Archive for November, 2010

Glass Half Full Theology

November 26, 2010

The self-help section of the local bookstore is the first place many people go when they need to change their outlook on life. There is no shortage of motivational speakers and authors who pump out books, podcasts and conferences designed to help people live positive in a negative world. On the list of best-sellers you’ll find The Power of Positive Thinking, See You at the Top, Think and Grow Rich, Possibility Thinking and many others.

However, I love the New Testament book of Philippians. Penned by the great apostle Paul from a Roman prison cell, the letter drips with positive encouragement. Some people in life see the proverbial glass as half empty. Not Paul. He was a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy. Even in prison he remained positive through and through.

Biblical content is what separates Philippians from all the pabulum on the self-help shelves. This book is inspired by none other than the Holy Spirit of God who guarantees the transformation of your life and attitude if you put the truth into practice. One Bible scholar says, “Philippians is a Christian psychology book, based solidly on Bible doctrine. It is not a shallow self-help book that tells the reader how to convince himself that ‘everything is going to turn out all right.’”

If you need to get rid of your gloomies today, read Philippians. Start by hiding these gems in your heart.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 1:21

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 2:4

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. 2:5-6

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! 3:1

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 3:7

But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 3:13

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 4:4

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 4:13

A Uniquely American Holiday

November 25, 2010

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28

Part of what makes Thanksgiving so special is that it’s a uniquely American holiday. The history of Thanksgiving dates to the early 1600s and the Berkley Plantation where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1619, twelve years after the founding of the Virginia colony at Jamestown.

The first Thanksgiving featured a modest meal and was a religious celebration, an occasion to thank God. In wasn’t until 1621 that the pilgrims in Massachusetts turned the Thanksgiving meal into a much larger celebration, a banquet.

Our founding fathers understood the importance of giving thanks to our Creator, of acknowledging that our rights comes from God and that as free citizens we have responsibilities to God.

President George Washington, for instance, issued a proclamation during his first year in office calling for a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” He wrote, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of God Almighty, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly implore His protection and favor.”

Washington was wise to direct our young nation to give thanks and to acknowledge our Creator. The practice of giving thanks as a nation helped to establish the religious and moral foundation that makes America great and unique.

A Psalm for Thanksgiving

November 22, 2010

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Psalm 100:4

As the only psalm that was written specifically as a thanksgiving song, Psalm 100 is unique among the 150 spiritual hymns recorded in the psalter. It is not the only psalm God’s people have ever used in a thanksgiving celebration. But Psalm 100 is the only one called “A Psalm for Thanksgiving.” 

The “gates” and the “courts” in verse 4 speak of how we enter into the presence of God in corporate worship and thanksgiving. We do this thanksgiving thing together, in community with others.

You and I can certainly give thanks to God in the privacy of our own homes. But something powerful takes place when we bring our praise and thanksgiving to the church and express it in community with other God-followers. Of course, this plea in Psalm 100 to “enter his gates” is not simply an encouragement to boost church attendance. On the contrary, one Bible scholar named Boice writes, “It teaches that there is a special aspect of thanksgiving that involves the whole people of God together and not just the private prayers of individuals.”

In his book titled Thanks! Robert Emmons mentions the work of a Princeton University theologian who “documented the communal character of praise and thanksgiving in Biblical theology.”  He goes on to say, “When an individual corporately testifies to God’s gracious beneficence, the faith community becomes a ‘circle of thanksgiving to God’ and the resultant effect is the enhancing and strengthening of communal ties and a powerful reminder to the individual that he or she is not autonomous and self-sufficient.”

In simpler terms, when you and I gather together with God’s people, expressing thanks to our Creator as part of a faith community, we’re reminded of an important life principle: It’s not about me! Yes, thanks be to God it’s not about me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

November 9, 2010

Pollster George Barna reports that eight out of ten Americans actually believe the statement God helps those who help themselves is in the Bible. For the record, it is not. Scour the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find anything even close to such words or sentiments.

On the contrary, it was Aesop who first said in one of his famous fables, the gods help them who help themselves. Later, Euripides, a Greek philosopher, said something similar: Try first thyself, and after, call on God. In the seventeenth century, George Herbert wrote, help thyself and God will help thee. The version of this falsehood we are most familiar with actually came from none other than Benjamin Franklin, a deist who believed that God did not play an active role in the world today. God helps those who help themselves, said Franklin. Oh really?

Many of us would be hesitant to admit that we are among the eighty percent in Barna’s poll that actually believe the statement is biblical. We are also afraid to confess that we live our lives like practical deists, our attitudes and actions denying belief in a personal God who is involved in and cares about our daily life. Rather than trusting God to get us through a given situation, we, more often than not, take matters into our own hands, thinking God will help me if I just help myself.

God never promises to help those who help themselves. Instead, he comes alongside those who are willing to admit their own helplessness. That’s why he sent the Helper. And that’s why Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.


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