Prepare Ye The Way!

For the Love of the Spirit

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

Greetings!

It has been three weeks since my last posting here and a great deal has happened.  I went to a regional conference of my church denomination — American Baptist Churches — USA — and I have moved positively toward bringing ministry to the male inmates of Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail.  I am waiting to hear from the Director of Jail Programs to set up the first trip to the institution.

With two other church members and with acknowledgment of Pastor Liz Emrey of New Beginnings Christian Community, ideas have been floated and are being prayed on and researched for church fund raising events and a committee to plan and organize.

In addition, I am still trying to get the website up for the ministry associated with this blog — Spirit of Love — but am stymied by tragically slow connection speed and connection interruptions.   Please continue to pray for all these concerns as you are moved by the Holy Spirit of the infinitely loving God.

O.K. Announcements are out of the way.  I will turn now to the theme of this article — Praise, Gratitude, and Love.

As I get into the text I would like you to keep in mind three questions;

  • For what am I grateful,
  • Why should I give praise to God, and
  • How does the love of God affect my life?

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

To begin, let’s distinguish between “gratitude” and “praise.”  “Gratitude” is a feeling.  “Praise” is a physical act which springs from the feeling.  If I am homeless and hungry and you give me food, I may feel grateful.  If I tell you how thankful I am and how I believe you are a good person for doing it, then I am offering my gratitude to you in the form of praise.  If I say “God bless you” for your deed, then I am praising you to God and invoking his blessings on you for your love and generosity.

If I feel grateful for nothing, then I certainly will not be offering any praise to God or anyone or anything else for that matter.  All of us have heard the expression, “Thanks for nothing!”  This of course can only be taken to be sarcastic for it is illogical to offer gratitude or praise when nothing is given.

The Ungrateful

Many of us spend much of our lives with a profound lack of gratitude.  So many people in the world either do not have enough of what they  need that it seems that there is very little for which to be thankful.  This ranges from the very worst examples of those in third world countries who are literally starving to death and die in large numbers from infant mortality to rampant diseases made exponentially worse by lack of medicine and health care.  We can understand and deeply sympathize with these unfortunates.  How can we blame anyone living and dying in these conditions for a lack of gratitude?

At the other end of the spectrum, are those people who have access to many of the good things of life in the developed world but still are in misery because they don’t see anything for which to be grateful.  For many decades, I was one of these individuals.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.Lk 6:35 (NIV)

I was born and raised with many of the advantages of life.  I was a citizen of the United States.  I never wanted for food or shelter.  I was healthy and had good access to health care.  I was relatively secure in my person and belongings, as I was protected by a loving mother and father and living in a society that provided protection under an equitable system of justice.  In addition, I enjoyed many luxuries.  My family was not wealthy but neither were we poor.  I wore new clothes and had music and television constantly available.  My family had a car and when I was old enough to drive, I was allowed to drive the family car.  When I could afford one of my own I had my own transportation.  We went on vacations at least once a year and dined out as well as went to outside entertainment events including weekend music festivals.

Yet, from the time I was a very young man until my 50th year, I was profoundly unhappy.  I was saved at an early age and believed in God without question, but I also slipped into alcoholism at an early age as well.  I blamed others for my failure to succeed at anything.  The worse my alcoholism became, and the more my personal problems increased because of it, the more my lack of gratitude increased, until it became nearly total.  I failed to feel gratitude or give thanks for anything that God provided me, because I mistakenly believed that God had given me nothing.

When I truly reached the point where I had next to nothing, when even my physical health and sanity were deserting me, I reached back out to God.  I was down to the very last thing for which I truly could be grateful at that point in a very miserable state of existence, and that one thing was the Love of the Holy Spirit.  Even then I did not cry out with a feeling of gratitude.  It was more a cry of final desperation.

The SPLIT SECOND I made that cry and pleaded with God to remove the demon and the disease, the love of the being who allowed his own son to be tortured and killed for my sake reached into my chest and yanked out the writhing blackness that was rotting me inside.  Body, mind, and soul were at near death.  The moment of the black departure was followed immediately by an inrushing of incredible brightness and love and outrushing gratitude.  I shouted HALLELUJAH! It was my first expression of praise to a merciful and gracious God in decades.  It was certainly not to be my last.  From that day nearly five years ago to this, I praise the Spirit that loved the wretched, sinful man I was enough, to step down from his place in paradise and rescue me.

(to be continued)

Praise, Love, and Gratitude: Part 2

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October 20, 2011 Posted by | Love, Praise | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 2

(continued from Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 1)

Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 2

Grateful

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Ps 100: 4-5, NIV)

My gratitude at the divine relief I received that day was instantaneous.  My spirit overflowed with the Spirit of Jesus and I was transported into ecstasy.  I did not feel so much as though a great weight had been lifted, as I did that a consuming blackness had been taken.  It was a physical release.  The total mental surrender was shortly to come.

Now, when I first thought to write this article I sat down and made a long list of all the things for which I now feel grateful and for which I now give daily praise to the Spirit of God.  A laundry list is not now required.  There a few things I want to mention here, but it is enough to say at this point that ALL good things can be grouped into one package.

Of the items the two most important are,

  1. Life, and the
  2. Love of the Holy Spirit.

Both of these things are offered to me.  Except for the act of being born, I am free to accept or reject either one.  As for my life after birth, I am free to continue living if I do nothing to shorten it beyond my normal and biological life-span.  I am free to end my own life through an act of suicide, health destructive lifestyles, or (and most importantly) the rejection of the second offered gift.  It is ONLY through the acceptance of the love of God, that I can accept the life that comes as a byproduct.

Praise

Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet; all flocks and herds and beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:1-9

What is it to praise the triune God?  It is to praise him as you love him; with all your heart and all you mind and all your soul.  It is to welcome the Holy Spirit into your heart with arms wide open and let that loving Spirit sing from the depths of your own soul all the glory that is due to the One who is responsible for your life and salvation.

We praise him with humility.  We praise him with sincerity.  All the goodness of the earth and the heavens belong to him and it is he that bestows it all upon his creation; all of humanity.  For all that comes from his riches that he gives to the righteous, we praise him.

We praise him with arms uplifted and hearts wide open.  We praise him with our gifts and sacrifices.

We praise him with music and with our voices.  We praise him with our witness of his great love.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

PRAISE THE LORD!

Psalm 150

This is what it is to praise God.  These are some of the many ways to praise him.

Why do we praise him?  What it is it about the Holy Spirit of God through his son Jesus that inspires us to praise him so?

It is

Love!

For all the gifts and blessings from God that we experience in this life, none are possible if there is not first love.  There is no way that a being of such power as God could have any mercy toward such a sinful and potentially evil race as humanity if he did not love us.  I am not talking about the kind of love humans hold for their personal possessions or pets.  I am talking about the kind of love that humans feel for their own offspring.  And even the greatest unconditional kind of love that comes from the best parents towards their children does not come close.

I have children of my own and I do not believe that there is anything they could do or say that would cause me to stop loving them.  But is my love so great that I would sacrifice one of my own children to rescue any other of my children?  Is my faith as great as Abraham’s?

Abraham was told by God that through his son Issac a great nation would be founded and then commanded Abraham to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering.  Even though Abraham loved his only son greatly and even though Issac was still just a boy and was not even close to fathering offspring that would beget a nation, Abraham, without question, set out to fulfill the commandment to sacrifice his own son.  Upon the mountain, Issac said to his father, “Father, here is the wood and here is the fire.  Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?’  Abraham replied, “The Lord will provide.”  He then tied Isaac to the altar and raised the knife for the sacrifice.  It was only at that point that the Lord stayed his hand. (Gn 22: 1-18).

The Lord did indeed provide.  On that day of Abraham and Issac, he provided a ram caught in the thicket near the altar.  Centuries later he provided his own son nailed to a cross on another hill called Golgotha.  Once and for all the matter was settled.

God in his infinite faithfulness and unconditional love sacrificed his own son so that anyone, who through faith believed in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, could be united in the spirit with him — the Father.  Regardless of the quality of our own love prior to the moment of the acceptance of his love, his love is extended to all of humanity.  He gives to all his children his faithful and unconditional love.  Even though we may not even love ourselves it is available.  Once it is accepted it becomes inevitable that we will return it.  We return it as love to the one from whom it came and as love to all the rest of humanity.

It is the final commandment to love one another as we now find that the Father, through his Son, loves us.  The magnitude of his love provides the blessings and the gifts for which we praise him.

May you receive the love of the Holy Spirit.  May you receive the salvation offered by Holy God through his Holy Son, Jesus the Christ.

Maranatha!

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Love, Praise | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment