It was our first date. I wasn’t even completely sure she knew it was a date. We met at a wedding, and then talked on the phone once a week or so for a couple of months. I asked if I could take her out, and she conceded.
I bought a couple board games, chose a trendy new taco joint, and found a non-chain coffee shop to hang out in after lunch. Coffee said I’m interested and serious, but not desperate. Board games said I know how to laugh and have fun, but that I’m here to win. I don’t know what tacos said, but I like them.
It was a great date. The conversation was a sweet mixture of serious and silly, of storytelling and good follow-up questions, all of it filled with our shared love for Jesus. A few hours went by really fast. Feeling confident, I told her how I felt about her, and asked if she wanted to begin dating.
“I had a great time today, too. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations, and the way you’ve pointed me to Jesus. . . .” Everything I wanted to hear. “You’re a nice human being . . .” Wait, what does that even mean? “. . . but when I think about a relationship, my heart is cold.”
Long, awkward, uncomfortable pause. “Cold?” “Yeah . . . cold.” “Like ice-cold, or lukewarm?” “Cold.”
What went so wrong? What should I have done differently? It all seemed so comfortable, so exciting, so right, so sure. But when the day was done, she was colder than a Dairy Queen, and I was just “a nice human being.” It had started to feel like this might finally be my last first date. Of course, I guess first dates had felt like that before. Either way, here I was back where I began. Roller-coaster rides like these were enough to make you want to give up on marriage.
Your Last First Date
What was your last first date like?
Did it go well, and lead to more? Or did you leave never wanting to go through that again — thinking, Maybe marriage isn’t worth all of the pain, confusion, and heartache we endure to have it?
“If we want to be married, it should be because we want more of God.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Many among the not-yet married need the reminder that marriage is spectacular and needed in our society, and that’s because it belongs to God. God may call you to a lifetime of satisfied and fruitful singleness, or your next first date may be the first step of decades of enjoying him with a husband or wife. If we want to be married (and are willing to make ourselves vulnerable again in dating), it should be because we want more of God.
Is Marriage Worth It?
When divorce rates remain high, and the surviving marriages around us seem broken, messy, and unhappy — and when plenty of other good things keep us busy — lots of young men and women in their twenties and thirties are giving up on marriage, or at least discounting it in their plans and dreams.
Some of you have tried dating and been burned — confusion, rejections, sexual failure, breakups, or whatever else plagues our relationships. Others are sons and daughters of divorce. You were ripped apart, and left in pieces to be traded back and forth. With all the pain, failure, and friction, it simply can’t be worth it, can it? I can be known and loved in other ways. Marriage isn’t necessary for my happiness or significance here on earth.
That last sentence is true and important. You do not have to be married to be happy. But are we overlooking some significant things about what marriage really is, and why, at least for many, it’s worth all the time, patience, and even heartache?
What Demons Say About Marriage
Two thousand years ago, people were already questioning whether marriage was worth it. The apostle Paul says, “Some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). What lies were they believing when they left the faith? What were the demons saying? They “forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3).
“Compatibility may make for a good honeymoon, but only love for Jesus will keep a marriage healthy for a lifetime.” Tweet Share on Facebook
When we forget the goodness and beauty of marriage, we belittle something good and beautiful God is doing. Why? “For everything created by God” — including marriage — “is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). God made marriage, and he meant for us to enjoy it with thankful hearts. He calls it good, even today.
To say otherwise is to say something about him.
For centuries, marriage was a mystery, until God began unlocking its long-hidden meaning with the gospel. Paul quotes Moses, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). Then Paul says, “This mystery is profound” — it’s been hidden since God gave Eve to Adam — “and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). The mystery isn’t mysterious anymore. What makes marriage profoundly beautiful, meaningful, desirable, and powerful is that it acts out God’s love for us. We get to relive the greatest love story ever told.
The Beauty of the Best Marriages
What makes marriage worth having? The beauty and joy of Christian marriage is not compatibility. Compatibility may be the rare jewel we’re hunting for in all our dating relationships, but relationships and marriages don’t stand out, thrive, and last because the two of us make sense together. No, the beauty and joy of Christian marriage is Christ, shining in our joyful and unwavering commitment to each other, even when we’re less compatible and least deserving of each other’s love. Passion, infatuation, and compatibility may make for a good honeymoon, but only a mutual love for Jesus will keep a marriage healthy for a lifetime.
The best marriages will be the hardest to explain — not because you are so different (you might be), but because you’re still loving each other so patiently, sacrificially, and passionately after years of inconvenience, conflict, and giving up so much. How do they still love each other so much? Well, because we have been loved like that and more.
“You’re not standing together at the altar to say, ‘I really do love you,’ but to say, ‘I really will love you.’” Tweet Share on Facebook
Paul says, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . . God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8). He didn’t die for us because he finally found the love of his life. We were not marriage material when he met us. No, he died to make us the love of his life, despite how little we deserved him. A love like his makes a marriage worth wanting, and it makes a marriage worth keeping.
What Are Wedding Vows?
“Wedding vows,” writes Tim Keller, “are not a declaration of present love, but a mutually binding promise of future love.” Marriage is mainly a love declared, not a love discovered.
Have you thought about your wedding day that way? The promises you will make before God, and before all your friends and family, have little to do with what you experienced and enjoyed in your dating relationship — and everything to do with the uncertain and uncontrollable months and years ahead.
You’re not standing there together before God, family, and friends to say, “I really do love you,” but to say instead, “I really will love you” — whatever it takes, however hard it gets, whatever happens, however much I want to leave. That kind of love will stand out in the world, and it will last long after many have given up and walked away.
The Big Goal in Dating
All our desires for dating should spring from a big vision of what marriage is and why it’s worth wanting. In all of your dating, keep your last first date in mind — your first date with your future spouse.
I definitely didn’t know it at the time, but mine was over trendy tacos, coffee, and board games. The Dairy Queen slowly warmed over the next few months. Two years later, she became my wife. In the meantime, we both had a big picture of what God designed marriage to be in front of us. We had no idea if we would get married, and we never assumed we would. In fact, we intentionally dated as if we were going to marry someone else, to keep us from idolizing each other or going too far too soon. But we knew the only thing worth dating for was a marriage — a lifelong, life-on-life love like Jesus’s love for us.
“Marriage is mainly a love declared, not a love discovered.” Tweet Share on Facebook
God’s idea of marriage is the only vision big enough, strong enough, and worth enough for all the risks we take in dating. Nothing else is worth all the risk we take when we begin to share our hearts with someone else. Nothing else will protect us from diving in too quickly or jumping ship when things get hard. Nothing else will stand out enough from the world around us to say something significant about Jesus.
If you want to date well, keep a big, sacred, breathtaking picture of marriage in front of you.
FIVE LAWS OF GROWTH IN RELATION TO CHOIR.
1. Discipline: The great Structure any choir has in this world is based on discipline.
2. Constant Training: There must be a frame work that will help the Church music minsters to input special session of training in their activities. At the long run guest instructor must be called for check and balance.
3. Constant Programs (Monthly worship concert and also quarterly Choir Fiesta): Growth begins when an external party comes to any of our well organized program, what they see might make them stay to be a full time member of the church. As it were constant programs increases the growth of a church.
4. Rehearsal: Constant rehearsals helps every music team of a church, it helps and it gives the team a better strength
5. Prayer: a key note to every successful being is prayer in any form. We have inherited the supernatural grace of God through Christ Jesus to pray and to receive answers. It is very paramount for every choir member to be subjected to Fasting and prayers which is our strength has Christians.
In 1677, twenty-seven-year-old Henry Scougal wrote this to a friend: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, 20). It is among the most penetrating sentences in the English language (or any language).
It is a devastating sentence. It lays us bare. For, as John Piper says,
The soul is measured by its flights,
Some low and others high,
The heart is known by its delights,
And pleasures never lie. (The Pleasures of God, 4)
Pleasures never lie. We can fool ourselves and others in many ways, but pleasure is the whistle-blower of the heart, because pleasure is the measure of our treasure. We know that what we truly treasure is what we truly love because Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So it’s “not what we dutifully will but what we passionately want [that] reveals our excellence or evil” (The Pleasures of God, 4). Pleasure is the joy we experience over a treasure we love that makes us willing to sell everything else to have it (Matthew 13:44).
Henry Scougal was wonderfully, devastatingly, biblically right: the object of our love, the treasure we passionately want, measures the worth and excellency of our souls.
Search Me, O God
If we agree with Scougal, his penetrating sentence forces us to do some soul-searching. What do our pleasures really tell us about what we love? What do our loves tell us about the condition of our souls? What do we passionately want?
These are necessary questions, but the truth is, our own introspection and self-evaluation are typically not enough. We are usually poor physicians for our own souls, often failing to see the root causes or symptoms clearly. We swing from thinking far too highly of ourselves one moment to beating ourselves down with condemnation the next.
What we really need is to allow — to invite — Jesus to search our souls. We need the diagnosis and treatment of the Great Physician. We need to come to him and say with David,
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)
What Jesus Asks of Us
Jesus is the master soul-searcher. It’s what he did with Peter after their post-resurrection seaside breakfast (John 21:15–19). Just days before, Peter had tragically failed to love Jesus, denying that he even knew Jesus three times. And so that morning, after lovingly serving him a meal on the beach, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He asked this question three times.
Jesus accomplishes so much in this brief, but life-altering conversation. We watch him beautifully restore, commission, and prophesy over Peter. But we also see him expose Peter. Peter’s denials were real and horrible failures. Jesus repeating his question three times wasn’t merely to allow Peter to affirm his love for every denial. He was also probing deep into Peter’s soul, into the painful place of shame, and calling forth a love stronger than before, one that would endure the future opportunity for Peter to fulfill his pledge to lay his life down for Jesus (John 13:37). I think Peter’s grief after the third question is evidence that Jesus was hitting home (John 21:17).
Have We Lost Our First Love?
And we, like Peter, have also failed to love Jesus. Perhaps we have denied him publicly at times. We certainly have denied him thousands of times privately, choosing to pursue other treasures because we believed they held greater pleasures. These failures are real and horrible — worse than we might realize.
The question is, how true is this now? Are we living in failure, allowing the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of sin to choke out our love for Jesus (Matthew 13:22; Hebrews 3:13)? Have we grown accustomed to talking abstractly and dutifully about loving Jesus while passionately wanting and pursuing other things? Have we given ourselves permission to consider our lack of love for Jesus to be normal because lots of other Christians seem content living this way?
If so, if our pleasures are blowing the whistle that our hearts are not enthralled with Jesus, that we don’t love him supremely, it’s time to come to him and repent and invite him to search our hearts and ask us his probing question, “Do you love me?”
Whatever It Takes, Lord
The wonderful thing is that we don’t need to be afraid, for Jesus knows exactly where we’re at, just like he knew where Peter was at. He knows our failures to love him. He knows that they are sin. But he also knows his death and resurrection purchased the full forgiveness of those sins and the power for us to be changed from lukewarm to white-hot lovers of God. And he wants this for us — he’s eager to give it to us!
Our Lord Jesus,
We confess our horrible failures to love you. Our pleasures have not lied, and they reveal how we have not pursued the triune God as our greatest treasure. We don’t want another day to pass allowing our love for you to languish in a tepid place in our hearts.
So we ask you, Great Physician, to come search our souls and know our hearts. We present them to you; address every grievous way in us. Ask your probing questions. We will hold nothing from you. Do whatever it takes to revive our love for you! We do not want to give our souls rest until you are our first love (Revelation 2:4).
We want this more than anything: to love the triune God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Matthew 22:37). We believe the greatest affection is love, and we believe you are the greatest object of our love (1 Corinthians 13:13). And we believe we’ll never be happier and the excellence and worth of our souls will never be greater than when we love you supremely. For you are the wellspring of all that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19; John 14:6).
So we ask you to revive our love for you, O Lord, whatever it takes. And we ask it in your name, Jesus, and for your glory, Amen.
The greatest reason of the season is Christ Jesus, who was born into sin that we may have life eternal. While i was very young whenever we see the Santa Claus we call him ” Father Christmas” and this runs through our brain that the Santa Claus is the Christ being celebrated.
Brief History of Santa Claus
The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a “rascal” with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a “huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.”
Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday’s rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.
CHRIST JESUS THE REASON OF THE SEASON
“For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8; cf. Hebrews 2:14–15).
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5).
“For God so loved the world that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16).
“God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many may be revealed” (Luke 2:34ff).
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
“Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarches, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:7–8; cf. John 12:27ff).
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When I was a little boy, probably 80% of men wore a coat and tie to our church, and 90% of women wore dresses. By the time I was in high school, 40% of men wore a coat and tie, and 50% of women wore dresses to church — the majority of both genders being middle-aged and elderly. Everyone else dressed “business casual.” Jeans were rare. Tee shirts even rarer. Shorts were never seen outside the nursery, even in mid-July.
Today, in the church I attend, no man wears a suit or sport coat unless it’s a special occasion. And ties are seen less than coats. I’d say less than 5% of women wear dresses on Sunday. Shorts, tee shirts, and sandals are commonly worn in warmer weather. My young son wonders why he has to “dress up” for church if I tell him to change into better jeans and a nicer tee shirt.
“God says virtually nothing regarding how we should dress when we come together to worship him.” Tweet Share on Facebook
In the small Protestant denomination I belong to, no pastor I know of preaches in a coat or tie on a typical Sunday. Pastors, worship team members, and other platform participants dress pretty much like everyone else minus the shorts, tee shirts, and sandals.
These changes in what people wear to church reflect the wider cultural changes over the past fifty years regarding clothing. The whole of American culture has dressed down. This has produced largely generational debates over appropriate church attire. Those who favor more formal dress suspect casual clothes reflect a disrespectful, irreverent attitude toward God. Those who favor casual dress feel it reflects a more authentic approach to God. Does either have a biblical case?
Does God tell us what we should wear to church?
The debate over formal versus casual church clothing is a shrinking one for at least two reasons: 1. the pro-formal party is shrinking, and 2. the pro-formal remnant is now so outnumbered it hardly seems worth the effort to argue.
Most folks who lament the casual trend came of age in an era where public dress in general was more formal. They, like most people in every era, simply assumed their own cultural norms. It just wasn’t “right” to wear casual clothes in certain places, especially in church.
“We can turn any clothing item or style into an expression of self-centered, self-exalting self-worship.” Tweet Share on Facebook
So, as the cultural clothing norms changed, and people — typically younger people — started wearing casual clothes to those places, including church, it felt “wrong.” It felt like a form of disrespect, even rebellion, toward the older generations. In church, it felt like disrespect, even rebellion, toward God.
But is this true? Certainly, on the microlevel of sinful individuals, plenty of rebellion toward elders and God took place, just as it has in all generations. The pro-formal crowd had their own generational expressions of rebellion. But from a biblical standpoint, there is no compelling exegetical case to be made that more formal dress is de facto more respectful toward God than casual dress. Church clothing is a preference formed by culture and tradition.
On the other hand, many of those who embrace the trend toward more casual have come of age during the dressing-down decades, and they are just as vulnerable to assuming the cultural norms that have shaped them. It feels “fine” to wear jeans and a tee shirt to church, perhaps the same ones worn on Saturday. But why does it feel okay?
As I mentioned before, “authenticity” is the most popular answer. We are coming to God as we are, putting on no airs or masks with him.
It sounds good, but I don’t really buy it. Wearing casual clothes is no more de facto spiritually authentic than formal clothes are de facto spiritually respectful. We might not be at all authentic standing before God in our jeans. We may choose casual clothes primarily to fit in socially, or to attract attention to ourselves, or to nurture a “cool” image. In other words, we may wear casual clothes to church and worship God with our lips, while our hearts are far from him (Isaiah 29:13).
Perhaps casual clothes can help us approach God more authentically in ways formal clothes don’t. Perhaps formal clothes can help us express respect and reverence toward God in ways casual clothes don’t. I have significant doubts about both.
What God Wants Us to Wear
“God does not explicitly endorse either formal or casual clothes in corporate worship.” Tweet Share on Facebook
God does not explicitly endorse either formal or casual clothes in corporate worship. He doesn’t even enter the debate. In fact, outside of ritual Levitical laws that no longer apply in the new covenant, God says virtually nothing regarding how we should dress when we come together to worship him.
It’s not that clothing doesn’t matter to God. Clothing matters a great deal to God — just not in the same ways or for the same reasons it typically matters to us. God refuses to decide the formal-casual debate, but he does explicitly tell us what he wants us to wear to church:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
What are we supposed to wear? Humility.
All clothing — formal, casual, work, sport, beachwear, sleepwear, underwear, headwear, every other kind of wear — can be a source of great pride. There isn’t a clothing item or style that we can’t turn into an expression of self-centered, self-exalting self-worship.
But if we clothe ourselves with humility, if we “count others more significant than [ourselves],” and “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others,” then no matter how we dress, we will honor and reflect Christ (Philippians 2:3–4).
The Clothes Inside Us
“If we clothe ourselves with humility, then no matter how we dress, we will honor and reflect Christ.” Tweet Share on Facebook
God doesn’t specify what external clothes honor him most, because he cares what our hearts wear. What’s inside of us either honors him or dishonors him — either approaches him with authenticity or with inauthenticity. If our hearts are wearing humility, no matter what we wear, we will dress in loving ways. If our hearts are wearing pride, formal clothes will always be disrespectful and casual clothes will always be inauthentic.
If our hearts are wearing humility, what will matter to us is whether God is glorified and others are loved. But if our hearts are wearing pride, we will disregard God’s glory and others’ spiritual health in favor of our personal preferences and freedoms.
And, in the end, if our hearts are wearing humility, we will think of our clothes as little as possible when we draw near to God together in worship.
What do you think is the most repeated command in the Bible?
It’s not any of the prohibitions or warnings. It’s not about sex, or money, or power. The most repeated command in the Bible will probably surprise you: Be happy. God tells us more than anything else, in different ways, to “praise the Lord,” “do not be afraid,” “rejoice,” and “give thanks” — all of which are commands, in essence, to be happy.
Don’t move past this too quickly. Let it sink in: more than anything else, God commands us to be happy. God wants you to be truly, deeply happy. Not just in heaven someday. Not when circumstances take a turn for the better. Not when the sorrow or the darkness finally lifts. God wants you to taste real joy today. Now.
I in no way mean to trivialize the trials you may be experiencing. The suffering may be exquisite, the sorrow almost drowning, the fear near paralyzing. The Bible is as real-life as it gets. God says a lot about sin, sorrow, grief, pain, betrayal, failure, fear, horror, and wretchedness. But if you can believe it, God’s dominant theme is joy.
God wants us to know the kind of hope that has the power to produce joy in us even in painful places. He repeatedly commands us to be really, truly, deeply happy.
Why Does God Repeat Himself?
When God repeats himself, pay attention. Repetition implies importance.
That doesn’t mean that the most repeated commands are necessarily the most important commands. We know from Jesus that the most important commandments are that we love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29–31). But most repeated certainly means something important. And if we’re paying careful attention, we’ll recognize that the most repeated commands are means of obeying the most important commandments.
That bears repeating because of how important it is: God’s most repeated commands are means of obeying God’s most important commandments. This is amazing. There is a direct connection between loving God supremely, loving others as ourselves, and our being authentically happy. We don’t sacrifice one for the other. When God commands us to love him with all we are, or to love others with the same care and concern and grace and compassion and patience with which we love ourselves, he is not commanding us to sacrifice real, lasting, true, satisfying happiness. He’s commanding us to pursue our real, lasting, true, satisfying happiness.
Is this true? Let’s examine four oft-repeated commands in Scripture and ask what God really wants from us.
“Praise the Lord”
When God commands us to praise him, what does he want? We know he’s not after our empty lip service while our hearts wander off somewhere else (Isaiah 29:13). He’s commanding us to look at him, through what he’s revealed to us about himself, until we see some aspect of his glory that transcends the paltry or corrupt things clamoring for our attention right now — glory that produces an awe-filled joy we can’t help but express in praise.
Our delight-filled praise not only glorifies God and gives him pleasure, but also lovingly points others to the same glory we’re seeing and the same delight we’re feeling — because we always praise (to others) what delights us. God is commanding us to love him, love others, and be happy.
“Do Not Fear”
When God commands us to “not be afraid,” what does he want? He wants us to meditate on some promise he’s made us until we experience the paralyzing effects of fear melting away and our courage rising.
This bold, happy confidence in God is not only an expression of trusting love in him; it also makes us feel lovingly expansive and encouraging toward others because we’re filled with hope in God. We can’t help but want to comfort and encourage others with the comfort and courage we have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). God is commanding us to love him, love others, and be happy.
When God commands us to rejoice, what does he want? He wants us to remember that no matter what happens, nothing will separate us from his omnipotent love for us in Christ (Romans 8:38–39), that he will work all these things for our good (Romans 8:28), and that he will rescue us from every evil deed and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
We express our love for God as we faithfully rest in his sovereign reign over all things — the sweet and the bitter — and we love others as we help them also faithfully rest in God’s sovereign reign too. God is commanding us to love him, love others, and be happy.
When God commands us to give thanks, what does he want? Like John Piper says, God is not after the kind of thanks a six-year-old is forced to say to his grandma after getting black socks for Christmas. God wants us to look past the things that frustrate, anger, disappoint, discourage, sadden, and depress us, and to see his grace — his all-sufficient, abounding grace (2 Corinthians 9:8) — the grace flowing to us right now, whatever our circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
When we see his grace and trust his wise purposes, loving thankfulness rises toward him and pushes out our negative, sinful emotions and grumbling, replacing them with peace. And this gratitude-inspired peace lovingly overflows to everyone else we interact with, often helping them overcome their own temptations to grumble. God is commanding us to love him, love others, and be happy.
Once we put these lenses on, we begin to see that this secret code is contained in all of God’s commands, not just the most repeated ones: faith-filled obedience leads us to joy. God only commands his people what will bring them ultimate happiness. That’s why, for those who discover the secret, “his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). David discovered this secret and broke out in a love song to God’s commands:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7–11)
The commands of our Lord are more to be desired than gold because they make us happier than gold. In keeping them there is a far greater reward than gold: loving, enjoying, admiring, praising, thanking, and rejoicing in God forever (Psalm 16:11).
That is why God has filled the Bible with repeated commands to praise him, to not fear, to rejoice always, and to give thanks always, and every other command that pertains to us. He wants us to be happy. “The God of hope [wants to] fill [us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Today. Now. And forever.
Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
post by Desiringgod.com
Matt. 14:23-36; Mark 6:46-56; John 6:16-29
WHILE JESUS WAS alone praying on the mountain-side, the disciples were in their ship rowing toward Capernaum. And the multitude were returning homeward as they had come, walking along the northern shore of the sea.
After nightfall a strong wind began to blow across the Sea, driving against the little ship. Row as hard as they might, the disciples could not make much progress against the wind. Higher and higher the waves dashed and rolled, and slower the vessel plowed through them.
How tired the disciples were growing! Perhaps they were thinking about the time when a tempest swept over the Sea and Jesus had been with them, sleeping in the ship. Perhaps they were wishing for his presence now, to still this stormy wind that made their progress so wearisome and so slow.
Far away on the mountain Jesus had been praying for several hours. But he had not forgotten his disciples. Perhaps he had been praying for them as well as for himself. He knew how much they needed him when the strong wind began to blow against their little ship, and he started to go to them.
Out across the water he walked as easily as if it had been land, and nearer and nearer he came to the tossing ship and its weary sailors. By and by he came very near, so near that they could see him through the darkness, walking past them on the rough waves.
Now the disciples were frightened; for every one had seen Jesus and they believed they had seen a spirit. They did not think he could really walk on water, for no person had ever done that.
They remembered how God had parted the waters on the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land, and how he had made a dry path across the Jordan River three times for his servant to walk upon. But never had they heard of any one walking on top of the water. This must be a spirit. And they cried out for fear of what they had seen.
Jesus stopped when he heard their cry, and turned to speak to them. He said, “Do not be afraid, for it is I.” How familiar that voice sounded! Still the disciples could scarcely believe it was Jesus who spoke.
Finally Simon Peter cried out, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you walking on the water.”
And Jesus answered “Come?”
With a bound Simon Peter leaped over the side of the ship and started to go to Jesus. The other disciples looked on in amazement, wondering more than ever at the great power of Jesus on both sea and land. Presently, however, they saw their fellow disciple beginning to sink in the rough waves, and they heard his voice calling frantically to Jesus to help. For Simon Peter had begun to look about at the stormy wind and waves, and just as soon as he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink.
Then Jesus reached forth his hand and caught him, saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When the two came to the ship, the other disciples received them joyfully, and at once the wind ceased. Again the disciples marveled at the wonderful power of their master, who could perform miracles on the sea as well as on the land. And they came to him, worshiping him and saying, “Surely you are the Son of God.”
Genesis 1:1 – Genesis 2:7
THIS GREAT WORLD in which we live did not always exist. The broad expanse of sky, which smiles upon us when days are fair, and frowns and weeps when days are foul, did not always form an arch above our earth-home. Long, long ago there was no world at all. There was no sun to shine, there were no stars to twinkle, nor moonbeams to play through the night shadows. But even then there was God; for he ever has been and always shall be the same unchanging Divine Being.
Then, away back in that long ago, at the very beginning of time, God made the world. Not as we see it today, for at first water covered everything, and all was darkness everywhere. What a strange, unfriendly world this must have been, for no living creature could dwell in it! But God planned to make it beautiful, so he caused the light to shine. This light he called Day and the darkness he called Night. And then the evening and morning of the first day of time passed by,
On the second day God made the beautiful blue sky, and placed above the water-covered earth clouds to carry the sky-moisture. He called the sky Heaven. On the third day he caused the waters to flow together in wide, deep places, and he called them Seas. Dry land then rose up, and this he called Earth. But as yet there were no grasses, flowers, nor trees-the whole earth was barren and desolate. So God caused a carpet of grass to grow upon the bare ground and beautiful flowers to spring up from the earth. The trees and herbs also he made to grow at his will. When God beheld all these things he saw that they were good.
On the fourth day appeared the great lights which we see in the sky-the sun, the moon, and the stars. These he made to divide the day from the night.
After these things were made, God began to create living creatures. He made fishes of all kinds and sizes to swim about in the seas and birds of every description to fly about above the water and land, just as we see them doing today. Thus the world continued to become more delightful, and the fifth day of the first week of time passed by.
On the sixth day God made all the animals, great and small, and every creeping thing. Then there was life abounding in the woods and on the plains, as well as in the air and in the sea. What a beautiful world! Still what a strange world, for there were no people in it! Not a home anywhere-not a man, woman, nor little child to be seen. What a very strange world indeed!
But God had not yet finished his work of creation, for he wished to have people live in the wonderful world he had made. They could enjoy its beauties and take care of it as no other living creature could do. And more, they could know who had made all these great things, and knowing God they could love and worship him. So it was that God made the first man. Out of the dust of the ground he made the man’s body, then he breathed into that body with the breath of life and man became a living soul.
This first man God called Adam, and to Adam he gave the power to rule over all the other living creatures. These animals and birds he brought to Adam, and Adam gave each of them a name. But not one of them did Adam find suitable for a helper, and because he needed a helper very much God made for him a woman. This woman became Adam’s wife, and he loved her very much. He called her name Eve.
When the sixth day ended God had made the world and had placed everything in it just as he wished, therefore on the seventh day he rested from his work.
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