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Conceptual Realities: Giving Thanks to God

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name (Psalm 100:4)”.

As we look to all that God has provided for those who love Him, namely all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and prayerfully are continuing to relish the time we spent with family and the great food we ate yesterday, it is customary to offer up a “thanksgiving offering”. I spent some of my day yesterday not only digesting Thanksgiving food and enjoying fellowship with those I love, but also digesting some study about how the Bible speaks of thanksgiving.
Surely there are plenty of Bible verses that speak of giving thanks, expressing thankfulness, and thanksgiving is mentioned specifically in 28 verses of the King James Version. However, in my searching out some God-breathed words from God, I desired to go a bit deeper into understanding my thankfulness to God and the grace we have through Jesus Christ, just looking up the words and verses would not suffice.
Believe it or not the American tradition of “Thanksgiving” is not too far from the Old Testament tradition of a “thanksgiving offering”. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is todah, which is derived from the Hebrew word yadah meaning “praise”. To be a bit more specific, the praise this speaks of is the type of awe that leads one to fall on the floor and lay prostrate. In Leviticus 7:11-21, we read about the offering that is given with an “expression of thankfulness”, which is an “aroma pleasing to God”, and is commenced with a sharing of the meat from the sacrifice in a communal manner (something that makes it different than the other offerings which were not to be eaten by the offerer or others). This is seen as a sort of divine meal.
Many feel that talking through and understanding the sacrifices of the Old Testament are irrelevant to us today. I will readily admit we are well past the culture and demand for such sacrifices, however the shadows of such sacrifices are cast into the realities we know in and through Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, a Jewish midrash (rabbinic teaching) that comes from the 9th century AD notes “In the coming Messianic age, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice (thanksgiving). This will never cease in all eternity” (Peshiqta part 1). When we cross-reference this thought with the God-inspired truth of Hebrews 13:15-16, we gain an amazing understanding of how this applies to a life in Jesus Christ. The passage reads:

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

As one of my favorite Bible teachers Dr. Don K. Preston would note, “Catch the power of that!”.
What we learn from this is that the fulfillment of the thanksgiving offering that was required of God’s people under the Old Covenant has been and is accomplished through thankfulness toward all that Jesus Christ has offered. The response to this is to do good and share with others. As simple as that may seem the implications have potential to change the world. This is what the prophets continually told Israel of, namely their role in the world to serve God by serving others (cf. Psalm 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 1:11-17).
Let us say, thank God in and through the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
That brings me to the focal point of my giving thanks and what I want to share with you today.
What are you thanking God for giving? Thanks-For-Giving. Praise Him for it right now!

 

In my desire to carry this thankfulness for what I have in and through Jesus Christ forward, I want to highlight the blessing of serving and fellowshipping with The Blue Point Bible Church. Our motto is #AThinkingFaith. The hashtag at the beginning represents our desire to share and make known the truth regarding the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, which is exemplified through a searched out, well studied, discussed, and proven faith (in short – A Thinking Faith). This is vital because ultimately this is what God was developing in and through His people from the very beginning (The Genesis).
The Biblical understanding of God’s solution to the world’s ills, is that instead of causing us to obsess about life elsewhere or causing us to fantasize about life outside of the existence we already know (being human), the One True God breathes life into His creation by “renewing their minds” according to His truth and standard (i.e., conceptual realities). This stands in contrast to “otherworld spirituality” which obsesses about things of an otherworld, something it would seem a proper reading and understanding of Scripture stands against. An otherworld mighty very well exist, as I often say that “Heaven is a dimension incompatible with this very natural, present realm”, yet the whole of Scripture does not point to understanding of these things, nor a focus on these things as the source of healing. Rather, what the Scriptures reveal is that the Hebrew people were called to have a Spirituality marked by mental/conceptual realities that defined reality based on faith in the will of God, rather than trusting in and defining the world by their own wicked understandings, or the idolatrous thoughts of the otherworld. I explain much of this in chapters 4-5 of my recently published book Wicked.

“God gave the Hebrew people (later to be called Israel), the oracles of God/ mental concepts to provide them with a God-led worldview/narrative in contrast to the narrative that they would make up or come to be led captive to due to surrounding cultures/ idol worshippers”.

I primarily thank God, of course, for being able to discern these things in accordance with diligent study and His Spirit. However, I believe it to be imperative to offer this “thanksgiving praise” for The Blue Point Bible Church. The grace and open, honest Bible discussions that have been happening there since the early 90’s demonstrates the church’s being on the brink of a reformation which has been and is happening within the entire Christian church worldwide. As I have said many times before, local churches stand as outposts of the Kingdom, collectively we represent Him!
Unfortunately, a large majority of the Christian Church, which has been called and equipped to make known the truth of God, has more often than not allowed man’s wisdom based upon personal interpretation or traditions to lead the way, thus confusion continues to run rampant. The common arguments/debates that take place within Christian circles displays our ignorance in understanding these things. Not only that, but, the world watches and thus develops attitudes that reflect a distaste for the Truth by regarding it as irrelevant or noting the variety of confused applications. Thanks be to God that He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness which I believe is summed up in understanding the “conceptual realities” understood through “rightly dividing the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15-16).
I will close with providing an example of a “conceptual reality” that is often misunderstood. However, I also encourage you to get a copy of Wicked (www.wickedthingsexplained.wordpress.com) , as well as continue to pay attention to resources from The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) as we seek to gain a clear understanding of “Thinking Through Scripture” in 2018.
Famed “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, once noted, “I may know all the doctrines of the Bible, but unless I know Christ, not one of them can save me”. This is a statement all Christians should be able to stand upon and advocate for, especially since knowing Christ is essentially, eternal life (cf. John 17:3).

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

Knowing Jesus Christ and possessing eternal life has little to nothing to do with where we will go when we biologically die, nor obsession with or influence over the “supernatural realm” (unfortunately many Christians misunderstand it in this manner). Rather, “knowing Christ” and eternal life has everything to do with how we mentally acknowledge and thus act out our understanding of God and His will for the world (i.e., conceptual realities), which leads us to be a blessed people indeed!

As we come to study these details further and demonstrate #AThinkingFaith, I pray you will experience all that the Apostle Paul prayed for the church as Ephesus:

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God”

Thank God for Eternal Life!

Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Growing in Self-Control / Shared Wisdom from Walter Mischel

A couple of months ago I shared a study I had done on 2 Peter chapter 1 in regards to being effective and productive in the use of the knowledge of God (which in turn allows us to experience the blessings and fulfilled promises of God (otherwise categorized as “life to the full”, “abundant” and or eternal” life). Namely, the continual growth in 7 specific things. You can go through that study by visiting the following link, https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/2-peter-1-growth-chart/
In my personal life I have developed a sort of system of consistent growth (akin to the style of Benjamin Franklin). What I do is, every couple weeks I pick a new growth trait from 2 Peter chapter 1 and challenge myself in to grow in that area. Many times this results in gaining shared knowledge from a book or teaching and prayerfully adding some new principles to my life. Again, as the Scripture emphasizes, these things need to be “ yours and increasing”.

So for the past 8 weeks or so (August), I focused on “self-control”. This led me to reading a book by one who is said to be an expert on the topic, Walter Mischel. The book is titled the Marshmallow Test, which details a test that was done on children and then followed through their lives, and through studies of this test, produced facts about self-control.
“The ability to delay gratification and resist temptation has been a fundamental challenge since the dawn of civilization”. What we believe is that, “….the ability to delay immediate gratification for the sake of future consequences is an acquirable cognitive skill”. Therefore, it is not that surprising to find that in studying through the lives of these students, we can analyze “…how they did or did not manage to delay gratification, unexpectedly turned out to predict much about their future lives”. “The Marshmallow Test became a tool for studying how people go from a choice to delay gratification to actually managing to wait and resist the temptation”. Therefore, in studying this principle we realize, “If the conditions that facilitate self-control, and those that undermine it, could be identified, perhaps they could be harnessed to teach people who have trouble waiting to be better at it”.

What was revealed through the study were various techniques that worked for these students in displaying self-control. Mischel remarks that, “Successful delayers created all sorts of ways to distract themselves and to cool the conflict and stress they were experiencing”. This is all so important because ultimately, What we do, and how well we control our attention in the service of our goals, becomes a part of our environment that we help create and that in turn influences us”.

Mischel goes on to explain the “Executive Function”, which is the part of our brain that which drives self-control. He notes the importance of this function aiding us in developing and keeping in mind a chosen goal, continue with goal -oriented thoughts which is a temptation reducing technique (otherwise known as “psychological distancing”). Furthermore, we must inhibit impulsive responses by what are known as “If-Then” behavior signatures (something like, if I become distracted and desire to watch tv but know I don’t want to be dumbed down by it, I will then grab a book and read outside instead).

Something that was rather encouraging to the work I do with youth, and reminded me of many of the great people I know who work with youth, was how self-control helps in developing a positive and productive youth (otherwise known my me and my co-laborers – an “eXtrmely Different youth”). Mischel notes, “…how the ability to voluntarily exercise self-restraint in pursuit of a hot goal early in life provides children with a powerful advantage that can help them succeed and maximize their potential throughout their lives”. He also noted how important the provoking, developing, and encouraging an “I think I can” mindset in the youth truly is. He noted how by use self-control and rewards, “Students who had been induced into a happy mood formed much higher expectations for their future performance, re-called more of their successful experiences, and made more self-descriptions”. I know I am planning to read a book he recommends in this regard by Carol Dweek called “Mindset”.

In conclusion, I want to end on the rewards factor. Let’s face it, when we consider using self-control it really boils down to whether or not we believe the reward for whatever it is we are exercising self-control in opposition to are attainable, possible, and worth it. As Mischel noted,“…trust is a factor in the willingness to delay gratification”. Consider this, “The emotional brains predisposition over to overvalue immediate rewards and to greatly discount the value of delayed rewards points to what we need to do if we want to take control: we have to reverse the process by cooling the present and heating the future”.
Placing emphasis on “cooling the present and heating the future” should lead us to the challenge of our goals. “Self-control skills are essential for pursuing our goals successfully, but it is the goals themselves that give us direction and motivation”. What do you desire, and what must become of you to attain that desire, is the key. Developing that vision and manifesting that reality are interlocked (sorry to sound so cliché, ha ha). Mischel says it like this, “…if we feel greater continuity with who we will become, we might also be willing to sacrifice more of our own pleasant pleasures for the sake of that future self”.

Recently I was encouraged to create a vision board. This was and has been one of the most encouraging techniques I developed to have that “greater continuity with who” I will become as I grow in the grace and knowledge of God. Prayerfully, through this blog I have encouraged you to consider some of these things and implement some new growth strategies into your life and maybe some new books to read. 😊

To God be the glory!
– Pastor Michael Miano

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