Thanksgiving week is finally here. This week children and grandchildren will bring home from school turkeys cut out of construction paper with little feathers pasted on them. They will have pilgrims with funny bonnets, hats, and buckle shoes. Unfortunately though, giving thanks is not a natural attribute in anyone. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not born with good tendencies. The Bible tells us that, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12). None of us are born with a thankful heart! Thanksgiving does not spring out of our unregenerate nature. It is only when we are born-again that we become genuinely appreciative to God and to man for our blessings in life. Giving thanks is more than just bowing our heads and praying a little prayer over our daily food. It is also more than just a once-a-year event celebrated with friends, relatives, turkey, and pumpkin pie. It is an attitude of heart and life, that leaves us in humble gratitude before God and men.
In Genesis 8: 20-22 we find that Noah gave thanks to God by an offering immediately once he departed the Ark.
"And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord" (Genesis 8:20)
Of all that Noah could have done, he continued to put first things first. What did Noah do immediately upon exiting the ark? He built an altar to give thanks and honor to the Lord. This act of his worship reflects the priority that should be given to this matter of thanksgiving.
The truth is Thanksgiving should have first place in our attitude.
Proverbs 23:7 tells us "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee."
Our actions are controlled by our attitudes. In other words, what we are determines what we do. We must be right on the inside before we can behave correctly on the outside. For thanksgiving to work its way into our daily living, it must begin in our hearts. Jesus taught this same principle during His earthly ministry. In speaking about this He stated,
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45)
Solomon spoke about this same matter when he penned these words, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
There is nothing easy about cultivating an appreciative attitude. It is something that we have to work on constantly in our inward man. But, as we humble ourselves, and cooperate with His Spirit, the "sweet aroma" of a grateful spirit will begin to reveal itself in our lives. Not only should thanksgiving have first place in our attitudes but Thanksgiving should have first place in our actions.
If we are thankful in our hearts, we will be thankful in our daily living. "Thanksgiving is thanks-living!" That is, a thankful spirit is translated into our actions. Realize this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) Therefore we should be determined by the grace of God, to always show our appreciation for His blessings. Not only should we demonstrate our thankfulness to God, but we should demonstrate our thankfulness to those around us. Thanksgiving is not just a vertical principle, it has its horizontal relationships as well. When we are sincerely thankful to God for His blessings, we cannot help but be grateful for the kind deeds of others. That means that you and I should be quick to remember to say "thank you." More often than not, to our shame, these two words of thankfulness do not leave our lips.
Lastly, Thankfulness should have first place in our approach to God. When we think of approaching God, the first thing that usually comes to mind is prayer. But, the Bible teaches us to come before God, not only with "prayer and supplication," but also "with thanksgiving." Here are a few verses that demonstrate that simple fact:
Psalm 100:4 "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalms 69:30 "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving."
Nehemiah 12:46 "For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God."
As a matter of fact, prayer combined with praise and thanksgiving are often found together in the Scriptures.
Philippians 4:6 "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Colossians 4:2 "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" 8
Nehemiah 11:17a "And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal (song leader) to begin the thanksgiving in prayer:"
Looking at the account of Noah we can all agree that what he did concerning his approach to God agrees with the Bible. His "prayers" and "giving of thanks" came first. He was quick to give God the glory for what He had done! We need to learn to follow Noah’s pattern of worship.
Let this Thanksgiving Week be the beginning of a new pattern of thankfulness in your life. This surely will bring glory and honor to God!
Psalms 95:2 "Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms."
- Pastor David Carroll Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
What Can I Praise God For?
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Acts 16:25
As we read through the account of Acts chapter 16, we are amazed at the response of Paul and Silas. It seems that Paul throughout his entire ministry faced severe opposition to the Gospel. Paul's preaching of the Gospel had such a far reaching impact that he is often the subject of many sermons preached out of the New Testament only second to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But Paul's witness had more depth than just a few verses that he had memorized and often quoted. He and his companions lived a life that was in close fellowship with the Lord. When we come to this account starting at the beginning of chapter 16, we become enamored with the situation that unfolds and perhaps miss a key element in what resulted in souls saved and a local New Testament church being birthed. Notice the order of what transpired in the above verse:
They Prayed to God.
They Praised God.
The Prisoners Heard.
What a wonderful testimony to our great Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Paul and Silas in the midst of severe affliction are helped through their worship of God. Here also the prisoners are affected by Paul and Silas’ worship of God. There is a great lesson for you and I in this passage. Likewise, in the book of James we also find this twofold instruction, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” (James 5:13)
Our testimony to those that are without should raise up Jesus Christ. Our Savior speaking of his impending crucifixion stated, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Oftentimes though, we put on a sour face and portray God as a hard taskmaster requiring us to do what we do not want to do. And yet here Paul and Silas are affected and affect those around them simply by praying and praising God! Psalm 103 is a tremendous example of the many things that we can praise God for! This list is by no means exhaustive because of God's great goodness and glory, but it does help us to once again focus our attention on how good God is.
So what can we praise God for? Well the psalmist David tells us:
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;" (v2,3)
1. We can praise God for forgiving all our iniquities (those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior). Psalm 103:3
2. We can praise God for our health. Psalm 103:3 – The Great Physician has blessed us with physical and spiritual health.
"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;" (v4)
3. We can praise God for redeeming “thy life from destruction.” Psalm 103:4 – He has done more than just forgiven us, He has received us into His house.
4. We can praise God because he has shown us “lovingkindness and tender mercies;” Psalm 103:4
"Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." (v5)
5. We can praise God because he has given us what we need to be satisfied. Psalm 103:5 “No man is ever filled to satisfaction but a believer, and only God himself can satisfy even him.” – Charles Spurgeon The Treasury of David
"The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed." (v6)
6. We can praise God that He is the Just Judge and will continue to execute righteousness and judgement. Psalm 103:6
"He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel." (v7)
7. We can praise God because He has made known His ways unto His children. Psalm 103:7
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." (v8)
8. We can praise God because He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounds in mercy. Psalm 103:8 God is not as man, fickle in forgiveness. God has not stated as Peter, “how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Matthew 18:21 How low we stoop in our mercy towards others!
"He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever." (v9)
9. We can praise God He does not reprove indefinitely. Psalm 103:9 God corrects us perfectly.
10. We can praise God that “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10
"For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him." (v11)
11. We can praise God for His mercy cannot be measured. Psalm 103:11 His mercy is “Like the height of the heaven” if thou can measure that!
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (v12)
12. We can praise God because our sins are gone, nowhere to be found. They are impossibly removed from retrieval. Psalm 103:12 – “Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing. If sin be removed so far, then we may be sure that the scent, the trace, the very memory of it must be entirely gone.” - Charles Spurgeon The Treasury of David
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him." (v13)
13. We can praise God because He has compassion for you and I. Psalm 103:13
"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth." (v14,15)
14. We can praise God because He “knoweth our frame;” Psalm 103:14,15 God knows how we are constituted for He is our Maker. “…we are dust….” and our “…days are as grass…”
"But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;" (v17)
15. We can praise God for though we fade away as a flower, His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting; immeasurable. Psalm 103:17 (and 15)
"To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." (v18)
16. We can praise God because He is a covenant keeping God. What He has promised to do, He will do it. Psalm 103:18
17. We can praise God because He expects us to be obedient. Psalm 103:18 What loving God would not guide us in the paths of life?
"The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all." (v19)
18. We can praise God, because He is the Almighty. Psalm 103:19 God’s is sovereign over all, His throne is higher than all ‘thrones.’
"Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word." (v20)
19. We can praise God because of His creation; the heavenly host. Psalm 103:20 “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
"Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure."(v21)
20. We can praise God because of His magnificent work. Psalm 103:21 – God in His great plan has chosen to allow you and I to participate in this wonderful work. “Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.” Psalm 103:22
Perhaps if we would be a praying people that are praising the Lord more people would turn to Jesus Christ for salvation and give glory to God!
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Works and Grace
Romans 11:1-6 "1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
During our last outreach event a gentlemen expressed to me that he went to a "church" that doctrinally believes in a faith plus works salvation; they hold that baptism is required for salvation among other required deeds. It was because of this conversation that I began to meditate on Romans 11:6. This verse is perhaps one of the most explicit dividing verses in the Bible that really cuts to the heart of this matter when we are discussing salvation with 'those that are without.' Is salvation a matter of works or grace? In fact, as we look around, it will be evident that there is an outworking of these "two ways of salvation" (Of course we know there is only one of valid way of salvation according to the Bible).
Our Adversary has so leveraged our own sinfulness against us that to the natural man a way of works is more palatable. We find the way of works in all forms of Religion today (except biblical Christianity) and it fits best in our own Reasoning. It makes sense to us to 'earn' favor with God because of our guilt from our own sinfulness and feeling of separation. Even our understanding of God's love being unconditional is foreign to us because we are so marred by sin.
Paul here in Romans 11 has been for the past two chapters pouring out his heart concerning the nation of Israel. He states in Romans 9: 1-4:
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;"
In chapter 9 Paul is dealing with Israel's past and in chapter 10 he is dealing with their present state. Here in chapter 11 though he is wrestling with the reader about their future. Paul starts the chapter with a rhetorical question that he quickly answers. He states, "Hath God cast away his people (Israel)?" This question plagues us much the same way concerning our present state here in the United States. We could ask the question, Has God cast away the United States? Or maybe we might frame it this way, Is there anyone left but me?
Oh what a troubling time Paul lived in for the nation of Israel and we certainly are living in troubling days... Is God still continuing to save the lost? Paul give us a twofold proof that God had not cast away His people and you and I by application can understand that there are still folks to be saved here in the United States as well.
The first proof we find is in verse number one. Notice what the Bible says, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Paul tells us the first proof is himself! What a glorious truth to understand! Paul says fervently, No, God has not cast away His people! How do I know? because I am an Israelite and He saved me! You and I can certainly say the same thing in our day. This local New Testament church here in Hampton, Virginia still has the mission given to us by the Savior to proclaim the Gospel. What is the proof? We are still here. God has not sent the Lord Jesus Christ for His bride yet and therefore the mission still stands. What is that mission? The mission is the mandate to spread the Gospel. Consequently then there are still folks that will be saved. Praise the Lord!
In verses 2-4 Paul offers us the second proof that God is not done with Israel yet. Again by application you and I can say the same thing. What proof does Paul offer? Notice what verse 2 states,
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,"
The second great proof of God's continuing mission for us is God's Word! In Romans 15:4 we find this encouragement about the Bible, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." My friend there is some patience and comfort to be had by the reading, understanding, and the applying of God's Word. If you want to get upset and quit just spend all your time watching and reading the news, but if you want to have a biblical perspective on what is taking place and find patience and comfort, read your Bible! Paul here references the story of Elijah...Elijah had heard some bad news and wanted to quit, so he went and sat under a juniper tree (I Kings 19:4). Boy does that not describe us sometimes? Elijah cried out to God, "...It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life:..." As Paul continues to recount this Old Testament narrative he states, "But what saith the answer of God unto him?" Friend what does God have to say about our current state of affairs? God has been so good to us to give us the Bible so that we can know what to expect concerning this old sin filled world; but know this, God is still in the saving business today!
2 Peter 3: 9,10 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
We see the Casting away of some but then Paul also gives us some comfort by expressing the Continuation of Grace. In verse 5 of our passage, Paul states, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." Just as God had a remnant that had not bowed their knee to Baal in Elijah's day, Paul said God still has a remnant of Jews. Likewise you and I are not alone. There are Christians all over the world still preaching the Gospel and they are still seeing God save people. There are people taking that first step of obedience in believer's baptism and yes, there are even folks still getting discipled. I am reminded of Acts 18:10 where Jesus speaks to Paul concerning that saintly city of Corinth (Corinth was a busy metropolis full of debauchery). "For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city." There are still plenty of people that need to hear the Gospel, therefore you I have a responsibility to be a witness where we are! The truth is there will be some that will reject God and continue down the path of a works-based salvation, but there will be some that will trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith.
Lastly Paul shows us the crux of the matter, which is the Contradiction of Works and Grace. Paul first gives us his thesis concerning works and grace. He states, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Boiling this down into four simple statements we could put it this way:
Grace is one way.
Works is one way.
Grace cannot be works.
Works cannot be grace.
In other words, Paul is making a division between the two as being totally separate and un-mixable! We are saved by God's unmerited favor toward us (Grace) which cannot be earned by any deed, doing or labour! Grace is received and cannot be earned, it is an act of God's divine will. The access to this grace offered to us is through faith (Ephesians 2: 8,9). This is not a works-based salvation because works are meant to produce or purchase. Faith on the other hand is the manner by which we receive that which God has provided by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Works produce, faith receives.
I would encourage all Soul-Winners to add this one simple verse to their memory and underline it in their Bible. This matter of works and grace in the day in which we live is so vitally important. Surely, we must be able to show people that man cannot obtain salvation through works.
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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