OUR GOD ALWAYS DESERVES THANKS

November 28, 2016

On Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day we honor very special people and express our gratitude for their love and sacrifice. They all have a special day…but shouldn’t we ALWAYS  be thankful for them?

We just celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Is one day enough to thank God for all He does for us and for all he gives us? Of course not! We all know that God deserves our thanks more than one day a year!

In Ephesians 5:20, the Apostle Paul wrote:  “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Reading that, and taking note of the word ALWAYS, I made a long “ALWAYS GIVE THANKS” list and would like to share some things with you. To give thanks always means…

  • When I feel thankful and when I don’t
  • When I understand ‘why’ and when I don’t
  • When God answers my prayers my way and when He answers them His way
  • When it seems as though God doesn’t even hear me
  • When I don’t see an end in sight
  • When I feel energized and when I’m tired
  • When I look at the past and when I look at the future

You get the idea. So as you dig for another recipe for leftover turkey, take a minute to make your own “ALWAYS GIVE THANKS” list. Let’s all expand our thanksgiving beyond the holiday and cultivate a thankful attitude every day, because our God ALWAYS deserves thanks!

Join me each Monday in 2016 to share more of what I’m finding on my quest to know God better.


OUR GOD PROVIDES THE WAY OUT

September 26, 2016

In the early 1900’s, Harry Houdini (1874-1926) gained worldwide fame as an escape artist. He got himself out of straitjackets, handcuffs and coffins. In his incredible water torture escapes, Houdini would be lowered upside down in a locked glass cabinet filled with water – and escape! He is still famous today for his skillful feats.

Fortunately, we don’t need the skill of Houdini when we are trapped by temptation or immobilized by struggles in our lives; we are promised a way of escape. Our survival in those challenging times never depends on our abilities, but always on God’s faithfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote these timeless truths to the church thousands of years ago in the 1st letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, and verse 13:

  • God is faithful
  • God sets the limits. He “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.”
  • God provides the way of escape “that you may be able to bear it.”

No one can deny Houdini’s skill; it’s documented. Likewise, God’s ability to provide a way out is well documented throughout history. Reading of His past performances, we find every reason to trust Him, our faithful God, who never fails to set the limits and provide the way out. Let’s thank Him for that!

(Join me each Monday of 2016 on my quest to know God better!)


OUR GOD TEACHES US

August 15, 2016

science-1121481__180Educators practice active engagement as a tool for effective teaching. Words on a page or spoken by the teacher come alive in a hands-on situation. One educator wrote, “While hands are engaged, minds should be questioning, sorting through sensory input, and making connections.” (www.teachhub.com)

As history’s most effective Teacher, God teaches us through His written word and through active engagement – our life circumstances and experiences. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • We read that “the Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.” (Psalm 18:2) We think we understand those words, but they become real when the storms hit.
  • We read “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and think those words are nice to repeat. Then we are thrust into a situation that leaves us helpless, and we grasp the fullness of God’s strength.
  • We read that we should forgive others as Christ forgave us. (Colossians 3:13) Those words become unforgettable as we experience the freedom of forgiving someone who’s hurt us.

God teaches us through His Word; then He orchestrates our life experience to get us actively engaged. As we question, sort through our sensory input and make connections, true learning takes place. Let’s make the Psalmist’s prayer our own: “Lead me in Your truth and teach me.” (Psalm 25:5)

Yes, our God teaches us. Let’s learn!

(Join me every Monday of 2016 as I share more discoveries on my quest to know God better)


OUR GOD NEVER GIVES UP ON US

March 21, 2016

Two years ago, we moved into our home, a fixer-upper. Since day one, major projectIMG_20150608_075153799s have been going on: the floor plan was modified to be more functional; the bathrooms and kitchen were gutted and transformed from ceiling to floor. Even the front porch and exterior were renovated…but we’re not done yet. The project is big and progress is slow, but we’re not giving up until it’s finished!

We are God’s “fixer-uppers”. The apostle Paul says that we, who are Christ followers, are being transformed into the image of Jesus; we are in the process of being changed through the power of the Holy Spirit.IMG_20150715_170514332

God may be gutting wrong attitudes from our lives, or tearing down walls of prejudice, unforgiveness or pride. Maybe He’s restoring our faith in Him, or changing the floor plan to make us more functional. God may be peeling of the wallpaper of hypocrisy and criticism to beautify us with His grace.

Whatever God is doing in us, it’s a process. We have the confidence that “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Even though the project is big, and the progress seems slow, He’s not giving up on us, and we can thank Him for that!

(Join me every Monday of 2016 in my quest to know God better)


FREE TO CHOOSE

December 29, 2015

A new year, a clean slate and endless choices. We have 366 days ahead of us, (2016 is a Leap Year!) and how we choose to live each day depends on us. We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we are free to choose our reactions, attitudes, and our conduct. Since we are free to choose, here are some excellent choices I want to make, and I hope you join me!

CHOOSE TIME ALONE WITH GOD. We can start each day spending time with God to get His perspective, wisdom, direction, strength and peace, or we can “wing it” on our own. Psalm 63:1 tells us: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You…”  It usually doesn’t go as good when we “wing it.”

CHOOSE GRACE. Let’s opt to treat others with the lavish grace that God pours out in our life. In Matthew 10:8 we find these words of Jesus: “Freely you have received, freely give.” We can show grace to others only because we’ve received it from Him.

CHOOSE TRUTH. Instead of allowing damaging thoughts pull us down, let’s believe what is true. We find truth in God’s word. Christ said that if we abide in His word, we will know the truth, and the truth will make us free. (John 8:32) Believing the truth of His Word, we’ll be free!

CHOOSE TRUST. We have a choice: to worry and be afraid, or to trust God. We can’t do both. Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Why would we not choose to trust our Faithful God?

CHOOSE TO LIVE FOR JESUS. It’s either our selfish agenda, or His; our lives revolve around ourselves, or they revolve around Him. The Apostle Paul wrote that “…those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

CHOOSE SURRENDER. Our burdens can get really heavy; we weren’t made to carry them. That’s why we have the privilege of giving them to God. Peter’s encouragement to believers is to cast “all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Our Heavenly Father wants us to trust Him with our burdens.

CHOOSE CONTENTMENT. It’s easy to gripe and complain; to be grumpy instead of thankful. Let’s learn what the Apostle Paul learned: to be content. He said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) When we are content, we are thankful!

CHOOSE TO END THE DAY PROCLAIMING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. We can end each day lamenting how bad it went, or thankfully proclaim God’s faithfulness. Here’s a recommendation from the Psalmist: “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord…to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness every night.” (Psalm 92:1,2)

Don’t forget: we’re free to choose!


THE ELUSIVE BUCKET FULL OF DOLLAR BILLS

April 21, 2014

On the way to AWANA with our grandsons, I emptied out the coin bin in the car and handed both of them what seemed to be an equal amount of coins for the offering. “Wow! That’s really a lot!” Seven-year-old Jehiel exclaimed as he put his newly acquired coin counting skills into practice. “One dollar and 35 cents!” Then Jehiel spontaneously offered a child’s interpretation of the word “rich”: “Rich is when you have a whole bucket full of dollar bills!”

Unexpressed thoughts swirled through my head: It depends on how tightly the bills are packed, how big the bucket is, how much debt you have, current monthly expenses, where you are in life, or in the world…sure, a bucket full of dollar bills might mean you’re “rich”…

Then I remembered one of my Dad’s favorite Bible passages, especially in his later years: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8)

Maybe as a 7 year-old, Dad had the same concept of “rich” as Jehiel has. By the time he was that age, World War I had ended and he lost his mom to the 1918 flu pandemic. With his 3 siblings, Dad had to dig the best potatoes from their crop to pay the undertaker for his mom’s burial because Grandpa didn’t have that bucket of dollar bills. Throughout his life the bucket was elusive: World War II, the Great Depression, being laid off at 43 with six children at home, starting a new business at that age…but no bucket full of dollar bills.

When Dad went to be with the Lord at age 94, he still didn’t have that bucket. What he did have – and it was obvious to those who knew him – was “godliness with contentment”, learned at an early age, and cultivated over many decades.

As the years creep up on me, the truth that the Apostle Paul expressed in 1st Timothy 6:6-8 becomes more real. I haven’t secured that elusive bucket full of dollar bills, either, and I’ll probably never have it. With contentment, I have something far more valuable: the assurance of God’s presence. In Hebrews 13:5 we are encouraged to “Be content with such things as you have. For He himself (GOD!) has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’

And that assurance makes me much richer than the elusive bucket full of dollar bills!


CHRISTMAS ACRONYM – S

December 11, 2013

All in favor of a story with a good ending? “Servant” is the name of Jesus for the “S” in our Christmas acronym, (see the December 1 post) and the end of the story is VERY good! In fact, there never was, nor ever will be an ending to a story like this one.

In the prophecies of Isaiah, centuries before the birth of Christ, we find passages that are titled the “servant songs”. They foretell Christ’s mission of redemption and salvation; they promise that He would be a light to those who walk in darkness, and give freedom to all who languish in bondage. The suffering, sorrow, rejection and death of Jesus are all depicted. The story is bad, but it doesn’t end there.

The plot takes a turn in Isaiah 53:11, where it starts to get better. We read that “He (Jesus) shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge, My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” We have the opportunity to be justified – acquitted from guilt and to be declared righteous before our holy God – because Jesus came as God’s righteous Servant. Praise God!

Later, the Apostle Paul, reminding us that Christ came as a servant, describes the events of the end of the story this way: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him (His Servant!) and given Him a name which is above every name, (here it comes….) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Now we know the end of the story, and it will be good! Let’s celebrate Jesus, God’s Servant, this Christmas season by bowing our knees before Him in worship, and confessing that He is Lord of our lives. That will be VERY good!


GODLY CONTENTMENT

September 19, 2013

Living in a prosperous country, it’s easy to get sucked into the mindset of the world. In our society, there is a feverish pursuit of those things which are above and beyond the basics. We like the “extras” and almost think we’re entitled to them.  In every area, we are subtly being convinced that the basics aren’t sufficient; that we can’t live without the “extras”. There is an all-out campaign to convince us that the “extras” are responsible for our happiness – or lack of it.

Looking to relocate? We want bigger, nicer and with more amenities. Grandpa’s old farmhouse with the front porch swing and creaky floors wouldn’t be an option.

Going out to eat? Our taste buds are being trained to enjoy only gourmet. One-pot, home style meal around the family table? Nah. Too boring… and a few notches below our taste.

Shopping for clothes? “Designer” is the word. Mom’s old Singer sewing machine isn’t used to dress the family any more. The name on the tag is what matters now.

How about education? Extracurricular activities somehow seem to take center stage for many kids. The 3-Rs? Are they really so important, anyway?

With this inverted value system, many of us are unaware of what the real “extra” in life is: godliness with contentment. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Tracing Paul’s footsteps through the New Testament, we realize that he lived through very diverse scenarios and learned godly contentment. In fact, he wrote to the believers in Philippi: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Philippians 4:11,12 ESV) Paul enjoyed the “extras” at certain times in his life; but his heart was not attached to them. He was set on pursuing Jesus and keeping Him in the center. Then, when life’s “extras” vanished, Paul’s contentment was still intact.

Let’s give kudos to those people, who like the apostle Paul, have learned godly contentment. Whether they possess only the bare basics, if they are blessed with plenty, or if they’ve lost it all, they are content. God grant the rest of us His grace to passionately pursue Him; then with or without the “extras”, we will learn true godly contentment. We will have discovered the only real “extra”!


YOU HAD ONE JOB

April 9, 2013

you had one job

Not long ago a friend sent me an email with the subject “You Had One Job”. The email was a series of pictures, each with that same title. They were total absurdities: Signs that were hung backwards, upside down, or grossly misspelled; there were mislabeled products, such as the “watermelon” corn above, and even billboards that were hung incorrectly. The mistakes were ridiculous, and while they were amusing, I was indignantly, silently and internally screaming “How could you mess it up so bad? That’s all you had to do! What were you thinking? Or were you NOT thinking? You were given ONE thing to do, and you blew it…SO BAD!

“…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1st Corinthians 10:31

Then paging through the album of my past experiences, I saw how often I dreadfully fail at the ONE JOB I’ve been given to do. Unfortunately, some of the “pictures” are almost as outlandish as the ones in the email I got! The ONE JOB God expects me to do is to glorify Him in every situation: “whatever you do”, as the Apostle Paul wrote. I realized that far too often I am negligent and careless to do that ONE JOB right. Sorry for messing it up so often, I’m asking God to continually remind me of that ONE JOB I have and give me the wisdom to do it right!

If you look up “You had one job” in a search engine, you’ll literally find millions of results.  Check out the images, and then look at the album of your own life. Are you doing your ONE JOB right?


LOVING GOD

February 14, 2013

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5.

What does it really mean to love God with that level of commitment and intensity? The Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1st Corinthians 13 might give us some insight. Let’s read that famous essay on love with a focus on loving God. It might look something like this:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but don’t love God, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but don’t love God, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but don’t love God, it profits me nothing.

If I love God, I am patient and kind.
If I love God, I do not envy.
If I love God, I do not parade myself; I’m not puffed up;
I do not behave rudely; I don’t seek my own benefit,
I am not provoked, I think no evil.
If I love God, I do not rejoice in iniquity, but I rejoice in the truth.
If I love God, I bear all things, I believe all things, I hope all things, I endure all things.
God’s love to me never fails…how much do I love Him?


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