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Thanksgiving

If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard the parable of the soils (Mark 4), part of today’s Bible reading. Jesus pointed out that He spoke in parables to reveal secrets of the Kingdom of God to those who would inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:11) Yet His parables cloaked the secrets of the Kingdom from those who would not inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:12)

So who will inherit God’s Kingdom? Who can understand the secrets hidden in the parables?

It seems obvious that those whose hearts are “good soil” are the heirs to the Kingdom. They are the ones who will receive God’s Word enthusiastically and apply its teachings to their lives. They are the ones who will protect their hearts from being choked by distractions. They are the ones who will prepare their hearts to give His Word even more depth to grow.

Application

So how do you have good soil? How do you make the most of it?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re on the right track! You position your heart to listen. You position your heart to receive all that God would say in His Word. You do everything you can to clean out those things from your heart that would seek to distract you from letting God’s Word grow deeper. You do everything you can to drink in all of the nourishment from God’s Word so it can grow even more.

Here are some practical ways to “do everything you can”: Implement as many Spiritual Disciplines as you can. Prayer, Bible Study, Bible Reading, Bible Memory, Worship, Fasting, Witnessing, Fellowship with other Believers, Giving of your time, talent, and treasures, and Giving thanks.

That will get you started!

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diamond earrings

In today’s Bible reading, we see two things that are called, “awe-inspiring”: an awe-inspiring sign in heaven (v. 1) and the awe-inspiring works of God (v. 3).

Awe is a word that is foreign to many Believers. We just don’t see things as being “awe-inspiring”.

The things of God tend to be, quite frankly, normal. Boring. Ho-hum. Have we become calloused? Have science and Hollywood so desensitized us to magnificence and a sense of wonder? If so, is there a way to get that sense of wonder back? I think there is. And I think this chapter gives us a clue how.

John tells us that overcoming Believers sang the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. In other words, they sang what’s revealed in Scripture: Moses from the Old Testament and the Lamb in the New Testament.

Reading, meditating, and worshiping based on God’s Revelation can give us a fresh glimpse of what is truly awe-inspiring. God’s Word can give us the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to dwell on. (Philippians 4:8) As we meditate on these things, we see new facets of the things of God as a jeweler sees new facets of a diamond as she peers through a magnifying loop.

Application

When’s the last time you spent time worshiping God in song? I’m not talking about singing about God. I’m talking about singing to God. There’s a world of difference between the two. One references God in the third-person. The other references God in the second-person.

“Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)

Note how their song addresses your works, your ways, your name. You alone are holy. all the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts. The overcomers aren’t singing about God. They are singing to God.

The next time you’re in church, note the songs you sing. If your church uses hymnals (or if you have your own), note whether the songs are about God or to God.

A few years ago, as I prepared a sermon on this very issue, I thumbed through the hymnal we used in church. I was shocked to see how few hymns actually addressed God in the second-person. Almost all of the hymns referenced God in the third-person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing about God. But singing about God isn’t worship.

Spend some time today singing songs to God. Use your Bible to express your adoration to the lover of your soul. Here are a few places to start. These Scriptures are examples of worshiping God in the second-person.

Psalm 23:4-5
Revelation 4:11
Revelation 5:9–10
Revelation 11:17–18
Revelation 15:3–4

The Psalms are full of praises about God. As you read, ask God to overwhelm you with a fresh glimpse of Himself and His ways. Personalize the Psalms and other passages into second-person references to God.

Finally, spend a few minutes listening to my sermon, Worship in the First and Second Person Singular Present Tense.

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coffee cup

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus warns the Laodicea Church against its lukewarm walk with Jesus. Jesus tells the church that He would rather a church — or an individual, by implication — be either piping hot or stone-cold as opposed to being lukewarm.

One of my favorite scenes in the Christian Movie War Room features Miss Clara serving a cup of coffee to her new friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth has told Miss Clara that her relationship with Jesus is occasional. Comfortable. As she prepares to take a sip from her freshly-served cup, Elizabeth is shocked that the coffee isn’t hot. At all! Miss Clara connects the dots between a lukewarm faith and a lukewarm cup of coffee. God doesn’t want us to have a lukewarm faith any more than anyone wants a cup of lukewarm coffee.

Application

So, how is your walk with Jesus? If you’re reading this devotional, I assume that your spiritual walk isn’t icy cold. But is it as hot as it used to be? Or would you say that your love has grown a little cold? Perhaps it’s neither icy hot, nor piping hot, but instead is a tepid lukewarm.

Jesus is very clear that lukewarm isn’t where He wants you to be in your relationship with Him. (Revelation 3:16)

What are some things you can do to keep your faith hot? Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend some alone-time with God, asking Him to reveal those areas where you have neglected. Expect God to speak! And be ready to take notes and make adjustments to your life.
  • Prayerfully consider my devotional on Revelation 2. Ask God to bring a revival to your heart, to rekindle a neglected love relationship with the lover of your soul.
  • Prayerfully set some goals to read and study your Bible, to memorize Bible verses, to spend time praying, to join with other Believers in worship, to tell other people about Jesus, to give of yourself, etc. (in other words, to practice the Spiritual Disciplines), and then ask another Believer to hold you accountable. There’s no need to overplan to the point of burnout, but oftentimes, having a small plan — and sticking to it — beats having no plan at all.

Don’t put this off! Do it today!

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 (ESV)

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Give thanks

Practicing what I preached on Sunday. I’m not going to say, “Happy Thanksgiving”. Instead, I’ll say, “Be thankful”. We have so many things to be thankful for: God and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone, God’s Word, the air we breathe, the food we eat, our friends and family, our church community, our health, jobs, and the greatest country on the planet.

Be thankful, everyone! Be very thankful.

The crowds call for Jesus' crucifixion
Image source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, John records Jesus’ appearing before Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leaders urge Pilate to sentence Jesus to death. They tell the Roman ruler that he is no friend of Caesar if he doesn’t sentence Jesus to death.

But Pilate doesn’t think Jesus is guilty of anything, especially of Roman laws. He tells the Jewish leaders that if they want to crucify Jesus, they are free to do so. (John 19:6) True, the Jews could stone Jesus for breaking their laws, but they didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. Death by crucifixion was a Roman death sentence. Both the Jewish leaders and Pilate tried to avoid the responsibility for Jesus’ death. But when it came down to it, Pilate simply did what the Jewish leaders wanted him to do. He wanted peace from the Jews and it appears he feared a revolt if he didn’t grant a simple request to crucify a lone Jew.

In most portrayals of this pivotal scene, the same people who lauded Jesus’ arrival on Palm Sunday cry out for His crucifixion on the early hours of Good Friday Morning. But that isn’t how John describes the scene. The only people involved in demanding Jesus’ crucifixion are the Jewish leaders and the Temple servants. (John 19:6) It seems there were only a few people calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. But these popular Jewish leaders had very loud voices. John and the other Gospel writers are quick to point out that Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty and deserving of the death penalty.

Application

While the Jewish leaders demanded Jesus’ execution, Pilate defended Jesus’ innocence, but eventually gave in. Both the Jews and Pilate were responsible for Jesus’ death.

So am I. And so are you.

No, we didn’t flog His innocent flesh. No, we didn’t hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. But we are very much responsible for Jesus’ death. If we weren’t guilty of sin, His death wouldn’t have been necessary. But it was necessary because we are guilty.

Jesus’ payment for our sin was sufficient to fully absorb the wrath of God. No further accusation against us can stand because Jesus’ atonement bore all of our sin debt.

If you have turned from your sin and accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin debt, spend a few minutes today thanking Jesus for dying, that you might live. Thank Him for being the perfect example and the perfect sacrifice.

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