The Greatness of Gratitude (Colossians 3:15-17)

praise

Probably nothing will improve our enjoyment in life or enable us to fulfill our purpose as much as learning to be more GRATEFUL and THANKFUL for all God has given us.

What does the Bible say about this important quality?

Colossians 3:15-17   “15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

Listen Now:


THE GREATNESS OF GRATITUDE:

A woman named Michelle was teaching the preschoolers’ class at her church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day. She decided to playfully introduce the topic of the holiday to the children. “Now let me see,” she said, “Thanksgiving is coming. That’s the day when we think about all the stuff we have, and how we want more things than anybody else has, and how we don’t care about anybody but ourselves, and…” “No!” the kids all began to yell. “No-o-o!” they yelled louder. Then one little guy called out, “That’s not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle, that’s Christmas!”

Are you a thankful person? Regardless of the challenges we face (and we all have plenty, don’t we?), there are many, many things that all of us who follow God can and should thank Him for.

In fact, gratitude is a constant theme in the Bible, where it is mentioned over 150 times and commanded over 33 times. Let’s consider one passage, Colossians 3:15-17. It is three verses long, and each verse tells us something different about gratitude.

1. GRATITUDE IS OUR CHOICE

Colossians 3:15  “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”  

This phrase “be thankful” means literally “become thankful!” God has done so much for us that we should seek to become increasingly grateful people.

Notice that gratitude is our choice! We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can always control how we respond to them. No matter what our situation there is always something to rejoice in. In fact, Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians while he was imprisoned! Even in the worst circumstances, we can be thankful that God has not left us, and if we seek Him through Christ we will be with Him forever.

However, we live in a culture that doesn’t always help us to be thankful. Advertisements continually remind us of all that we don’t have. But in truth, we already have so much more than we often realize.

  • If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed since 1/3 of the world does not have access to one.
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are blessed since a million people will not survive the week.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world.
  • If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you have something almost three billion people in the world can only imagine.
  • If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than three-fourths of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you know that God hears and answers prayer.

In order to be grateful, we must sometimes adjust how we look at things. Maybe you’ve heard the story about the famous inventor Thomas Edison. When he was 67 years old, his huge factory caught fire and in one night more than half of it was destroyed. But the next morning he told his son, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start over again.” I don’t know if Edison had a sincere faith in God, but his approach is a good one for those of us who do.

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr

2. GRATITUDE COMES FROM GOD’S WORD 

Colossians 3:16  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Commentators differ as to whether chariti in this verse should be translated as “thankfulness” (as in the NIV and here in the NASB translation). or “grace” (as in the KJV), but possibly it is used here to encompass both ideas. As we humbly study God’s word, we see things more as God sees them, we recognize his grace in all things, and we can’t help but be more grateful to Him.

As we study God’s word, we are reassured that He is in control, He loves us, and He has a wonderful plan for us as we seek Him. In fact, He promises to use each and every circumstance for our good if we are following Him closely.  Roman’s 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

3. GRATITUDE IS WORSHIP TO GOD

 Colossians 3:17  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We worship God when we face every situation with gratitude towards Him through Jesus and for Jesus. In fact, the Greek word translated here and in verse 15 as “giving thanks” is eucharisto, from which we get the English word “eucharist” that is used for the Lord’s supper. Most believers naturally think of the Lord’s Supper (aka Communion) time as worship, but simply being grateful to God is worship also.

In contrast, unbelievers have an ungrateful heart towards God. They might express gratitude to others, or for some unknown force in the universe, but not to the one true God Himself. Roman 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”

ARE YOU A GRATEFUL PERSON?

Consider the example of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.”  (Luke 17:15-16).  Jesus healed ten men, but only one returned. Where were the other nine? May we always be like the one who thanked Him.

How can we know if we are grateful? Thanksgiving will invariably overflow out of our hearts and show in the way we live. We will be always “overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:7).

If we are grateful for God’s love, we will follow Him and love others. If we are grateful for His generosity, we will be generous to others. If we are grateful for Divine mercy, we will be merciful to others. If we are grateful for the good news of Jesus, we will share it with others.

The message couldn’t be any clearer, could it? “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

 – Frank

(c) 2017  Frank Erb

God’s Light in Clay Pots (2 Corinthians 4:6-18)

I have enjoyed teaching lately through 2 Corinthians 4:6-18 on the topic of God’s Light in Clay Pots. What an amazing thought that God can use plain, common, unimpressive people like us to hold and pour out His glory!

Here’s teaching from July 23, 2017 at Chico Grace Brethren Church in Chico, California:

God’s Light in Clay Pots


2 Corinthians 4:6-18

“6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.

13 But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, 14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The Only Hope for America

It was an honor to speak this past Sunday on the topic of “A Blessed Nation,” based on Psalm 33:12a – “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” 

I included many quotes from America’s founding fathers and others who shaped our nation, showing that the only hope for the United States is that we trust in the Lord and obey Him.

Let’s do it, and pass it on!

Audio:

 

Genesis 1:1 The Existence of God

by Frank Erb

This is a new year and a time of new beginnings. 

With so much that is new, this is a perfect time for us to refresh our understanding of God – to look back to the first book of the Bible, the book of beginnings, to the book of Genesis.

Genesis is likely the most well-known spiritual book in the world, since the Bible is the most famous compilation of writings in history, and Genesis as the introductory book of the Bible is foundational to all the rest. As such, it is revered by all Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who together comprise more than half the world’s population.  

This book, whose title means “origin,” is a fast-paced survey of the beginning of the universe, the planet, and the human race. Mostly though, it is the story of how God orchestrated ancient history in order to raise up one particular family line through whom he would later bless the entire world.

Every major Bible doctrine is introduced in some way in this first book, and the other Bible books often refer to it and quote it. If someone wants to understand the Bible, Genesis is the place to start. 

Furthermore, Genesis has special application for anyone in leadership, since it includes the stories of one leader after another, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. From their examples, sometimes good and sometimes greatly lacking, we can learn much to help us to lead well in our day.

I hope you will join us on this journey through Genesis, as we marvel at the wondrous things God did in ages past so that we might know Him today.


THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

From the very first sentence, the Bible makes it clear that God exists.  As we read the first chapter we see many of His attributes:

  • God is unique. There is only one God, and no others.
  • God is eternal. He existed before the creation of the universe, space, and time.
  • God is all powerful. He made all thing from nothing and is distinct from His creation.
  • God is intelligent and orderly. The universe and all creation is carefully designed.
  • God is personal. He is not just a force.
    • He speaks: “God said …”
    • He creates: “God made …”
    • He sees: “God saw …”
    • He makes judgements: “it was good”
    • He is loving and caring: “God blessed them”
  • God is knowable. He wants all people, including you, to know Him!

HOW CAN WE KNOW ABOUT GOD?

But is this true? How can we know that God really exists, and if so, what He is like?

  1. BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBLITY

Psalm 53:1a “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”

We live in the age of the so-called “new atheists,” well-known authors and speakers who say there is no need to believe in God because science has answered all the important questions about life. They believe, as one person summarized it, that “nobody times nothing equals everything.”

Though atheists claim to value reason, most I meet seem to have an underlying emotional motivation for their resistance to God. Their attitude seems something like, “I don’t believe in God, and I hate him.”

Consider how Lawrence Krauss, a prominent atheist speaker, put it: “I don’t describe myself as an atheist. I describe myself as an anti-theist. Namely, I cannot prove that there is no god. I just certainly wouldn’t want to live in a universe with one.” Even back in the 1800’s, famous pastor Charles Spurgeon stated,“I am persuaded that men think there is no God because they wish there were none.”

The truth is, the question of the existence and identity of God is the most intelligent and important and valuable question possible, since the answer will determine whether our lives have any purpose or permanence.

  1. REALIZE OUR LIMITATIONS

Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” declares the Lord.

We cannot figure God out on our own. Since God is so intelligent and powerful as to create the entire universe, He is far beyond our human understanding (See Job 38). Furthermore, we naturally have darkened hearts and minds to Him (Ephesians 4:18). As a result, the only way we can know God is if he reveals Himself to us in a way we can comprehend.

  1. CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE

There is widespread evidence for God throughout the universe, throughout humanity, and even internally within ourselves. Here are some examples:

Evidence for God in the universe

Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (See also Romans 1:18-20)

The fact that the universe exists at all, and that it had a beginning, as scientists now agree, point to the existence of a Creator. Furthermore, no one can deny the unbelievably precise tuning of the universe found at every level, including in the physical laws such as the speed of light and the gravitational constant, that are necessary for our universe and for life to exist. (Check out this video for some examples.) As renown scientist Francis Collins put it, “It is astounding to see the knife edge of improbability upon which our existence exists.”

Evidence for God in humanity

  1. Ecclesiastes 3:11 “…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”

The concept of God is universal and part of being human. All people everywhere as far back as history goes have had a concept of a god or gods or supernatural beings. As Roman philosopher Cicero wrote in 45BC,“Hence the main issue is agreed among all men of all nations, inasmuch as all have engraved in their minds an innate belief that the gods exist. As to their nature there are various opinions, but their existence nobody denies.” This innate interest in the spirit world exists because God has created us with a capacity to know Him.

Evidence for God internally

All healthy people affirm the existence of objective morality, ethics, and justice. We also value beauty, love, and compassion. Furthermore, we desire for our life to have a purpose. None of these concepts would exist or matter if we were all merely products of random chance natural processes, and so these too are pointers to a God who defines and instills them.

  1. LISTEN FOR DIVINE SIGNALS

Jeremiah 29:13-14 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” (See also Hebrews 11:6)

Maybe you’ve heard of the SETI institute in California, where scientists are using advanced and expensive electronic equipment to listen for signals from deep space in case aliens are trying to contact us. No such signals have ever been heard, but they keep listening year after year. Will we apply the same energy to listening to see if God is trying to reach us?

The signal of the Bible:  If God is trying to communicate with mankind, where should we aim our receivers? Why not first carefully considering the means by which the highest number of people claim to have heard from Him? Though there are many world religions, Christianity is by far the most widespread belief system on earth, the Bible is by far the best-selling book in history, and Jesus is widely considered the most influential person to have ever lived. For these reasons and more, it makes great sense to start with a careful consideration of the Bible and Jesus. As we do, the Bible promises we’ll hear from God. Romans 10:17-18 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

The signal of Difficulties: Sometimes even problems can be God’s way to get our attention. As atheist turned believer C.S. Lewis said, ““God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Indeed.

Maybe you’ve heard the story about the atheist was walking through the forest when Big Foot jumped out at him. As he approached menacingly, the atheist yelled, “Lord, save me!” Seconds later, a voice rumbled from heaven, “I thought you didn’t believe in me.” “Well,” the man said, “until a minute ago, I didn’t believe in Big Foot either.”  If you’re going through challenges, listen carefully.

Ultimately, hearing from God is a gift from Him, as he enables us to hear his voice. John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

  1. RESPOND TO JESUS

John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

We are able to fully connect with God when we look to Jesus and open our hearts to Him. In fact, Jesus came for this very purpose. As pastor and author Tim Keller said, “The founders of all the religions said basically this: “I’m a prophet come to help you find God.” Jesus is the only one who said, “I’m God, come to find you.””

The truth is, while you may or may not be looking for God, He wants a relationship with you. As author Malcolm Muggeridge described his unexpected conversion from agnosticism to Christianity, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.”

Countless people, including me, can attest to how we read the Bible, responded to Jesus, and suddenly a connection was made. It’s amazing, but true. God exists, and He wants you to know Him. This is how it happens – we open our heart to Jesus and, to our great surprise and with overwhelming joy, we meet God.

(c) Frank Erb

Presidential Inauguration Prayers

It was encouraging to hear so many Biblical passages and mentions of Jesus Christ in the prayers at President Donald Trump’s Inauguration.

This inauguration set a record for having six different prayer leaders (Timothy Dolan, Samuel Rodriguez, Paula White, Franklin Graham, Marvin Hier, and Wayne T. Jackson). They were a diverse group: theologically (Catholic, evangelical, pentecostal, and Jewish), ethnically (white, black, hispanic) and in gender (male and female … only the second time a female has led a presidential inauguration prayer). Despite these differences, we can rejoice that all of them quoted the Bible and four of them mentioned Jesus.

America is a wonderfully diverse nation, but our prosperous heritage and our greatest cultural values are inseparably rooted in the Bible and Judeo-Christian ethics, and so our future success and perhaps even our survival depends on maintaining this connection. Moreover, if our leaders truly seek to humbly honor the true and living God and his son Jesus Christ, perhaps He will have mercy on America’s offenses against Him, heal the deep divisions that divide our populace, and bless our future. As Psalm 33:12a says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”  

Accordingly, prayers like this, followed by penitent and faithful action, may be our only hope.