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Happy Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Benefits

 

It’s the time of year that we think about Thanksgiving, with turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings. On good days, we might even remember to take time to give thanks. After all, we have much to be thankful for. Besides, God said,

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1 NASB).

I’m grateful for a season where we are reminded to give thanks and praises to our God. It’s good to have an annual reminder because it’s easy to become lax and take our blessings for granted. In addition, too often trials in life steal our gratefulness. It’s good to be reminded.

I recently had a trial that taught me benefits of being grateful. In the midst of a struggle, I found myself on edge and easily angered for weeks.

The problem started when I got a new computer. I had more than my share of frustrations dealing with the new system. Stress was heightened because I was trying to finish a book and standardize its layout.

Every day I encountered several challenges and spent half my time trying to solve computer problems rather than accomplishing my goal. The days of aggravation turned to weeks, and I became more and more frustrated.

One day, I was ready to throw the thing out the window, when a quiet inner voice said, “You’re not very grateful for your computer, are you?”

I thought, “Of course I’m grateful. I work on the computer all the time. I’ll take a computer over a typewriter any day. I’m glad I can delete, copy and paste, and move things around. Besides, my old computer was dying. I’m grateful I could get a new one.”

“Grateful?” echoed the little voice.

“Well, I’m grateful when it acts like I want it to … sometimes I’m grateful.”

I finally relented. I wasn’t grateful. Indeed, I was ready to throw my computer out the window.

The more I thought about how my computer facilitates communication and how much I rely on it, the more grateful I was. As I became grateful, frustration and turmoil were replaced with calm.

It didn’t solve my problems. I continued to have issues where my new computer didn’t work like I expected. I still had to learn the new system. But the change was like night and day.

When I was grateful instead of angry, my insides didn’t go into knots when I ran into challenges. My mind didn’t freeze and my emotions didn’t flare. Instead, I was able to look at the problem calmly and find a solution. Because of the change in me, it seemed that my computer quit giving me problems.

The trouble was in my heart. When I got my heart straightened out, my brain and emotions didn’t short-circuit with anger. Consequently, I was able to work through challenges in much shorter time.

My frustration with my new computer was minor compared to many problems we all face. However, God tells us,

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB).

Whatever we face, when we give God thanks in the midst of the problem, it aligns our hearts with His. In addition, it opens our hearts so we can receive His grace to walk through it.

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15 NASB).

When it is hardest to give thanks, it is probably the time we most need to give it.

Have a blessed Thanks-giving.

 

How to Have a Thankful Heart Through Difficult Times

by Veronica Neffinger, crosswalk.com

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:15-16)

Colorful, feather-shaped pieces of construction paper sit on the kitchen table, along with cut-outs of turkey-shaped bodies and body parts–beak, feet, etc. My mother brings over the magic markers and we are ready to begin making our yearly Thanksgiving turkeys.

This was a tradition my mother started when I was very young, and we participated every year that I remember until I left for college. We would assemble our turkeys and then write one thing we were thankful for on each feather.

Looking back, I remember it being so simple, especially in the early years: family, friends, pets, God, food, a warm house. In high school things became a bit more theological, but yet they still flowed fairly easily off my pen: salvation, God’s mercy, spiritual mentors.

Holiday traditions like these are fun. They build memories and focus on the blessings of life; but sometimes, especially as adults, it is harder to easily list what we are thankful for. Either it seems too cliche, or we can find it difficult to be sincere about our thankfulness when perhaps times are very hard.

My Thanksgivings after high school have been much less carefree. Adult thoughts of school, jobs, finances, and traveling can weigh heavy on us even as we attempt to drum up feelings of thankfulness on its namesake holiday.

Crosswalk.com contributor Debra Fileta shares her story of recognizing that Thanksgiving is about more than merely lisiting your blessings. “What if being thankful meant surrendering our struggles, too?” she asks.

“I am proclaiming right now that in times of suffering, a heart of gratitude means more than just saying ‘thank you,’” Fileta says. It means believing that God is who he says he is. Believing that he is good, that he is love, and that he is for me. Believing that he never changes, that he never fails, and that he is working all things for what is good.”

God understands that thankfulness is not always (or usually) a gut-reaction for us. Even Jesus struggled to thankfully accept God’s Plan of salvation while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, preparing to go through the agony of the cross.

“‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him,” Luke 22:42-42 records.

This passage tells us two things:

First, there is value in going through the motions even if the feelings aren’t there. Choosing to thank God even if you don’t feel like it and are actually more stressed than thankful can be an important first step in having your heart opened to true gratitude.

Secondly, the passage says angels ministered to Christ and helped strengthen Him for what he was about to undergo. We have someone even better than God’s entire host of angels to aid us–Jesus Himself.

Though life may bring us trials, we are not alone. And though offering up thanksgiving in the midst of those trials may be a sacrifice, it is a rewarding one.

“When I look at those pieces of my life that look overwhelmingly difficult or disappointing and can thank God for whatever good He plans to bring out of them, I am offering a sacrifice of praise,” says Crosswalk.com conributor April Motl. “When I can entrust what looks like something that is broken beyond repair to my heavenly Father’s goodness and love, I am offering a sacrifice of praise.”

This world and the life we live in it is often a thankfulness-stealer. But in Christ, we know that we can “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) because the trials and hard times are not a test, but another reason to trust God who is working all for our good and has already given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

 

Thanksgiving’s Sacrifice

by Inspiration Ministries

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving … He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” – Psalm 50:14, 23 NASB

The Bible reminds us of why it is important to be thankful. A spirit of thankfulness changes our attitude toward everything. It demonstrates that we recognize all God has done for us. We are thankful for how He has transformed our lives. We are thankful for His Word and His Spirit. We are thankful for salvation and eternal life. We are thankful for the joy of knowing Him and His peace.

If we want to be victorious, we need to be thankful in all circumstances. Thankfulness is an important way we honor and praise Him. This shows that we don’t take Him for granted, and we appreciate all He has done. When we offer thanks, we prepare our hearts to receive more blessings.

The sacrifices of thanksgiving are even more meaningful. These acts cost us something. Because they are sacrifices, it means that we have other options. We could focus on our pleasures and ourselves. Instead, we choose to give up something to honor God. This kind of sacrifice shows that we value Him and place Him first in our lives.

Think of all the reasons for being thankful to God. Allow your heart to be filled with thanks. Thank Him with your voice. Be willing to offer sacrifices to Him. Do something that costs you something. Do it joyfully. Willingly. And demonstrate your thankfulness by dedicating your time, talents, and treasures to Him.

 

Encouragement for Today

Kay W. Camenisch, author, crosswalk.com

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will
that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” John 21:21-22 (ESV)

“I can’t wait to get a gumball! And I promise, mom, I’m going to be happy with whatever color I get!”

My daughter’s big, blue eyes sparkled as we headed into our favorite pizza restaurant — one with a gigantic, old-school gumball machine. Try as they might, my children were unsuccessful in controlling what color that bright-red machine spit out, which regularly led to epic meltdowns.

But on this day, I was pleasantly surprised by my daughter’s resolve to avoid such a meltdown and gratefully accept whatever color she got. And, when a shiny blue treat wound its way down, she did indeed happily accept it and start chomping away.

All was calm … until her little sister’s quarter produced the prized and highly coveted reward among little girls: a glistening, pink gumball.

Cue the water works. As my youngest danced with glee, her big sister wailed like her heart might break in two: “But I wanted piiiiiink!”

I spent the next 30 minutes consoling her while also concealing the frustration I felt. Wasn’t it just a gumball? But on the quiet ride home, the Lord spoke deeply to my heart: When it comes down to it, you’re really no different.

For isn’t this just like us? We’re content and grateful … until we start looking around. We give thanks for what we have … until we scroll social media and see what others have. Suddenly, our “gumball” doesn’t look so appealing.

Comparison begins its ugly churn inside our hearts. We start thinking life would be a whole lot better if only we had her job, marriage, children, house, looks, etc. Before we know it, we too are wailing about what someone else has.

The Gospel of John records a similar situation among Jesus’ disciples. In Chapter 21, we see Jesus reinstate Peter by granting him a fresh commission after he’d tragically denied his Savior.

The bad news was this commission came with a less-than-desirable ending: While Peter would have an incredible, decades-long ministry, he would ultimately follow in his Savior’s footsteps and experience death on a cross.

In our key verse, we see Peter comparing his lot to those around him. Even though Peter had been given the steadfast love and forgiveness of his Savior and the promise of a fruitful ministry, he honed in on the fate of John, the “beloved” disciple:

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:21-22).

Ouch. In His gentle yet unwavering way, Jesus directed Peter’s gaze and gratitude back to Himself. He gave Peter the reminder we desperately need, too: God’s job is being God. Our job is faithfully following Him on the path before us — bumps and all.

When we, like Peter, take our eyes off Jesus and focus on the gifts we see others receiving, we fall smack into the enemy’s trap. Like my young daughter, we lose sight of the good and gracious gifts God has given us. Instead, we begin believing the lie that everyone else has it better.

Dear one, God is unflinchingly good to each and every one of His children. He is not unjust, unkind or prone to favoritism. We must let Him be God while we simply follow after Him with a grateful, trusting heart.

The difficult but liberating truth is it’s irrelevant what color “gumball” someone else has. Keeping our gratitude vertical sets us on a path of peace and contentment.

Today, let’s fix our gaze on our loving, generous Father and lift up praise for all He has done. Let’s cling to the truth that, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9, NIV).

There is so much to be grateful for if we have eyes to see it.

Everything Is A Gift

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Everything Is a Gift

 

I watched a film recently that began with the quote: “Everything is a gift from the universe.” Non-believers can grasp at straws when it comes to acknowledging higher powers, but as Christians, we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So when that quote was lingering in my mind long after the movie was over, I got to thinking about God as the ultimate gift-giver and how different those gifts look when we know what they are and where they came from.

We commonly think of gifts when it comes to birthdays and special occasions. If we were to make a list, it might include the car in the driveway with the giant red bow on it, the diamond tennis bracelet, or even a greeting card full of cash. Who doesn’t like a tangible display of affection, especially if it was a little expensive? I can tell you one person who doesn’t … a small Southern woman I happen to know and love.

My mother was the first one who got me out of thinking like a material girl every time a gift-giving holiday came around. For her birthday, she would write a short wish list. One item on her list was volunteering to make dinner. Another was giving her a hug every morning before we left for school. It was the simple things that she treasured and it taught us the things with the greatest value are often without a price tag.

When you think along those lines, the idea of God being the giver of gifts isn’t too far-fetched. And it goes beyond the big-ticket items of life like getting married or having children. If you count the small things, you are surrounded by presents every day.

One day, from morning until night, I’d like you to count your blessings. Carry around a little notepad and write them all down. For example, today, I woke up gently without an alarm in my warm, fluffy Queen-sized bed. That’s one. My breakfast of almond crepes with lemon curd turned out perfectly tasty. That’s one. A wise, wonderful friend came over for coffee later on in the morning. That’s three blessings in the first hour and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

You see where I’m going with this? If you note every moment of happiness placed in your life, you’ll see that you unwittingly unwrap hundreds of gifts throughout your day.

King Solomon understood rejoicing in the little things. Sure, he had a vast kingdom with more toys to play with than anyone could enjoy in two lifetimes; however, he was quick to note that it was all “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). If anything, he found joy in much of what anyone can indulge.

“So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15a, CEV)

“Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, CEV)

Part of the fall of man is a predisposition to focus on the negative, and let’s be real, there’s plenty of that to go around. One bad minute can ruin your whole day. But what would it look like if we collected all the good and see how it outweighs the bad? Just the little things. If you need inspiration, think of the character, Maria, from The Sound of Music. When trying to cheer up the frightened von Trapp children during a storm, she sings about her favorite things that include raindrops on roses and warm woolen mittens. It’s cheesy as musicals are supposed to be, but the point of the song is finding joy in simplicity.

Everything is a gift from God, and knowing that He loves us this much leads us to nothing less than gratitude and deep devotion.

 

Why Being Thankful Is a Powerful Way to Live Free

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalms 28:7

We have so much to be grateful for in this life, every single day. But reality is that sometimes constant life demands, battles, and worries give more room to defeat than to a heart of thanks. Or we forget, in the midst of busyness and pressures, just to pause and give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do in our lives.

Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise and thanks. We may not feel like it. We’re struggling. We’re weary. Or maybe, we feel like He let us down. We think God seems distant, like he’s far away, or doesn’t really care about what’s troubling us. Painful life blows and losses might have recently sent us spiraling.

But here’s what can make a lasting difference. We have a choice, every day, to give him thanks. And with a heart of thanksgiving, we realize that no matter what we face, God doesn’t just work to change our situations and help us through our problems. He does more. He changes our hearts. His power, through hearts of gratitude and focused minds on Him, releases the grip our struggles have over us. We’re strengthened by His peace, refueled by His joy.

No matter what our current situation, or the struggles we may be facing, here’s what choosing to be thankful does:

  • It gets our eyes off ourselves, and helps us to focus back on God.
  • It reminds us we’re not in control, but that we serve a Mighty God who is. It keeps us in a place of humility and dependency on Him, as we recognize how much we need Him.
  • It helps us to recognize we have so much to be thankful for, even all the little things, which often we may forget to thank Him for. It takes our attention off our problems and helps us instead to reflect on the goodness of His many blessings.
  • It reminds us that God is the Giver of all good gifts. We were never intended to be fully self-sufficient in this life. A grateful heart reminds us that ultimately God is our Provider, that all blessings and gifts are graciously given to us by His hand.

Here are just a few more truths to remember about thankfulness:

  • A heart of gratitude leaves no room for complaining. For it is impossible to be truly thankful and filled with negativity and ungratefulness at the same time.
  • It makes the enemy flee. The forces of darkness can’t stand to be around hearts that give thanks and honor to God. Our praise and thanksgiving will make them flee.
  • It opens the door for continued blessings. It invites His presence. God loves to give good gifts to His children. He delights in our thankfulness and pours out His Spirit and favor over those who give honor and gratitude to Him.

    Assimilation

    by Inspiration Ministries

    “The king ordered Ashpenaz … to bring in some of the sons of Israel … He ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” – Daniel 1:3-4 NASB

    From our perspective, Babylon might look like a massive, united, national machine. But history reminds us that nothing was stable for the people in that region. Tribes continually competed for dominance. Change could take place swiftly. We see that after the death of Nebuchadnezzar as control shifted to Belshazzar and then Darius and Cyrus, and a new tribe became dominant.

    Aware of this reality, men like Nebuchadnezzar never took control for granted. We see this concern in their attitude toward Daniel and other Jews.

    The Babylonian rulers wanted these men to be assimilated into their culture and to be loyal. As a result, many young Jews were trained with the goal of getting them to act and think not like Jews but Babylonians and Chaldeans.

    We see this concern in the reaction to the image of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar, as everyone was told to “fall down and worship” the king (Daniel 3:5). When Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would not bow down, Nebuchadnezzar reacted with rage. Yet ultimately, these men were allowed to retain their faith.

    The challenge for us is to realize that we, too, can feel forced to assimilate and be pressured to think like everyone else. We feel compelled to lay aside our beliefs and faith in God. Like Daniel and his young friends, we need to have the boldness to stand for what we believe and retain our relationship with God.

    Preaching! Man’s privilege and God’s power!

    By: Charles Spurgeon

    “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Mark 6:20.

    Suggested Further Reading: James 1:19-25.

    If you would hear the word to profit, you must hear it obediently. You must hear it as James and John did, when the master said “Follow me,” and they left their nets and their boats and they followed him. You must do the word as well as hear it, yielding up your hearts to its sway, being willing to walk in the road which it maps, to follow the path which it lays before you. Hearing it obediently, you must also hear it personally for yourselves, not for others, but for yourselves alone. You must be as Zaccheus, who was in the sycamore tree, and the Master said, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” The word will never bless you till it comes home directly to yourself. You must be as Mary, who when the Master spoke to her she did not know his voice, till he said unto her, “Mary”, and she said, “Rabboni.” There must be an individual hearing of the truth, and a reception of it for yourself in your own heart. Then, too, you must hear the truth penitently. You must be as that Mary, who when she listened to the word, must needs go and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head. There must be tears for your many sins, a true confession of your guilt before God. But above all you must hear it believingly. The word must not be unto you as mere sound, but as matter of fact. You must be as Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened; or as the trembling gaoler, who believed on the Lord Jesus with all his house and was baptized immediately. You must be as the thief, who could pray, “Lord, remember me,” and who could believe the precious promise given, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

    For meditation: To want to hear the preaching of God’s Word and to enjoy hearing it are good things as far as they go, but by themselves they do not go far enough (Ezekiel 33:30-32).

Fools For Christ

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Fools for Christ

By Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. – 1 Corinthians 1:27

I was leaving the grocery store and had just started my car, when I was approached by a man pushing a stroller. I assumed he was going to ask for directions, but it turned out that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“Hey man, I really need some help. My daughter and I just got evicted from our apartment.” He proceeded to rattle off his story as I listened uncomfortably. He had contacted Social Services but they wouldn’t be able to help him until tomorrow. His wife had left when things got tough. He was afraid of losing his daughter. He’d found a cheap motel to stay in, but he still needed seventeen dollars to pay for the room.

Now, several things began to buzz through my head as he talked. The first was how I didn’t trust a thing he was saying. In Asia, I’d seen female beggars use their children to garner sympathy from passing strangers. In South America, older men would hold Bibles or crosses, not because they were Christians but because it encouraged people to give more generously. Everything about his story felt rehearsed, staged, right down to the toddler in his stroller.

The second thing was that the man had said he needed $17, which was the exact amount I had in my wallet. I had been hoping to use that money to grab a lunch out or maybe see a movie, but could I really justify being so selfish if this guy really needed it? I considered giving him a few bucks just to make him go away, but withholding the rest didn’t seem any better than giving him nothing. It felt like I was trapped between two choices, would I be stupid or heartless? Eventually, I considered what Christ would have me do, and handed over the money along with my best wishes.

I don’t know what became of that man. Maybe he was telling the truth, maybe he was lying, and to be honest, I don’t really care. God has called us to love, and you cannot love others if you are afraid of looking foolish. Remember what the Bible says in the book of Matthew:

“‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’” – Matthew 5:38-42.

 

Just a Little Sin

LYSA TERKEURST, author, crosswalk.com

 

“So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.” Genesis 37:17c-18 (NIV) 

Today, there will be a moment. No one will snap a picture of it. It probably won’t make it into the journals of those who journal. Or linger in the thoughts we carry with us to sleep tonight.

It will come.

It will go.

It will slip by seemingly unnoticed. But its effects won’t slip. They’ll stay. And if fostered, grow to epic proportions.

This moment where something creeps into our heart and pulls our focus from right to wrong. It will be just a hint of distortion. The smallest amount. But a slight and seemingly insignificant amount of skewed thought will take root.

And grow.

Beyond what we can even imagine.

What is this distortion? The thought that “this” bitterness is okay … justifiable … no big deal.

Which brings us to one of my favorite stories in the Bible. The one where Moses goes to Pharaoh and sings that song, “Oh, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, whoa, whoa, gotta let my people go.”

Totally a loose translation, but if you’ve ever attended vacation Bible school as a child, you probably know what I’m talking about.

There’s an astounding chain of events that led up to God having to deliver His people from Pharaoh’s fierce grip that I want us to trace and consider. It starts with this question: Why was the entire nation of Israelites — all of God’s people — all 12 tribes — enslaved in Egypt?

As I trace this story backward, I find it’s because of one seemingly insignificant moment.

The course of history was changed because a few family members got angry and jealous of their brother Joseph. Bitterness slipped in. And that bitterness eventually grew into hatred.

Hurt that sits unattended to in the human heart over time can so easily turn to hate.

Our key verse reveals the moment the seed of bitterness and anger magnified into a full-blown murderous plot: “So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him” (Genesis 37:17c-18).

While they didn’t wind up killing Joseph, they did sell their brother and regarded him as dead.

Years went by.

Years of heartbreak and confusion passed.

Eventually, Joseph landed in a position of great power in Egypt and had authority to provide food for his family. So, all 11 of his brothers and their families moved to Egypt. Joseph and his 11 brothers make up what became the 12 tribes of Israel. As these tribes multiplied, they became the nation of Israel.

What the brothers meant for evil, God used for good. He saved the Israelites from the famine. But there were still lasting effects of the brothers’ choices that came out years later.

After Joseph died, “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’ So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh” (Exodus 1:8-11, NIV).

So, the entire nation of Israel suffered oppression and slavery for centuries. Why?

Because a few brothers on an ordinary day got a little jealous … and allowed bitterness and anger to slip in.

And the moment these emotions slipped in, the course of history changed.

In a moment.

May we never assume our moments don’t matter. The decisions we make every second of every day matter.

There are no little moments or little sins.

There’s a domino effect to it all, and it reaches far beyond what we can even know.

Please understand, no part of this is meant to heap more hurt on you or condemn you in any way. But awareness and conviction are good.

Moments matter. And future generations will be impacted by our choices today.

Let’s watch for any moment today where we have the choice to let anger, envy or something else negative slip in. And when one shows up, let’s recognize it. Refute it. And replace it with God’s spirit of love.

 

Complications

by Inspiration Ministries

“If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.” – Proverbs 24:10 CSB

We often desire to sail through life like a ship drifting on a calm sea. We want to arrive at the distant shore without complications. But our journeys may bring us face-to-face with unforeseen obstacles.

The question is how can we prepare for these complications? How will we respond? Will we falter or struggle? Will we cave in under the pressure? Or will we be confident in God, sure that He is with us?

When we encounter complications, it can be difficult to concentrate. Often our minds are preoccupied. Our emotions can be stirred up. It’s hard to hear God or even have faith in Him. That’s why we need to prepare for complications before they take place.

What does this mean practically? Today is the day to prepare for the future, seeking to become spiritually stronger. Commit yourself to reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word, so it is hidden in your heart. Spend quality time in prayer, so you have a more intimate relationship with the Father.

People may fail to look ahead. Friends may be preoccupied. Unexpected things may occur. But God is already in the future. And He is ready to provide whatever you need.

Make sure you trust in God today. Spend quality time in prayer today. Talk with Him throughout the day. Fill your mind with His Word. Practice thinking His thoughts and confessing His promises. Gain strength and peace through your relationship with Him.

Be Thankful For all God’s Blessings

Bible Verses About Blessings From God on 3 Topics81 Bible Verses about Blessing - DailyVerses.net
Bible Verses About Blessings – Blessings From God49 Bible verses about Blessing Others
Top 10 Bible Verses About Blessing81 Bible Verses about Blessing - DailyVerses.net

 

Please Pass the Blessings

jesus blessing children in a church painting

By: Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

The story of Jacob sounds like a soap opera, yet God was in the midst of it. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. Before their birth, God told Rebekah,

“Two nations are in your womb … and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

Jacob tried to be first from the beginning, grabbing Esau’s heel as he was born; thus his name means heel-grabber.

Jacob was also a good cook, and it was for a bowl of his stew that Esau traded away his birthright as the eldest son. Later, Esau took two Hittite wives who were a grief to his parents. Rebekah then helped Jacob trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. When Esau planned to kill Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to find a wife among her relatives.

Genesis 28:10 tells us, Jacob went out from Beersheba. Often, when you take that first step of faith on a journey, God meets you there. Jacob dreamed of a ladder from earth to heaven—and there God spoke to him.

Although he fell in love with Rachel, Jacob the trickster was tricked by his Uncle Laban into marrying her older sister first. The two wives were bitter rivals, involving their servants in a race to have children—twelve sons total. When Jacob finally headed home with his family, he didn’t know if Esau still wanted him dead.

He wrestled all night with God, who said,

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

If life had been easy, would he have persevered and prevailed?

The key is that Isaac had blessed Jacob:

“May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham” (Genesis 28:3-4 NLT).

This was God’s plan. The blessings God gave Abraham were passed to Isaac, who bestowed them on Jacob. Through him came the twelve tribes of Israel, then the Messiah.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for what God has done, then pray over your family and bless them all. Pass along the wonderful blessings that God has freely given to you. As Galatians 3:14 says,

“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham” (NLT).  God bless you.

 

The Time for Radical Action Is Now

by Alex Crain, crosswalk.com

“…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”- Romans 8:13 

Aron Ralston’s grisly experience during a climbing expedition illustrates a spiritual truth that makes me wince. If you aren’t familiar with the story, take a look at his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (© 2004 Simon & Schuster), which is a detailed tell-all of his ordeal that occurred in late April 2003.

The experienced 27-year-old outdoorsman jumped into his truck that spring morning, bringing just enough food and water for the day. He took off by himself, driving 150 miles south of Salt Lake City to his favorite spot—a remote canyon area that used to be the hideout for wild-west outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

By afternoon, he was suspended seventy-five feet high off the canyon floor—climbing in a crevice that was just a few feet wide. It was a near perfect day. But then without warning, a boulder suddenly broke loose from the rock wall above him, hurtled down and trapped Ralston’s right arm against the wall, completely crushing his hand. At that instant, Aron’s hand—one of his greatest assets—had now become his greatest liability.

Five whole days passed as he tried various ways to free himself—all to no avail. His efforts to chip away at the boulder with a pocket knife only made a small dent. Rigging up a pulley system to move the boulder proved fruitless.

Finally, a moment of decisive clarity came. The thoughts came fast and furious: he could break his forearm, cut through the muscle with his dirty pocket knife, detach his arm, and use a piece of rope as a tourniquet.

Aron explains that he was driven by “some sort of autopilot” as he went about the gruesome task of amputating his own right arm just below the elbow. After he was finished, Aron lowered himself down and began trudging slowly in the direction of his truck. Later, he stumbled across two hikers who used a mobile phone to call in a rescue helicopter. Amputating his right arm was a radical act, but it was one that saved his life and reunited him with his family.

God calls us to deal with sin in our life in a way that is surprisingly similar. The Bible doesn’t offer a laid-back, live-and-let-live approach at all. It’s so radical, that we don’t really like hearing about it or talking about it. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” While Jesus was not literally talking about physical amputation, He was saying that sin’s deadly effects call for extreme measures. Even though it hurts, we must rid sin from our lives. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on how we deal with sin.

Really? Well, why else would Jesus talk about hell in the same breath that He talks about how we are to deal with sin if He didn’t mean to teach that our eternal destiny hangs in the balance? Clearly, it’s a matter of preferring one destiny over the other. Outward behavior indicates what the heart primarily loves. If Aron Ralston had stayed there on the canyon wall with his hand pinned down by the boulder, he would have died. But because he was willing to kill his hand, his life was saved.

The same goes with us as we deal with sin. It really comes down to what we value most. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The world may tell us to laugh about sin, to lighten up about it, to tolerate it, and just let it be… that it’s not idolatry; it’s not an issue of worship. God says the opposite is true.

Streams in the Desert – November 23

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

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.

 

Functioning as a Body

by Inspiration Ministries

“The workers served faithfully … Other Levites … were put in charge of the laborers of the various trades. Still others assisted as secretaries, officials, and gatekeepers.” – 2 Chronicles 34:12-13 NLT

The people of Israel were divided into twelve tribes with many families and individuals – all with many opinions. Yet, as this passage reminds us, they functioned as one at times.

We see how each tribe had specific functions. And each performed their assignments without resistance. Individuals accepted their roles and worked diligently without complaining.

This was possible in part because there were “energetic” leaders (TLB) who could motivate the people to do their part without rivalry or competition. These men could unite the people and encourage them to function to the best of their abilities.

Having been led and directed by wise leaders, the people in each tribe then found it easier to focus, to do what they did best, and to do their specific assignments.

This is a picture of how the body of Christ should function. Each person should recognize that he or she has unique skills, has been given unique gifts and abilities, and has unique responsibilities.

Believers should respond without any sense of competition or rivalry. We should not resist the work we have been called to do, but we should function with energy and excellence. Encouraging leaders can foster efficiency, cooperation, and unity with proper direction.

Ask God to show you clearly your specific mission in the body. Be ready to use the resources and gifts He has given you to serve Him. Seek to fit together with other believers.

Honoring God

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The Unexpected Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving-turkey

 

“Lord,” prayed Linda, “show me some way to demonstrate your love to these women this Thanksgiving season.”

Linda works in an office near a women’s prison. Several prisoners come to clean her office building each week, so Linda got acquainted with them.

“I had a burden from the Lord to do something special for those women,” said Linda. “He answered my prayer in a conversation with my daughter. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to plan a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for them, complete with all the trimmings. I wanted it to be special with my best tablecloth, china, and silver.”

Special rules apply to prisoners who work outside the prison walls, so it was difficult to get permission. Normally, they aren’t allowed to use “real” silverware. But Linda jumped through all the hoops and permission was finally granted.

“My biggest concern,” said Linda, “was not the details, but that the Lord would reveal to me how to let them know that this was ‘of the Lord’ and not of myself. I can cook for anybody, but I wanted them to know that the reason I did this was because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me.”

When the big day arrived, the women walked into that office and saw the beautiful table loaded with food. They assumed it was a Thanksgiving meal for the employees.

“No,” said Linda. “It’s for you.”

They were speechless for a moment, but then they couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

“This can’t be for real!” exclaimed one of the ladies.

“Look at that real turkey, not that pressed meat we’re used to!”

Another said, “Homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie to choose from!”

As one woman broke into tears, she said, “Those smells bring back so many memories. What I miss most is the feeling of family during the holidays.”

The ladies sat down at the table, amid tears and excited conversation. “I can’t believe someone cared enough to do this for us,” said one woman.

Just as Linda was about to lead them in prayer, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Let’s all hold hands and pray.” She opened with prayer and others followed. Some prayed for forgiveness, some prayed for their families, and others thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal, an unexpected Thanksgiving feast.

Linda said, “My prayers were answered. All the glory went to the Lord for His provision. With no prompting from me, those precious ladies gave God the credit. God revealed Himself to them that day in ways I could not have done on my own.”

Linda lived the words Jesus spoke in Luke 14:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus Christ makes a place for all of us at his table.

 

The Last Days

by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25

Most of us don’t love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God’s mercy.

You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.

Advent isn’t really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal “stuff” of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.

Many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can’t we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ’s return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.

While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we’re asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.

Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don’t mean “ready” as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?

Mine wouldn’t. At least not to the extent that it should. I’d like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.

Suddenly, waiting doesn’t seem too bad. God’s plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn’t seem so frustrating.

After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the “drowsiness” that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive “spirit of the age.” He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.

He reminded us that we will each have our own “last day” even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.

That’s what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It’s about God’s incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God’s perfect timing. He’ll know when we’re ready.

 

Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm

TRACIE BRAYLOCK, author, crosswalk.com

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.

I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.

None of us seemed to know what was going on.

There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.

A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.

Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.

But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.

A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.

We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.

So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.

In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.

In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.

In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.

Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.

We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.

They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.

He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.

The Power Of Gratitude

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The Power of Thanksgiving

 

It’s that season again, when we’re reminded to be thankful — and to express thankfulness. God has told us,

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

Even though we know it’s God’s will, for most of us, a reminder is a good thing, because in the midst of busyness and challenges of life, we often forget to be grateful for our many blessings.

I always think of a particular incident when I think of giving thanks. Many years ago, our friend Paul noticed that his young daughter Susannah had a ritual with her bedtime prayers. She always prayed, “God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and …” She went down her list, asking God for her all her wants.

At prayer time one night, he said, “Susannah, you have a lot to be thankful for. I’d like you to start your prayers with thanksgiving.” Susannah agreed, but Paul left on a trip the next morning and wasn’t able to reinforce his instruction.

When he returned, her prayers had not changed. He said, “Susannah, what did I ask you to do when you pray?”

She hesitated before answering. “Uhhh. Start my prayers with Halloween?”

She remembered the request—but didn’t understand what thanksgiving was and got mixed up with which holiday he had said.

Unlike Susannah, I understand what it means to give thanks and that it’s good to express appreciation, but I often get so busy that I don’t take note of what I’m grateful for, much less express it to others. I’ve resolved to do better after recently experiencing the blessing of being on the receiving end.

My husband is a pastor of a church of amazing people who regularly communicate their thanks. It makes it a joy to be part of them. However, we were recently showered with love and many expressions of appreciation. I must admit, it felt good. It deepened our love and our commitment to give more of ourselves. It also made me want to be more faithful in expressing my thanks.

But that was just the beginning of the day. After church and the dinner that followed, our home filled with out-of-town family who came to celebrate Dad’s 89th birthday. We visited, celebrated, and enjoyed being together. After the meal, while still around the table, I was once again struck with what an impact it makes to speak words of appreciation.

Robert’s youngest brother said, “Dad, at our house, we have a tradition that we do on birthdays, and we’d like to do it now.” He went on to explain that we wanted to each share something with Dad that we appreciated about him, starting with the youngest and moving up.

Seven-year-old Elena went first, and one at a time, each of ten people shared something they were grateful for, something Dad had done that had blessed his or her life. Most shared two or three things that had made an impact — and all sounded sincere.

At least once, Dad’s eyes filled with tears. Others were touched too. It was a precious time and a much bigger blessing than the simple gifts given earlier.

It was also powerful. Dad wasn’t the only one blessed. We all left the table encouraged, strengthened, and closer to one another because of words of gratefulness. All we did was say thanks — but we don’t make a point to do that often enough. I basked in the blessing and power of the time around the table for several days.

I wish we had practiced that tradition in our home as our children were growing up. In fact, I’m wondering how to stimulate more giving of thanks in other settings — of open, sincere, thoughtful expressions of appreciation. If you have ideas, I’m interested.

However, after some thought, I’ve decided that the best place to begin is with myself. I might not impact the whole community, but I could encourage some.

Meanwhile, I hope your Thanksgiving is blessed with gratefulness—and with thanksgiving.

 

When God Whispered

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.

 

Streams in the Desert – November 21

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

“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

 

A Quiet Life

by Inspiration Ministries

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT

What is your goal? Paul provided the Thessalonians with thoughts about their ambition that may seem surprising. Paul recommended that they “live a quiet life, minding [their] own business and doing [their] own work” (TLB).

This is an exceedingly practical approach to life. He knew that as other people watched believers, they would see that the Christian life really works! Their lives would be a real testimony, in some ways more powerful than their words.

In your life, remember that the Bible is packed with principles that apply in every area. These principles apply in your finances and relationships, in your family and community. Paying attention to your own work or school is the goal. Work on your own diet and health. His Word can help you make decisions and have discernment.

Yes, the Christian life has many other aspects. We are called to be people of prayer, to fellowship with other believers, to witness and share how Jesus has changed us, and to study the Word. But Paul reminds us of the importance of practice Biblical principles and the impact they can have on our own lives and others.

People all around are looking for answers. You have the opportunity to be an example to them. Show them how the principles in God’s Word really work and how faith in Jesus has changed you and how He can change them, too.

God Is Great All The Time

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God Is Great! God Is Good!

dog-thanksgiving_si.jpg

 

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)

The irresistible scent of home-cooked goodness permeated the air, torturing our faithful yellow Lab and her spastic beagle companion. They struggled to restrain themselves, maintaining perfect posture, as their eyes followed every move, hoping their patient obedience would reap tasty rewards.

Suddenly, the beagle began to shake violently; her eyes bulging; looking as if, at any moment, she would spontaneously combust! Finally, I picked some samplings of the coveted feast and headed toward the two beggars. The beagle could no longer contain herself. She broke her obedient posture and began impatiently flailing and squawking about.

“Sit!” I commanded.

The rule is… if you want a treat, you have to sit still and wait for me. But, she refused. She had been patient long enough!

Our Lab, however, was the perfect model of discipline and obedience; never once breaking her posture; but patiently watching, as the beagle repeatedly disobeyed. Finally, she realized that her blessing wasn’t coming until the beagle submitted. So, she reached out her paw, placed it atop the beagle’s sitter, and shoved her down into the sitting position.

Grinning at her firm correction of her impatient, unruly companion, I treated the Lab to a double portion.

“Okay, God!” I chuckled. “I get it!”

It was our first Thanksgiving in our new house. The previous two years, one month, and 13 days … our family of six cohabitated in a rented camper on our farm, while we undertook the task of building our own home with our own 12 hands.

“I’m a good sport!” I assured my husband when the builder announced the project would take six to nine months. “It’ll be an adventure, like a six-month-long camping vacation! Let’s do it!”

My enthusiasm sprang from our certainty that God was calling us to stop pursuing the country club lifestyle and move to the country instead; to release our children into the wild, and teach them the values and blessings of a simple life and good old-fashioned hard work.

Everything that could go wrong … did! Avid do-it-yourselfers, we eagerly accepted the task of doing all the cosmetic work after the builder completed the structure. But one heartbreaking disappointment and delay after another resulted in our family becoming responsible for way more of the building process than we ever intended.

Every day, my husband ran our business, while the children and I did what little projects we could. Every evening, he came home, ate dinner, kissed the kids goodnight, and the two of us worked on the house until we got tired and started making mistakes, or until we got on each other’s nerves. Some evenings we finished late … some early!

I learned how to use rechargeable power tools because waiting on my husband to finish the construction all by himself was taking too long! We had already spent two Christmases in the camper! Finally, our power was scheduled to be turned on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving number three. Victory was soooo close … we could taste it!

But, our power lines had been improperly installed. We weren’t going to have power for Thanksgiving, after all. At that point, I must have looked like the beagle. I think my husband was afraid that I might actually spontaneously combust! Like our faithful Lab, he took control and made me “Sit!”

He dug a hole in the sand, lit a charcoal fire, and cooked corn on the cob in a stockpot using an old grill rack and two cinder blocks. He placed a portable roasting oven atop a lawn table, plugged into the camper’s power pole, and roasted the turkey. We cooked sweet potatoes inside the camper in a portable skillet and boiled green beans in a crockpot inside the house using a 50-foot extension cord.

We savored our Thanksgiving feast in our new home without electricity, but not without power. When I finally submitted, became still, and waited upon God, He blessed us with a double portion of His power, provision, and blessing. It was the best Thanksgiving meal we ever tasted … not because the treats were great … but because our God is!

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:8-9 NKJV)

 

Why We Need God’s Armor of Protection Every Day

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

We may forget at times but one thing is true – this world is a battlefield. Day by day, hour by hour, we face a spiritual war and an enemy who’s real. He wants nothing more than to bring defeat, for his main aim is to steal, kill, and destroy.

God has a plan for our lives. The enemy has a plan for us too. We just have to decide which voice we’re going to listen to, and who we’re going to choose to follow each day. And chances are, if we don’t make a determined choice to follow God, we may eventually fall into the evil one’s trap.

If you’re a believer who is living like salt and light in a dark world, you won’t go for long without encountering obstacles and attacks the enemy will hurl your direction. He’s real and fierce, and he will stop at nothing to try to bring you down.

Don’t let him win.

If you find yourself there today, know that you’re not alone. Neither are you left to fight on your own. Many of us are in the battle with you, and God is the One who fights on your behalf, constantly shielding, protecting, strengthening, even when you’re unaware. He’s given us His words that are true and powerful, so that we’ll have the wisdom to stand against the enemy.

Focusing here today, putting on His armor, staying alert, and praying, that God will equip believers everywhere to “stand strong.” Remember, our battle today may be more about what is unseen than what we see before us. And when we resist the enemy, God’s word says he has to flee. Stand strong friends. God has the final victory over our lives. And He is surely with us.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18

 

Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm

(Encouragement)

By: TRACIE BRAYLOCK, crosswalk.com

 

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.

I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.

None of us seemed to know what was going on.

There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.

A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.

Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.

But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.

A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.

We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.

So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.

In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.

In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.

In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.

Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.

We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.

They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.

He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.

 

God Is on His Throne

by Inspiration Ministries

“God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.” – Psalm 47:8 NASB

At times, the world can seem like a yo-yo – constantly going up and then down. We try to make sense of everything, which can be a helpless experience.

Think about events of the past few years. Unanticipated problems emerged that didn’t seem to have solutions. Trends developed, but then reversed. Heroes have emerged and then fallen. People have embraced politicians and parties, then, when disappointed, tried something else. We wonder what tomorrow will bring and what else may happen.

The world changes constantly, but God never changes. Politicians may fight over control, but “God reigns over the nations.” Regardless of how things appear, He remains sovereign.

Through every change, God isn’t worried or caught up in emotional trauma. He simply sits “on His holy throne,” ruling, completing His plans. He was there yesterday. He is there today. He will be there tomorrow. No matter what takes place in the world, He remains on that throne!

If we focus on world events, our hearts can be subject to an emotional roller coaster – up one moment, down the next. We’ll never be sure how we will feel the next morning. We’ll be constantly uncertain. The answer? Trust in God.

Make sure that you trust Him. Kings may come but also go. Trends may emerge and recede. The news may be good or bad. But through every circumstance, God remains on His throne. You can believe in Him today and throughout your life. Absolutely.

God’s View of Faith

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Faith from God’s Perspective

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“If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!” (James 1:12, TPT)

Perspective is a key ingredient to faith. What I mean is, in order for your faith to remain strong, you will have to adjust your perspective.

Here’s an example: Imagine an ant strolling down the sidewalk. From his perspective, the road is long. But now picture yourself on the sidewalk observing the ant. From your perspective you can see the ant’s past, present, and future. It’s not hard at all to see where the ant came from, where he currently is, and where he is heading. You could even place a juicy piece of fruit a little ways down the sidewalk for the ant to find. He doesn’t yet know the fruit is ahead of him, but you do.

This is how things are from God’s perspective. He can see your past, present, and future— all at the same time. And He knows the things He has prepared for you that you cannot yet see. This is why faith is required on our part (trusting God and His Word regardless of what things look like at the moment).

“If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!”

Perspective describes a person’s outlook, viewpoint, position, and stance. When you and I look into the Word of God and position ourselves to believe it from God’s point of view (and not our own natural viewpoint), suddenly things seem less ominous. Yet, this position of hope requires faith.

And isn’t that what the writer of Hebrews said?

“Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1, TPT)

The ant can’t see what is waiting for him down the road, but he travels onward in faith. When we choose to believe (by faith) that God is good and has our best interest in mind, we too can travel forward around life’s difficulties and obstacles with assurance.

Faith helps us put a handle on what we can’t see.

The Amplified Bible says faith perceives as real fact what is not revealed to our senses (Hebrews 11:1). To perceive means to come to realize, understand, or aware of something. And yes, perceive is a close cousin to the word perception. One being the position of faith, the other being the realization (or reward) of faith. When the ant comes upon the piece of fruit, I imagine he sings “Hallelujah!” while you and I smile, having known all along it was waiting for him.

God smiles when we trust Him too.

So be encouraged today. Adjust your perspective. Despite what it may look like from your vantage point, I promise God has good things in wait for you.

 

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.

 

The Daily Cure for a Heavy Heart –

Encouragement for Today

By: LYSA TERKEURST, crosswalk.com

 

“This, then, is how you should pray … ” Matthew 6:9 (NIV) 

Did you know Jesus has given us the perfect prayer to pray each day to help us get ahead of any offenses that may be coming our way?

In Matthew 6, we read about Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray, more commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. There’s so much He could teach us to include in our daily prayers, right? I mean, if I were tasked with the job of teaching others how to pray, I’m afraid I may have included all the wrong things and left out some really important things.

And you know what I may have been tempted to minimize or exclude? The very parts Jesus seems to emphasize the most — confession and forgiveness. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches:

“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”

And then in the next two verses right after the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus adds: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

Here’s something I don’t want us to miss. If you are looking at the word count of this teaching as presented in the New International Version, the total teaching is 94 words. The importance of giving and receiving forgiveness makes up almost half of those words. Wow.

This grabs my attention and makes me want to lean in a little more to what Jesus asks us to pray about every day besides just requesting help and provision from God.

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us what the human heart needs every day — we need God, we need to be forgiven and we need to forgive. Which means forgiveness is supposed to be as much a part of our daily lives as eating and sleeping.

But I will readily admit, I’m not even sure I’ve ever done this weekly, much less daily. And maybe that’s the very reason I often have an unexplainable heavy feeling inside of me.

We live in a day and time when being offended almost seems to go hand in hand with being alive. Almost everyone is epically offended by something. Almost everyone has relationship troubles. And I would guess almost none of us are truly praying daily with confession and forgiveness like Jesus taught us.

I’ll be the first in line to raise my hand and admit this is me. I’m too easily offended. I’m too quick to get defensive. I’m too slow to turn to prayer. I’m very rarely confessing. And I’m too often not forgiving.

But I want to change this. I want to mature in this.

I know I won’t do this perfectly. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try it at all.

Just a few weeks ago, someone I’ve been trying to help completely blindsided me with a reaction that felt extremely out of character and honestly undeserved. I was hurt. All I wanted to do was pull back from helping and give way to a full unleashing of my hurt on her. I could feel bitterness rising up.

But instead of immediately reacting, I remembered how, earlier that morning, I had prayed the Lord’s Prayer and confessed several things to the Lord in which my own heart needed some work.

I’d pre-decided to forgive those who might do or say something that might hurt me or stir up my strong emotion that day.

Instead of letting my anger move me to cause more hurt and pain, I simply let my anger inform me that something needed to be settled between my friend and me. I asked her if she could come over to my house, and instead of us trying to figure it out or talk it out, maybe we could pray it through together.

I let Jesus in me talk to Jesus in her. As we prayed, the most unexplainable peace washed over us both. It didn’t necessarily solve the issue at hand. But it did prevent the chaos of adding in more hurt, more confusion and more opportunities for resentment.

Confession breaks the cycle of chaos inside of me.

Forgiveness breaks the cycle of chaos between us.

The Lord’s Prayer prepared my heart for something I didn’t even know was coming later that day.

The best time to forgive is before we are ever offended.

The next best time to forgive is right now.

 

Give thanks to God Every Day

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Thanksgiving Day Is Ours

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There is a friendly debate among historians as to when the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in America. Some say it was in Virginia in 1610, and others hold fast to our traditional first Thanksgiving celebrated in Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts, in 1621.

Whichever side of the debate one chooses to embrace, the fact remains that Thanksgiving Day is ours.

Before America existed as a nation, the hardy souls who persevered to found this great country made the effort to thank God Almighty for His provision and grace.

Giving thanks in Virginia, Massachusetts, and many other settlements across the new world was a spontaneous act by grateful people. They experienced a life so rugged, that without the providence of God they would have surely not survived. They were grateful for God’s favor and blessing.

Our first President, George Washington, a man acclaimed to be the Father of our Country, acknowledged God as the source of our Nation’s strength and very existence. He felt so strongly about this that he made a proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26th, 1789.

President Abraham Lincoln made it an official national holiday on Thursday, November 26th, 1863. He believed in the importance of setting aside a day to honor God and give thanks individually and corporately as a people.

Thanksgiving day has become a tradition, which like other traditions, has developed, grown, and transitioned from being a simple spiritual act of acknowledging God’s blessings, to a national event of unbridled proportions.

Ball games, shopping, days off from work, and travel are just a few of the Thanksgiving activities that can encumber us and help us to forget the true meaning of the holiday.

This day is meant to be a time to stop, take notice of our blessings, and acknowledge God with a grateful heart. Lest we forget, there have been Thanksgivings in the past that were very trying and somber, days of prayer and fasting.

Today, one could say that we are too busy enjoying our blessings to pause and be thankful. We all share in the responsibility for the national event that Thanksgiving Day has become because it is our day.

I am so thankful to God that He has given us the freedom to worship Him with our thanks. And the blessings that we enjoy over this holiday are truly from Him.

I believe He continues to bless us in part because we do take a day, our day, each year, and as a people tell the whole world that we thank Almighty God for His provident grace.

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

This Thanksgiving as we share our feast with our loved ones, plan our shopping for Friday, and our Christmas decorating for Saturday, give a nod to our forbearers whose grateful hearts made this all possible.

Enjoy taking part in a celebration uniquely our own, individually and corporately. Pass on to the next generation the knowledge of how blessed we are as individuals, families, and as a people.

Speak of the mighty and wondrous things that the Lord has done, and share our thankful hearts one with another.

“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” (Psalm 145:4 NLT)

The famous author O. Henry wrote, “There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Don’t Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

by Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” John 14:1

Sometimes we face circumstances in life that are just out of our control. No amount of our own planning and effort can make it better, or could have even prevented it from occurring. Hard things happen. We feel at a loss in how to fix it all. Sometimes it seems too broken. We may try hard to regain some sense of order, but life can still feel unbalanced, uncertain, even chaotic, because of the pressures that cling too tightly.

Jesus Himself understood these pressures. Over and over in His Word, He reminds us not to worry, not to fear, not to be “troubled” in our hearts.

And on the heels of the Last Supper, before His difficult journey to the cross, Christ offers comfort to His disciples, for He knew what lay ahead. He knew the trials they would all soon face. He could have said so many things in that moment, but these are the words He chose then, and the words that have such power for us still today:

“Do not let your hearts (inmost part, center of your spiritual life and physical being), be troubled (agitated, restless, disturbed). Trust (believe, to have full confidence) in God, trust also in me.” John 14:1

4 Truths from this verse to help us live wisely:

– Many around us will have troubled hearts in this world, troubled souls, but Jesus reminds us, don’t let “your” heart be troubled. Don’t follow the crowd, stand apart, for we know where our true peace and security are found.

– Take care of your “heart” for it is “the fountain and seat of all the thoughts, passions, affections, and purposes” in our lives. Our hearts compel us in every action, thought, and decision. He reminds us to guard our hearts for “everything we do flows from it.”

– Don’t be “troubled.” Sounds easy enough, but quite possibly the most difficult thing in the world. How can we not be troubled when facing huge trials, loss, illness, uncertainty? The only answer lies in Him, and it’s how He ends this verse.

– “Trust. Believe.” Have full confidence in God, in Christ. For He is the answer for our troubles, every single one. He is our help for each need that we face. He knows our road, the one ahead, and also the tough one we may have just passed through, for He is with us every step. This world is not all we have. This one may be riddled with obstacles, potholes, and even dangerous cliffs. Often we find ourselves struggling just to stay the course.

But we can have hope, still. Right in the very midst of it, in the tough stuff, in the battle. For He is secure. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.

And He has much better, and great blessing, still in store…

Peace.

 

Believing Impossible Things

“Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.’” Mark 10:27 (NLT)

Most of us like our world to operate in a predictable way. We know what’s important to us, and we accept our own limitations. Days fly by, and it’s all quite agreeable until suddenly, everything changes. The recent pandemic ushered in so much change, we could hardly recognize our world at all.

It felt like we had tumbled into some unknown place in time. Perhaps now we can identify more with Alice as she tumbled into the world where the Red Queen lived. Lewis Carroll, in Through the Looking-Glass, gives us a glimpse of how Alice responds to her new situation when she is asked to believe impossible things:

“Alice laughed: ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said; ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’”

In this excerpt, Carroll manages to shine a light on one of the bigger issues of our Christian experience. You see, Alice is like most of us. She sees the reality of the world and cannot see how incredible things are even possible. Her mind is finite, fixed, and as it observes the world, it tosses the miraculous over the side and quickly declares, “It’s impossible!”

Perhaps the Queen in this tale believes as God might have us do as well. The Queen admits she may not do it enough, now that she’s older, but somewhere in her younger days, she was able to believe many impossible things even before breakfast.

What keeps you from believing impossible things? What causes you to imagine the world is rolling along, almost without hope? Perhaps the problem is we’ve become a little too adult.

The story of Alice reminds us we might be better off to adopt a more childlike faith, to go back to a time when we believed God could do anything. If we had that kind of faith, and we believed as Jesus told us, “… Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God,” then we’d be more confident (Mark 10:27). We would trust that no matter how things look, God still reigns, and that means there’s a whole lot more that is possible. God alone can bring us possibility, assurance and perfect awareness of His intentions.

When you experience the bleak moments of life that cause your spirit to sag and your face to lose its glow, don’t go tumbling down into the gloom. Instead, look up and see the One who offers you His favor. Reach out to your Creator, the One who makes all things possible. After all, your life is in God’s hands, and He has unlimited power for your good.

God wants to carry you through each dark moment into His glorious light. Why? Because He knows all that is possible for you, and He wants you to know it too. Just say it out loud: “All things are possible with God.”