By Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16
Thanksgiving has got to be one of the most underrated holidays in America. Once Halloween has finished and the Jack-O-Lanterns are all put away, the Christmas frenzy takes over. Holiday specials start playing on TV, stores decorate their aisle with snowflakes and mistletoes, and people take the chance to hang Christmas lights while there’s no snow. It’s not all that surprising really; the Christmas spirit can be pretty infectious, it’s also a lot harder to profit off a holiday that emphasizes thankfulness.
I feel like this is how many people, even Christians, treat the idea of thankfulness in general. I don’t know about you, but I’m much faster at coming up with a list of things I want for Christmas than a list of things I’m grateful for. It’s also pretty easy for our prayers to become filled with phrases like “God, please give me…”, “God, please help me…”, or “God, I need…”. We get so tied up in what God can do for us, how Christ can impact our lives, that we forget how to be thankful for what we have. Luckily, God is good at reminding us what’s important.
A few months ago, I was leaving for work in the morning when I was greeted by my apartment’s cleaning lady.
“Good morning,” she said, “How you doin?” I thought about the question for a second and, trying to sound funny, said,
“Well, it’s a Wednesday.”
“Now, now,” she said, “It’s a good day. Do you know why? Because you’re walking, and you’re breathing.” You can’t really argue with that, can you?
So, this Thanksgiving, amidst the mayhem of football games and turkey dinners, I encourage you to take a moment to pray and simply thank Christ for the things in your life. Whether is for home, family, or a hot meal, remember to give thanks, for God is good.
God Sees and Hears You
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1 (NIV)
Sitting on the bathroom floor with mascara-streaked cheeks, I sobbed. “Lord, do You even care about my problems?”
As soon as the words left my lips, guilt overcame me. Women who want children suffer from infertility, people who need paychecks lose their jobs, and the homeless who need beds sleep on the streets. Meanwhile, I bemoaned a child who wouldn’t sleep through the night, a husband who worked late into the evening, and a messy house that seemed impossible to keep organized and tidy.
No doubt my moments of distress pale compared to that of most people, but does that mean God cares less about them or about me? Does He view me as whiny and selfish because I express discontentment or cry out for solace in circumstances that cause me angst?
When I find myself discouraged and disheartened, I open the book of Psalms. Over 70% of the book depicts woe and lament, a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Centuries before the famous blues musician B.B. King lived, there was David, a veritable “King of the Blues.” Reading through the Psalms feels like reading David’s diary. It reveals David’s unedited, unfiltered relationship with God, riddled with the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Psalm 40 provides an intimate look at David’s beseeching the Lord to save him and God’s loving and compassionate response: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). David further states that God lifted him out of a “pit of destruction” and “miry bog” and set his feet upon a rock, making his steps safe and secure (ESV).
Instead of simply thanking the Lord and moving on, David praised God for His faithfulness, righteousness and love in the next 14 verses. David hadn’t just asked God to deliver him on that one occasion; he had implored Him not to withhold mercy and to rescue him time and time again, which God did.
Motherhood had landed me on the bathroom floor, exhausted, depleted and desperate for a break. Feeling trapped, I prayed God would somehow make a way for me to have a few hours to recharge. Alas, the day passed, night fell, and a new morning dawned with the familiar wails of my baby girl.
Worries Turned Into Worship
NOVEMBER 9, 2020
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
I burned soup. Soup! I put the milk in the pantry. The lettuce, too. The eggs would have landed in the freezer if it hadn’t been for my 8-year-old daughter walking by: “Mom, what are you doing?”
I was trying.
Trying to be present.
Trying to keep everyone happy.
Trying to finish my to-do list.
And, despite my efforts, the only thing that felt done was me.
This has been the year of the burned dinner.
The year our plans didn’t go as planned.
The year the world turned upside down.
The year of endless opportunities for worry — hence the charred soup and romaine in the pantry.
As the fridge door shut on the eggs, I was already halfway to my bedside table. I opened my Bible and settled right on the floor, journal and pen in hand. I needed to write the Word — the actual words of Scripture.
My verses for the day:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
The world quieted around me as my pen turned living words into swoops of ink. Every word of Scripture I laid down on the page became written on my heart, too.
I wrestled with the words as I wrote them. How could Habakkuk worship the Lord when everything around him felt like it was falling apart? Failed crops would have been enough, but his hypothetical list went on.
Habakkuk’s name means “one who embraces” or “wrestles” — one who wrestles with his thoughts and God. He complained to God at first, but what intrigued me most was that his wrestling eventually turned into worship, trust and praise.
When it feels like things are falling apart, my natural instinct is to complain, too. Complaints can be clues. God tells us in His Word that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) A complaining mouth is a clue our heart needs intentional and tender nurturing.
Writing Habakkuk’s words, I remembered what he finally knew, too: God is in control. No matter what happens in the world, no matter what worries are on our hearts, God has already won the battle.
When life feels undone and plans seem unclear, we say, God, I trust You.
When we’re waiting, we say, Your will be done.
When we feel lost or alone, we say, God, You are in this place.
When the world presses in on us, we say, Lord, You are mighty.
And when our minds are full and our souls feel empty, we say, God, You have what I need. Lead me to Your feet.
God doesn’t need you to be perfect or worry free; He just needs your willing heart. Open your Bible, right where you are, in the midst of it all. Remember who God is every day as you write the Word and turn your heart to a place of worship.
“Days are coming … when I will effect a new covenant … He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” – Hebrews 8:8, 13 NASB
The Bible makes clear that Jesus came to do something new, far beyond just tolerating the old ways. Hebrews uses a series of strong words (such as “obsolete” and “disappear”) to demonstrate that His mission was to make a complete change.
Jesus didn’t come to be just another prophet or teacher. He had a unique function. He was a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6). He came to initiate a new arrangement. A different order of things. A different way to approach life and our relationship with God.
Jesus was “setting aside” the former commandments. He didn’t update the Law but came to abolish it (Hebrews 7:18-19). He came to help everyone realize that the Law (and everything associated with it) serves as a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).
Jesus came to introduce a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). In everything, He came to do the will of the Father (Hebrews 10:9-10). The old covenant was about “regulations” (Hebrews 9:1). But under this new covenant, the focus is on the heart. It’s not a focus on rules but on changing lives.
Jesus’ life and ministry led to a new kind of relationship with God, to a relationship based on faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Today, don’t get stuck trying to do things the old ways. Look to Jesus. Let Him make all things new for you.