Enter His Courts with Praise!

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

Most of us long to experience God’s presence and power. We just don’t usually choose the path required to get there.

What is that path?

Psalm 100:4 reveals it plainly. We enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. If we want close proximity to God, we need gratitude. Sincere thanksgiving and praise for His provision must regularly erupt from our hearts and echo from our lips.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Our lives are supposed to overflow with thanksgiving. Not once a year, but every day. Beloved, gratitude marks a life rooted in Christ. Built in Him. Strengthened in Him. Lived in Him.

What we choose to offer Him, however, usually resembles grumbling. Not gratitude.

Let’s face it. We aren’t naturally grateful people.

We have to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” They come out of the womb believing they have a right to everything. You’ll hear one word rising above a scuffle of angry toddlers. “Mine.”

If it isn’t theirs, they think it ought to be.

Yes, dear one. Appreciation must be taught. And some of us still struggle to learn it.

We’re self-centered, after all. And that inclination fixes our eyes firmly on blessings we desire instead of praising God for the ones He’s already provided.

Then we end up feeling like Job.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11

We give voice to our discontent. We think on it continuously. Our hearts become hard.

Beloved, grumbling and complaining emerge from a bitter soul. And bitterness occurs when we believe God should do things differently.

Yet we love to indulge our bitterness. We believe we have a right to it, after all. But Hebrews 12:15 reveals a great danger in clinging to it.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Bitterness defiles many. I’d hate to think that my own bitterness would defile my family. My husband. My children.

But that verse reveals another frightening effect. Bitterness keeps us from God’s grace. We fall short of it. And grace, dear one, is what we’re desperate for.

You see, grace merges the favor of God with life’s circumstances.

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Beloved, we find power in Christ’s presence. Help for our needs. In His throne room, we find grace.

But we must approach His throne with the right heart.

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

A grateful heart opens the gate to the courts of the God of grace. It draws us into the presence of the Giver because it sees what He provides. And it’s grateful.

What do you need to thank God for, beloved? Do you bless Him continually for His provision? Or do you more often focus on your lack?

Bitterness robs you of grace, dear one. Don’t let the enemy steal one more blessing God longs to give. Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Let’s invite Him to fill our hearts with gratitude for all that He is and all that He gives.

When we choose gratitude, beloved, we choose grace.

Fear of the Dark

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”  even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.. Psalm 139:11-12 ESV

Monsters lurk in the dark.

They like the shadows. Deception. Speculation and fear.

Only recently, some of those monsters decided to emerge from the shadows. Their evil in Paris exposed what they seek.

Hatred. Murder. Terror.

They aim to breed fear.

They reflect the heart of the god they serve, “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world(Revelation 12:9).

Did you know that’s one of his names, dear one? Deceiver of the whole world.

Yes, beloved. Satan deceives. Everyone. Always.

He’s probably deceiving you. If you’re afraid, it’s working.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Look at what Jesus said about the deceiver and his children in John 8:44.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Satan lies to get what he wants. And his most deceived followers act just like him. He’s a murderer, and they murder. He deceives, and they deceive. They have set their will on carrying out their father’s desires, convinced the one who speaks to them is an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

If only the children of God lived as dedicated to His cause.

But we haven’t set our wills to carry out our Father’s desires. Instead we’ve allowed the deceiver to convince us to stay focused on our own. Instead of uniting in strength against our enemy, we fight one another. And instead of standing on the truth our Father’s Word proclaims, we have allowed the deceiver to fill our hearts with unbelief.

He has convinced us we can do nothing but hide and wait out the darkness. So we sit in our homes and point fingers of blame to justify our sorry state.

Perhaps it’s time for the people of God to open His Word and receive what it says.

Only one thing will prevail against the evil that threatens this earth, dear one. Jesus revealed the answer in Matthew 16:18.

 “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The deceiver doesn’t want you to know the power you wield, beloved. He’s tricked you into thinking you’re a powerless victim. But God’s Word says you’re anything but powerless.

You are the answer to the darkness.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3

Your Father never deceives, dear one. What He says always proves true.

And His Word tells us that evil will increase. Thick darkness will spread its cloak over the earth to smother all people. But our Father also delivers a glorious promise. The people of God needn’t fear the darkness.

Light has come, beloved. The glory of the Lord has risen. Did you notice where people will see it rising?

Upon you.

You hold the light capable of dispelling the darkness. Jesus gave it to you the moment you put your faith in Him. Now He asks you to believe and fervently join His agenda.

You must become who He is.

Darkness advances as the sons of the evil one more fully reveal their father. Light can only advance as the children of light take on the character of our Father.

Darkness advances as the sons of the evil one more fully reveal their father. We must reveal ours. Click To Tweet

Our Father does not fear the enemy. Our Father rests in truth. Our Father loves.

So must we.

A deceived world is desperate for truth. We must give it to them. Love is the way.

Light is, indeed, greater than the darkness. The One who lives in us is greater than the one who deceives the world.

Let’s show the world who Jesus really is.

Throwing Stones

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 ESV

For some reason, people love to throw stones. And, apparently, red coffee cups.

We picture ourselves like David, standing against a godless giant who blasphemes the name of the Lord. We imagine God Himself at our backs, ensuring that our carefully aimed pebbles will hit their mark.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I fear our reality looks a bit different. We actually more closely resemble the religious leaders in Jesus’ day who gathered to accuse an adulterous woman.

They intended to kill her with stones.12227620_930565177031185_744069628521721119_n

Instead, Jesus saved her.

I wonder, dear one, if some of the stones we throw in Jesus’ name are stones He wouldn’t throw.

Are the fights we’re engaged in really His fights? Or are we, perhaps, casting judgment when Jesus would extend grace?

 “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

Maybe Jesus’ words offer a great suggestion for us as well. Before we hurl those stones we should consider our motives and the condition of our own hearts.

We live in a world ruled by an accuser. He loves discord, judgment, hatred. And he loves to convince people who bear Jesus’ name to act just like him.

Beloved, when people look at us they’re supposed to see Jesus.

What if the reason the world is so ready to remove God from everything is that they don’t like what they see in us? Are we showing the world who Jesus really is? Do we love like He loves? Are we living as true witnesses of His character?

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19

Perhaps the world might be drawn to Jesus if they saw Him as He really is instead of who we’ve projected Him to be.

It’s time we surrendered our hearts to the One who died to redeem them. You and I have the power to bring Christ back into the world by revealing Him with love. We can offer kindness to strangers. We can give of ourselves in Jesus’ Name.

We can stop throwing stones and learn what it means to become one.