AUDIO MESSAGES: CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER – PASTOR CHRIS OYAKHILOME | @LOVEWORLDRADIO
Cultivating the spirit of prayer Part 1 and 2
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Cultivating the spirit of prayer Part 1 and 2
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The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.
Day after day, and year after year, we put one foot in front of the other as we flee the wreckage of our sin and follow Jesus on the path of life. We step away from self-protection toward love, away from darkness toward light, away from foolishness toward wisdom. Step after step after step — ten million times.
“The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.” Tweet Share on Facebook
But unless we stop every so often, and take a careful look backward and forward, our feet will gradually drift from God’s paths and stumble onto others. Like a hiker who never checks his compass, we’ll set out in the right direction and end up miles off the mark. Slowly, subtly, and perhaps imperceptibly, we’ll exit the narrow and hard path that leads to life and merge onto the wide and easy way to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14).
The new year is a time for course correction — a time for taking out the map, consulting the compass, and heeding Paul’s command to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15).
In Ephesians, Paul commands his readers five times to “walk” — in good works, in a manner worthy of their calling, in love, in light, and in wisdom. As we consider three of Paul’s “walk” commands, take a look backward and forward: Where have you drifted off the path? What steps might you take this year, with God’s help, to follow Jesus down these hard but happy roads?
Walk in Love
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
For Jesus, love meant nails through his hands and feet and a spear through his side. Love meant climbing onto a cross and offering himself up as a sacrifice. Love meant inconvenience and sorrow and an excruciating death. This is the love that breathed life into our dead lungs (Ephesians 2:4–5); the love that is broader, longer, higher, and deeper than the galaxies (Ephesians 3:18–19); the love that is washing every stain of sin from our souls (Ephesians 5:25–27); the love that God commands us to imitate — even if our strongest love is a whisper compared to his symphony.
“Jesus knows how to repay everything you lose on the path of love.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Therefore, walk in love — go low to lift others up. Spend your time with the lonely. Bend your body to bear burdens. Ransack your imagination to meet needs. Give your presence to the grieving. Fix your attention on the forgotten.
Such love will cost us, of course; we’ll have to relinquish handfuls of time and comfort and convenience. But in the end, Jesus knows how to repay everything you lose on the path of love, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Go low in love, and Christ himself will lift you up. Walk in love this year.
Walk in Light
At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
When the light of Christ broke into your life and dispersed your constant midnight, he shone on you so that his light might make its home in you. The God of light made you a child of light — a little candle lit from the sun of Christ.
Therefore, walk in light — drive out the shadows from your soul. Train your tongue to heal others instead of cutting them up. Relish the deeper pleasure of purity instead of giving yourself over to sexual immorality. Grow in gratitude for all that God has given instead of stewing over all that he’s withheld. Ache for “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9).
You can walk in these paths of light this year because you already are light in the Lord. The dark version of you died with Jesus at the cross, was laid with Jesus in the tomb — and will never rise again. Even if you feel like a smoldering wick right now, if you are in Christ, your destiny is to “shine like the sun in the kingdom of [your] Father” (Matthew 13:43). And that transformation will happen as you keep on stepping out of the shadows, repenting of the specific darkness that still grips you, confessing it to God and others, and shining the light of God’s word upon it. Walk in light this year.
Walk in Wisdom
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)
Every path in this world cuts through our enemy’s backyard. We don’t yet walk in the safety of the new heavens and new earth; we walk in “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), an age where the devil stalks the earth with a quiver of burning arrows, his eyes keen for careless travelers (Ephesians 6:16). If we do not apply God’s wisdom to how we are walking in every area of life, the devil will be more than happy to chart the course for us.
“Grow in gratitude for all that God has given instead of stewing over all that he’s withheld.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Therefore, walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. Clutch onto every opportunity in your life, and turn it in a Godward direction. Make a plan for your marriage this year. Go to work on your parenting. Gauge the health of your friendships. In each of these areas of life (and every other), ask, In this part of my life, how can I live like Christ is precious, the gospel is powerful, the Spirit is inside me, and eternity is coming?
God has already broken the devil’s spell on you. He has already handed you a shield to extinguish his arrows and a sword to swing back (Ephesians 6:16–17). These days may be evil, but you don’t have to be — no part of your life has to be. With a lot of careful looking, and the Holy Spirit’s help, you can make the best use of these evil days. Walk in wisdom this year.
God’s City of Joy
One day soon, you will not need to look carefully to how you are walking. Perfect love will course through the veins of your resurrected body. The light of God’s righteousness will radiate from your every thought, word, and action. Unclouded wisdom will rest upon your immortal shoulders.
Until that day, 2018 is another year to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15). Walk in love — go low to lift others up. Walk in light — drive the shadows from your soul. And walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. These are three roads that lead us to God’s city of joy, where our journey of ten million steps will finally end.
GENUINE PROPHET ARE PURE LIKE A NATIVE DOCTORS BY APOSTLE JOHNSON SULEMAN
We’re just days away from Christmas, and no doubt last-minute presents are being purchased, shipped, and wrapped. Perhaps you’re multitasking gifts as you listen. Of course, this is the biggest holiday in the States, at least for giving and receiving gifts. I just read that the average American shopper will drop $1,000 on gifts this Christmas season. Wow. And of course you can send your gifts to Pastor John and me at 2112 Broadway Street . . . I’m joking. Don’t send us gifts. Your audience is our gift.
But seriously, this leads to a question especially valuable during this season. It’s from a podcast listener named James. “Pastor John, hello, and thank you for the podcast. Often I hear that we are to love God for who he is, not for what he does for us — to love the giver more than the gifts. How can we know that we are doing this, especially during Advent and the Christmas season? When I examine my own heart, so much of what I know about God seems to be in relation to what he has done for me, like the sending of his Son in the incarnation. How do I interact with him on the basis of him, and not simply on the basis of the gifts he has given me?”
Well first, I think it is absolutely crucial in pursuing that interaction with God to get really clear in our mind and in our heart that there is a huge and important difference between enjoying a person who gives gifts and enjoying the gifts instead of the person (or more than the person). And I think we need to clarify this and get it fixed in our minds, both from experience and from Scripture.
An Engagement Ring
Let me give an example of what I mean from experience. What if you give an engagement ring? So you’ve been in love for two years maybe, and now you’re going to move this thing decisively forward.
“There is a huge difference between enjoying a person who gives gifts and enjoying the gifts instead of the person.” Tweet Share on Facebook
You give a ring. I’m assuming you’re a man, but ladies, you apply it in the appropriate way. So you give your fiancé a beautiful diamond ring, and she spends the rest of the night and the following weeks bragging about this gift. She takes it and shows it to everybody. But she never calls you. She never looks at you. She never takes you by the hand and looks you in the eye. She’s just thrilled with this diamond, but your intent in giving her that ring was totally missed. How would you feel about that?
You wanted her to look at it. Oh yes, you wanted her to love it. You wanted her to be thankful for it. You wanted her to enjoy it, and then you wanted her to put it on her hand, take your hand across the table, and look you in the eye and say, “I would love to spend the rest of my life with you. You are ten thousand times more precious to me than this beautiful ring.”
Treasure, Father, Friend, Savior
We understand from our own experience what it means when gifts are loved more than the giver. We get that. There’s no excuse for not getting that. We get it in our experience. Then we get it from the Bible when it comes to God because it’s all over the place.
So 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” That’s why he died — to bring us to God.
In Romans 5:11, after saying that we rejoice in the hope and the glory of God, and we rejoice in tribulation, then he adds in Romans 5:11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Or Psalm 73:25–26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
“God does everything for us to be with us as our all-satisfying Treasure and Father and Friend and Savior.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Or the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus in Luke 17:11–19. Remember, all ten end up with no leprosy. Awesome. Healed! They all run away, but one of them — a Samaritan — comes back praising God and falling down at Jesus’s feet. What’s the point? The point is, the other people missed it. They just missed it. This is about Jesus. This is about God. Deliverance was a means to that end.
So we know from experience and we know from the Scriptures that there’s a difference between enjoying a giver through his gifts and enjoying gifts instead of the giver. We know that. We get that.
We know that the goal of all God does for us is designed to make it possible for us to be with him and him to be with us. God does everything for us to be with us as our all-satisfying Treasure and Father and Friend and Savior. Getting that clear is the key, I think, to experiencing God in and through all his gifts.
The Gift Is the Giver
And here’s one more key to help us experience God this way during the Christmas season. We should realize that every gift — every good thing of any kind that comes into our lives as a token of God’s everlasting kindness — all of it was bought by the sacrifice of Jesus, the blood of Jesus.
Here’s the logic of Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” So all things are coming to us as believers because he didn’t spare his Son.
Here’s the effect this has. All giving and getting, especially at Christmastime, becomes a reminder of the death of Jesus. Now, what effect does that have? What effect does God intend for his Son’s death to have on us when we think this way?
On the one hand, Christ is the Father’s indescribable gift (Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 9:15). And Christ is his own gift. Over and over, the New Testament says Christ gave himself (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:2; 5:25; Galatians 1:4; 2:20; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14). Christ gave himself.
Think of it. If God gives his Son, and the Son gives himself for you and to you, then it doesn’t even make sense to say we love the gift more than the giver. The gift is the giver; the giver is the gift.
Key to Giving
So, since every gift shared at Christmastime is possible only because of the death of Christ for us and thus directs our attention to the death of Christ, therefore, every gift takes us through the cross to the gift who is the giver.
“All giving and getting, especially at Christmastime, becomes a reminder of the death of Jesus.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Or here’s the other way of seeing it. In Romans 5:8, Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So behind every gift that we get or give at Christmastime is the death of Christ, and that means that every gift is the overflow of the gift of God’s love, because that’s what he shows when Christ dies. When you think of God’s love, it is inseparable from himself, isn’t it?
When John Piper talks about enjoying God, I don’t mean, “Oh, but you can’t enjoy his love.” His love is not a gift — it is what he is, right? When real love binds two persons together, they don’t say, “Hey, where’s the gift?” They say, “You’re the gift. You are my love. Your love is yourself given to me.”
So it seems to me that Romans 8:32 is the key to God-centeredness in giving and getting gifts at Christmas. Every good in our life as Christians is owing to the death of Jesus, according to the logic of Romans 8:32. And that death is the gift of God himself for our everlasting joy and the gift of God’s love, which is also the giving of himself to us.
Article from desiringgod.com
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.”
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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