“Give Thanks to the Lord, For His Steadfast Love Endures Forever”

The phrase “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” appears exactly like this 10 times in the Old Testament but appears in part and sentiment throughout scripture. The eternally enduring love of God should inspire thanksgiving in everyone.

The Appearance to Moses in Exodus 34

Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, breaking the tablets in anger as the people worshiped idols, disobeying the command they heard from God’s thundering voice. After Moses made new tablets God allowed Moses to see His glory pass, both His presence and a description of His glorious nature. Exodus 34:5-8 declare God’s mercy and justice upon generations arising from his steadfast love and faithfulness.

What Does “Steadfast” Mean?

“Steadfast” means something firmly fixed in place or “standing fast” and immovable.  Considering the eternal nature of God, this means His love outlives our short earthly existence. Our children and future generations will know it as did  our parents, grandparents, and ancestors.

“Throughout the OT the Hebrews [word] is used most often to convey the idea of something being established…or standing firm. This quality of steadfastness or firmness often has a moral character to it; a heart that is steadfast towards God is a faithful heart that trusts Him under all circumstances.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

His steadfast love for us should produce steadfast love for Him in our hearts.

The Ark and the Tabernacle

When the Ark of the Covenant is placed in the tabernacle, in 1 Chronicles 16, David fed the people, the priests offered sacrifices, and Levites offered praise before the Ark. The steadfast love of God was the theme of the praise offered morning and evening.

David offered a song of thanksgiving, 1 Chronicles 16:8-34. As we summarize this song, note that we can pray and praise the same theme.

  • Give thanks to God because of all of His wondrous works and mighty power for His people.
  • Let those who seek the Lord seek His strength.
  • God is judge of all the earth.
  • God and His people have made a covenant together.
  • God protected His people when they were few and vulnerable.
  • The righteous should remind each other to praise God in the greatest ways for “splendor and majesty are before him and strength and joy are in His place.”
  • Let all creation give God the glory, honor, and thanksgiving due Him.
  • The saved should give thanks to the God of salvation.

The song closes with “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

Jehosophat’s battle song

The phrase arises in a darker period of Jewish history when the tribes divided into two confederations, Israel and Judah. The people of Judah emerged from a period of unfaithfulness, but soon after the reforms of Jehoshaphat enemies gathered against them. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, telling the assembly to seek God.

Jehoshaphat appealed to God’s steadfastness, listing the great deeds performed for His people in times past, expressing anxiety about the enemies but their trust in Him (1 Chronicles 20). God promised to deliver them if they remained steadfast (hold their position) and trusted in the Lord, 1 Chronicles 20:15-17. They put the enemy to flight by singing praise of God’s steadfast love, 1 Chronicles 20:20-22.

It Is The Theme of Several Psalms

Psalm 106

The psalm begins with the praise of God’s steadfast love and His works and salvation. However, the psalm confesses sin and lack of faith among God’s people, His merciful deliverance, and their quick return to unfaithfulness, 106:6-13. The psalm resounds with God’s people forgetting what He had done, their lack of trust in His future deliverance despite the past victories, and turning from God despite His mercy. Rebellion after rebellion is detailed but the psalm concludes with the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord, 106:44-48. The steadfast love of the Lord endures even when God’s people do not remain faithful to Him but is ready when they humbly return to Him.

Psalm 107

The phrase begins the psalm with an exhortation “let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” The psalm praises God’s gathering His people from times of trial and exile.

  • God conveyed them from deserted places, hungry and thirsty, to their own city.
  • Some were exiled and prisoners, enduring hard labor, because they rebelled against God but cried for deliverance when they came to their senses.
  • Those who were foolish through sinful ways repented and cried to God who delivered them from destruction.
  • The proud, distressed seeing the mighty power of God in stormy seas, and cried to God who delivered them.
  • When Israel was wicked, God made a fruitful land a desert, but when they repented brought bounty on the land and protected the livestock.
  • God punished His people, thorough love, to bring them back, humble their pride, and wake them from wickedness.
    • Proverbs 3:11-12 – “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
    • Hebrews 12:6 – “”For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Psalm 118

The psalmist opened with praise to God’s steadfast love and salvation, followed by an apparent hopeless situation as enemies surrounded him and “pushed him hard” so that he was falling, but God helped Him. Deliverance is not always immediate. We must endure trials to see if we will trust God. Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge to teach His followers to “pray always and not lose heart” especially when it appears that God is not listening or doing anything about our situation.

The psalm ends with praise for deliverance, confidently entering the gates of God,  victorious because they trusted God when it seemed hope was lost.  You are my God and give thanks for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 136

It appears the priest would say the first part and the audience would answer “for His steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm praises God’s superiority, His mighty works in creation, delivering Israel from Egypt, and conquest of Israel’s enemies to give them a home in the Promised Land.

The Darkness of Exile

Finally,  in the darkness of Judah’s exile, after God destroyed Jerusalem to punish the wickedness of Judah, the praise of God’s enduring steadfast love appears as a light. Jeremiah 33 records the promise of Judah’s escape from exile to return to their land, filling God’s house with praise and rebuilding Jerusalem. They would return because His steadfast love endures forever. This thought comforted Jeremiah even in the midst of the pain of exile, Lamentations 3:19-26.

Taking into account all of these things when should we “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”

  • In good times when food is plentiful and we are healthy.
  • In hard times when food is scarce and we are sick and in pain.
  • When our rulers are good, justice pervades the land, and the people are righteous.
  • When our rulers are corrupt, injustice prevails, and the people are wicked.
  • When our faith is strong and we are active in His service and confident in His word.
  • When our faith is weak, we struggle in prayers and service, and doubts arise.
  • When we enjoy the fruits of a faithful life to God.
  • When we have been humbled by the discipline of God and must deal with the consequences of our sin that woke us up to our unfaithfulness or spiritual sleep.
  • When, like Jehoshaphat, enemies surround us and it appears that Satan is prevailing, we can stand our ground in the confidence and hope of the Lord, praying and singing.
  • When we are at death’s door and eternity awaits on the other side.

Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”

Class Book: Sing With Understanding

I wrote this class book to explore the Biblical principles behind the songs we sing. I love learning the stories behind the spiritual songs we sing in books such as*:

*Affiliate links

For some information on enriching your public singing in worship I’d suggest visiting the  Get Them Singing website.

This class book focuses on the major Bible themes of our songs allowing for discussion of both the Bible teaching and reading the words of popular hymns to explore the meaning described in poetic terms. I list suggested familiar hymns for each lesson and some questions reference particular hymns.

Sing With Understanding CoverIt is a 13 lesson series which fits well into most Bible class schedules. There is plenty material to discuss the topics in two class periods per week. I have often taught the Biblical principles in the Sunday class and explored the words of selected hymns in a mid-week Bible class. It would also be suitable for a small group study.

The book contains only questions which will require the teacher to develop the material to suit the class. I have taught it in adult and high school classes.

You may freely copy this book for your classes. It is 16 pages so it will not cost much to print. You may want to print the cover page separately then print pages 2-16 duplex to save paper.

Download Sing with Understanding.

Lesson Listing

  1. Introduction
  2. Eternal God Our Creator
  3. God Our Protector
  4. God Our Shepherd and Guide
  5. Resurrection and Judgment
  6. Crucifixion
  7. Grace and Salvation
  8. Battle Songs and Victory
  9. Kingdom of God
  10. Evangelism
  11. Brotherly Love and Unity
  12. Christian Living
  13. Heaven

7 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

The Power of Daily Prayer

Prayer is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to spend time with God praising Him, thanking Him for all that He has done, and bringing our anxieties, needs, and concerns before His throne. Prayer is not a burden to God; He seeks worshipers, John 4:23. Jesus urges us to pray and taught His disciples how to pray, Matthew 6:5-13. Paul promised peace to the believer who cast all anxiety into the care of God in Philippians 4:6-7:

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through the scriptures and history, great men and women of faith devoted themselves to prayer and trusted its power.  It’s no wonder Paul urges Christians to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.Pray

Obstacles to Daily Prayer

It is perplexing that some Christians confess to not praying daily or forgetting to pray when its blessings are obvious. Some obstacles I have observed:

  1. Start the day focused on tasks and problems instead of praying before facing the demands of life
  2. Little trust that God will answer our prayers because they doubt that prayer is effective despite what the Bible teaches
  3. Can’t figure out how God will answer their prayers or are disappointed when God doesn’t answer the way they want or expect

We must remember that God will hear His children and He answers prayers through wisdom giving us what we need. Sometimes what we want is opposite of what is best for us. Sometimes we are asking for things opposed to His will, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12,  prayed repeatedly for one outcome but rejoiced the outcome God chose for him as it made him stronger spiritually. God is not a genie to grant our every wish; He is our Father who wants what is best for us and acts out of love for our greater good even when we can’t see or appreciate it at the moment.

6 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

Understanding the blessing and power of daily prayer, when Christians fail to act on that belief they are telling God several things:

  1.  You are not important to me or a priority in my life
  2. I do not have time for you
  3. I do not want to spend time with you
  4. I can handle things without you
  5. I do not believe that you can impact the things I am facing in my life
  6. I have nothing of which to thank or praise you
  7. I can take advantage of our relationship and use you only when I am in trouble or need

The Church as a Spiritual Emergency Room

Visit a busy hospital emergency roomand you will see a variety of tragic injuries:

  • Self-inflicted: damage either through intentional injury to oneself or neglect of one’s health that led to a crisis
  • Accidental: unintentional injury by family, friends, or strangers
  • Intentional: suffering because family, friends, or strangers intended to bring the person harm
  • Fatigue and Exhaustion: feel like giving up which might lead to self-inflicted harm

Doctors assess the injuries and process the injured with hopes of recovery. Some injuries are severe and the patient may be damaged for life or even die. Some injuries, with care and healthy treatment, can be healed and the patient can enjoy a full recovery. But injuries require wise intervention and care in order to have a chance for success.

Spiritual TraumaEmergency

A discerning eye will notice the hurt and drama beneath the surface of some who are suffering spiritual trauma in the local assembly. Spiritual injuries may mimic physical injuries and like the emergency room patient, these souls need treatment from the Great Physician to find healing. Jesus described Himself as a physician to the spiritual needs of humanity:

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It makes sense that Christians would work with The Great Physician to comfort  the spiritually sick and nurse them back to health. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul urged Christians to “comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In this sense, the family of God can serve as a spiritual hospital providing care to the spiritually sick, injured, and dying. The injuries in the local assembly often resemble the physical injuries in an emergency room.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Intentional: Some suffer spiritual pain and damage because of poor choices. They knew the right way but chose to sin. The sinner can ask for forgiveness but may reap earthly consequences. Proverbs 5:7-14 warns the young man not to get caught up in sexual sin lest:

you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (ESV)

Neglect: Some suffer spiritually because they neglected their spiritual health. Just as neglecting to exercise and eat right will lead to physical problems, neglecting the exercise of godliness and nourishment from God’s word will cause us spiritual injury. The Hebrew writers warned that we need to focus on our salvation lest we drift away from it, Hebrews 2:1-3.

Both spiritual wounds can be healed though there may be lasting scars. When a sinner repents, the spiritual need to nourish them back to health. Sometimes we may need to help them deal with ongoing consequences of sin. We might need to help them forgive themselves. We must provide help without belittling them and help them leave the past in the past. Most are acutely aware of the consequences of their actions and condemn themselves far more than we could. If they have sought forgiveness, we need to help them rebuild and turn their defeat into a victory for God.

When someone realizes the spiritual weakness brought on by neglect there is an opportunity for Christians to provide growth opportunities. Personal teaching and team involvement in service to God can help the person grow and become strong in their faith. We cannot undo years of wasted opportunity but we can begin today to build a better tomorrow. One of my favorite quotes to encourage me when I feel I have wasted opportunities is “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Accidental Injuries

A person could be reeling from emotional pain or spiritual discouragement because of the careless words of well meaning individuals. A friend who worked with parents who lost young children recounted the many dumb things that people will say to a grieving parent with intent to provide comfort. I was in a situation where a brother with good intentions said something to a visitor that was a great discouragement to him. These are not instances of bullying but carelessness that results in injury. Christians can help the injured get resolution with the offending person to begin healing. If the offender is unwilling to apologize or does not acknowledge the wrong, Christians should help the injured heal and put the incident behind them.

Intentional Injuries

Someone may enter you assembly who is the victim of a deliberate attack on their character, motives, or faith. Perhaps they have been assaulted by those who, like Diotrophes, run the local church like a tyrant or by a clique (which should not be present) that mistreats those out of “the” group. It may be enemies of the faith have been assailing their commitment to God and the Bible and belittling their faith. It could be any form of abuse where someone uses the faith to manipulate, use, and control another person. Paul warned Timothy of those who would have an appearance of godliness but harm others. The abusive nature of the Pharisees in the New Testament towards Jesus, His followers, and those who were healed demonstrate oppression by those who have an appearance of godliness.

Christians have a responsibility to stand against faith abusers. We must not let spiritual bullies intimidate the weak or immature and must not ignore their ungodly behavior. Sometimes these spiritual bullies can be preachers, elders, teachers, prominent members, and those who have a prominent role in the local church or the community. We must never forget that the church belongs to Christ, purchased with His blood, and no man or woman should be allowed to exercise such damaging influence. Local churches can be rendered impotent or ultimately destroyed by such people. Those who are strong should stand up for the weak, and for the Lord, against such behavior in hopes of preventing injuries and perhaps turning the heart of the bully back to God.

Christians also have a responsibility to demonstrate the true love of Christ in helping the victims of spiritual attack to heal. We have to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and help them to understand that the abuse was not pleasing to God no matter how favorably other Christians may have viewed the abuser. Sometimes people may come from an abusive situation to be part of the local Christian family. We must remember to show hospitality and, in this case, put the “hospital” in “hospitality.” We are helping them build new friendships and rebuild Christian associations. Many are going to feel vulnerable and may hesitate to get involved with others again in order to avoid being hurt. This is an effect of spiritual shock and warm reception and acceptance will help them feel like they can love their brethren again. Hospitality allows us to demonstrate our love and acceptance and help them heal from spiritual trauma. Remember that some people have thicker skin and and can react somewhat detached and logical in the face of problems, some have thinner skin (neither good nor bad) and feel the pain of strife, struggle, and separation more acutely. Some may take time to feel comfortable blending into a new congregation and hospitality will help them feel more like family.

We must also comfort and assist those attacked by outside forces. I remember a few years ago several Christians comforting and encouraging a high school girl who stood up for her faith and the teaching of scripture and received venomous comments and vicious attacks on a web site when a class mate posted her comments on an atheism group. Those of us who have been attacked for our faith can provide comfort and guidance to those under attack.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

Look around the audience during the next assembly. That brother or sister giving you a weak smile may be holding on to a little faith, faintly resisting the urge to give up, but may feel ready to quit fighting. There may be more fatigued brethren present than you realize. Sometimes I have been surprised to discuss with someone I perceived to have strong faith and a close relationship with God about their thoughts of committing spiritual suicide; to just give up. Some are beat down by trials in life (trials that give others strength). Some are burned out by godly service, family obligations, or prolonged spiritual battles. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul reminds us of our responsibilities in these situations: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”

Warn those who are out of line: perhaps the spiritual bullies, those who are disruptive, or negligent in their faith and leading others astray. Those who are not rebellious do not need warning but encouragement. “Fainthearted” is used several times in the Old Testament of those who are fearful in the presence of a great enemy. Do not belittle them or chide them for a lack of faith; give them comfort. For those who are weak, bear their burden and be a crutch to help them until they can stand again. Whether the trial is physical or spiritual, they need us to keep them from falling. Whether we think they should be stronger or should handle their situation differently is irrelevant; we need to be patient with them and encourage their faithfulness.

Receiving the Weak and Suffering

When we are aware of hurting brethren, we should then nourish, comfort, and bandage their wounds. “Inasumuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Many feel unwanted when they come into our assembly. They are “congregationally homeless.” Some have endured sniping comments, unfair criticism, lost friendships, and isolation. When these brethren walk through our doors they are very vulnerable. They do not feel wanted and we cannot tell them by words or actions that we don’t want them here. Not only do we want them, we need them! The Lord wants them. We must be the expression of God’s love to them by our words and actions.

The symbol of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty, calls out

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.””

How much more should the Lord’s church.

To Preach With PowerPoint or Without?

If you are a preacher, why do you use PowerPoint? Seriously ponder the question. To look technically savvy? The congregation expects it? Everybody does it? It enhances your communication of the message? You’ve always done it (or something like it)? You like making pretty slides?

Television and internet production technology conceptPerhaps you think the audience remembers better if they see and hear the message. Kenton Anderson asked a provoking question “Does PowerPoint Increase Retention” on his blog. Does any preacher dare ask members a couple of weeks later what he preached about on a given day. For our sanity and fragile self-image we often avoid asking such questions. If we could prove that sermons preached with PowerPoint are retained clearer and longer than messages delivered without them then the matter would be closed. I am certain that certain complex topics explained with a meaningful graphic are long remembered  but is this the exception?

I rarely use PowerPoint when preaching. I’m not averse to technology; I have used computer technology since I was a teen. It’s not that I haven’t given it a chance; I went though a period where I always used PowerPoint. I use PowerPoint when I feel it helps explain or illustrate a concept that is difficult to understand or a series of thoughts that I want to link for clarity. If it has a purpose, I will use it. PowerPoint is a tool that can enhance or disturb the message.

Effective communication requires purpose

Conscientious and effective preachers labor over the structure of the sermon, what passages, illustrations, and points to include and exclude. Good sermon preparation is often focused on weeding thoughts instead of adding material. So when the sermon is complete, what is the purpose of the PowerPoint? How does each slide communicate the message? If it is eye candy to accompany the spoken word, could the time spent in slide presentation be put to a better use in the kingdom? If slides can help communication or retention, give adequate attention to constructing an effective visual message.

Borrowing from the wise advice “speak when it improves the silence” use PowerPoint only when it enhances the message. Some situations where I will use PowerPoint:

  • Maps, historical pictures and illustrations, and archaeological artifacts
  • Multiple quotes (i.e., Bible commentators, subject experts, news excerpts for a culture issue)
  • Statistical data, especially when used for comparison (i.e., number of abortions in a year relative to country populations for the same year)
  • Showing a rapid succession of short verses to support a main point to keep the audience focused on the big picture
  • Describing a process
  • Dissecting a difficult passage

Some argue that PowerPoint will allow the audience to remain focused on the main point being discussed and I have used slides for that purpose. It can help those wrestling with children or otherwise distracted know the main point that is being discussed. Before PowerPoints, many of us would use an overhead projector and reveal main points printed or written on a transparency. The truly old school created charts on white bed sheets (some of these charts were beautifully designed). One of the highlights of my youth was standing tall on a stage holding the corner of a sheet for the visiting preacher.

If you use PowerPoint when you preach, make sure it serves a purpose. Like any tool, it can be extremely effective when used well and a distraction when used poorly.

Questions preachers should ask when using PowerPoint:

Should we put all the Bible verses on Powerpoint?

I advocate putting verses that you might quote in rapid succession to allow the audience to read what you were going to quote without turning to the passage. I don’t advise putting a long passage on a slide so that it is unreadable.

One argument for putting every Bible verse on the chart is that visitors who have a hard time finding passages will be able to read it without being lost turning pages. A disadvantage is that Christians can become dependent on the displayed passage instead of reading it for themselves where they can look at other verses in context. Personally, I will put some small verses on the PowerPoint but reserve some passages, particularly lengthy passages, for reading directly from the Bible (with the verse citation on the slide). Some churches address the visitor concern by using the same Bible in the pew and calling pew Bible page numbers in addition to the reference.

Should we use pictures representing Jesus?

Should you use artist representation of Jesus on slides? Some object strongly to using a cartoon, illustration, or actor representing Jesus either because it is representing God in image form or they simply do not like it. Some will use silhouette images, primarily on the cross, to illustrate the point without using a detailed image of Jesus. A significant problem is that some images portray Jesus as a European. Some images are effeminate looking. Personally, I avoid using representations of Jesus when I use charts.

Should I dump my outline onto the slides?

No. Seriously…no.

5 Ways to Annoy an Audience with PowerPoint

  1. Put so many words on your slide that one could not read it from the front pew
  2. Use every transition in every presentation
  3. Make sure you use grainy unfocused images
  4. People love “read along with the preacher” so put every word on your slides
  5. Use light colored text on a light background for a greater audience challenge

Do not construe my comments to being anti-PowerPoint. If you use it, have a purpose and invest the time (or money) to create quality slides that enhance your presentation and the audience’s understanding of God’s word.

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