
  • 2010 - $658
  • 2009 - $417
  • 2008 - $431
  • 2007 - $859
  • 2006 - $907
  • 2005 - $942
  • 2004 - $1,004
  • 2003 - $976

In a 2012 online article entitled How Much Do Americans Spend Over Christmas? It was estimated that in 2012 parents spent an average of $271 per child for Christmas. [2] In the same article in response to the question “How People Fund Their Holiday Shopping Spree” it stated: 65.8% will use salary or other income; 38% will use all or some of their savings; 29% will cash in coupons or rewards points; and 17% will borrow from another source.

In a 2011 Business Insider article by Andrew Shen entitled INFOGRAPHIC: Americans are Spending a Whopping $704.18 On Gifts This Year [3] it states Christmas is the “biggest commercial holiday in the United States. The United States is surpassed in Christmas spending by only one country, Luxembourg. Most people begin holiday spending before Thanksgiving; 38.9 % begin before Halloween; 51.4% of Americans begin Christmas shopping at least by mid- November. 152 million Americans planned to shop on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving. More and more retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving. 4.1% of people wait until the last two weeks before Christmas to shop.

Mr. Shen goes on to give the following further statistics in his article:

  • Worldwide $2.6 billion is spent on wrapping paper for Christmas
  • 1,220,000 letters from 126 countries are sent
  • The world’s most expensive Christmas tree is in the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is 43 feet tall and cost over $11 million to decorate. ($10,000 for the tree. $11.5 million for the jewels that ornament it.)
  • Individual spending for Christmas in America averages $704.18 per person
    • $403.26 spent on children
    • $68.23 spent on friends
    • $21.06 spent on co-workers
    • $23.39 spent on other gifts
  • 46.7% of shoppers shop online
  • Online shoppers will spend 22% more than in store shoppers
  • An average person will spend $26.52 on greeting cards
  • An average person will spend $96.75 on food and candy
  • An average person will spend $18.23 on flowers
  • An average person will spend $46.73 on decorations
  • An average person will spend $42.00 on a Christmas tree
  • In 2011 $52 billion was spent on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving)
  • 6% of shoppers say the most important factor in choosing where to shop is customer service. 14.6% say it is the quality of the merchandize. 41.6% say the most important factor in choosing where to shop is the cost of what they are looking to buy.

That’s a lot of spending no matter how you cut it!

The article also points out that 86% of adults say they believed in Santa Claus as a child. The average age for someone to learn that Santa isn’t real is 8 years old. 15% of children believe Santa is real past age 10. That’s sad because our focus shouldn’t be on Santa, it should be on the Savior Jesus. (Is it really a good idea as parents to deceive your children and distract them from the true meaning of Christmas? If you teach them a mythological figure like Santa is real now, when it comes time to teach them the truth of Jesus, why would they believe you if you’ve already brought into question your credibility as truth bearers?)

I don’t want to be Scrooge-like but there’s so much more to Christmas than money, Santa and his elves, and gifts. This holy day has been hijacked and converted into a secular holiday. I’ve got nothing against giving gifts. I’m a generous person and love to give gifts. Every good and perfect gift ultimately comes from God (James 1:17). But our gift giving shouldn’t cost Jesus His holy birthday.

Which brings me to the point of this teaching, have we truly considered the cost of Christmas for Jesus?   It cost Jesus a lot to redeem us. I wonder if there were times when He pondered just how much it did cost Him to provide a means of redemption for humanity. Let’s look at a few portions of scripture that may give us some insight into the cost of Christmas for Jesus.

It Cost Him His Home - He Left His Heavenly Abode

On one occasion when Jesus was in one of His many combative discussions with the Pharisees He said this:

  • John 8:23 - And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

I read that and I wondered if Jesus was a little homesick. He left His heavenly home to save us. He left heaven to save us. That’s quite a step down: from the penthouse to the outhouse; from eternal place of privilege to temporal place of impurity; from cleanliness to filth; from limitlessness to the depth of limitations. He left His heavenly abode and reached down to lift us out of the miry clay, the muddy grimy goo of this fallen world.

What’s heaven like? Well it isn’t a boring place. When we enter heaven one day we won’t be sitting on a cloud strumming a harp in eternal ethereal dullness. Heaven is a place with the best of everything with no end in sight. Heaven exceeds our limited imaginations. If we look at just one city, “The New Jerusalem” we can catch a glimpse of what Jesus left when He left His heavenly abode.

Revelation 21 speaks of “the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). Just look at this chapter and as you see the revelation of Jesus about this heavenly city imagine not only the city itself, but the environment Jesus left.

Revelation 21

     Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

What God will do at the culmination of history will be new for us, but not for Him.

2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

This will be a special day, like a wedding day. The City will be adorned like a bride; everything will be polished and new (not that there is any dust or dirt accumulation in heaven). The idea is that this is a special preparation for a special time.

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

The first thing we see about heaven from this passage is that heaven is a place filled with the eternal presence of God. When Jesus came to dwell with us bottom feeders beneath, He submitted Himself to limited access to the Father as a Human Being. He had access but it was willfully limited as a Human. He is a picture of what relationship we can have with the Father now. But He is also a picture of hope for the greater eternal relationship and access we can have with God in heaven.

 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Heaven is a place with no sorrow, no regret, no pain, no DEATH. Imagine, we will never again have to face death; either for others, or ourselves. Jesus tasted death for us – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus left the place of eternal life to taste death and He did it so that we would have victory over death (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-58).

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Heaven is a place of perpetual newness; nothing grows old there; nothing wears out; nothing becomes outdated or stuffy.

Heaven is a place that is the epitome of God’s truth and faithfulness. Everywhere you look you see the faithfulness and truth of God; you see how God is faithful to fulfill His true word.

Jesus left that to die for us.

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Heaven is a place of eternal sharing. Heaven is a place where all the beginnings and endings climax. And it is a place we shall inherit one day.

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Heaven is a place WHERE THERE IS NO SIN! You will not find anything in heaven that causes pain or suffering. You will only find that which flows from the love of the Spirit. All sin will be eternally removed. THERE IS NO ONE IN HEAVEN WHO HAS DISREGARDED GOD’S WORD AND PERSISTED IN THEIR SIN.

9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12

Heaven is a place where everything carries with it a sense of the glory of God. Heaven is a “precious” place.

Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

Heaven is a MAGNIFICENT PLACE. We will spend a good part of eternity in TOTAL AWE of God’s abode; Jesus’ abode; Jesus hometown and Holy City.

14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Notice, what are rare precious jewels on earth below, are COMMON yet still precious in heaven.

In The Word for Today study Bible Pastor Chuck Smith comments: “The New Jerusalem is about 2.25 million square miles total. It is a 1,500 mile cube, as its ‘length, breadth, and height are equal.’ Now if you think of it as a skyscraper 1,500 miles height and 1,500 miles square, then you will get the feel for how bit it will be. Even if each floor is a half-mile high, the total surface area would be bigger than the landmass of the entire earth. And who needs half-mile ceilings? There will be plenty of room for you.”

Jesus left this incredible City, to be born in a stable, to sweat and toil, experience fatigue, toil, and work. Jesus left all this for you and for me.

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

Heaven is a place filled with the glory of God and WITH THE GLORIOUS LIGHT OF THE LAMB Jesus. Jesus left that for you and for me to shine His light into our darkness.

Heaven is a place of access and safety; there’s no crime there; there are no threats or dangers in heaven – “its gates shall not be shut.” Think about that. Jesus left that to live in perpetual danger.  


27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The reason there are no dangers or threats there, the reason for the complete and total eternal safety, is that “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Jesus left all this for you and for me. Will you join Him there one day?

Now that is only one part of heaven. Multiply that by eternal immensity and the creativity of God and you only start to begin to understand what Christmas cost Jesus.

It Cost Him His Position – He Left His Throne

There’s another New Testament passage that is not regularly considered a Christmas message. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he is inspired to write:

Philippians 2:5-11 - 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him equality with God (2:6). At the point of the incarnation when the time had come for Jesus to come to live amongst humanity it states Jesus was (and is) emphatically “equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). Think about that. Equal with God; “equal” (Greek isŏs) in every way with God. He was Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, and Creator, full of glory – equal with God in all of that. You can’t get higher or greater than that. But then there is a “but,” He laid it all down.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him His “reputation” (2:7). As God He had the highest and holiest, the greatest and most perfect reputation in the universe “but made Himself of no reputation.” Your reputation is who you are. People spend a lifetime building a reputation. Jesus spent an eternity building His reputation. And yet He laid it all aside. He came to earth and started all over. He came to earth willfully choosing to make Himself of “no reputation.” He left all His gigantic credibility and resources. He left His position of authority. He left His throne, the angels that worshipped Him in glory, the heavenly existence of perfection, and He came to fallen earth to live with fallen humanity. Christmas cost Jesus.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him work (2:7). Jesus didn’t come as privileged royalty or a political elite, He came as a “bondservant, . . . in the likeness of men.” We glance over this but this was no small sacrifice. I have heard a Bible teacher illustrate this as God looking down on an earth populated by vicious dogs like Dobermans and pit-bulls and then becoming a Chihuahua to live among them and show them and die for them.  However you picture it, Jesus left an existence where He could simply effortlessly speak His will into existence. He left that to take on the likeness of a fallen human body; one that sweats and smells and gets’ tired and hurts and experiences pain. He came as a “bondservant,” to work out the ordained plan of redemption.

Christmas cost Jesus. It cost Him humility (2:8). It was humbling to leave a throne in heaven and become a man. There’s really nothing on this earth that could accurately illustrate such a cost. Not even a classic story like The Prince and the Pauper where a young king switches places with a pauper identical twin to see what living like the poor would be. Just look at the growls and elbows, the scowls and blank stares of shoppers at Christmas time – Jesus came to live amongst those kinds of people. And when you shop until you drop and your feet are blistered and swollen and your arms feel stretched to the floor from carrying bags of gifts, just remember, Jesus humbly came from a place where He encountered nothing that could tax Him to a body that regularly wore out.

And Jesus did this obediently. He submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even “to the point of death, even death on the cross.” He obeyed His Father in every way and on all occasions. He sacrificed, went without, served, kept His silence. He voiced God’s word and did all that the Father by the Spirit directed Him to do, even when it cost Him His life. He humbly obeyed even when it cost Him a death of being nailed to a hard sharp cross alongside common criminals and crucified in public for all to see. He obeyed even when on that cross His enemies mocked Him. He obeyed even when those He was dying for mocked Him and turned their backs on Him. There is no greater humility. Christmas cost Jesus.

For all this God exalted Jesus (2:9-11). For all this God exalted Jesus to the highest and holiest place. Everyone will one day “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That’s the meaning and purpose of Christmas.

In light of the cost of Christmas for Jesus and His exaltation, have we truly considered the cost of Christmas for ourselves? The above passage about Jesus begins with the words, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Christmas will and should cost us. I’m not talking about running up your credit cards. I’m talking about what it means to live our Christmas with the mind of Christ.

After Paul speaks of the cost of Christmas for Jesus he continues and spells out practically what this means for us. He helps his readers to consider the cost of Christmas to those who follow Jesus by saying:

Philippians 2:12-18 - 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.

Christmas costs us. It costs us reverent obedience (2:12). Paul links his words with the word “therefore.” In other words, in light of the cost of Christmas to Jesus we should respond in the following way. The first thing Paul indicates is a proper response is obedience. The Philippians were beloved by Paul. They were trustworthy. Paul didn’t have to be there overseeing them, prodding them to obey every step of the way. No, they obeyed and “worked out” their “own salvation with fear and trembling. They lived in light of eternity. They lived in light of Jesus incredible cost of Christmas. They lived in holy reverent, even trembling, before the magnificence of what Jesus had done. They took the initiative and “worked out their own salvation,” they put Paul’s words into practice. That was the cost of Christmas for them.

Christmas costs us. It costs us faithful submission to God (2:13). Paul told the Philippians that their obedience and work wasn’t anything for them to brag about. Whatever they did was a result of God working in and through them “to will and do for His good pleasure.” They simply had to trust God to work in and through them. They simply had to submit to God’s doing for His good pleasure in and through them. It cost them their rights. It cost them self. It cost them.

Christmas costs us. It costs us being a light (2:14-16). Christmas costs us our complaining and disputing. It requires we surrender to the will of God. It requires we hold to a higher priority than mere unfair circumstances or injustices. The priority is to be blameless and harmless unlike those in this “crooked and perverse generation” who complain and dispute as a way of life. No, we are to live “among” the lost and dark world in a way that “you shine as lights in the world.” We are to be lights in darkness. That doesn’t just mean putting up some pretty ornaments outside our homes or on our windows or on a green evergreen tree (or artificial facsimiles thereof). It means we reflect Jesus and live with the light of His mindset of sacrifice, humility and obedience. It means we live, “holding fast the word of life,” and doing it joyfully and in a way that ministers like Paul who serve will be able to “rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

Christmas costs us. It costs us our life (2:17-18). Paul was being poured out like a drink offering when he wrote this letter. He was being spent. He was giving up his life in a way that he wouldn’t be able to get it back. He gave himself to God by serving the Philippians. We serve God by serving others. You can only do that when you have truly committed your life to Christ. Christmas costs you your life!

Christmas is expensive.

But in the end all of this, what Christmas cost Jesus and what it costs us should result in joy. “For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Rejoice in the cost of Christmas! Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed me white as snow.” And we pay our cost of Christmas to our Lord joyfully. When you truly consider the cost of Christmas it will inspire you to count the cost and live your life as a sacrifice of loving appreciation to the one who gave His all for us. The cost of Christmas? Jesus died for all that those who live through Him should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-16). Have you truly considered the cost of Christmas?

One last question: What do we have to do to spend eternity with Jesus in His heavenly abode? Let’s return to that first verse we considered and read on a bit:

John 8:23-24 - 23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

If we don’t want to die eternally in our sins, we need to turn (repent) to Jesus and trust Him and Him alone as our Savior/Redeemer. Do that and your name will be in the Book of Life. It’s all a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus. The greatest cost. The greatest gift.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Giver and His Gifts

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


Of all the holidays celebrated Christmas generates the greatest economic boost. (Halloween is second.) It seems each year stores push for an earlier beginning for this holiday. We used to see Christmas decorations go up around Thanksgiving. Now it is not uncommon to see Christmas decorations go up around Halloween. The day after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday” because some companies get out of the red and into the black in their accounting records solely based on sales from this day. Some companies succeed or fail based on the income generated in connection with Christmas. It’s a big money maker. Merry Christmas!

Gifts are the topic of conversation at Christmas. What did you get? How many did you get? How much is it worth? How much did it cost? How big is it? What feature does it have? Can it do this? Can it do that? Does it fit? Can I exchange it? Can I return it? There’s a whirl of questions and thoughts and they focus on the gifts. We have been deceived and distracted from what Christmas is truly all about.

Christmas is about giving. And it is about a very special Gift. But we have drifted far from the root meaning of Christmas. We have gotten far away from the Giver and His original gift of Jesus the Christ at Christmas. We have put first things last and last things first. We have cluttered and covered what is eternally important with the wrappings of material things that will not last.

That’s sad. It shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t have to happen. In fact, why don’t we seek the LORD to help us get back on track? Lord help us get back to the proper and more valuable eternal perspective of You our Giver and Your gifts? This Christmas let’s challenge ourselves to reconnect with the Giver and His gifts. Let’s get back to that original Gift.

A gift is something given by one person to another without compensation. It is something freely given, freely received, not earned. At least that is what a gift is supposed to be. On the human horizontal plane gifts are often instruments of manipulation. We soften people up with a gift. That is not entirely unscriptural (cf. Prov. 18:16). But I think the sinful nature has taken this to an entirely lower level. We have perverted gift giving.

I want to state a bold and too often forgotten Biblical truth. Every good gift is from God. Look around you,  think about it, every good gift is from God. Every good thing we receive that we don’t deserve or that requires no compensation, is from God. The Bible states, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 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. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18). Those are words that should fill us with thanks to God.

James says, “do not be deceived.” These words imply there is some sort of deception about the Giver and His gifts (v. 16). He writes to people he cares about. We see that in the words, “my beloved brethren.” He cares that those he writes to know the truth. He doesn’t want his beloved readers to be deceived about gifts and the true Giver, God. What might the nature of the deception he is concerned about be? It could be a deception that disregards or neglects to pay homage or thanks to God as the Source of all good gifts. It might be a deflecting deception that “every good and perfect gift” comes from a source other than God. Or it may be the focusing on gifts to the neglect of the Giver. The aim of the enemy is always to deceive us and deflect glory from God.

When we focus so much on gifts that we forget about the Giver, we are deceived. Distraction from God is the work of deception. Anything that distracts us from the true meaning of Christmas, from the Giver, is a part of deception. Santa Claus, therefore, would be considered a deception because the story distracts us from God the Giver and Jesus the Gift. You may see that as a bit Scrooge-like, but it is true. Think about it.  

The word “every” (Greek pas) is an adjective that means every, all, any. The word, “good” (Greek agathŏs) is an adjective that means good,  upright, kind, benevolent, useful, acceptable, wholesome, beneficial, goods, good deeds. The word  “perfect” (Greek teleios) is an adjective that means complete, perfect, whole, full grown, mature, or adult. That which is perfect is made up of good that comes to full bloom or full maturity. Good gifts are things on the horizontal plane of life that point us to the vertical realm of God. They become perfect when we see them from an eternal perspective.

A “gift of God” is an act of His grace. James is inspired to write that good and perfect gifts are, “from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God the Father  is described as the “Father of lights.” He is the Creator of the universe with its entire starry host. As Father of lights He is of a holy pure character. There is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5).

That “there is no variation or shadow of turning” with Him refers to His unchanging stable dependable nature. The moon for instance is not always full; its reflective light is blocked by the earth as it orbits. But God is never blocked out, diluted or diminished in any way. His truth and faithfulness are steady and sure. He isn’t wishy-washy or capricious. He is dependable and true. And He bestows every good and perfect gift upon us all.

Verse 18 states, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” This points us to His great eternal gift of salvation. He brought us forth by His will and word of truth. He planted His word in us and caused it to grow in us by prevenient grace and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.   

Some gifts are unappreciated. When we think of gifts and what are in particular good gifts, we are frequently further deceived. We don’t always appreciate some of the things God allows into our lives. We don’t see certain things as gifts from God or good. The context of James 1:16-18 sheds light on the things God allows into our lives. What are some gifts God allows into our lives that we often do not appreciate?

First, trials are unappreciated gifts from God (James 1:1-8). Trials are allowed by God into our lives to build faith through patience and then character so that we will reach a point of perfection or spiritual maturity (1:1-4). Trials move us to pray (1:5a) and teach us how to add faith to our prayers (1:5b-8). There is a precious fellowship of suffering that God gives (Phil. 3:9-11).

Second, lowliness and loss are unappreciated gifts from God (1:9-11). God allows us to be in need so that it will draw us to Him for provision. When we lose the temporal it demonstrates that we ought to invest in eternal things that cannot be stolen or destroyed (Mat. 6).

Third, temptations are unappreciated gifts from God (1:12-15, 19-21). While temptations are not from God but from our sinful nature (1:12-15), God allows them so that we are put in a situation where we have opportunity to choose to follow Him. Without the potential for defeat there could be no victory (1:19-21). Without the possibility to disobey, we wouldn’t be able to know what true love is (John 14:21).

Fourth, God’s word is an unappreciated gift from God (1:22-25). We don’t realize how great a gift God’s word is. We can choose to listen to it being taught or read it with no effect on us. But only when we apply it to our lives do we discover its full value. Too often we do not appreciate God’s gift of the Bible.

Fifth, hardship in others is an unappreciated gift from God (1:26-27). Religion is a human attempt to reach God. It is ineffective in changing people. True religion is to help those in need such as widows and orphans; those who are unable to help themselves. But it is helping not to attain favor with God, but because we already have favor with God through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t help others to attain righteousness. We help others to show our appreciation to God for the righteousness He provides in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We serve God by serving others. We love God supremely and so love others sacrificially. Such situations are unappreciated opportunities to be God’s ambassadors. As we help others bear burdens we fulfill one of the most important aspects of what it means to be a Christian (Gal. 6:2).

So the challenge has been made. Will you put the Giver and His gifts in their proper place this Christmas? Will you exalt the God the Giver for His most precious gift of salvation through Jesus the Christ?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Sheep

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me – John 10:27


We like to think we are independent. We like to think we make our own decisions based on an objective assessment of evidence. But one look at the bobbing heads scurrying down city streets during the holiday season shows us something else is going on. Yes, one of those bobbing heads can stop to look in a shop window and even choose to go inside. But in the grander picture of things they are simply taking a detour that leads in the same direction. They are bobbing for the golden apples this world has to offer. Now I’m not a Scrooge. I love Christmas (when the presence of Immanuel is the emphasis). But what I’m saying is that it’s not always a good thing to go with the flow.

Years ago Bob Dylan wrote a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Toward the end of his song the lyrics said, “Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk. Might like to drink whisky, might like to drink mil. You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread. You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king size bed. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus the Good Shepherd. Indecision is decision. You are either for Him or against Him.

You have to serve somebody. Any dead fish can float with the current downstream. It takes a live fish to go against the flow. It’s easy to be another bobbing head. Jesus calls us to stand out in the crowd. He calls us to shine His light. We are to salt the walk so that people slipping into a Christless eternity can find traction and the grip of Jesus to save them.

Why don’t people receive Jesus? Why don’t they join His flock? In John’s gospel it states, “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:25-26). People don’t disbelieve Jesus for lack of evidence. People disbelieve Jesus because they will not believe. No one ever spoke like Jesus. His authority and truth were and ever will be unmatched. No one ever performed miracles like this Man. No man ever did what Jesus did unless they did it in His name. No, people don’t believe in Jesus because they are not His sheep.

Who are the sheep of Jesus? Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.(John 10:27). Here are three characteristics of those who are the sheep of Jesus. Here are three characteristics of those who are not following the crowd but who follow Jesus. These are not bobbing heads. These are bleating blessed sheep of Jesus. Who are they?  

Jesus’ sheep hear His voice. Jesus is calling. Will you listen? The word “hear” means they hear and will continue to listen to Jesus. Being a sheep of Jesus involves a life of listening to His voice. It means whatever you are doing, when Jesus calls, you come running. It means Jesus and His voice is your top priority. When you hear Him, you drop everything and give Him your full attention. When you hear your Shepherd you stand in the current, stick your head out of the bobbling head flow and go where He tells you to go.

Is there so much noise in your life that it drowns out the voice of Jesus? Is there so much activity in your life that Jesus can’t get your attention, even if He shouts? Are you listening for His voice? Do you know what it sounds like? Do you jump to attention and are you ready for action when you hear the voice of Jesus? Or do you hear the voice of Jesus and it means little to you; when you hear Jesus’ voice do you just keep doing what you’re doing; just keep going with the worldly flow? Jesus’ sheep hear His voice.

The voice of Jesus should demand and get your attention. The voice of Jesus can be a still small voice (Psalm 46:10). It can be a voice that speaks with thunder (Exodus 19:16). It can be a “still small voice” that speaks softly after a storm (1 Kings 19:12). The voice of Jesus should wake us up like reveille (Exodus 19:18-19). The voice of Jesus should be like the sound of a child’s voice in the night to their parent. The voice of Jesus should be like an ambulance siren. The voice of Jesus should be like the voice of your lover (Song of Solomon). The voice of Jesus should be like the voice of the One you love most and care the most about.

The voice of Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The voice of Jesus says to our storms, “Peace be still!” (Mark 4:39). The voice of Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). The voice of Jesus says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). He says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). He says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The voice of Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). The voice of Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). The voice of Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). The voice of Jesus, when we hear it, should immediately jump to the top of our priority list. Do you hear and attend to the voice of Jesus?

Jesus’ sheep are known by Him. Jesus knows who are and who aren’t His sheep. Jesus’ sheep are in a relationship with Him. Being one of Jesus’ sheep is more than external religious effort. Jesus commented in another gospel that some who refer to Him as “Lord, Lord,” some who have “prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name,” would not be known by Him. To some who did things in His name He will ultimately say, “I never knew you: depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:32-23).

Does Jesus know you? How would He know you? Jesus would get to know us by spending time with Him, by walking side by side, hand in hand with Him each day. If you’re caught up in the holiday rush make sure you’re walking with Jesus. He’s able to guide us through the crowd. A relationship grows by spending time together. Do you spend time with Jesus? Do you give Him the time of day? Does He know you? Take hold of the hand of Jesus and walk with Him.

Jesus sheep follow Him. Being a sheep of Jesus is not merely saying so in word. Belonging to Jesus means you follow Him. “Follow” means follow for life, accompany for life, cleave steadfastly to one for life. If you say you know Jesus are you following Him? Are you following in the steps of Jesus? (1 Peter 2:21). Are you walking like He walked or at least endeavoring to do so? (1 John 2:6). Do you have your eyes fixed on Him? (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus’ sheep follow Him. Who are you following; the world, someone else, yourself? Are you following Jesus? Are you in the flock of Jesus? Do you hear the voice of Jesus? Does He know you? Are you following Jesus? Whose sheep are you?

Why is it important for us to belong to Jesus, to be one of His sheep? Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28a).  Jesus gives us eternal life. This is His provision. This is His promise. We can depend on Jesus. And because of that we can be sure we “shall never perish.” “Perish” means ruin, kill, lost, be lost, perish, and put to death. The death spoke of here is not annihilation. It is the eternal death of torment imposed on those who have decided not to follow Jesus. Jesus offers us eternal life. Though we will die physically, we can see physical death in light of the eternal life Jesus provides. Death for the follower of Jesus is only a transition to eternal life.

Jesus continued, “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28b-29). Like parents crossing a busy street each holding the hand of their child, Jesus and the Father won’t let go of us! When we give ourselves to Jesus and the Father, we can be assured They won’t let us go. Jesus gives His followers eternal life. He provides His followers with assurance and security in their relationship with Him. And if that were not enough He affirms that the Father is greater than any enemy that might threaten the sheep. We can rest assured that “no one is able to snatch” us, “out of My Father’s hand.” We won’t get lost in the crowd. We don’t have to worry losing our salvation. As we abide in Jesus we are secure in Him. He and the Father are able to handle any enemy attacks we might face.

In his first epistle John writes, “That you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, 24). I encourage you to read that short five chapter Epistle if you doubt your salvation. It’s possible to know we are children of God. The Holy Spirit within us assures us that we belong to God (1 John 3:24; Romans 8:12-17). You don’t have to go with the flow. You don’t have to get lost in the crowd. You can swim against the current of this world. You can stand apart with Jesus. When Jesus looks at you do you think He knows you? Can Jesus look at you and say, “There’s one of My sheep”? Don’t settle for being just one more bobbing head. Don’t be a dead fish. Come to Jesus. Take His hand. Join His flock. Let Him be your shepherd.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“Giving thanks always for all things”

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”     – Ephesians 5:20

Sometimes truth gets lost in personal translation. Many times we reinterpret words to fit our own understanding or our own plans. We read subjectively, selectively. We read with subjective selection. We read with a built in auto-correct or auto-edit so that if we don’t approve what we read we instantly dismiss it. There are a lot of reasons for our doing this.

For some subjective selection is a defense mechanism. We get our bank statement that indicates we’ve overdrawn our account and think that just can’t be, there’s no way I did that. We get a notice of employment termination and we respond they can’t do that. We read a blindsiding note from a paramour who wants to end our relationship and we think no, they wouldn’t do that. We read the results from a physical exam that has found a life threatening illness and we think this can’t be happening. In all these circumstances we defend against unwanted information by dismissing the information. But we do so to our perils of reality.

For others subjective selection is the result of rebellion. We read something and dismiss it because we don’t like what we see. We see a notice of a dress code and we take pride in disregarding it. We see, “No bare feet,” and we walk in with bare feet. We see a posted speed limit and callously step on the accelerator. We see “no smoking” and we steam and smoke away. We see signs limiting alcohol consumption and we drink away. The sinful nature is an inherent anarchist.

But admittedly some signs demand dismissing. We live in a better world because of those who defiantly disregarded signs that read, “No Blacks allowed,” or “Jews need not apply.” One day we will see signs like “no Christians wanted” or “Christians need not apply,” or “unisex bathroom.” We will one day se some form of “if you don’t accept same-sex marriage, lesbians, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgender you need not enter here.” When we see such words we will need to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. . . . [and] stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). 

And for others subjective selection is the result of misunderstanding. Maybe we read something and we just don’t understand what the message is. We don’t understand that chemistry formula or how an element is constructed and we cast its worth aside. We’re confused at the form at the Department of Motor Vehicles. We can’t understand the tax code. Who can figure out the car manual? Who can understand (or has the time to read) that online explanation for the newest software or latest IPhone agreement? In this age of information it’s hard to understand and easy to misunderstand.

But for whatever reason, when we come to something in God’s word that we don’t like or can’t accept, or don’t understand it’s never a good idea to go into subjective selection mode. It’s never a good idea to ignore what you simply view in God’s word as negative or not relevant to your world view. It’s never appropriate to delete what you don’t like and parse verses out of your personal interpretation. We see this in the politician’s selectivity when it comes to quoting scripture. They quote a verse that supports their purposes but neglect other scriptures that don’t serve their talking points. We see this when God’s word prohibits immoral lifestyles and people ignore or discount that part of God’s truth. They do that to excuse or even make it appear God condones the sin He so clearly prohibits. You can’t cherry pick God’s word.

We are not in a position to pick and choose what we will and will not accept as God’s word. God exalts His word above His own name (Psalm 138:2). The entirety of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160). God’s word is perfect (Psalm 19:7). God’s word is “holy,” it is unique and high above any other form of words (Psalm 119:140; Romans 1:2). God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word is effective; it will accomplish God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11). God’s word defines sin, depicts its dangers and shows us how to avoid it victoriously (Psalm 119:11; 1 Corinthians 10:13). And that is why in His word God commands, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). We would be wise to accept God’s word as it is. If we ignore, omit, purposely misinterpret, or discount something in God’s word because we don’t like what it says, we need to understand God’s word will stand (e.g. Matthew 24:35). Our words will fall when they hit the righteous wall of God’s word. We will wither like grass. God’s word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

One example of a portion of scripture that tempts us to question involves the circumstances in which we are to be thankful. Certainly it isn’t wrong to wonder how God would want us to be thankful “always for all things.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When Paul writes this we question what “everything” means. We are tempted to think, that can’t be. We’d like to think that the word “everything” doesn’t really mean everything. We subtly ponder, surely God couldn’t mean for us to be thankful in times of tragedy, pain, hardship, loss, offense, persecution . . . .  But if God’s word says something, just because we question it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. God’s word stretches our understanding. God’s word is written from an eternal perspective. To disregard the “everything” in this verse about thanks would rob us of one of the transcendent glorious truths of God’s word. When God’s word says “everything,” it means everything. That’s the truth.

Look closely at that verse in 1Thessalonians 5:18. The “in” gives us an out. It doesn’t say we are to be thankful for all things but in all things. In other words we may not like what is happening but we are to maintain a spirit of thanks to God in the midst of and through difficulties. I can understand that a bit better. I can get my mind and heart around that instruction. But in light of the many hardships life so frequently comes with, it’s a much harder sell to be thankful “always for all things.” That’s what Paul says elsewhere. He is inspired to exhort his readers “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). How is it possible for us to give thanks “always for all things”?

There doesn’t seem to be any out or getting around Paul’s words about giving thanks always for all things. Those words seem pretty straightforward and almost provocative to anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has experienced the harsh realities and trials of this life. Is that a heartless call to those who experience pain? What about those words, should we dismiss them; auto-edit them; auto-delete them? Is this a verse for subjective selection? No, I don’t believe so. In fact, if you join me in studying this verse I believe it will open the door to not only being thankful always for all things, but it will open the flood gates of God’s joy for you. Let me share a few things in response to these questions.

First, giving thanks for all things is made possible by God’s grace through faith. The phrase “giving thanks” is translated from the single Greek term eucharistountes. Not to get grammatically technical but the grammar of this term (Present/Active/Participle) conveys the idea of an ongoing life attitude. The idea is to have a spirit or attitude that is always giving thanks. This is an attitude we need to actively pursue by faith. It is a product of God’s grace.

The word from which we get this participle is eucharisteo which means to be thankful, give thanks, return thanks, or pray. This is a word of worship. Worship involves faith expressing thanks to God. Further, this is a compound word the root of which is charisteo. Charisteo means to give freely, bestow favor, gratify. Charisteo is linked to the word charis from which we get the English word “grace.” Charis means grace, attractiveness, or unmerited undeserved favor. For example, we are saved by God’s grace. Grace is undeserved favor. Salvation from sin isn’t something we deserve; it is something God offers us freely as a gift of His grace. He offers this gracious salvation from sin in love (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8). We receive God’s gracious gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But the effect of God’s gracious salvation is life encompassing. We live by grace through faith. We live “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). And we live by God’s grace. Paul through whom God chose to write about this attitude of thankfulness also was inspired to write, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Do you see the sustaining grace in that verse? Do you see how by faith Paul “labored more abundantly”? The first thing we need to understand in “giving thanks always for all things” is that it is something we can only do by God’s grace through faith.

Second, giving thanks always for all things is the result of looking “to God the Father.” God our Father is Sovereign. He is in command. He is in control. Nothing that happens to us happens without His permission. Job was severely tested by the devil. But the devil could do nothing to Job without God’s permission (cf. Job 1-2). While Job was experiencing the devastating hardships shared in the Book of Job, he, his wife and his best friends didn’t understand what God’s purpose and plan was. We the reader are given insight in the spiritual element of these circumstances from the very start. But Job, his wife and family and the friends that came to help him all were unaware of this crucial contextual information about the involvement of the devil and spiritual warfare.

Job and his friends go back and forth throughout the book trying unsuccessfully to decipher and make sense of the tragedy and affliction that had come upon this righteous man Job. Job complained and even got angry, but he continued to believe in God. Job reasons, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (Job 2:10). Though he was severely tested Job persisted, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Interestingly, Job and his friends attribute all his hardship to acts of God. God permitted the hardship but the evil instrument was the devil. Job and his friends never consider this. Without this book maybe we wouldn’t consider it either. The Book of Job provides us therefore with valuable insight into reality that proves a comfort of understanding to others in history who suffer.

Along with Job many have been brought to a place where, though like Job they don’t understand all that is going on in their lives, still they proclaim, “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). And also, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). These are precious eternal insights. But it isn’t until God speaks in chapter 38 that the truth comes out. And even then, God does not provide all the insight we the reader are aware of from the first two chapters. It isn’t until the last five chapters of a forty-two chapter book that God thunders, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2).

The point here is that even though we may not understand our life circumstances, because we do not have all the facts that God has, we should trust Him and be thankful no matter what. While the trials and tribulations God allowed into Job’s life stretched him to his limits and cost him in many ways, the product of God’s plan was a book included in His canon of holy writ that has proved to be profoundly helpful to others throughout history who are experiencing trials and tribulations.

Third, giving thanks always for all things can only be done “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 8, the pinnacle of scripture, it states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). It says that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39). Whatever we go through in this life goes past the approval process of God’s desk. God is writing a poem and our life is part of the many stanzas (cf. Ephesians 2:10). God has a plan for us (cf. Jeremiah 29:11-13). God really is for us. He has our best interests at heart. We may not always understand that or even believe that but it is true. To prove it God inspired, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

It’s not by accident that in Romans 8:32 God mentions how He, along with His Son Jesus, “also freely gives us all things.” Here is the basis for giving thanks for all things even when the things God allows in our lives do not seem eligible for our being thankful. There is a far greater purpose in life than our comfort, material prosperity, ease, and even our health.  There is a far greater purpose in life than the comfort, material prosperity, ease and even health of our loved ones and others as well.

God’s paramount purpose for all who follow Him is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). The finished poem of which I spoke above is a poem written with lines of Christ-like followers. God is preparing us for eternity with Him. That requires Christ-likeness.  And the bottom line is that being Christ-like involves sacrifice. Jesus came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus came to serve in death (Philippians 2:5-11). “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus went to and died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19). And we are called to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and walk like He did (1 John 2:6).

We add nothing to the saving work of Jesus. But when we live like Him for His purposes we honor Him and our lives become a living sacrifice of worshipful thanks to Jesus. God’s plan for us is that we come to a place where we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Just as Jesus loved us we must come to a place where the love of Christ compels and motivates us (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). When you get to that place in your walk with the Lord, you will be eternally thankful for all things always.

Lastly, giving thanks always for all things is a work of the Holy Spirit in us. The context of Paul’s inspired words about giving thanks always for all things is an exhortation to allow the Holy Spirit to work in those he was writing to. “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:17-19). Be wise. Don’t try and drown your sorrows with drinking or drugging. Be continuously daily filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will put a song in your heart. The Spirit will give us songs in the night (cf. Job 35:10; Psalm 77:6; Acts 16). Giving thanks always for all things is a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we do in our own understanding or our own strength. Giving thanks always for all things is a product of the Spirit’s illumination. It is the Spirit’s empowering revelation that enables us to be always thankful.

The next time you go through a trial or difficulty remember what Peter was inspired to write – “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). Suffering doesn’t save us. Suffering does provide us with a greater depth of understanding and ability to relate to Jesus. We draw close to Jesus when we fellowship with Him in suffering (Philippians 3:10).

A faith untested cannot be trusted. A faith tested true will never let you down. It will bring you closer to Jesus. It will be a reason to be thankful. It will be a reason to rejoice. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith -  the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Now do you understand a bit more why God said to give thanks always for all things? Do you see how it can be done? Now it is up to us to present ourselves to God for help to obediently practice what God’s word says. By God’s grace through faith let’s be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen!