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Thanksgiving Traditions

thanksgiving-turkey

 

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? A table laden with turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie? A break from work or school? Family gathered from far and near? Football? Sales the day after?

Many traditions make Thanksgiving special and memorable. However, we might also think of our history. In 1621, Governor Bradford declared a day to offer thanks for good crops and invited an Indian tribe to join the settlers for a three-day feast and games.

The second recorded American Thanksgiving, in 1623, actually began as a time of prayer and fasting. The settlers set aside a day to pray and fast because they desperately needed rain. While they were praying, a gentle rain began to fall. Prayer time turned into an impromptu time of giving thanks. (Do you know of anyone who thinks of prayer and fasting in connection with Thanksgiving? After all, it is part of our history of the holiday.)

Although various colonies celebrated harvest festivals, it was not until 1777 that all 13 colonies celebrated at the same time. In 1789, George Washington was the first president to declare a Day of Thanksgiving. However, it did not continue to be an annual celebration.

Finally, in 1863 Abraham Lincoln gave a proclamation, declaring a Day of Thanksgiving. He thought it might help to unite a divided nation. Since then, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed a holiday by every president. (Did anyone think of bringing unity in connection with Thanksgiving?)

About a month ago, I read a couple of articles that got me to thinking about this particular holiday. They were both about depression. Yes, depression—as unlikely as that seems.

One article suggested that one way to combat depression is to write in a notebook every morning, listing five things you’re grateful for—just five things, every morning. Evidently, practicing gratefulness helps change the mindset from a disheartened viewpoint to having a positive, hopeful outlook on life.

Another article suggested that throughout the day, if you feel down, to stop and think of three things that you are grateful for. It’s difficult to stay down or depressed while feeling grateful. As you focus on the positive—the things you’re thankful for—it drives out the doldrums.

I often get so busy just keeping up with life that I forget to be grateful. After reading those articles, I decided it was a good thing that we celebrate Thanksgiving so we will be reminded to be grateful.

But then I wondered if we get so busy with our traditions that we sometimes forget to give thanks on Thanksgiving. When I asked what you think of when you think of Thanksgiving, did anyone even think of giving thanks?

No other holiday spells out what it is all about—“Thanks-giving”—but we hear it as a noun, a name, a holiday—not an action. What would happen if we responded to the verb in the holiday? What if we celebrated by giving thanks?

Even in the worst circumstances, there are things to be grateful for. When we take our eyes off the problems and focus on the positive, it lifts our spirits and makes the difficulty easier to bear. When we go a step further and voice appreciation to those around us for blessing us, it encourages them and makes their lives easier—and brighter.

I’ve even seen relationships restored when words of appreciation were spoken. I don’t know whether the holiday brought unity between the North and South in Lincoln’s day, but gratefulness can bring unity between individuals, in families, and in groups—wherever people interact.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I first think of family because that is when we have our family reunion. And I’m all for turkey, dressing, gravy, pies, and all the bounty. Parades, football, and slashed store prices add to the fun. I love celebrating Thanksgiving.

However, except for fond memories and extra pounds, those things are soon past. Conversely, if we celebrate Thanksgiving with an attitude of gratitude, it could make a positive difference that would have lasting effect—in lives of others as well as ourselves. In George Washington’s words, Thanksgiving was to be “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.” What would it take to keep that tradition alive?

May you and those you love be blessed as you celebrate Thanks-giving this year!

 

Grateful Words

NOVEMBER 25, 2021

“Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8 (NLT)

Pinterest ImageThe conversation with my husband started out simply enough. I was sharing some frustrations I had regarding various projects I was involved with. He patiently listened, and then I patiently waited for him to agree with everything I had said.

Instead, he replied, “Sometimes, I wonder if you really like what you do.” I was confused, so I stated, “Well, of course I do! What would make you think that?”

His tone was gentle, but his words hit hard: “The way you talk about it.”

Ouch.

I knew I was grateful for each opportunity. In fact, I loved what I was doing, but apparently, my words were telling a different story. My husband was hearing more negativity than positivity. He caught more complaining than contentment in my conversation. He sensed ingratitude over gratitude.

But it wasn’t just about those projects.

One day, it’s the traffic. Another day, it’s work. I grumble about my overbooked schedule. I question how there are so many dishes in my two-member household. I groan when I have to put the toilet seat down … again.

In Numbers 11, we encounter the Israelites, who were en route to the promised land. Wilderness living presented its fair share of challenges, but God had provided every step of the way.

In spite of that, the Israelites repeatedly verbalized their dissatisfaction: “… again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4-6, NIV, emphasis added).

Their cravings were clouding their memories. If you didn’t know the story, you would think Egypt was an all-inclusive resort paid for by someone else. But the Israelites’ time in Egypt had been anything but a vacation — they were slaves under the oppressive rule of an evil pharaoh. It hadn’t been that long since they had cried out to God to get them out of there. (Exodus 2:23)

I can’t be too hard on the Israelites, though. They aren’t the only ones who have chosen to complain about what they didn’t have rather than celebrate what they did have. I am just as guilty.

As I processed my husband’s observation, I realized: What if everything I complained about was taken away?

Driving in traffic means I have a car to take me places. And despite valid job frustrations, I have a healthy body that allows me to do my job. That job also provides an income to help me take care of my family. A full schedule is indicative of people in my life and a purpose I am pursuing. Household chores reveal that I have a home to take care of. Dishes in the sink mean there was food on my table. And even that raised toilet seat is a reminder of the wonderful (and insightful) husband I spent many years praying for.

Even if we don’t have everything we want, there is always at least one thing we can thank God for. Another day, another breath, the beauty of creation — the list goes on.

Of course, we all need opportunities to voice our frustrations in a healthy way. However, I don’t want my grateful heart to be overshadowed by my complaining words. The Bible instructs us accordingly: “Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done” (1 Chronicles 16:8).

In this verse, to “give thanks” means more than an internal attitude. The Hebrew phrasing implies a confession of thanks. This lines up with the rest of the commands in this verse to “proclaim” and “let the whole world know” what God has done.

In addition to that, we are expected to “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15, NLT).

Our witness as Christ-followers is tied to what we do (and don’t) say. I’m still a work in progress, but my prayer is that my words would reflect my heart … and that there wouldn’t be any question about how grateful I really am.

A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day – Thanksgiving Devotional –

By Debbie McDaniel, author, crosswalk. com

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God, it is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good; his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:1-5

All across our nation, Thanksgiving is a day that we set aside in order to do one thing.

Be thankful.

prayer-for-thanksgiving

And usually what goes along with it, is lots of food, family and friends, laughter and fun, times of giving to others in need, maybe some football, or traditions that you’ve recognized through long years.

And sometimes too, there is also loneliness. And struggle. Or deep loss. Feelings of hurt and painful circumstances that you’re still trying to hurdle over.

Whatever you’re facing this Thanksgiving Day, in the midst of all of it, may we remember again that God gives us the opportunity each and every day, to give worship and thanks to Him. Every morning He gives us breath, is His invitation to come joyfully into His Presence. He reminds us that He alone is God and we belong to Him. He assures us that His plans in our lives are for good, that his love covers us securely, and His faithfulness extends from generation to generation.

No matter what, He’s given us so many reasons to choose thankfulness and joy this day. Let’s do what the Psalmist of this great chapter says:

– Shout for joy.

– Worship the Lord with gladness.

– Come before Him with joyful songs.

– Know that He is God.

– Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

– Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

– Recognize His goodness, love, and faithfulness, through all the generations of our family.

Dear God,
Thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over our lives. Forgive us for when we don’t thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you’ve given. We’re so grateful you for your amazing love and care, for your mercy and grace, for always working on our behalf, even behind the scenes when we’re unaware. Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us, even through loss and the most difficult of times. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh. Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy, this Thanksgiving Day and every day.
We give you thanks and praise, for You alone are worthy!
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Thank You God For Your Grace and Mercy

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Cultivating a Spirit of Thankfulness

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“Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17b)

Even though we may stuff ourselves at the dinner table, celebrating Thanksgiving can actually make us healthier judging by recent research. Studies have shown that being thankful improves our physical and emotional health. Holding on to feelings of thankfulness boosts our immune system and increases blood supply to our heart. Daily guided exercises or the habit of keeping a weekly gratitude journal can increase our alertness, enthusiasm, and energy, and improve our sleep. People who describe themselves as feeling grateful tend to suffer less stress and depression than the rest of the population.

For all its benefits, gratitude doesn’t come naturally to us. As Jesus passed through a village one day, he was spotted by ten lepers who desperately longed to be healed (Luke 17:11-19). They kept themselves at a distance as required by law but cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Instead of instantly healing the men, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As the ten lepers walked off to obey, their skin disease disappeared.

One of the men turned around, shouting praises to God as he came back to Jesus. He threw himself at his benefactor’s feet. Jesus expressed amazement that only one man had thought to thank him. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Where are the other nine?” He also pointed out that the only man who did respond was a Samaritan, a race despised by the Jewish people.

For Christians, cultivating a spirit of thankfulness is more than a good idea; it’s a direct command from God. In the Old Testament, God laid down specific guidelines for the Israelites to bring thank offerings. In the New Testament, believers are instructed to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When we’re struggling with trials and difficulties, this sounds like a strange command, especially since we live in a culture that encourages us to act on the basis of how we feel. But God knows that when we focus on our blessings, it’s easier to keep our problems and concerns in the right perspective.

King David never lost his keen awareness of all that God had done for the nation of Israel and for him personally. Even though he experienced disappointment, pain, and heartache, David often poured out his feelings of thankfulness to his Creator and Lord. That gratitude became the foundation of his worship of God.

Cultivating a spirit of thankfulness honors God and strengthens our faith. It also strengthens our relationships with other people. We can’t be in a right relationship with God or with anyone without a spirit of thankfulness. No matter what problems we’re struggling with, we don’t want to be like the nine former lepers who forgot to say “thank you” to their Healer.

I will give thanks to you with all my heart, O Lord my God. I will honor you forever because your mercy toward me is great. Psalm 86:12-13 (God’s Word translation)

Ask yourself: How often do I express gratitude to God or to other people?

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 24

Isaiah 1:18-20 18“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; 20but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Any culture will express the value of its beliefs in the justice and compassion of their social life. Isaiah was prophesying to a culture that went through the motions of religion without sincerity of heart. Though they said they believed in God and justice, they lived lives that denied that claim. Greed was the driving force of the nation. Scales were not accurate. Justice was determined by bribery. The weak and poor were taken advantage of.

God allowed the enemies of Judah to rob and defeat them over and over again so that they would turn back to Him. They would turn back for a brief period and then would go right back to their idols that promised them the prosperity their greed desired. God’s arms still were open to them, and His voice called out to them to repent.

Your life expresses the value of your beliefs just as that culture expressed the heart of the people. In every action that God is dishonored, there is some kind of idolatry in our heart. God calls to us just as He called to them. Sit down with Him. Reason together with Him. He is willing to cleanse you and help you if you are willing. If you continue to be willing and obey what He shows you, then you will find the goodness of God in your daily life. If you rebel against His instruction, your sin will eventually destroy you.

 

Streams in the Desert – November 24

  • 202124 Nov

Be still, and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).

Is there any note of music in all the chorus as mighty as the emphatic pause? Is there any word in all the Psalter more eloquent than that one word, Selah (Pause)? Is there anything more thrilling and awful than the hush that comes before the bursting of the tempest and the strange quiet that seems to fall upon all nature before some preternatural phenomenon or convulsion? Is there anything that can touch our hearts as the power of stillness?

There is for the heart that will cease from itself, “the peace of God that passeth all understanding,” a “quietness and confidence” which is the source of all strength, a sweet peace “which nothing can offend,” a deep rest which the world can neither give nor take away. There is in the deepest center of the soul a chamber of peace where God dwells, and where, if we will only enter in and hush every other sound, we can hear His still, small voice.

There is in the swiftest wheel that revolves upon its axis a place in the very center, where there is no movement at all; and so in the busiest life there may be a place where we dwell alone with God, in eternal stillness.

There is only one way to know God. “Be still, and know.” “God is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Selected

“All-loving Father, sometimes we have walked under starless skies that dripped darkness like drenching rain. We despaired of starshine or moonlight or sunrise. The sullen blackness gloomed above us as if it would last forever. And out of the dark there spoke no soothing voice to mend our broken hearts. We would gladly have welcomed some wild thunder peal to break the torturing stillness of that over-brooding night.

“But Thy winsome whisper of eternal love spoke more sweetly to our bruised and bleeding souls than any winds that breathe across Aeolian harps. It was Thy ‘still small voice’ that spoke to us. We were listening and we heard. We looked and saw Thy face radiant with the light of love. And when we heard Thy voice and saw Thy face, new life came back to us as life comes back to withered blooms that drink the summer rain.”

 

Undignified

Scripture Reading — 2 Samuel 6:16-23

“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked. . . .” — 2 Samuel 6:20

Michal had grown up in the house of Saul, Israel’s first king. Maybe she never saw her father acting in a way that seemed “unkingly.” Maybe she thought that royalty should distinguish themselves from the common people. Perhaps Michal wanted David to act like the father she knew rather than the man he was.

She seems to have been embarrassed that her husband the king was dancing in such an undignified way. After all, shouldn’t David think about her reputation as well?

David did not miss a beat in his response. Perhaps with a sparkle in his eye and a sly voice, he said, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will cele­brate before the Lord.” He also declared that he would become even more undignified—and even humiliated—if that’s what it would take to celebrate and honor the Lord while serving as king.

In this way David put the Lord first when even a close family member criticized him. Sometimes people do not know how to handle the joy of the Lord. David showed that he believed it was right to celebrate with all your heart in the worship of God. As the early church leader Irenaeus put it, “The glory of God is a human fully alive.”

Be Thankful For Your Riches In Christ

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Are You Thankful For Your Riches?

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Sometimes, I annoy myself.

In fact, often times I annoy myself.

I’m a whiner. Sometimes to my husband, mostly to God.

Why don’t people like me? Don’t they appreciate my talent? Why does everyone else our age get to go on regular vacations, and we don’t?

The list is endless.

Makes me sick.

Lately, I have been doing a study titled, “The Battle Plan for Prayer.” The section covered last week was Locks and Keys of Prayer. Studying the Bible has been somewhat of a passion for me over the last few decades, so it didn’t surprise me when some of the locks were unconfessed sin, repeated words, and unforgiveness.

It was the third key that tripped me up — strive for contentment.

If you met me, you wouldn’t say I showed the signs of discontentment, that is why it was hard to diagnose — mostly because it generally doesn’t have to do with money.

But sometimes it does.

Mostly, I am discontent with my situation at any given time. Or can be. I complain to God about my husband and my husband about God. I murmur about my drive or car or job, when in truth I do not deserve any of those things, much less a caring husband who listens.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 says:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (NIV)

So, I may not love money, but I am certainly not content with just food and clothing.

And yet, most of the world doesn’t have their basic needs met.

It’s like the illustration J.D. Greear gave when teaching on the book of Colossians. He talks about staying in a Holiday Inn Express for two nights. After the first night, you go down to the manager and say, “I think I’d like to add granite counters and expand the bathroom.” The manager would wonder why the big changes when you’re only staying one more night.

Those two nights are the time we spend on this planet.

During this Thanksgiving Season, I want to concentrate on today. Be content. Be truly grateful because we are rich. Look at this text found in 2 Corinthians 8:9,

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (NIV)

I would just like to pray for us, friend.

Our Great God.

Thank you for sending your son so that through His poverty, we might become rich. Thank you for salvation, for the Holy Spirit who lives within us, for eternity with you. Help us to invest in heaven now. Forgive us for when we spend our time and energy on fluff. Expand our horizons out of our comfort zone to share and to pray. And during this Thanksgiving season, give us your grace to not only be content but eternally grateful.

In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 23

Song of Songs 8:5-7 5Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? Under the apple tree I roused you; there your mother conceived you, there she who was in labor gave you birth. 6Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. 7Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

The bride has lost her identity in her lover. As He approaches, she clings to Him and is not recognizable apart from Him. This is where Christ longs to draw us. It is a place where those who see us associate us with Christ. We frequently find our place alone with Him and give Him our love. There is time for corporate worship, but if you do not spend time alone with Him, how can you say you truly love Him?

She asks for Him to place her like a seal over His heart, like a seal on His arm. He has done both. The pierced side and arms will forever be a seal of His love for us. He is at the right hand of the Father with those marks that proclaim His love. We could call them love wounds. When He first met with His disciples He displayed those marks to ease their fears. It is a love as strong as death. No greater love has anyone than to lay down his life for the one he loves.

If He loves us like that, He will jealously guide us away from anything else that would compete for our affection and attention. That zeal for us is like a blazing fire. He would consume all else so we would be completely His. That is the picture we see as Jesus cleansed the temple with a scourge of cords. We are his temple, and He wants our hearts purely devoted to Him.

Meditation: What a love He has for us! You cannot purchase it. You cannot earn it. He has set His love upon you, and nothing can turn it from you. How will you respond?

 

Streams in the Desert – November 23

  • 202123 Nov

Thou hast shewed thy people hard things (Ps. 60:3).

I have always been glad that the Psalmist said to God that some things were hard. There is no mistake about it; there are hard things in life.

Some beautiful pink flowers were given me this summer, and as I took them I said, “What are they?” And the answer came, “They are rock flowers; they grow and bloom only on rocks where you can see no soil.” Then  I thought of God’s flowers growing in hard places; and I feel, somehow, that He may have a peculiar tenderness for His “rock flowers” that He may not have for His lilies and roses.
Margaret Bottome

The tests of life are to make, not break us. Trouble may demolish a man’s business but build up his character. The blow at the outward man may be the greatest blessing to the inner man. If God, then, puts or permits anything hard in our lives, be sure that the real peril, the real trouble, is what we shall lose if we flinch or rebel.
Maltbie D. Babcock

Heroes are forged on anvils hot with pain,
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some natures bloom
Only on blood-wet soil, some souls prove great
Only in moments dark with death or doom.
God gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.

Spurgeon at the New Park Street Chapel: 365 Sermons

By: Charles Spurgeon

Love’s commendation

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 2:5-9

I could almost conceive a parliament in heaven. The angels are assembled; the question is proposed to them: “Cherubim and seraphim, cohorts of the glorified, ye spirits that like flames of fire, at my bidding fly, ye happy beings, whom I have created for my honour! Here is a question which I condescend to offer for your consideration: Man has sinned; there is no way for his pardon but by someone suffering and paying blood for blood. Who shall it be?” I can conceive that there was silence throughout the great assembly. Gabriel spoke not: he would have stretched his wings and flapped the heavens in a moment, if the deed had been possible; but he felt that he could never bear the guilt of a world upon his shoulders, and, therefore, still he sat. And there the mightiest of the mighty, those who could shake a world if God should will it, sat still, because they felt all powerless to accomplish redemption. I do not conceive that one of them would have ventured to hope that God himself would assume flesh and die. I do not think it could have entered even into angelic thought to conceive that the mighty Maker of the skies should bow his awful head and sink into a grave. I cannot imagine that the brightest and most seraphic of these glorified ones would for an instant have suffered such a thought to abide with him. And when the Son of God, rising from his throne, spoke to them and said, “Principalities and powers! I will become flesh, I will veil this Godhead of mine in robes of mortal clay, I will die!” I think I see the angels for once astonished.

For meditation: Man had sinned; man must suffer. Only a real, yet sinless man could take his place; God the Son alone qualified for the task (Romans 8:3).

Thank You Lord For Protecting Us

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Thankful for Painful Detours?

construction worker holding detour sign

 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city 
and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! (James 4:13-14 CSB)

My life had taken a painful detour and I kept asking dark what-if questions. What if my husband had not begun to struggle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts? What if he had not retired from pastoring? What if his medication stopped working and suicidal thoughts came back? What if I couldn’t take this anymore? What if I just quit? Stopping my dark what-if questions was impossible. I was stuck and needed help.

My friend Kelly was in training to become a life coach. She reached out asking if she could work with me and I agreed thinking I was helping her. God had a plan to use her to help me stop seeing my journey as a detour and stop asking my what-ifs questions.

A few sessions in, she asked me to identify my goals and dreams.

I quickly answered, “I want to figure out my new identity as a retired pastor’s wife who’s now living on the other side of a pew. My dream is to stop asking what-if questions and understand the detour my life has taken.”

She followed up by asking, “If you could change anything about your life today, what would it be?”

Without hesitating, I said, “My husband would never have suffered anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. We would not have retired or gotten so far into debt because of the medical bills. I wouldn’t live with the fear that the suicidal thoughts would come back. I wouldn’t have lost my identity as a wife or a pastor’s wife.” I fired my answers off, one after another.

Her next question caught me off guard. “What do you love about your life today?”

As I thought about my answer. I knew I was in trouble. My response to the second question was going to change my answers to the first one. I started to list all of the things I loved about my life:

  • my church
  • circle of friends
  • the two life groups and Bible study I led each week
  •  my cute apartment
  • my garden full of flowers and fruit trees
  • the hummingbirds in my yard
  • living so close to my children and grandchildren

All these things were in my life because of my husband’s breakdown.

I couldn’t change my painful experiences without losing the things I had come to love. My focus shifted from the painful journey to all the beautiful things I now had in my life. My response helped me move from living in the what-ifs to becoming thankful for what I have. What-if living is a mindset of dwelling on the loss. Living with a focus on what I am thankful for means I am right where God wants me.

Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15 CSB)

As I read this verse, I hear God say, “Be thankful and live in this moment, for it is all You are guaranteed. Stop asking what-if and ask me for direction.

I had been sharing about my life taking a detour because of my husband’s struggles with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Now I understood it wasn’t a detour at all. God knew this would happen and had a plan. He is using me in the middle of my mess. I am finding joy and serving Him in ways I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. I am not missing out on life because of the struggles I’m facing; I am living a richer, fuller life because of them.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 22

Song of Songs 2:14-15 14My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 15Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

The Song of Songs is about a love relationship between Solomon and a young woman. In a type or shadow it is about Jesus (the Son of David) and His bride, the church. The church is a made up of many members, and this speaks to us all. But it also speaks to us individually. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a mystery that represents Christ and the church. As you read the Song of Songs, place yourself in the role of the beloved. Let the words of the Lover speak to your heart. We consider the love of Christ expressed on the cross, but we should also consider that relational love that made Him willing to go there.

In this passage He calls you His dove. He wants to see your face. Your face is lovely to Him. He longs to hear your voice, for He considers it to be sweet. Our flesh and blood body will pass away, and we will have new bodies that are a clearer expression of our spirit. (1Corinthians 15:51,52; 1John 3:2) He sees that in you now. He sees past what is passing and to the eternal. Take time to come out of hiding in all your busyness, and come and talk with Him face to face.

In this song the Lover and his beloved both have vineyards. It represents the fruit of their lives. Little foxes come in to spoil the fruit. They are going to see that whatever keeps their lives from being fruitful is eliminated. What is it that keeps your life from being fruitful? Are you planning to catch it?

Prayer: Lord, help me to be completely Yours. Help me see and catch whatever keeps our relationship from being fruitful.

Direction in dilemma

‘Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.’ Exodus 14:13

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 37:1–9

In what way are we to stand still, dear friends? Surely it means among other things, that we are to wait awhile. Time is precious, but there are occasions when the best use we can make of it, is to let it run on. If time flies, that is no reason why I am always to fly. Every experienced man knows that by being wrongly busy for one hour, he may make mischief which a lifetime would hardly rectify. If I run without waiting to enquire the way, I may run upon my ruin. Many who have been very busy in helping themselves, would have done better waiting upon their Lord. Prayer is never a waste of time. A man who would ride post-haste, had better wait till he is perfectly mounted, or he may slip from the saddle. He who glorifies God by standing still, is better employed than he who diligently serves his own self-will. Wait awhile then. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before him; tell him your difficulty, and plead his promise of aid. Express your unstaggering confidence in him; wait in faith, for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord. Believe that if he shall keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet he will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not murmuring because you are under the affliction, but blessing God for it; never murmuring against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it stands, and put it as it stands simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God.

Undeserved Grace

Scripture Reading — 2 Samuel 6:1-11

The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months. . . . — 2 Samuel 6:11

Have you seen some of the Publishers Clearing House com­mercials on TV or the internet? A happy group of people jumps out of a van with flowers, balloons, smiles on their faces, and a huge fake check. They approach the home of an unsuspecting person with the news of winning large amounts of money for the rest of their lives. And the person responds with shock, surprise, and excitement.

Obed-Edom had no idea that the ark of the covenant would show up at his door. And the circumstances were sad and shocking. Uzzah had tried to make sure the ark would not fall from the cart when the oxen stumbled. But that vio­lated the holiness of the ark, and Uzzah paid with his life.

This puzzling event brought fear into the hearts of David and all the people. David halted the procession and took the ark to the house of Obed-Edom, where it stayed for three months. It must have taken Obed-Edom by surprise to have the ark of the presence of the Lord at his house.

As Obed-Edom and his family saw the blessings of God pour out on them like manna from heaven, his heart must have swelled with gratitude for the opportunity to be God’s servant. It was all by undeserved grace that he and his household were blessed.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I am surprised by your gifts of undeserved grace. Help me not to take for granted the abundance of relationships and material blessings you have brought into my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Listen To The Voice Of God

His Still Small Voice45 Bible verses about Fire
still small voice | Words of encouragement, Bible promises, VersesGod is Found in a Still, Small Voice.

35 Bible verses about God's VoiceThe Still, Small Voice

HEARING GOD'S VOICE35 Bible verses about God's Voice

 

 

When God Whispered

45 Bible verses about Fire

by Fred Alberti, crosswalk.com

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

My four-year-old son had to learn 2 Timothy 3:16 for AWANA. One of the leaders was concerned and stated that there was just no way the children could grasp the idea of Scripture being “God-breathed.” So we decided to ask my son to explain what “God-breathed” meant.

You know I think we are sometimes too quick to underestimate a child’s ability to understand the truths of the Bible. We are so quick to dismiss their abilities yet this is what Jesus had to say in Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

Jesus knew what children could understand.

I recently was walking through a nature trail. The leaves rustled underfoot and the sun shone out over the lake next to the trail inviting me to stop and reflect on God’s glory. I found a bench and while I sat there I heard the breeze whispering through the tops of the trees. Just a slight hushed sound and my thoughts. That’s when I pondered on my son’s words.

What did my son say?

He said, “Well, God-breathed means that…” and here he lowered his voice, “God whispered it.”

Wow… God whispered His Word.

Peter said, “…you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Our Bible isn’t just some compilation of stories. It is the very Word of God whispered into the hearts and minds of men who were selected to be his special vessels to communicate His good news.

How about you?

Have you, like Elijah, heard the “still small voice” of the Lord bringing you comfort, encouragement, and guidance?

If not, maybe you need to spend some time to just be still and maybe in His time you’ll hear His whisper in your heart too.

Gratify Others With Your Service

By: James Merritt, Touching lives

November 19, 2021

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

I was reading the other day about the rhinoceros; a two-horned terror of unbelievable speed, size and agility and feared by all the other creatures in the jungle. However, there is one creature that has no fear of the rhinoceros and it is called the “Buffalo bird.”

These birds perch on the back of the rhino and some even peck into the rhino’s back just like a woodpecker pecks on wood. Some fly around the head, and others perch on the ears. But the rhino doesn’t attack and doesn’t get angry, because he knows what that Buffalo bird is doing.

You see, rhinos have poor eyesight, and their bodies are covered with parasites which they can’t control. Buffalo birds love to eat parasites. And then when danger is in the area, the birds will let out a shrill call warning the rhinos of what they can’t see.

That little Buffalo bird does a great service to that rhino and in return, the Buffalo bird doesn’t fear any predator, because it is on the back of the most dangerous animal in the jungle.

Now, if God can use a little Buffalo bird to serve a mighty rhino, don’t you doubt for a moment that God can use you and the gifts He has given you to be a great benefit and to gratify other people.

We all have gifts and talents we can use for God’s kingdom, so why not use them to benefit those around us and further the kingdom in the process?

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 21

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 13Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Solomon searched out all the avenues of life to find something of meaning. He encouraged man to enjoy his labor and the simple pleasures of life, but to avoid extremes. Everything he looked to for fulfillment, he concluded was meaningless. But here in the last two verses of this book, he gives us his conclusion of all his seeking. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. A healthy fear of God will deter us from evil.

His commandments are given for our good. If we will let God’s Word direct our lives, we will certainly be better off than if we had ignored it. The Word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path. We sometimes get confused about what God would have us do. This sentence helps make the will of God an idea we can grasp. “If I will fear God and keep His commands, I will have done all that I should.” That is our whole duty in one sentence.

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. The temptations of life lose their attraction when we consider standing before God to answer for them. There is nothing hidden from His eyes. God will reward the good and punish the evil. Those in Christ can thank God that their sins are covered with His blood. There is still the judgment of reward for us, but many of our deeds may be determined to be wood, hay, and stubble. Those done by the Holy Spirit through us will be the precious stones that endure (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).

Consider: Is your life in keeping with the duty of man described here? Do you live in the light of the fact that we will all one day give an account to God of everything we have done and said?

Streams in the Desert – November 21

  • 202121 Nov

“Roll on Jehovah thy way” (Ps. 37:6, margin).

Whatever it is that presses thee, go tell the Father; put the whole matter over into His hand, and so shalt thou be freed from that dividing, perplexing care that the world is full of. When thou art either to do or suffer anything, when thou art about any purpose or business, go tell God of it, and acquaint Him with it; yes, burden Him with it, and thou hast done for matter of caring; no more care, but quiet, sweet, diligence in thy duty, and dependence on Him for the carriage of thy matters. Roll thy cares, and thyself with them, as one burden, all on thy God.
R. Leighton

Build a little fence of trust
Around today;
Fill the space with loving work
And therein stay.

Look not through the sheltering bars
Upon tomorrow;
God will help thee bear what comes
Of joy or sorrow.
Mary Butts

We shall find it impossible to commit our way unto the Lord, unless it be a way that He approves. It is only by faith that a man can commit his way unto the Lord; if there be the slightest doubt in the heart that “our way” is not a good one, faith will refuse to have anything to do with it. This committing of our way must be a continuous, not a single act. However extraordinary and unexpected may seem to be His guidance, however near the precipice He may take you, you are not to snatch the guiding reins out of His hands.

Are we willing to have all our ways submitted to God, for Him to pronounce judgment on them? There is nothing a Christian needs to be more scrutinizing about than about his confirmed habits and views. He is too apt to take for granted the Divine approbation of them. Why are some Christians so anxious, so fearful? Evidently because they have not left their way with the Lord. They took it to Him, but brought it away with them again.
Selected

We Are Surrounded By God’s Favor

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Returning a Favor

family-grace-meal_SI.jpg

 

When I moved into my home in 1977, I salvaged an old table my father was discarding. Our family grew from four to seven around that table.

Then we shrank. When their father departed, we were six.

The years began to show on the table. One of its legs began to wobble. Without warning, it would collapse to the floor leaving all the work for the other three legs. We would laugh. But after a while, one of us found the falling leg not so funny.

When my youngest son was eight years old, he found a hammer and some very long nails and played carpenter. He reattached the errant piece, permanently joining it to the table. The repair was effective, but not pretty.

A few years later, I got a “new” dining room table—also recycled. This table was better. It expanded. And our family was expanding. I had remarried. Some of the children had grown and married and had children of their own.

So the table could be small for everyday dinners, and it could be large for family celebrations. Plus, it was reliable–for a time. Then one of its legs turned mutinous too.

This time, my husband Paul played carpenter, and unless you peeked underneath, you didn’t know the difference.

But our family continued to expand. Eventually, even our stretched out table was too small. Our range of motion became cramped. From fork to plate, to mouth and back. We yearned for extra room for side dishes and elbows.

So last year, Paul and I bought a new table. An Amish carpenter constructed it.

This table is even more expandable than the last one. And it’s rectangular rather than oval. Now we have room for baked corn, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and a host of elbows.

The table was ready just in time for Thanksgiving.

But in order to use your furniture, you first must get it into the house.

Paul heaved and I pushed. But even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. It would have to come in through the back door. To accomplish that, we would have to hoist the table over the back rail deck. And that seemed impossible unless we could get someone else to help.

The best candidate seemed like the young man who had just moved in next door. He seemed strong and he was home.

As Providence would have it, he is a mover by trade. God had placed the perfect workman right next to us.

Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. (1 Chronicles 22:15 NASB95)

All we had to do was ask.

The old table went out the back door and the new table came in.

We had planned to put the old table on the sidewalk with a “Free” sign on it. But Paul found out that this very neighbor and his wife had no table. Now they do. We would never have known their need if we had not asked for his help.

So I’m thankful for my new table. I’m thankful for the craftsman who made a table with legs unlikely to wobble in my lifetime. I’m thankful for the help of a neighbor and that we could help him in return.

I’m thankful for all the elbows to occupy our table this holiday and those we hope will arrive in coming years.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the Master Carpenter who places us in each other’s lives and gives us opportunities to help each other.

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
 For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 136:26 NASB95)

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 20

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 1Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

When we gather together for corporate worship, we need to be especially conscious of what we are saying. Modern worship services often focus on one preacher. How important it is that his words be clear and to the point! If there is humor, it needs to be applicable and appropriate. Better a short sermon that is anointed than a long winded one with many rabbit trails. We need to leave with the clear message ringing in our hearts. Anything that distracts from that should be avoided. C. S. Spurgeon once said that the ground behind the pulpit was holy ground, and that one should take his shoes off before standing there.

We can be easily moved by emotion and the appeal of the sermon to make a vow to God. This passage warns us not to be hasty in our hearts to utter anything before God. Be sure that it is at the direction of the Holy Spirit and that you have counted the cost before making commitments to God. To make a vow to the Almighty is a serious thing. When God promises something to you, you can count on it coming to pass. We are to be like Him, faithful to our word. Use caution not to fill the air with words just to avoid silence. God often speaks to us in the silence.

When you come together to worship, come to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart. Expect Him to meet you there. Take what He has said seriously. Take it with you through the week and determine how God would have you respond. Count the cost and then make the commitment.

Consider: What steps can I take to remember and cling to the Spirit’s direction?

Streams in the Desert – November 20

  • 202120 Nov

Blessed is he that waiteth (Dan. 12:12).

It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still.

There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption?

No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid.

Wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him. Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time; the vision shall come, and shall not tarry.

Wait in quiet patience. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses. Accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, “Now, Lord, not my will, but Thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities; but I will wait until Thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if Thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon Thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for Thee in full conviction that Thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”
Morning by Morning

Man’s ruin and God’s remedy

By: Charles Spurgeon

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” Numbers 21:8

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 23:1-5

Christ’s redemption was so plenteous, that had God willed it, if all the stars of heaven had been peopled with sinners, Christ need not have suffered another pang to redeem them all—there was a boundless value in his precious blood. And, sinner, if there were so much as this, surely there is enough for thee. And then again, if thou art not satisfied with Christ’s sin-offering, just think a moment; God is satisfied, God the Father is content, and must not thou be? The Judge saith, “I am satisfied; let the sinner go free, for I have punished the Surety in his stead;” and if the Judge is satisfied, surely the criminal may be. Oh! Come, poor sinner, come and see; if there is enough to appease the wrath of God there must be enough to answer all the requirements of man. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but my sin is such a terrible one that I cannot see in the substitution of Christ that which is like to meet it.” What is thy sin? “Blasphemy.” Why, Christ died for blasphemy: this was the very charge which man imputed to him, and therefore you may be quite sure that God laid it on him if men did. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but I have been worse than that; I have been a liar.” It is just what men said of him. They declared that he lied when he said, “If this temple be destroyed I will build it in three days.” See in Christ a liar’s Saviour as well as a blasphemer’s Saviour. “But,” says one, “I have been in league with Beelzebub.” Just what they said of Christ. They said that he cast out devils through Beelzebub. So man laid that sin on him, and man did unwittingly what God would have him do. I tell thee, even that sin was laid on Christ.

Jesus Gave Thanks And Fed Five-Thousand

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Why Did Jesus ‘Give Thanks’ When He Fed the 5,000?

hands breaking bread

 

“Give Thanks.” It’s such a small phrase, isn’t it? What circumstance prompts this phrase most often? What comes to mind for you? Perhaps family gathered together around a table to say grace … or maybe a Thanksgiving tradition where each person takes a turn to share something they are thankful for? Whatever comes to mind, few of us think of supernatural signs and wonders. And yet, they are intricately linked.

Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 families with only five loaves and two fish. But have you ever pondered what really prompted the miracle? Was it in response to thousands of people looking for a meal? Jesus’s desire to display His divinity? Honoring the little boy who was willing to share his lunch?

Actually, reading further, reference to the miracle itself is merely described within the framework of one little phrase. It is simply described as the place where Jesus, “gave thanks.”

“[The] boats came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23, italics mine).

I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I would have described this miraculous event. The word “miracle” isn’t even in the text! I think it is because the event was not merely about God’s miraculous provision, as glorious as it was. Rather, it was about humbly acknowledging The Provider.

God the Father, Our Provider

What’s more wonderful is that God our Provider desires to give us something far superior to physical bread. Food can only temporarily satisfy. He even warns those who have such a narrow view,

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.’” (John 6:26 NLT)

He wants to give us so much more! Jesus tells us,

“For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NLT)

Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could experience an eternal joy and fulfillment beyond anything this world can offer. And He demonstrated He has the power to do it. A few chapters later, after giving thanks to God, Jesus raises a man named Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-44).

This is why, when you and I gather around the table to give thanks for our food, we give thanks not merely for the temporary, earthly provisions, as wonderful as they are, but to give thanks to The Provider. And what is God’s greatest provision? His Son Jesus.

“And now [God] offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33 NLT)

Jesus says Himself,

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” (John 6:51 NLT)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for such a glorious gift.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 19

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 9Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. We need the companionship, fellowship, and encouragement of a partner. That friend will be a part of our greatest joys and deepest pains. We expect more from those with whom we share our hearts. Often they will be the cause of the deepest pains, but the sharing of life’s joys makes it worth it.

We all need a friend with whom we can share our heart. We should always take our burdens to the Lord first, but it is often helpful to share them with that trusted friend also. They can give you a perspective that sees your situation through different eyes. They can encourage you and share their own similar experiences. Since we are to “do unto others as we would have them do to us,” we should look for a friend to whom we can be all of the above.

For most people this companion will be their spouse. It takes a lot of work to get to this level of supporting one another in a marriage, but it is worth the effort. If you have settled for less, work through to a deeper relationship. Value your differences. Forgive and be willing to be hurt and forgive again, remembering that your spouse is enduring the same from you. The rewards of a deeper intimacy are more than worth it.

Remember: There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus told his disciples that He was going to call them friends. He wants a deeper intimacy with you. Let Him be your ultimate companion.

For the Days You Feel Overwhelmed

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalms 61:2

For the times when you feel overwhelmed, there’s a Rock that is higher. Stable, sure, faithful, true…a place you can trust, a place you can rest.

We often long for a more simplified life, free of mess or clutter, and struggles. Yet most days we strive just to keep our heads above the demands of work, family responsibilities, and all that calls our name. It’s hard sometimes, feeling like we can never get it all done. Our minds are in a constant mode of “go” from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning.

This is life.

Real life.

And God longs to be right there in the center of it all. In the mess. In the full days. In the craziness and times when we feel overwhelmed. Because the truth is, the reality that we can ever get everything done we feel like we need to do, is not even a reality for most of us. And that’s not where true success is found anyway. It’s found in spending time with Him.

Our Rock. Our stability. Our hope. Our peace.

Maybe today is the day to rise above. Maybe we’ve been stuck down too long. Maybe we’ve been drowning or fighting the “overwhelm.” All the struggles and stuff won’t ever go away, but they don’t have to defeat us.

He is the One who brings hope in the chaos, the clutter, and demands. Because most days don’t look like a Pinterest post or page fresh out of a magazine for Simple Living. Sometimes they’re messy and full, and we can hardly keep up. The to-do list doesn’t get done, again, and we might be feeling a few steps behind. Pressures cling. We feel hurried and stressed. Battling defeat and discouragement, wondering why we can’t just get it together.

Yet still, His Truth shines through.

For though there’s a lot that may be left undone at the end of every day, if we’re living close to the One who created the day and cares more about us than we could ever imagine, that’s where true life is found.

That’s where real peace is.

Resting there today.

Hope you are too.

All-sufficiency magnified

By: Charles Spurgeon

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 22:6-16

Christians, beware lest that village in which you have found a quiet retreat from the cares of business, should rise up in judgment against you, to condemn you, because, having means and opportunity, you use the village for rest, but never seek to do any good in it. Take care, masters and mistresses, lest your servant’s souls be required of you at the last great day. “I worked for my master;” they say, “he paid me my wages, but had no respect to his greater Master, and never spoke to me, though he heard me swear, and saw me going on in my sins.” If I could I would thrust a thorn into the seat where you are now sitting, and make you spring up for a moment to the dignity of a thought of your responsibilities. Why, sirs, what has God made you for? What has he sent you here for? Did he make stars that should not shine, and suns that should give no light, and moons that should not cheer the darkness? Has he made rivers that shall not be filled with water, and mountains that shall not stay the clouds? Has he made even the forests which shall not give a habitation to the birds; or has he made the prairie which shall not feed the wild flocks? And has he made thee for nothing? Why, man, the nettle in the corner of the churchyard has its uses, and the spider on the wall serves her Maker; and you, a man in the image of God, a blood-bought man, a man who is in the path and track to heaven, a man regenerated, twice created, are you made for nothing at all but to buy and to sell, to eat and to drink, to wake and to sleep, to laugh and to weep, to live to yourself?

Thanksgiving Through The Years

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Thanksgiving Through the Years

AN OLD FASHIONED Family Thanksgiving - $15.95 | PicClick

 

The first official presidential proclamation issued in America was George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving message to the people of the United States. He recommended to the people:

“…that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country… “

Later, when the constitution was severely tested in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln also issued a Thanksgiving proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to … fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it … to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Today we once again face monumental challenges in America and around the world. But as our Forefathers did in the midst of their trials, we must us also take time to seek wisdom and guidance from our Heavenly Father and to thank Him for His blessings.

Thanksgiving is an important part of the Christian life. It is the capstone to a life of prayer. The apostle Paul instructed the church in Philippi regarding prayer:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NASB)

Our requests and intercession are to include thanksgiving as a sign of our faith. We thank the Lord in advance that He hears our prayers, and that He is about a good work, bringing His will to pass in our lives. The Scriptures are filled with prayers of thanksgiving:

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1, ESV)

“To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you…” (Daniel 2:23, ESV)

“… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…” (Ephesians 5:19-20a, ESV)

Thanksgiving is also a way that we show humility before Almighty God. One day Jesus witnessed this kind of a grateful heart when He healed a group of ten lepers. Luke writes:

“… And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:14-16a, ESV)

Jesus made note of his humility in thanksgiving, but also of the lack of thanks on the part of the others:

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'” (Luke 17:17-19, ESV)

May we be like this one leper who was healed and then came back to give thanks. As we celebrate with our family and friends, let us do so with a heart of thanksgiving for all that God has done in our lives over this past year.

And in faith, thank Him for all that He is going to do in the year to come – because there is tremendous power in Thanksgiving!

Today’s Devotions

Morning

November 18

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 9-10 2“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

9What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.

Solomon set his heart to find the meaning of life. He tried pleasure of all kinds. He tried to find satisfaction in wealth, in building projects, and in increasing his great wisdom. He concluded it was meaningless. A million men had come and gone before him, and nothing had changed. He grieved over the fact that those men are not remembered nor would he be. We don’t know what Solomon looked like. We can’t know him personally. All we have are a few pages of history and some of his sayings of wisdom. Is that all there is to life?

He had the wisdom to see that everything that is promoted as new is just a different face on an old product. Man still tries to find pleasure in the same things he looked to millenniums ago. He’ll still be seeking the same things tomorrow.

What Solomon in all His wisdom did not see was the coming of Jesus. Though the promise was made to his father, and though as the son of David he was a foreshadow of Christ, he did not see his descendant would be the Messiah. Could he have said that all is meaningless if he knew God was going to show us how to live and die through the sacrifice that makes us fit for heaven? To seek the things of the world and personal satisfaction is always meaningless. To come into a relationship with your Creator and find His purpose for your existence is filled with eternal significance. Solomon knew we were to fear God and keep His commands, for there would come a day of judgment. What he missed was a deepening daily relationship with that God, which lays up treasures in heaven that do not perish.

Streams in the Desert – November 18

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Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me. (Luke 7:23)

It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ. The offenses may be circumstantial. I find myself in a prison-house—a narrow sphere, a sick chamber, an unpopular position—when I had hoped for wide opportunities. Yes, but He knows what is best for me. My environment is of His determining. He means it to intensify my faith, to draw me into nearer communion with Himself, to ripen my power. In the dungeon my soul should prosper.

The offense may be mental. I am haunted by perplexities, questions, which I cannot solve. I had hoped that, when I gave myself to Him, my sky would always be clear; but often it is overspread by mist and cloud. Yet let me believe that, if difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him all the more implicitly—to trust and not be afraid. Yes, and by my intellectual conflicts, I am trained to be a tutor to other storm-driven men.

The offense may be spiritual. I had fancied that within His fold I should never feel the biting winds of temptation; but it is best as it is. His grace is magnified. My own character is matured. His Heaven is sweeter at the close of the day. There I shall look back on the turnings and trials of the way, and shall sing the praises of my Guide. So, let come what will come, His will is welcome; and I shall refuse to be offended in my loving Lord.
Alexander Smellie

Blessed is he whose faith is not offended,
When all around his way
The power of God is working out deliverance
For others day by day;

The Holy Spirit—the great Teacher

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 25:4-14

If I give myself to the Holy Spirit and ask his guidance, there is no fear of my wandering. Again, we rejoice in this Spirit because he is ever-present. We fall into a difficulty sometimes; we say, “Oh, if I could take this to my minister, he would explain it; but I live so far off, and am not able to see him.” That perplexes us, and we turn the text round and round and cannot make anything out of it. We look at the commentators. We take down pious Thomas Scott, and, as usual, he says nothing about it if it be a dark passage. Then we go to holy Matthew Henry, and if it is an easy Scripture, he is sure to explain it; but if it is a text hard to be understood, it is likely enough, of course, left in his own gloom. And even Dr Gill himself, the most consistent of commentators, when he comes to a hard passage, manifestly avoids it in some degree. But when we have no commentator or minister, we have still the Holy Spirit. And let me tell you a little secret: whenever you cannot understand a text, open your Bible, bend your knee, and pray over that text; and if it does not split into atoms and open itself, try again. If prayer does not explain it, it is one of the things God did not intend you to know, and you may be content to be ignorant of it. Prayer is the key that openeth the cabinets of mystery. Prayer and faith are sacred keys that can open secrets, and obtain great treasures. There is no college for holy education like that of the blessed Spirit, for he is an ever-present tutor, to whom we have only to bend the knee, and he is at our side, the great expositor of truth.

 

Give Thanks From Your Heart To God

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The Grateful Samaritan

Bible study group

 

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:15-16 NLT)

Ten lepers had been healed, yet only one returned to give glory to God. God makes it very clear to us that this person who had returned was a despised foreigner. We often miss God’s blessing because it comes through someone with whom we disagree.

I once was asked to work on a steering committee of a crusade held by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Grady Wilson, an associate evangelist, did the preaching.

I had been saved and nurtured In Christ in the charismatic renewal that occurred in the Church in the latter part of the last century. One of the central tenants of our faith was a belief in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. One of my friends who attended my church got wind of my involvement in this crusade. He said to me, “I would not be involved with them, they don’t even believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

I was a young Christian at the time and it shook me. I started to have reservations about my involvement with the crusade. Even though I had doubts, what my friend said just did not sit well with me, and I continued to serve on the committee. The result, a rich learning experience. In relation to reaching the lost, it was honey straight out of the rock. The people on the Billy Graham team had forgotten more than I would ever know about evangelism. I learned that I need people who did not believe exactly as I did. A difference in theology almost made me miss this life-changing experience.

It’s amazing, God uses people who don’t believe just like we do. One of the themes of the Scripture above is that God uses people who don’t dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s theologically. Of course, our theology is important, but is it significant enough to divide us unless it involves the basics of our salvation or a clear departure from biblical truth? You probably heard about the pastor who was having a discussion with God about working with another church. He told the Lord, “I don’t know if I agree with everything they do.”  God replied, “I don’t always agree with everything that you do, yet I still work with you.”

The Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:4-5:

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”

When we separate ourselves from God’s family we are fracturing Christ’s Body and missing part of the character of God.

Saint Augustine once said,

“In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,”

The grateful Samaritan reveals to us that loving God is evidenced by gratefulness in our hearts more than theological correctness in our minds.

What Does God Love?

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalms 86:12).

There is a very famous passage in Proverbs detailing what God hates. Indeed, throughout the Bible God never shows reluctance to speak against behaviors he finds detestable. This should come as no surprise to us, being that he is holy and man has amassed a large amount of sinful tendencies since he first came into the world.

But what does God love? While avoiding the “bad” list – is there a “good” list toward which we can be working? Let’s dissect Proverbs 6:16 to discern the things which God loves.

God hates “haughty eyes.”

Therefore, God loves eyes which gaze with humility. Not a false or broken humility of despising oneself, but a genuine, Christ-like choice to serve others, not draw undue attention to oneself, and treat others with great honor and respect.

God hates “a lying tongue.”

Therefore, God loves a tongue which speaks truth. Note that this does not say a brash tongue, or a loud tongue, or a tongue which speaks its opinion at any and every possible moment. Rather, he loves a tongue which, when it does speak, values honesty and artlessness.

God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.”

Therefore, God loves hands which protect the innocent. Throughout Scripture, God’s compassion for the defenseless and the innocent is clear. He commends his children (in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant) to protect the defenseless (Psalm 82:3-4), welcome the alien (Matthew 25:35), care for the widow (James 1:27), defend the orphan (Deut. 24:17), and mourn with those who are mourning (Romans 12:15). We are to be peaceful citizens, not bloodthirsty citizens, and our hands should therefore strive to protect innocence.

Therefore, God loves a heart which devises good and righteous plans. God loves our desires to serve, our desires to help, our desires to minister. When our hearts long to carry out God’s plans for goodness, righteousness, and peace, it delights him.

God hates “feet that run rapidly to evil.”

Therefore, God loves feet which run rapidly to goodness. Our feet carry enormous power. Where we choose to walk can truly define who we are as a person. Will we choose to walk away from a fruitless argument, or remain in an attempt to stubbornly prove a point? Will we choose to chase after those whom we have wronged, falling at their feet with love and humility? Will we let our feet wander to where the Spirit leads us, or will our feet guide us to our own selfish desires?

God hates “a false witness who utters lies.”

Therefore, God loves a trustworthy witness who speaks the truth. When we are beacons of integrity, truth, and honor, God rejoices. In any situation, a witness is charged to faithfully report what happened to the best of his ability. The greatest witness we can be is a faithful witness of God’s redeeming work in our lives. Will we stand boldly and speak the truth of God to the world? Are we living our lives as false witnesses, or trustworthy witnesses?

God hates “one who spreads strife among brothers.”

Therefore, God loves one who spreads peace among his brothers. It is really only possible to spread peace or strife. Every word we speak contributes one of those two attitudes to our relationships. And God loves those who value peace over 1) proving a point, 2) being heard, or 3) manipulating situations. With one word at a time, God wants us to change our attitude and sow seeds of peace in our relationships.

When the Answer is No

Reginald Smith, author, today devotions

Scripture Reading — 1 Samuel 28:3-20

[Saul] inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him. . . . — 1 Samuel 28:6

Saul had to fight with Israel’s enemy the Philistines again. And when he saw the opposing army, “he was afraid; terror filled his heart.” He wanted to ask the Lord about what he should do, but the Lord did not respond to him. Saul needed advice, but old Samuel the prophet was dead. So Saul decided to use a medium, a spiritist, to try to communicate with the spirit of Samuel from the dead.

Saul persuaded a medium at Endor into conjuring up the spirit of Samuel for him. Though God had told his people not to do this (Leviticus 19:3120:6), Saul did it anyway.

Old Samuel told Saul that the Lord had torn the kingdom from him and given it to David. The Philistines would crush Israel, and Saul and his sons would die. When Saul heard this, he fell to the ground, “filled with fear because of Samuel’s words.”

God’s no to Saul was an attempt to wake him up and turn him away from trying to get his own way. But would Saul listen?

Oftentimes for us too, the Lord’s no might be his way of trying to get our attention to repent from destructive choices and choose a different path. What will it take for us to trust and obey God?

Streams in the Desert – November 17

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And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says! Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? (Luke 18:6-7)

God’s seasons are not at your beck. If the first stroke of the flint doth not bring forth the fire, you must strike again. God will hear prayer, but He may not answer it at the time which we in our minds have appointed; He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations. Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication.

In the days of flint and steel and brimstone matches we had to strike and strike again, dozens of times, before we could get a spark to live in the tinder; and we were thankful enough if we succeeded at last.

Shall we not be as persevering and hopeful as to heavenly things? We have more certainty of success in this business than we had with our flint and steel, for we have God’s promises at our back.

Never let us despair. God’s time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing has arrived. Ask in faith nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the King delays to reply. Strike the steel again. Make the sparks fly and have your tinder ready; you will get a light before long.
C. H. Spurgeon

I do not believe that there is such a thing in the history of God’s kingdom as a right prayer offered in a right spirit that is forever left unanswered.
Theodore L. Cuyler