Beginning Grateful

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:16-20

Jesus sent out the seventy-two to do the stuff of ministry. Their privilege, and ours, is that not only did they get to operate in the authority of Christ but they got to be His ambassadors. Anyone who listened to them teach about the Kingdom was listening to Jesus. Anyone who rejected them was rejecting Jesus. As Jesus was sent by the Father to represent the Father, Jesus was sending them to represent Jesus. He does the same with us.

And notice where gratitude is supposed to start. When we operate in the authority of Christ as the ambassadors of Christ our gratitude can’t be dependent on ministry results. No doubt, I have experienced the thrill of seeing the power of God move and people get set free from demonic darkness. I see this almost weekly. It is a wonder and a miracle, and it is an absolute privilege to be Jesus’s hands and feet in those moments. But Jesus teaches us here in this scripture passage that our gratitude can’t start there.

Jesus wants our gratitude to start much further back. The greatest miracle is our own salvation. The greatest miracle is that Jesus took our punishment upon himself and, in exchange, gave us His peace. Our gratitude begins with the ridiculous notion that I am forgiven for all of my sin, not because of something I have done, but because of what God has done for me. My name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And not only am I washed clean of my sin because of the blood of Jesus, but I am given new life because of His resurrection from the grave. Gratitude begins here.

When life and ministry get hard, we have to return to this point of gratitude. We have to return to the basics of being grateful that we have been given eternal life, though we didn’t deserve it. Everything else is icing on the cake. This life is a blip on the radar screen of eternity. James says it this way, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

If we can go back and be grateful for our salvation, then we can begin to be grateful for the rest of life. Rather than complaining about the hardships of life, we can begin to be grateful that we even have a life. Rather than grumbling about work, we can be grateful that we have a job and an income. Rather than complaining about friends and family, we can be grateful for their love and presence in our life. Rather than wishing we were used by God in different ways or better ways, we can be grateful that we are being used by God at all. What an incredible privilege that God would use someone like me! This is how John said it:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 

1 John 3:1-2

And I love how Paul says something similar in his letter to his protege Timothy:

I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:13-17

May we echo the words of John and Paul in our own hearts. May our gratitude start at the ground level of the cross. May it begin at the point of our salvation and grow from there.

Worship Now

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 9:9-11

Now’s the time to worship Him. Now’s the time to lift up the name of Jesus and praise Him. Now’s the time glorify God for His goodness and grace. Don’t wait until this pandemic is over. Don’t wait until the economy fixes itself. Don’t wait until everyone is healthy and all the hard times have passed.

We have an opportunity to do something now that we cannot do in heaven. In eternity we will not be able to worship the Lord in the midst of hardship and pain. There will be no hardship and pain. In heaven we will not be able to lift up the name of Jesus in the midst of uncertainty and struggle. There will be no uncertainty and struggle.

Right now is when we get to glorify the name of Jesus regardless of our circumstances. Right now is when we get to declare the goodness of God in the face of all the hardship we face. Right now is our chance. Don’t let it pass!

Now is the time to declare our trust in God. Now is the time to declare that He is worthy of our lives no matter what. Now is the time to sing our lungs out about how amazing God is, slow to anger and abounding in love. Let’s not wait for things to return to normal before we lift up His name!

And I’m not just talking about gatherings on Sunday mornings. Yes, we will gather again eventually. But let’s not wait for that. Right now, in our alone time with the Lord, let’s exalt the name of Jesus. Let’s renew our worship of the Only One who is worthy. Let’s sing our song to Him in the secret place as a congregation of one to an audience of One.

We have an opportunity to do now what we won’t be able to do for eternity. We get to worship Him in the midst of this trial. Let’s not miss this opportunity. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around very often. Let’s make sure we take advantage of it!

Worship now Church!

Leaves of The Tree are for Healing

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5

This is a beautiful picture of what awaits those who have surrendered their life to Jesus. We essentially get invited into the new Garden of Eden, the throne room of God, the new Temple, the new Jerusalem.

We don’t yet get to eat the fruit from the tree of life but one day we will. Yet, I do believe we have access to the leaves of the tree of life. The leaves of the tree bring healing. And we do get to participate in healing (even if it is only partial) in the here and now.

One of the primary aspects of Jesus’s ministry was healing the physically sick and healing souls through casting out demons. Healing is a major emphasis when Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus passes that same ministry of healing to his own disciples (Matthew 10:1-8) and then also to us (Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:17-18). Jesus goes so far as to say, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”(John 14:12).

Our role now as disciples of Jesus is to learn how to harvest the leaves of healing and distribute them to those around us who are hurting. The tree of life has a continual source of water and is in a continual harvest season. It never runs out of leaves. There is always more than enough. Our task now is to learn how to cooperate with the Spirit, as we follow the direction of the Father, to see people get healed all around us.