Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Praise & Thanksgiving

by Bill Blankenship

As we go through life it is good to be appreciated and thanked for the good we have done. The encouragement compels us to do more when we know we are appreciated for our efforts.

When I was around seventeen years old, I attended a small country church, where I was saved and baptized at a young age. We did not have a janitor, per se, so I took it upon myself to start cleaning the church and making sure everything was ready for Sunday services.  I enjoyed being alone during those times, cleaning and spending time with the Lord. I would clean for a while, then kneel at the altar and pray, then clean some more as I sang the wonderful hymns of the faith. I cherish those precious times of Spirit filled worship and fellowship with the Lord.  Then, one day I received an envelope in the mail and, to my surprise, there was a five dollar bill in it with a note. It was from a little old lady in the church who wrote that she had noticed the church was clean every Sunday and she had discovered  I was the one responsible. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated my faithfulness and wanted to give me something as a small token of her thanks. This precious little lady brought tears to my eyes, for I never expected her beautiful gift of praise and thanks.

We know the power of being grateful, but sometimes it’s hard to remember to give thanks. We get so wrapped up in our lives with hardships, challenges, struggles, and the everyday distractions of life. Thus making it easy to get lost in a dark place of disgust, hurt, and self-pity, allowing depression to creep into our lives. Whether consumed with all our cares or too busy enjoying life, we should never forget to give thanks. Instead, we need to be encouraged by the promises of God’s faithfulness, wisdom, blessings, grace, and mercy. Most of all, we should find encouragement in His love for us.

God’s Faithfulness:

The Apostle Paul reminds us as he tells the Thessalonian believers in 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.”

The Apostle Paul was writing to the church, the body of Christ at Thessalonica, as well as, to the church today, which includes you and me. The “evil one,” who is none other than Satan, seeks to destroy our faith and leave us hopeless. But, God’s faithfulness assures us that the evil one will never succeed. Having that guarantee should provide us with great encouragement and cause us to offer Praise and Thanksgiving to our Lord every day.

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:22-24. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.” “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Jeremiah wrote these words in the midst of great destruction and turmoil when Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The temple was destroyed and the people were left devastated without their center of worship and without a leader. Yet, in the midst of all the suffering and grief, Jeremiah remembered the Lord and His faithfulness to him through his own personal experiences. He remembered God’s promises and found reason to trust in God’s faithfulness.

When I think about Jeremiah and his words in Lamentations, I am reminded of the great hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. This is one of many songs written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866 – 1960). He suffered sickness and many setbacks in life, and wrote this hymn as he found comfort in God’s faithfulness. He died at the good old age of 93. God’s faithfulness is just as great for you and me today.

Let us praise the Lord and offer thanksgiving for His faithfulness.

God’s Wisdom:

In John Piper’s sermon, “The Great Work of the Only Wise God,” based on Romans 16:25-27), he defined “Wisdom,” in the Bible, “as knowing the greatest goal in any situation, and the best way to achieve that goal.”

As I thought about Piper’s definition, I thought about God’s greatest goal of creating our world and making mankind in His image for the purpose of having someone with a free will to love, fellowship, and desire a relationship with Him.

After every day of creation, God would sit back and look upon what He created and “saw that it was good.” After the sixth day, God saw everything He had made, and, behold, it was very good.

God knew that even though everything He created was good, He also foreknew that the man He created in His image would choose to rebel against Him. Still, God in His perfect knowledge and wisdom had in eternity past devised a plan to redeem the human race. That plan was to send His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. The Apostle Paul describes God’s foreknowledge, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy in his letter to the Ephesians.

This is so amazing to me, that an all-knowing and all-wise God would desire to share His knowledge and wisdom with a sinner such as I. James 1:5-6 tell us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally, and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

What is True Wisdom? James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Let us praise the Lord and offer thanksgiving for His wisdom.

God’s Blessings:

What are God’s Blessings and what are they meant to do? God’s blessings are to guide us in our daily walk, give us hope, and protect us from discouragement.  We can say that blessings are God’s way of giving to us satisfaction, peace, happiness, and joy in our lives. God extends both spiritual and material blessings to those who trust and obey Him. He blesses us with power to fulfill His plan for our lives.

Think of the song, “Count Your Blessings,” which is a hymn composed in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings,
see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high. [Refrain]

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. [Refrain]

Many times our greatest blessings come through difficulties, struggles, discouragement, loss, and physical pain.

In 1990, my mother became ill with a serious lung issue. She lived in Jasper, Alabama, and was to go to Birmingham, Alabama, to the Princeton Baptist Medical Center for a biopsy. We were in a revival in our church at the time and I had made plans to travel to Alabama and be with my mother. I met with our evangelist and told him that I would be going through Nashville, Tennessee, around the time for the service to start. I told him I would pull off the highway and pray for the service and I asked that the church pray for my mother.

As promised, I pulled over under an overpass just outside of Nashville and began to pray. I prayed the Lord would overshadow the revival service with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and that people would be encouraged, convicted, and blessed. Also, I prayed for my mother and asked that God’s will be done. I prayed my mother would receive comfort and peace because she was expecting bad results from the biopsy. At that moment, I felt the blessing of the Lord and I received the comfort and peace I had been praying for my mother. I thanked the Lord for His gracious reassurance that everything would be alright and said, Amen. Then, I continued in my travels.

The next day my mother and I went to the hospital in Birmingham and she had the biopsy. We traveled back to her house in Jasper and all was pretty quiet the rest of the evening. During the next day my mother began going through her belongings, telling me what she wanted my wife, sister, and others to be given. I asked her what she was doing. She said I just want to be prepared. I told her not to fret because everything was going to be fine. She gave me that serious mother look and asked how I knew things would turn out fine.  I told her about my prayer and how the Lord gave me peace and reassurance. I told her that she and the doctor were going to be surprised.  

We went back to Birmingham on the following Wednesday for her meeting with the doctor. We sat down in his office and he came in and sat down behind his desk and just looked at my mother. He said, “Mrs. Blankenship, I can’t begin to tell you how surprised I am.” My mother immediately looked at me. It was all I could do to control my emotions. She had a rare lung infection, which would require hospitalization and interveineous antibiotics; however, the doctor said they had just come out with a pill form which she could take without hospitalization. Mom lived several years after that incident, although, not without some struggles.

You see, many times, our greatest blessings come through difficulties, struggles, discouragement, loss, and physical pain. “Count Your Blessings”!

Let us praise the Lord and offer thanksgiving for His blessings.

God’s Mercy and Grace:

Many times we find mercy and grace mentioned together in the scriptures. For example, in Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

As Christ followers (believers), we have the blessing of coming boldly to the throne of grace. This is only because of God’s grace provided to us through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and our believing (having faith) in Him for our salvation.

We are born with a sinful nature. Babies cry because they are hungry, and soon realize that by crying they get fed. As they grow, they continue to cry to get whatever they want and, eventually, they are able, selfishly, to take whatever they want. This is because of the sinful nature.  They have to be taught how not to be selfish or to always have their way. Without this teaching they become totally depraved which affects every aspect of their lives. This is why sharing the gospel is so important. Christ gave Himself on Calvary’s cross so that  “we can obtain mercy.” This means that we get or acquire God’s forgiveness and not have to receive the punishment we deserve.

Then the Hebrew writer tells us, “we find grace.” This means that God gives us what we do not deserve. His peace, fullness of joy, comfort, rest, His ever-abiding presence, and a place in the Father’s house in heaven. Not because of our own righteousness, or works, but because of the righteousness of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.

Let us praise the Lord and offer thanksgiving for His mercy and grace.

God’s Love:

We have an almighty, sovereign God who loves us more than we can imagine.

1 John 4:9–10, “In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Romans 5:6-8, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I am reminded of the awesome love of God that is shared so beautifully in the blessed hymn, “The Love of God,” by Frederick Lehman. It is said that the third verse was found inscribed on the wall of an insane asylum. This is evident that God can reach anyone, anywhere, no matter who he is and what mental condition he may be in.  

1. The love of God is greater far
than tongue or pen can ever tell;
it goes beyond the highest star,
and reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave his Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
the saints’ and angels’ song.

2. When hoary time shall pass away,
and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
when those who here refuse to pray
on rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
all measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
the saints’ and angels’ song. [Refrain]

3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
and everyone a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky. [Refrain]

Let us praise the Lord and offer thanksgiving for His amazing Love.

May we never forget, and may we always be encouraged by the promises of God’s faithfulness, wisdom, blessings, grace, and mercy and, most of all, His awesome love for us.
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