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Psalm 100:4 NIV Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Thanksgiving is often brushed aside in all the frantic business of life, but it is the very attitude of Thanksgiving which should not only be reserved for the holiday we will celebrate today, but thanksgiving should something that lasts all year long. In the Scripture we are commanded to be thankful.
What must we do to develop and cultivate thanksgiving? How can we be thankful for everything in our lives? What does it mean to be truly content? First, we can remember the all that the Lord has done for us. David said in Psalm 103:2-5, Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
What does Thanksgiving do for us? It helps us to focus on His Name, His love and His faithfulness as well as His goodness, His glory and grace. Thanksgiving reminds us of Who He is. He is the Rock of our Salvation. The Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His Hands formed the dry land.
The Apostle Paul said he was thankful for the following…
- I thank God for allowing me to partner with you in the gospel. (Philippians 1:3)
- I thank God for your love. (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
- I thank God for your faith. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
- I thank God for your flexibility. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
- I thank God for your generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2-3)
- I thank God for your vision. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
I am convinced that the Apostle Paul knew how that thanksgiving led to living a life filled with praise and worship. He knew that the principal of praise and worship in the Old Testament is found in the Hebrew word shachah. Shachah means to “depress,” “bow down,” or “prostrate,” as in Exodus 4:31, where they bowed their heads and worshipped.
The context of Exodus 4:31 speaks clearly to the physical act of thanksgiving, praise and worship being both volitional and emotional. The Old Testament idea is therefore the reverential attitude of mind or body or both, combined with the notions of giving the Lord the adoration, obedience, and service due Him.
The principal of praise and worship in the New Testament is found fifty-nine times in the Greek word proskuneo. The word literally means to “kiss (the hand or the ground) toward,” hence, as often in the idea of kneeling or bowing prostrate upon the ground. The New Testament idea of praise and worship is a combination of the feeling of awe, veneration, and adoration.
The Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. True worshippers are genuine without guile or false humility. They worship in spirit and in truth. It is the attitude of the heart that matters, not where, but how (in reality, out of the heart of man, the highest and best part of man, as well as in purity of expression, purity of heart. All praise and worship should be in accordance to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5) who is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). These kind of worshippers the Father is still seeking today.
I encourage you to thank the Lord today by saying…I love You Lord Jesus. I bow my knee and lift my voice to worship You. Hear my heart today, there is none like You my God, there is none like You. You are my everything. You are my all. I bless Your Holy Name. Amen.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
In my book, The Altar of His Presence, we studied some of the geographical places where altars were built and graced with the Lord’s manifested Presence to those of precious faith. These hallowed sites are known either because of the divine revelations or angelic appearances that supplemented the building of an altar. Mostly for sacrificing, sometimes only as a memorial, altars were named.
Moses named his Jehovah Nissi, and Gideon named his the Lord is Peace. Others, like the one built by the leaders of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, were not for burnt offering, nor sacrifice, but as a witness and testimony (see Josh. 22:26-27). Altars were made only of earth or unhewn stone on which no iron tool was used and without steps going up to them (see Exod. 20:24-26). With each of them there was neither spectacle nor decoration allowed. The altar was to be plain and simple, for it was the meeting place between God and man and therefore a place of shedding of blood without which there is no remission of sin (see Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). The altar is a place of interaction with the Lord for us only through the offering of an innocent life.
From our solar system’s blazing hot sun to the tiniest moon in Jupiter’s orbit and everything in between, God has places. An altar is a place of purpose that conveys this truth—the Lord wants to meet with us. What could be the purpose of human beings having a meeting place with God? For what purpose would God choose the altar as His place to meet with man? Perhaps you have similar questions about the possible alien visitations or odd manifestations found at Stonehenge or Easter Island.
Apparently, the early patriarchs found the real answer. Surviving worldwide flood, generations-destroying famine, and the loss of mankind’s righteousness for sin, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah all built altars. Upon these altars these men of faith offered sacrifices to the Lord as an offering of thanksgiving and praise for the Lord’s guidance, protection, sustenance, strength, or blessing. Each one found the altar’ed life as promised in Exodus 30:6.
Each altar had one ultimate purpose. That purpose was to create a meeting place with the Lord God Almighty. The Hebrew mind viewed the altar as a place where men and women came to worship. It was the place where the passion for and the movement toward the Lord came together. At an altar, Abel offered his finest lamb, while Noah’s provided a sweet aroma that rose to the Lord. Where Abraham’s altar saw the salvation of a promised son; Joshua’s celebrated the entrance into the Promised Land. Gideon’s altar saw deliverance, and Elijah’s changed a nation.
Through the day where is the place that you meet with the Lord? Can you sense the sweet stirrings of the Holy Spirit there? Are you tired of living without passion or unfulfilled purpose? Does your heart still thirst for the living water of the Spirit as the deer pants for a cool mountain stream?
If you haven’t found a trysting place, do so now. Find an uncommon place, either in space or time, to get together with the Lord and His people. Meet regularly. Wait patiently. Call expectantly. Pray unceasingly. At the altar, the Lord will meet you. Every meeting you have with Him will alter your life toward the divine plan and purpose given to you by the Lord.
The office of the prophet is probably the least-understood and most-neglected ministry office in the Church today. If we refuse to receive an apostle, we refuse order. However, if we refuse to receive a prophet, we refuse destiny. Where there is no destiny there is no future. The Church then becomes relegated to the narrow existence of the here and now. The prophet is the key to the Church’s destiny and power.
The Church today needs to recognize and receive the ministry of the prophet and to pray that God will raise those with the prophetic gifting into their proper prophetic office. Those who hold the office of prophet form a charismatic order to which a recognized position should be given in the Church. A special recognition and authoritative status should be conferred upon those who have manifested certain gifts in a prominent and/or continuing manner. The prophet is the Lord’s instrument, one of several means by which Jesus Christ leads His Church. In the power of the Spirit, the prophet manifests the character of the Lord, who is the prophet of the end time.
The Authority of the Prophet
When a prophet is recognized and comes into his office, he brings with him an authority from God that accomplishes two things in the Church. First, it helps us to realize that God is a God of the now. A prophet is always reminding us that God is, not just that He was; he tells us what God is doing, not just what He has done. Knowing what God has done throughout history is important; it is a powerful legacy for us. However, we also need to know beyond doubt that the God of the Bible is the God of today; that the God who blessed Moses, helped David, and anointed Jesus will also bless, help, and anoint us. Our God is a now God, and the prophet helps us to remember that.
A prophet has the ability to see things that are not seen. He focuses not on the circumstances, but on the God who rules the circumstances; not on the mess of today, but on the solution that God will provide down the road. The office of the prophet is to speak to us continually in the here and now.
The second thing that the authority of the prophet accomplishes in the Church is that it brings back the fear of the Lord. The sad truth is that there is very little fear of the Lord today either inside the Church or outside. There was a time when a church could be left unlocked 24 hours a day, seven days a week without fear of someone stealing the sound system, vandalizing the building, or spray-painting graffiti on the walls. Now many churches have to allot a significant portion of their budgets to security systems and higher insurance coverage. There was a time when only “essential services” were open for business on Sunday. Now our society treats the Lord’s Day as just another day of the week. Gone is the general civic understanding and belief that the nation that honors and serves God will be blessed by God.
Fear of God is lacking in the Church, too. Many believers have only a shallow and immature commitment to God that allows them to constantly rationalize and justify attitudes, behavior, and lifestyles that go against God’s will as revealed in His Word. Because there is little understanding of what God expects and requires, there is little fear and a limited sense of awe and respect for His holiness and glory.
The prophet in his office, however, gets our attention and brings us back to a holy fear of God. The Lord is looking for a holy Church, a pure and spotless Bride of Christ. A restoration of the fear of God in the Church is necessary if the Church is to grow into full holiness.
The Marks of a Prophet
There are at least ten distinguishing marks of the prophetic office; these characteristics in the lives and ministries of believers identify them as prophets. These traits should be evident in varying degrees in the life of anyone with a prophetic gifting who is attempting to grow and develop in that gifting. They are most fully developed in those who have been raised into the prophetic office. Whenever we see any of these qualities displayed in someone’s life, we should encourage that person to grow and develop their gift.
- Preaching that exhorts and strengthens the disciples. The prophet’s message always builds up the lives of disciples; it never tears down. A disciple is a student; someone who is learning, maturing, and growing up in the Christian faith. These are the ones who are encouraged and strengthened by the prophet’s message. Those believers who have refused to mature, on the other hand, may find the prophet’s message to be harsh and painful. It always hurts to be outside of the will of God. A prophet’s word always builds up those who are striving to grow in Christ.
- Character that is true, honest, faithful, and holy. A prophet points to and reminds us of our destiny in Christ. Therefore, his life should display the character of Christ. While this is true of all believers, it is particularly critical for those in the prophetic office. The Old Testament prophets were held to a very high standard, not only by the people but by God. Moses was a prophet (see Deut. 34:10); yet one lapse on his part in representing God before the people resulted in God denying him the opportunity to enter the Promised Land (see Deut. 32:48-52). Character matters.
- A message that appeals not to the flesh but to the spirit. Growing disciples want messages that challenge and stretch their spirits. Babes in the faith who have no interest in growth usually don’t like prophetic preaching because it brings them under conviction. They are more interested in gratifying the flesh. The message of a true prophet always speaks to the spirit directly and without compromise.
- Prediction and fulfillment of prophecy. In other words, a prophet speaks something concerning the future, and God fulfills that prophecy. It could be a prophecy spoken into the life of an individual or an entire congregation. Whatever form it takes, such a prophecy will be specific in nature with clearly measurable fulfillment. Once the event comes to pass we know that God has raised that prophet into office.
- Spiritual discernment in the lives of others. This one sometimes makes people nervous, particularly those who know that their lives are not what they should be in the Lord. A prophet has the ability in the Spirit to discern spiritual reality in the lives of others, good or bad, and speak concerning that reality. This prospect creates anxiety in some people who fear that the prophet will uncover all the mess they have allowed into their lives. Have no fear. A mature prophet will never publicly uncover mess because God does not embarrass people. The prophet may address the problem privately with the person, if the Lord leads that way. However, he is more likely to exhort the person to follow God’s will and obey what God has told him to do.
- Declaration of divine judgments when needed. This is another one that makes people nervous. Sometimes a situation is so bad or has gone on so long that the word of the Lord through the prophet is one of judgment. Prolonged rebellion or disobedience to God, or refusal to heed prophetic warnings or respond to calls for repentance, will ultimately bring about God’s judgment. No one likes these kind of pronouncements, least of all the prophet, but sometimes they are necessary.
- Willingness to suffer for speaking the truth without saving self. A mature prophet has long since committed his or her life totally into God’s keeping and has recognized that suffering is an “occupational hazard.” Speaking the truth for God is more important than personal comfort. Sometimes suffering comes as a result of declaring divine judgment. Jeremiah spoke the truth about God’s coming judgment on the southern kingdom of Judah and was convicted of treason and imprisoned in a dry cistern. A true prophet is not afraid to suffer for the truth.
- A message in harmony with the Word of God and the known will of God. A prophet’s message will never, repeat never, contradict the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word always agree. Since a prophet is a “pneumatic” (Spirit-person), his word will also be in agreement with the Word of God. A message that goes against God’s Word is a sure indicator of a false prophet.
- Employment of symbolic actions. Prophets preach with pictures. Jesus used this method all the time in His teaching, painting pictures in people’s minds through the stories and parables He told. Prophets use pictures because that’s the way God reveals His will and His Word to them. A prophet sees how things are done in the natural and applies it to the spiritual.
- Ability and authority to judge the manifestations of prophetic gifts. A prophet serving in a recognized and acknowledged prophetic office has the ability and authority to identify and judge the presence, display, and use of prophetic gifts in others. In other words, a prophet has the ability to recognize and identify other prophets (both true and false).
Earlier this month the Holy Spirit opened my understanding concerning the altar. He began by leading my time of worship, prayer and meditation to a specific idea. That idea was that the Altar of Incense was the “heart” of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. In the outer court stood a priest, the brazen altar and the laver. The Holy Place, which was filled with the light coming from the Golden Candlestick (to the far right) and the smell of fresh bread off the Table of Shewbread (from the far left), had at its center, the Altar of Incense. Behind the Altar hung the heavy and wide curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant.
But, if you look upon that which Moses built, i.e., the Tabernacle vertically instead of horizontally, it forms a symbolic cross with the Ark at the top. And, in the middle or heart of it…the Altar. The Altar was Jehovah’s meeting place with Moses (Exodus 30:6)and as I have shared throughout my latest book, the Altar is where the Lord desires to meet with all of us. For the Altar was first a place, then a Person–in the Lord Jesus Christ and finally, a people–in the people of God.
The Altar of Incense was the “heart” of the Tabernacle. And like the heart organ in the center of our physical bodies, the spiritual heart described in Scripture stands for the center of our moral, spiritual and intellectual life. It is the meeting place between the Lord and the believer. In other words, the heart is our “spiritual core or center.” Perhaps that is why many believers learned the following song as children; “Into my heart. Into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”
How important is it to have the Lord in our “heart?” Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” (Matthew 5:8) and “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). From these and other Scriptures it appears, in the words of Owen: “The heart in Scripture is variously used, sometimes for the mind and understanding, sometimes for the will, sometimes for the affections, sometimes for the conscience, sometimes for the whole soul. Generally, it denotes the whole soul of man and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing of good and evil.”
The Bible speaks to the importance of having the Manifest Presence of God in our heart. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” And David said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). And Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me (John 14:1).
There are specific reasons for “having a heart after God” (filled with the Manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit).
A Contrite Heart.
First, when we encounter His Manifest Presence, we are made to realize our need of salvation. That realization takes place in our heart. Then, the more we experience His Manifest Presence, the more we want to experience Him. Such has caused me to realize my shortness and His fullness, which I believe has resulted in me being broken and possessing a “contrite heart” before Him.
During my prayer time the Lord has repaired, revived and restored my heart by turning my heart even more toward Him. Isaiah 57:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” A “contrite heart” seeks after the Lord through prayer, worship, the study of the Word and the Person of the Holy Spirit. And, like the blood that pumps from the heart through our body, a contrite heart sends the nourishing Presence of God into all areas of our lives.
A Heart Full of Faith and Assurance
Secondly, as our hearts are filled to overflowing with His Presence, a “heart full of faith and assurance” develops. This heart enables us to overcome doubt, fear and unbelief. Jesus told His disciples in Mark 11:22-24, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Having the faith of God is a result of being filled with the God of faith! When our hearts are filled with His fullness we reject timidity for the spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). We no longer talk “about” the mountains we are facing, but by faith, we speak “to” the mountain and the mountain moves!
A Hearing Heart
Lastly, having our heart filled to overflowing with His glory enables us to have a “hearing heart.” This term describes the Lord Jesus during His time on the earth. The King James Version of John 4:3-4 says, “He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria.” By having a “hearing heart” our Lord “knew” that He was to “go through Samaria.” Jesus knew He was supposed to take a certain path because there was a certain woman with a certain need. We don’t know if He knew that He would meet that specific woman at Jacob’s well that day. We do know that He was led by His heart to that specific well and woman. His hearing heart resulted in a whole city getting to hear the Good News.
This level of spiritual relationship with the Lord causes our ears to hear and our hearts to understand (hearing and understanding). Being able to know the direction to go, or the words to say, or the actions to take in a certain situation, enables ministry on a whole new level. When we are able to hear what hasn’t been heard, or to see what can’t be seen or to know what we cannot possibly know in the natural realm, we are spiritually enabled to share spiritual wisdom and understanding with those that are in great need.
How can we develop the heart that I have described? This is my story. I find a quiet place to wait upon the Lord. At least once a day I find a place where I can be physically, emotionally and mentally quiet. I then turn off the media, the internet, the cell phone, the television and move away from the noise of life. This enables me to move away from anything that is confusing or distracting and to focus on being filled with His Manifest Presence.
I encourage you to do the same. And to meditate on His Word. Mull over a specific passage or Scripture verse. Spend the time singing and making melody in your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to pray for and through you. Pray that your heart and mind be filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, in Jesus’ Name.
And remember, The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait upon and hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31.
I love you!
When we pray and meditate consistently on God’s Word there is emotional and spiritual space created in our hearts. The Holy Spirit fills this space (OUR INNER LIFE) for the purpose of creating a greater level communion with us. He seeks inward fellowship with us.
I was encouraged early in my ministry to read The Art of Prayer (Faber & Faber). The Art of Prayer is concerned in particular with the most frequently used and best loved of all Orthodox prayers – the Lord’s Prayer. It deals also with the general question ‘What is Prayer?’, with the different degrees of prayer from ordinary oral prayer to unceasing prayer of the heart, with the dangers of illusion and discouragement, and the need for seclusion and inner peace.
There is an excerpt that describes the holy need for developing our inner life through prayer and meditation. The excerpt reads, “There are many among you who have no knowledge of the inner work required of the man who would hold God in remembrance. Nor do such people even understand what remembrance of God means, or know anything about spiritual prayer, for they imagine that the only right way of praying is to use such prayers as are to be found in Church books. As for secret communion with God in the heart, they know nothing of this, nor of the profit that comes from it, nor do they ever taste its spiritual sweetness. Those who only hear about spiritual meditation and prayer and have no direct knowledge of it are like men blind from birth, who hear about the sunshine without ever knowing what it really is. Through this ignorance they lose many spiritual blessings, and are slow in arriving at the virtues which make for the fulfillment of God’s good pleasure.”
To develop inwardly and walk the path of spiritual growth, we must first be willing to grow in our devotional, relational and personal commitment to worship, prayer, study of the Word of God and to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The initial steps to such growth happen naturally as we seek to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and stay committed to our own personal growth.
For we who want to go deeper in our personal growth need spiritual guidance from the Holy Spirit. He truly desires to lead us into an intimate and exciting realm of spiritual learning. Like attending any school, be it elementary or college, it is best to set a fixed time each day to worship, pray and study. It is best that during this time we allow no interruptions. If we remain committed and consistent in such disciplines, our spiritual life will become deeper and more glorious. The result will be a new found awareness of God’s Presence and power.
I encourage you to start with three mornings a week and then add a morning each week until every morning begins with Him. There are many of testimonies of people who chose to meet with the Lord each morning. This practice has resulted in the majority of them (from St. Francis to John Wesley to Billy Graham) experiencing marvelous spiritual experiences, including victories, miracles and great joy.
In my own life, I have found the continual development of my inner life to be encouraging, exhilarating, and very satisfying. I am reminded even now of the words to an old hymn. These words are the theme to the development of my own inner life. They are the goal to all I desire to become and I hope they inspire you as well.
“To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus. All I ask is to be like Him. All through life’s journey, from earth to glory, all I ask…to be like Him.”
Spiritual transformation is not a program created in a local church. True transformation comes from inside of us. The development of this glorious life in Christ is a process, an intimate expression of who God wants us to be. Making the changes necessary for spiritual growth and development is sometimes difficult. If we try to change our actions and results without changing attitudes and beliefs, any change we make will be temporary.
One of the recent reviews on my new book, The Altar of His Presence, was recently posted on amazon.com by Richard R. Blake. Richard is the co-founder of Christian Education Resources. He owned and operated the Family Book Center of San Leandro, California for over 30 years and has served as an Instructor of Christian Education Courses at Bay Cities Bible College and Golden State School of Theology, Oakland, CA.
In his review Richard wrote the following:
Robert Stone presents a blue print for entering into and experiencing intimacy with God at new levels. In his book “The Altar of His Presence – Inspiring Intimate Encounters with the Glory of God” Stone assures the reader that “the altar’ed life will alter everything about life.”
Stone challenges the reader to move beyond a rational theology – behavioral theology to a relational experience that will result in Christlikeness. Each of the fast moving chapters is comprised of background information, an application, a reflection, and a response leading to a unique look at the Altar’ed life: I was personally challenged to establish my own “Altar of Promise,” a place, pattern, and purpose, where I could be “Altar’ed” through a deeper, more intimate, relationship with, God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“The Altar of His Presence will resonate with readers pursuing a desire to accept God’s invitation to discover the magnificence of the “Practice of His Presence” more fully.”
The book is “Life Altaring” and “Highly Recommended.”
It is evident to me that Richard fully understood my motivation for writing the book. Because we who are born again are followers, students and disciples of our Lord’s way of life. He lived His life here on this earth as a “man full of the Spirit.” Therefore, the life we are to live is His life–being lived through us. From the inside we are alive in Him and He in us. We have become new creations. Following His way of life causes a literal transformation so that we may live blameless, harmless, unmixed, unadulterated, without blemish, without spot or wrinkle lives–while we continue to live in this crooked and perverse generation. We are to shine as lights in the world holding forth the Word of Life to the unrighteous.
By His grace, through faith, the reformation and transformation of our lives must be continuous. For with salvation comes sanctification. As vessels filled with His resurrection power, the Holy Spirit is adjusting our lives by forming and reforming us until He lives through that part of our lives.
I am asking all of those who are friends and partners of our ministry to spread the word about our new book. I firmly believe that The Altar of His Presence was given to us by the Holy Spirit to help spark the very next move of God that our planet so desperately needs. If you haven’t purchased your copy, please go to: http://www.thealtarofhispresence.com today.