Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4 ESV

A smile lurks at the corners of my eyes when I ponder our opening scripture.

As a child I memorized Psalm 100 in song, an upbeat chorus proclaiming the truths of the verses and then breaking into a refrain. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, Jesus…Praise God… Thank you, Jesus…”

I still can’t read the words without inserting them into the tune. I guess there’s something to be said about the power of a melody. After almost 40 years, I can still remember the whole Psalm.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Granted, Psalm 100 only has five verses. But when I learned them, I was only six.

Still, just knowing the words won’t do anything for me if I don’t understand them and live by them. So what does Psalm 100 really teach us?

Let’s take a few moments to read it together, pondering its truths. After all, it bears the subtitle A Psalm for Giving Thanks and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It may help us shift our gratitude in the right direction.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Oh, how I love the Word of God! My soul yearns for truth and my heart swells when I hear it. Celebrate with me a few of the truths listed here.

  • We can know without doubt that the Lord is God
  • He made us, and we are His… we belong to Him
  • He is good… we needn’t fear or mistrust His intentions for us
  • His steadfast love endures… forever
  • He is faithful… not just to some, but to all generations

Those are some things worth praising! But now I want to settle in on the truth revealed in verse 4.

  • We enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.

Listen carefully, dear one. You and I need the presence of the Living God. More than anything else we want in life, we want God’s presence—whether we realize it yet or not.

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalm 84:2

Beloved, the blessings of God flow through the presence of God. And here’s what Psalm 100:4 proclaims: We enter the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise.

Don’t miss this, dear one. A heart of gratitude and praise toward God ushers us through His gates and into His presence.

Ingratitude, on the other hand, separates us from Him.

You may be thinking, I don’t have much to be thankful for. Perhaps your circumstances seem pretty hopeless and all your hardened heart will allow you to see right now is your lack.

What if choosing gratitude anyway could draw you into His presence and become the catalyst to change your circumstances? What if praising God for the truths we discovered today in Psalm 100 and asking Him to empower you to believe them could even alter your day?

Consider Paul’s command about prayer from Philippians 4:6.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Did you notice that every request we take to God in prayer must be made with thanksgiving? Perhaps it’s because thanksgiving ushers us through His gates and into His courts. But look at the promise given when we approach God that way.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Peace is what you really seek, dear one. A heart at rest. Thanksgiving sets you on that path.

May this Thanksgiving be more than a holiday. May you pass through the gate and encounter the presence of God.

The Beauty of Intercession

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

What a beautiful promise found in our opening scripture! Does it comfort you to know that Jesus is able to save you to the uttermost? He’s not a halfway God. He offers complete salvation.

But notice that there’s a condition to becoming a beneficiary of that salvation. He is able to save those who draw near to God through Him.

Within this phrase we find why so many believers miss experiencing the bounty of Christ’s salvation in the day to day. We don’t draw near. Instead, we often keep ourselves at a great distance from God, allowing jobs, relationships, even hobbies to separate us from the God who wants us near. Then we wonder where He is when we have an emergency.

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.” Proverbs 1:22-23

What an amazing promise from an amazing God! He longs to pour Himself out and make His desires known so that we can live His very best for us.

But what happens when we refuse to draw near to hear?

“Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity…” Proverbs 1:24-26

Chilling words from a God of grace. Do they surprise you? There’s more.

“Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1:28-31

God gives each of us a choice, dear one. We can draw near to Him through Jesus, allowing Him to pour out His Spirit to us and make His words known. Or, we can live our lives ignoring His counsel. God, honoring our right to choose, will stay away and let our own devices run their course.

You see, dear one, our God of love is also always faithful to His Word. That’s what makes Him so trustworthy. And here’s what His Word says.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7

We bring much of our sorrow upon ourselves by living our daily lives apart from God. When we choose to keep our distance and refuse to hear what God desires to say, we reap the natural consequences of that choice. God leaves us to our own devices.

But here’s the good news, tucked within our opening scripture. Jesus lives to intercede for us when we choose to draw near.

Do you know what that means, dear one? All we need is sincere desire to get close. Jesus will make sure we find our way to God because He lives to intercede—to unite fallen man with the power and presence of the Father.

And when Jesus connects us, God always hears and answers.

Listen carefully, dear one. There’s a difference between desiring God’s help and desiring God. To the one who doesn’t care to walk with God but simply seeks His help because they don’t like how things are going, God says,

“Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me” (Proverbs 1:28).

But to the one who sincerely desires to draw near to God and walk in His ways, God says,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Oh how I love that promise! When we seek Him with all our heart, God promises to make Himself found. We don’t have to worry about our potential to miss Him. We can rest in His promise to reveal Himself. And when we find Him, He hears our cries and will bring us back from our desolate places.

Jesus makes that happen, dear one.

Christ Jesus…the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34

Thank you, Jesus.

To Aid and Protect

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30 ESV

Do you find that your prayers tend to be reactionary?

Mine used to be. I’d offer grateful prayers at dinner and sweet nighttime prayers with my children, but it took something unpleasant happening to bring me to my knees and make me cry out passionately to God. I’d pray in response to things I didn’t like or understand.

I didn’t want it, so I’d ask God to change it. Sound familiar?

What if God offers something so much better than help out of our present messes? What if He wants to help us avoid some of those messes all together?

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks digging into some biblical principles about prayer. John 10:3 revealed a simple but profound truth. Jesus doesn’t open His own gates.

Instead, He seeks gatekeepers—or watchmen—to listen at His gates and open them through prayer. Unlike our enemy, Jesus doesn’t just force His way into our present circumstances; He only ever enters by the door (John 10:1-2). And He waits patiently for a gatekeeper to respond to His call and open the gate, inviting Him in.

Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 8:34-35 (ESV)

Today I’d like to dig a little deeper into the role of the gatekeeper or watchman. Consider this description of John 10:1-5 from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.

Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.

10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name.

Can you picture it? Now let’s zoom in on the tasks of the watchman. I see two primary roles.

  1. The watchman guards against enemy attacks on the flock.
  2. The watchman opens the gate for Jesus to enter in.

Let’s examine each one to see how they apply to us.

The watchman guards against enemy attacks on the flock. I don’t know about you, but this one gets me excited. When the watchman does his or her job, the enemy’s plans get thwarted.

Maybe you need to take a moment to let the idea settle on you. If you choose to accept the role of watchman and exercise the authority given to you through prayer, you can stop enemy attacks before they ever take place. You and I don’t have to just keep reacting to bad stuff getting heaped into our laps, dear one. We can listen at the gates of God and stop some of it from ever getting there.

Don’t believe me? Consider these amazing promises from God’s Word.

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to help us pray. What does He tell us?

… he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13

The Holy Spirit carries the voice of Jesus calling out at the gate. He declares only what He hears from the Son, and He will even reveal things that are to about to take place.

Amazing, isn’t it? In Christ, we have an early warning system. Trouble is, most of us don’t tune in.

But what happens if we do? What happens when a child of God draws near to Jesus with a submitted heart, listening at His gates?

The watchman opens the gate for Jesus to enter in. When we sense the Holy Spirit leading us to pray for something and we choose to give voice to the thought in agreement with God’s will, our prayer becomes an invitation for God to enter in and alter the course the prince of this world has set.

A few months ago while praying over my younger son, I felt prompted to pray for my oldest. I asked God to ensure that Austin would live out every bit of his inheritance in Christ.

I had no way of knowing at the time that a few weeks later during a routine doctor visit for his eleventh grade physical, the doctor would find a mole on his back that would make her request a follow-up visit with a dermatologist. When the dermatologist agreed with the assessment and requested it be removed and tested, we received assurances that it was all routine and we likely wouldn’t hear anything back. No news is good news.

I have to admit, I felt a little unprepared for the call I received on the day of his sixteenth birthday. The office informed me the pathology report revealed the cells were changing and had a mild to moderate chance of becoming cancerous later on. They wanted him to see another doctor to have a larger area removed.

The hardest part was telling him that night that he had to go back. I could see the fear creep into his eyes as the same realization dawned on him that had settled on me during that phone call. Sixteen year olds aren’t supposed to have to worry about cancer.

I assured him God had this. His words, however, pierced my heart. “What if God wants me to die?”

I refused to entertain that line of thinking. God had, after all, allowed us to find it early, before any real damage had been done. And that’s when my thoughts returned to a day weeks before when I felt the Spirit prompting me to pray for my son to live out every bit of his inheritance.

You see, it was during that time that God was beginning to teach me about the watchman. The watchman stops enemy attacks and invites Jesus to intervene.

And I realized. What if the prayers of a mother listening at the gate stopped the enemy from stealing from my son’s life and invited Jesus to show a doctor something previous visits to the dermatologist had missed?

Wisdom cries aloud in the street…at the entrance of the city gates she speaks. Proverbs 1:20-21

Beloved, who will be the watchman for your family if not you? There’s only one requirement. You must be willing to listen at the door, ready to open the gate.