In Everything Give Thanks

Thanksgiving—an expression of gratitude given in many different ways—an action gushing forth from heartfelt emotion. Daily we extend or receive kindnesses, and thanksgiving seems to flow naturally. Effortlessly we thank our fellow man, but when it comes to God, sometimes it’s not so easy. And even on the day our nation has set aside to thank God for His bountiful blessings, thanksgiving becomes a strained endeavor.

Why?

Perhaps the reality of our crummy situation slaps us in the face. Maybe the ups and downs of family relationships or gyrating current events have us on a merry-go-round, and we’re not feeling very thankful. I’m right there with you. In fact, I found myself shouting, “Lord Jesus, stop the world I want to get off!”

But at that moment, God’s still small voice penetrated my soul. “Rejoice always,” He said. “Pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”[1]

Quickly my pity party turned into a temper tantrum. “No,” I said to myself, stomping my foot, crossing my arms, and pursing my lips. “I don’t want to.”

“Why?” I felt His Spirit ask.

“I don’t feel like it,” I said timidly. Just then, I felt a swat to my bottom, and the correction of God pained my heart.[2]

“Look again at the scripture. Does it say anywhere in the text do this if you feel like it?”

“No, Lord,” I replied.

“So, what does it say?”

I blew out a sigh and answered. “It says I’m to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything, not about everything, but in everything–whether things seem good to me or not, whether I feel like it or not, I am to give thanks.”

“Why did I order it this way?”

“I guess because when we obey, our thoughts move from ourselves and our situation to You.”

“That’s correct,” my heart heard. “I love you. You are My precious child.[3] I hold you in the bad times; surround you with My arms.[4] I comfort and shield you.[5] I alone calm your storm and lift you with My righteous right hand.[6] I never leave you, and I am with you wherever you go.[7]

“Believe Me and trust Me, for I never change. I will work all these things out for your good. My Spirit is your guarantee, and though trouble comes, this world is not your home.[8]

“Finite minds cannot fully imagine the splendors of My heavenly kingdom or the glories that await you. Still, it’s not just the place. It’s Me, My presence—My holiness.[9]

“So know this, as I was with Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness, I am with you. My Spirit dwells in you. During this storm, My Presence will guide you, envelop you with peace, and give rest to your soul.[10]

“Remember, My purposes shall be accomplished according to all I have written, for I am God, and there is no other.”[11]

Humbled, I said, “Thank you, Lord. Please cleanse me from all unrighteousness.[12] I may not feel like rejoicing amidst my circumstances, but I do rejoice in You—my God, my Savior, my Lord, and my Hope. Help me to pray without ceasing, and even if I’m grumbling, help me to run to You, submit, draw near, and resist the devil because he wants me to wallow in my misery and grief.[13]

“Safe in Your arms, will I give thanks in everything and trust you to bring good. With wide eyes and expectancy, I’ll watch You wipe away my tears, put off my sackcloth, clothe me with gladness, and turn my mourning into dancing.[14]

Have a thankful and blessed Thanksgiving Day!


[1] I Thessalonians 5:16-18

[2] Hebrews 12:6

[3] John 1:12

[4] Psalm 32:7

[5] Isaiah 66:13; II Corinthians 1:3-4; Psalm 3:3

[6] Isaiah 41:10

[7] Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:9

[8] Malachi 3:6; Romans 8:28; II Cor. 1:21-22; Hebrews 11:9-10

[9] I Corinthians 2:9-10; II Corinthians 12:2-4

[10] Exodus 33:14; Matthew 11:28-29

[11] Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 45:5

[12] I John 1:9

[13] James 4:7-8

[14] Psalm 30:11

Not Desolate

NOT DESOLATE

     The bright sun of Babylon streamed through Daniel’s window as the aging prophet unrolled the scroll. Jeremiah, Jerusalem’s man of God, had sent it to Babylon years earlier. And when it first arrived, Daniel practically devoured this Word from the LORD.

     Captured by King Nebuchadnezzar as a teenager, Daniel had lived in this pagan culture for about 67 years. Kings came and went during his lifetime, and recently the Empire had changed hands.

     Yet Daniel’s God was in control. And this, God made evident sometime earlier when coworkers had plotted against Daniel.

     Supposedly he had broken the king’s bogus law by praying to Almighty God instead of the king. As a result, they threw Daniel into the lion’s den. But this Most High God, proving to all that He is God and there is no other,[1] shut the lion’s mouths.[2]

     Reminded of something in Jeremiah’s scroll, Daniel searched feverishly. There in the 25th section and again in the 29th, he found it. Three times the LORD said through Jeremiah that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.[3]

     Throwing up his hands, Daniel shouted, “Praise the Almighty! It’s almost over!”

     And it was. Nevertheless, in reading to find this good news, Daniel also found the sin that caused their captivity.

     Frustrated, that even after his deportation, Judah took their freedoms to worship the One True and Living God so lightly when Daniel had to fight for his. Refusing to worship the false gods of Babylon, Daniel and his co-captives, time and again, had risked their lives. But Judah rejected God, transgressed His Law, and chose to worship these idols.

     Heartbroken, Daniel donned sackcloth and ashes, fasted, and set his face toward the Lord God to make his requests, supplications, and confessions.[4] He repented for Judah’s corrupt leaders, false prophets, idolatry, apathetic mode of worship, and it’s blatant disregard for the prophesied consequences.[5] Daniel knew the mercy of God was their only hope, and he closed his prayer with this, “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

     I found Daniel’s prayer of repentance painful to read, but sadly, it was all I could think of when the pandemic hit. And as I read and prayed, I saw how America fit the picture Daniel painted. Tears fell, and I believe God allowed me to feel His grief over our nation. Then after several days, I felt Him say, “Write it down.”

     My first prayer-paraphrase was harsh—just as harsh as Daniel’s recounting of Israel/Judah’s sin because of the similarities. Yet, in my second draft, God opened my eyes to the one major difference, and I softened.[6]

     Daniel prayed, “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant…cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is DESOLATE.”[7] My mind immediately went to the empty sanctuaries across this nation. “Desolate,” I cried as well.

     But the Holy Spirit quickened my heart. “No, not desolate,” He said. “The TEMPLE of God is NOT a building in this age.”

     “Of course!” I said. This side of the cross, WE are His Temple.[8] And in II Corinthians, Paul wrote, “…For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”[9]

     Aahh! I was so focused on America’s sin and obeying God’s II Chronicles 7:14[10] command, that our “new normal” kept me fixated on circumstances. God knew I needed this gentle reminder, and maybe you do too.

     Am I happy we could worship together last Sunday and today? Yes! Do I understand the whole agenda of the evil one in these last days? No!

     But this I do know; even though church buildings were empty, God’s church never was. Once we are His child,[11] saved by the blood of Jesus[12] and born again through the living and eternal Word of God,[13] NO person or VIRUS can take His Holy Spirit from us.[14] He will never leave us or forsake us,[15] and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.[16]


[1] Isaiah 45:22

[2] Daniel 6:20-22

[3] Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10

[4] Daniel 9:3-4

[5] Daniel 9:5-19; Deuteronomy 28:15, 49, 63-66

[6] https://www.meatforthehungry.com/2020/04/seven-days-of-prayer.html

[7] Daniel 9:17

[8] I Corinthians 6:19

[9] II Corinthians 6:16

[10] “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

[11] John 1:12

[12] I John 1:7

[13] I Peter 1:23

[14] John 14:16-18

[15] Hebrews 13:5

[16] Romans 8:35-39

Why Do We Do Good?

During this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been humbled by all the selfless acts I see of people who work in healthcare, food service—either restaurants or grocery stores, US mail, all delivery personnel, etc. and I know this list isn’t complete. Countless individuals risk their personal safety so we can keep ours. Thank you! And thank you to those amazing volunteers who use their creative skills to help others. Some sew masks, give balcony concerts, send encouraging or prayer-filled notes and texts, or hand out/deliver food and groceries to the needy. Others pray without ceasing.[1] I’m blown away by the good works, and it causes me to glorify my Father in heaven[2].

But it also causes me to ask why? Why do we do good? And why do times of crisis bring out the “good” in humanity?

Some might say this is what we’re taught and what we pass on to the next generation. True. We teach our children to do good, to share, to wait their turn, and to be kind to others. We discipline when they hit or bite, and when they are cruel, we say, “No, no. We don’t act that way in this house.”

With that in mind, here’s another question. Do animal parents correct wrong behavior in their young?

Now you might be saying, “This is completely unrelated to our subject.” But if you stick with me, I’ll show you how right on topic it is.

My mother loves birds, and while she has been convalescing, she and I have been online eagle watching. Up until the end of March, we watched the eagles in Hanover, Pennsylvania. However, their egg was not viable and the eagles abandoned their nest. My sister, Amy, searched for another and found one in Ashtabula, Ohio – AACS Eagles.[3] The parents, Pride and Joy, hatched two eaglets this year, Raindrop and Nestor. It’s impressive to see how gentle the parents feed their young. Still, as attentive as they are, not once have I seen the eagles correct their offspring for misbehavior. In fact, Raindrop, the older eaglet, pecks and bonks the younger when it doesn’t like what Nestor is doing or if it thinks its food is threatened. And although the mother is right there, she never says, “No, no. We don’t act that way in this nest.” Lol

Case in point:  Amy, in her search for live eagle cams, witnessed an eaglet’s murder. The one eaglet literally pecked the other to death while the parent looked on. No intervening discipline – no time outs – no scolding – no stopping the aggressive hatchling from killing the sibling. Why?

Animals, birds, and sea creatures work on God-programmed instinct. They have no understanding of right or wrong behavior, no standard of morality to live up to. And they, along with all creation, groan and labor with birth pangs together until now.[4]

According to the websites I visited, animal parents will do what humans consider discipline only if the youngster’s actions affect the parent personally.[5] Nevertheless, we have to question the motive of so-called discipline. Is it because they are trying to teach their “child” to be good and kind, or is it merely selfish behavior on the parent’s part? The websites confirm the latter.

If humans are descended from apes as evolutionists theorize, why do we discipline our young when their bad behavior does not personally affect us? What caused this morality to develop if survival of the fittest is true? And why will humans do good and risk their own safety to help or rescue someone in need?

Without a Creator—a Good[6] and Just[7] God—who has created man in His image,[8] we wouldn’t. It is He who has given mankind the desire for morality, the ability to do good and noble work, and to sacrifice for others,[9] even when they deny the God who made them,[10] and reject the Gift of Jesus who would wash them clean of all unrighteousness.[11]

So, in this time of unknowns, let’s remember God has shown us what is good and what He requires—to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. And don’t forget to do good and share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.[12]


[1] I Thessalonians 5:17

[2] Matthew 5:16

[3] https://www.lakesideeaglecam.com/

[4] Romans 8:22

[5] https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/unlike-humans-chimpanzees-only-punish-when-theyve-been-personally-wronged

[6] Matthew 19:17

[7] Romans 3:36

[8] Genesis 1:26-28

[9] John 15:13; Romans 5:7

[10] Matthew 10:33

[11] Romans 6:23; I John 1:9

[12] Micah 6:8; Hebrews 13:16

If God Is Love

 Have you ever had someone ask the question, “If God is love, why does he allow suffering in the world?” Of course, you have because this is the classic question non-Christians pose to the true believer.

     When this happened to me recently, I thought I had a good answer with something I heard on Moody Radio, “God doesn’t cause suffering. People make people suffer.” The statement made sense on the radio program, but that day it sounded weak. Thankfully, the person seemed satisfied, and the conversation ended. Later, I thought of the many things I could have said.

     About a month later, a close family member shared an article on Facebook; The American Life is Killing You by Erik Rittenberry.[1] Because I love the sharer, I read the article. It was gloomy, and in the reading, I could feel despair, hopelessness, and suffering.

     The writer began with a quote from new-agey-type author, Graham Hancock, and then spoke about consumerism, how we strive all our lives pursuing the American Dream. We live paycheck to paycheck, over-stressed and rushed, unrewarding job, mortgaged to the hilt with gadgets, toys, and maybe a few prescription drugs to take the edge off, mellow us, and keep us occupied through the insanity. To prove his point, he quoted some “great minds” such as Sigmund Freud and ended with his solution.

     My heart broke. What I desired for the person who shared the article, stating it encapsulated everything he’s felt and thought about our culture, was the same thing I wanted to say to the person who posed the question at the beginning of this newsletter, but didn’t.

     The sin-cursed world we live in is, at the moment, run by Satan, a vile spiritual prince[2] who has blinded the eyes of many.[3] If you do not understand this TRUTH, you cannot see life in this world correctly.

     Sin has corrupted everything. And because of sin, people are just naturally selfish and self-absorbed. We’ll do anything to make a buck, not caring who we hurt in the process, in our constant striving to please self.

     The prince of this world is trying to keep us from learning this TRUTH:  The One True and Living God exists. And according to His pre-creation plan, He has provided salvation and freedom—a way for us to escape the clutches of the evil ruler.[4]

     However, the Bible, God’s Holy Word, is our source of information. Satan, on the other hand, is doing everything within his power to discredit it and stop seekers from believing.

     To thwart the enemy, God has given us the witness of the heavens and creation. They declare the glory of God. In them, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, even His eternal power and Godhead, leaving unbelievers without excuse.[5]

     But the evil ruler has spewed his lies.[6] He’s clouded human minds touting science and evolutionary theories as the answer to our human existence. Many then conclude suffering, in all its forms, is evidence God does not exist, or, if He does live, He doesn’t really care.

But I tell you, the LOVE of God knows no bounds.

God IS love.[7] He died that you might live.[8]

     Do you want to be free of constant striving in life? The solution isn’t what Rittenberry says, “Simplify, simplify, simplify, and become one with yourself.”

     Seriously? “Self” got us into this predicament in the first place. It was Eve’s, then Adam’s lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.[9] Sin, then, spread to all mankind.[10]

     Turning inward to self is never the answer. The eyes of man are never satisfied, just as hell and destruction are never full.[11]

     The solution? See life through God’s eyes and the lens of Scripture. Yielding to our Holy God will allow the Son to set us free.[12] His Holy Spirit, in turn, helps us to understand life, and why man acts the way he does. At once, our LORD severs the snare and delivers us.[13]

     Remember, God knows the way that we take. When He has tested us, we shall come forth as gold.[14]


[1] https://medium.com/@erikrittenberry/the-american-life-is-killing-you-9e7e68135f4a

[2] John 16:11; Ephesians 2:2

[3] John 12:40; II Corinthians 4:3-4

[4] II Timothy 2:26; Hebrews 2:3

[5] Psalm 19:1-3; Romans 1:20-21

[6] John 8:44

[7] I John 4:8

[8] I Peter 2:24

[9] Genesis 3:6; I John 2:15-17

[10] Romans 5:12

[11] Proverbs 27:20

[12] John 8:36

[13] Psalm 91:3; II Timothy 2:26

[14] Job 23:10

Exercising God’s Charge for 2020

EXERCISING GOD’S CHARGE FOR 2020

Every December, I say to myself, “After the holidays, I’m going to lose weight and exercise more.” My goal is that by Valentine’s Day I’ll look the way I’ve always dreamed. I start with a hope and a weak prayer that somehow accomplishing this will make me beautiful. So far, God hasn’t answered that prayer. (Lol)

But, when the New Year rolls around, I have trouble, especially if New Year’s Day is in the middle of the week. (I prefer to start a transformation on a Monday.) So, a few days go by, I recall my resolution, and for a second time, determine to make these changes. However, as the cliché goes, life happens. I begin, but then have a hard time remembering to insert them into my daily routine (probably because I really didn’t want to do them in the first place). Soon I find myself wondering why I thought they were so important.

Still, weight loss and a more physically fit body are important to me. I know I should not dismiss them. So, once again, I’ll make the effort.

Did you realize Scripture addresses exercise? The apostle, Paul, in writing to young Timothy regarding exercise, compares it to our life in Christ. God, through Paul, says bodily exercise profits our physical health, but godliness profits all things.[1]

Because I want to profit all things, in this New Year, I have questions I must answer. Am I making spiritually healthy choices? Am I exercising not only my body but my spiritual knowledge and godliness? Am I losing carnal ways and gaining spiritual fruit? Am I walking in the Spirit,[2] running the race with endurance, and dealing with the weight of sin that so easily besets me?[3] Am I testing every spirit to see if it is from our one true and living God?[4] Am I seeing everything with clear, unclouded vision,[5] holding to sound doctrine, and rejecting the deceiving spirits that have slithered into the church? And most of all, do I realize I am living in the latter times of which Paul wrote, where some I know will heed those deceiving spirits, believe doctrines of demons, and depart from the faith?[6]

What if my spiritual body is fit, and I can answer yes to all? What then? Do I just sit back and rest on my laurels? Of course not! The Christian race calls for endurance. We never stop until Jesus takes us to heaven.

So how do we pace ourselves in this physical and spiritual life, and still make a difference?

First, fear God and remember, if we think we stand, the enemy of our soul is working hard to make us fall.[7] Second, study God’s word to show ourselves approved.[8] Third, we must be strong (that’s why we exercise) in the power of His might, and stand, dressed in the full armor of God,[9] walking carefully, in God’s wisdom, making the most of any opportunity that comes, because the days are evil.[10]

And lastly, we must heed God’s charge not only for 2020 but for every day of our life. “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.[11] …make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…teaching them to observe all…that I have commanded you[12]…be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”[13]

Have a great year!


[1] I Timothy 4:8

[2] Romans 8:1-11

[3] Hebrews 12:1

[4] I John 4:1

[5] Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34

[6] I Timothy 4:1

[7] Romans 11:20; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Peter 3:17

[8] II Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11

[9] Ephesians 6:10-18

[10] Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 4:5

[11] II Timothy 4:1-2

[12] Matthew 28:19-20a

[13] II Timothy 4:5, Matthew 28:20b

A Perfect Christmas

 

Tinsel, glittering trees, sparkling lights, wreaths, and decorations up and in their place. Nativity displayed. Cards addressed and mailed. Candles lit. Table set.  Ham glazed or turkey basted. Tons of baked and no-baked cookies plated, candies molded, nut bowls filled, hot chocolate simmering, presents wrapped, ribboned, and bowed, and a family dressed to the nines.

 

What a perfect Christmas!

 

And oh, how I wish this were me. I did better with Christmas when I was younger, probably because I started in September. Lately, though, the perfect Christmas seems elusive, and I’d rather escape into Christmas poems, books, and movies. In them, I rarely see the behind the scenes work or the chaos that ensues with my not-so-perfect Christmases. Neither is there the stress, depression, or frustration that often builds during the holidays. Sometimes we’re missing loved ones, sometimes we’re lonely, sometimes it’s disturbing news or a serious diagnosis, and sometimes we’re merely dreading the work of putting up decorations, just to take them down a few weeks later. Add to that our dwindling bank account, possibly having to wait until a later payday to purchase Christmas presents, leaving very little time for wrapping.

 

When I think about the “perfect” Christmas and how very short I fall, I want to wallow in self-pity and berate myself because, once again, I missed the mark. But it’s in those moments, God’s still small voice speaks.

“My child,” He says. “The perfect Christmas is something from your youth when you were oblivious to reality. Through the years, this notion gained strength from those poems, books, and movies you love. But it has very little to do with Me or what actually took place on that first and most perfect Christmas ever.

“Remember what My Holy Spirit taught you when you received Jesus as your Savior. Out of our great love and foreknowledge, We designed our plan. It started before time began, and before We laid the foundation of this world.[1]

“Knowing sin would enter and corrupt our perfect creation[2], We planned for the second person of My Triune Godhead to become flesh—quite a feat since God is Spirit and cannot die.[3]

       “We chose Mary, a young virgin from Nazareth, to provide for Him a human body.[4] My Holy Spirit and power came upon her, overshadowed her, and she miraculously conceived. Then, in the course of human gestation—on that perfect Christmas night—Mary gave birth to her Baby boy—Jesus—God in flesh.

“We did this to dwell among you for a time, identify with your pain, teach you Truth, and bring light and life into the darkness sin had caused.[5] But our main reason for Jesus, God the Son, becoming flesh was to rescue humanity from sin’s penalty—death.[6]

Jesus, the pure and sinless[7] Baby, born in Bethlehem, grew up, and as planned, died in your place.[8] Like a Lamb led to slaughter, Jesus shed His blood and bore the penalty for your sin on the cross.

“But death could not hold Him. After three days in the grave, Jesus arose from the dead.[9] His disciples saw Him alive, as did many others. Then, forty days after His resurrection, also as planned, He returned bodily to His glory in heaven.[10]

“My child, this is what you celebrate. An infinite God coming down to mankind to save them from death and hell. This perfect Christmas happened when time was at its fullness.[11] It was bold but humble, poverty-stricken but priceless, private, yet for the whole world. Even today, Our plan remains foolishness to those who choose to reject Jesus,[12] but boundless wisdom to those heeding My call.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”[13]

 

I’m humbled, Lord. Thank you. I did, for a moment, lose sight of your great love and amazing Gift. Thank you for being in control of my life, for changing my attitude, for setting my heart and focus back on Jesus, for driving out depression, anxiety, and self-pity.

This truly is a perfect Christmas!

Be blessed, my friends, this Christmas, and have a Happy, Healthy New Year,

[1] I Peter 1:20

[2] Romans 5:12-14

[3] Colossians 1:15-17; Colossians 2:8-9; John 4:24

[4] Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:26-38

[5] John 1:1-4, 14; Hebrews 4:14-15

[6] John 3:16; Romans 5:8

[7] II Corinthians 5:21

[8] Isaiah 53; John 1:29

[9] Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27, 31, Matthew 28:1-6

[10] Acts 1:4; 9-11

[11] Galatians 4:4-5

[12] I Dorinthians 1:23-25

[13] Revelation 3:20

For What Are You Thankful?

 

Among the myriad of things for which I’m thankful, at this moment, it’s the two movie reviews I just read on Crosswalk.com. Freelancer, Michael Foust, writes about Frozen II[1] and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.[2] Both should be wildly popular at the box office, but for different reasons, and with different messages. Frozen II, while appealing to our “baby” generation, promotes the elements of witchcraft, fire, water, wind, and earth. And, using animism, gives each a soul and a spirit body.

 

Although Frozen II teaches courage in the face of adversity, it also conveys an antichristian source for Elsa’s courage/power, and this puts me in a bit of a predicament. As a long-distance grandma, I promised my granddaughters. I would buy them tickets to see the movie. They saw the first Frozen, and yes, it does have a bit of animism—Olaf, the walking and talking snowman. But Foust says Frozen II is darker. I’m not surprised, and in my opinion, it’s deliberately darker, so they can slowly capture our children’s hearts and minds. I’m concerned this movie may push my granddaughters over the top. Their faith in God, who is the True power,[3] could be deactivated, defused like a stick of dynamite. This is Satan’s ultimate goal because the Gospel IS the power—the Greek word dunamis [dynamite]—of God.[4]

 

On the other hand, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a story in the life of ordained Presbyterian Pastor, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, focuses on the fruits of the Spirit,[5] according to Foust. The one preview I saw showed Mr. Rogers kneeling by his bed in prayer. These are the things I want my grandchildren to see and remember. However, I guarantee my granddaughters won’t ask to attend this movie. Their ages are 4, 8, and 10.

 

Our son, their dad, thinks I’m crazy for being concerned with what Frozen II communicates, and maybe some of you are with him. Nevertheless, I know the creators of these types of movies have agendas fueled by the prince of this world. So what’s a grandma to do?

 

PRAY! I’m so thankful I’m a child of the Living God[6] that He allows me to come boldly to His throne.[7] And because of this, you might think I’m writing about prayer today, but you would be wrong. It’s the season of Thanksgiving. Let’s talk about the word, thankful.

 

Did you know the majority of Bible words translated thank, thanks, thankful, or thanking are the Hebrew word yâdâh pronounced yaw-daw’?[8] It means literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand…especially to revere or worship (with extended hands). There is a second word, tôwdâh, pronounced to-daw’, derived from yâdâh[9] and properly meaning, an extension of the hand…adoration, specifically a choir of worshippers, and translated as (sacrifice of) praise, thanks (-giving, offering).

 

I love these words! They remind me of author and speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, stomping her foot, throwing her hands forward, and shouting, “Ta-da!!”[10]

 

I think King David expressed thankfulness with this same exuberance. When he finally brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, his joy was uncontainable. Earlier, David had written a psalm of thanksgiving to be sung as they traveled. It is documented in I Chronicles 16, but its influence is felt throughout Scripture.

 

“On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank [yâdâh] the Lord:  Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! …Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”[11]

 

Scripture uses a few other “thank” words, yet each is associated with yâdâh. And all, in some way, bear the meaning of a lifted hand, a choir, a shout, an acclamation, or a sacrifice of praise. No wonder David also wrote, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”[12]

 

Oh, that we would be so in love with our Savior, that like David, we’d lift our hands, shout and sing thanks—yâdâhtôwdâh—to God uninhibited. And then, teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. [13]

 

Have a thankful and blessed Thanksgiving!

 

[1] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-parents-should-know-about-frozen-2.html

[2] https://www.crosswalk.com/culture/features/things-you-should-know-about-a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood.html

[3] Ephesians 1:17-21

[4] Romans 1:16

[5] Galatians 2:22-23

[6] John 1:12

[7] Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22

[8] Strong’s #3034

[9] Strong’s #8426

[10] https://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/lets-all-say-ta-da/

[11] I Chronicles 16:7-10, 34

[12] Psalm 141:2

[13] Deuteronomy 11:19

His Work of Art

For the last three or four weeks, I’ve been renovating my bedroom, and I’m not done yet. My poor husband, all my bedroom furniture is in my dining room. I’ve scraped loose paint, patched cracks and holes in the plaster. I’ve primed the woodwork, painted it, the ceiling, and the walls. Scrubbed and vacuumed the carpet, and yesterday, my husband fixed the window, but not without some damage to my newly painted woodwork. Ugh! Today, I’ll do touchups, move the furniture back in, and decorate. My goal is to create a beautiful and peaceful environment—a masterpiece—my work of art.

 

Our house is old, so anything I do is cosmetic. I’m not an HGTV type of renovator. Still, all this work and planning has given me insight into a verse I’ve been stuck on for quite some time—Ephesians 2:10. Originally, I contemplated the word walk, but now workmanship.

 

In the two previous verses, God tells us it is by His grace we have been saved. I know, I know. This is elementary, but please stay with me. In Ephesians 2:8-9, God makes sure we understand salvation is not of ourselves. It’s a Gift. We can’t work for it because if we could, there would be boasting. Nevertheless, this Gift comes through faith.

 

Seriously? We’re talking about faith now?

 

Yes. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.[1] Substance and evidence are tangible. Hope and things unseen are intangible, like faith. How do we reconcile the two since it’s impossible to please God without faith[2] and, as Ephesians implies, receive salvation? Romans tells us God gave to each one a measure of faith.[3] So, we didn’t conjure up faith on our own. And before that, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”[4]

 

Seems like salvation is all of God. Right?

 

The Father draws us by whatever means, and our measure of faith responds. Our problem? Free will. Either we believe or disbelieve. When we choose to believe, intangible things happen. We are adopted as sons, possessing every spiritual blessing in Him.[5] The trials of life are easier because God leads us through.[6] He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,[7] meaning He knew and loved us even in our sin,[8] yet elected to give something we do not deserve—the gift of salvation.

 

And now, we have work to do.[9]

 

Work? Why? We are God’s workmanship[10]. This word is why I’ve been stuck. Workmanship or handiwork in the Greek is pŏiēma pronounced poy’-ay-mah meaning a product, i.e., fabric (lit. or fig.).[11] The LifeChange Bible study book gives the meaning as “a work of art,” kinda like my bedroom.

 

We are a beautifully woven fabric, crafted by our Maker, and all we had to do was allow our measure of faith to believe. God did it all. But He didn’t give us a costume or a cosmetic covering. No, we are a new creation,[12] changed inside and out, like a tapestry of cunning work—woven through and through. And because Jesus, God the Son, loved us enough to shed His blood and die on the cross for our sin, we, as God’s workmanship, must “walk” in His work here on earth.

 

And how do we walk? If we have truly believed, we walk in God’s Holy Spirit.[13] Again, it’s all of God—it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.[14]

 

So, on this day, when our country celebrates evil and death, let’s celebrate Jesus. He’s not a cosmetic covering or a costume! Christ in you is your faith and your hope of glory.[15] You, my friend, are His work of art.

 

[1] Hebrews 11:1

[2] Hebrews 11:6

[3] Romans 12:3

[4] John 6:44

[5] Ephesians 1:3

[6] Proverbs 3:5-6

[7] Ephesians 1:4

[8] Romans 5:8

[9] Ephesians 2:10

[10] Ephesians 2:10

[11] Strong’s Concordance

[12] II Corinthians 5:17

[13] Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 5:16-18

[14] Galatians 2:20

[15] Colossians 1:26-27

Run In Such A Way

 

Orlen_Warsaw_Marathon_2014_al._KEN
Orlan Warsaw Marathon 2014 – By Adrian Grycuk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32152574

 

I’ve never thought much about marathons before today. Have you? Even with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, I didn’t think about the race. I only thought about the tragedy. I guess my simple, nonathletic mind has trouble understanding what would drive someone to run such a distance. But, I truly admire those who do.

 

Did you know marathons originated around 490BC? According to www.justrunlah.com, the marathon came to be “at the time when the Persians were invading Greece.” This was four years prior to Xerxes ascending the Persian throne, seven years before his outlandish party, and about ten years before Esther became his choice for queen.[1]

 

Supposedly, a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battle of Marathon to proclaim to the people of Athens, that the Greeks defeated the Persians. Unfortunately, after running such a distance without stopping, Pheidippides fell to the ground and died of exhaustion.

 

Originally, the running distance of 40.8 kilometers was used for the first Olympic Games in 1896. JustRunLah.com indicated it’s the distance between the battle of Marathon and the city of Athens, or it could be the distance between Athens and Sparta as another source pointed out. Fittingly, a young Greek, Spyridon Louis, won the first Olympic marathon.[2] Since then, the race distance changed to 42.195km, or 26 miles, 385 yards.

 

Why do you need to know this information? First, it’s interesting, and you never know when the question will come up on Jeopardy [ha, ha]. But secondly, many times our Christian walk is compared to a race or marathon. For us, ordinary folk, running 26 plus miles is impossible, yet it is also impossible to live for Christ without the Holy Spirit, although countless people try every day.

 

Referring to Grecian or Isthmian races where many run, yet they produce only one winner, Paul writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? RUN,” he says to Christians,in such a way that you may obtain it.”[3] Obtain what? The prize of an imperishable crown from Jesus Christ our Lord.[4]

 

Still, with the Christian race, it’s different. ALL who RUN in “such a way” obtain the crown. No one loses. This is so unlike the races known to man. But, how do we run that we may obtain this crown from our Lord? King David explains, “For by You [O LORD] I can RUN against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.”[5]

 

David knew he only did these by relying on God’s Holy Spirit. He says, the Lord our God saves, lights our lamp, and enlightens our darkness. His way is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He is our Rock, and He arms us with strength. Almighty God makes our way perfect. In fact, when we truly believe God’s Word and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He makes our feet like the feet of a deer – swift, steady, and sure, so our feet do not slip.[6]

 

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t see it in my life.” Well, I feel for you. But, let me ask, have you had your spiritual eyes opened?

 

Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now (through his trial and God speaking) my eye sees You.”[7] Jesus said, “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[8]

 

If you know you are born again, and your eyes still do not see, something is wrong. Hold fast the Word of life.[9] Believe God and pray. Jesus will open your eyes that you may see His hand at work and RUN strong. Moreover, this is what he told the prophet Habakkuk, “Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may RUN who reads it.” [10]

 

Whether this passage means RUN strong or RUN away from the judgment to come, without the Word of God and the refreshing of His Spirit, oh, we can run, yet we will crumble, fall, and die in the end like Pheidippides. Nevertheless, by our Lord, by His Word, and through His Holy Spirit, we will read, RUN, and not be weary. We will not faint.[11] And we will finish our race with joy.[12]

[1] Esther 1 and 2

[2] https://www.britannica.com/sports/marathon-race

[3] I Corinthians 9:24

[4] I Corinthians 9:25

[5] Psalm 18:29

[6] Psalm 18:27-36

[7] Job 42:5

[8] John 3:3

[9] Philippians 2:16

[10] Habakkuk 2:2

[11] Isaiah 40:31

[12] Acts 20:24

Happy Endings

HAPPY ENDINGS

 

I love happy endings. Don’t you? More and more, I find myself staying away from disturbing movies, books, or TV programs, in favor of a lighter, sweeter, and pleasing finale. I guess that’s why I watch the Hallmark Channel and HGTV. Every movie on Hallmark has a happy ending. And, have you ever viewed a “fixer upper” type show where the family didn’t love their home?

 

Recently, the Lord gave me a happy ending when He taught me the deeper meaning to a passage of scripture I had wondered about for years. This happened during a prayer vigil at church. In preparation for our prayer time, each person would read two chapters of scripture. That day, I read John chapters one and two.

 

You see, I understood John 2:1-11 on the surface, yet I always felt it had significance beyond the words I read. From time to time, I would ask for clarification, but nothing. So, I’d set it aside and move on. Funny thing though, on the day God opened my eyes, I wasn’t asking for an explanation. Still, in the reading, my heart must have asked, even if my lips didn’t.

 

The passage recounts the first miracle of Jesus, and those of you who are Bible students will recognize it as the wedding at Cana. With His miracle of turning water into wine, Jesus saved the day. He kept the family from suffering great humiliation when their wine ran out. The couple in love, not only entered into wedded bliss, but they were able to serve the “bestwine almost three-quarters of the way through the wedding feast.

 

Did you realize this happy ending had a deeper meaning? And, does the deeper meaning even matter? For me, it does, and I bet it matters to you as well.

 

I get that a wedding is one of those normal, everyday occurrences, and I’m sure it wasn’t the only wedding Jesus attended, but this is God’s Word. God never does anything in Scripture without a good reason. So, let’s walk through it together.

 

In the very first verse, we see the miracle happened on the THIRD day. The third day or the number three in scripture is always important. Three is God’s number, and it refers to resurrection. Therefore everything that follows must, in some way, point to Jesus. Our job is to learn how.

 

Skipping to verse eleven, we also see it was the BEGINNING of SIGNS to manifest His glory. Wine, in scripture, often represents the Blood of Jesus, and it does in this passage. The question is why. And how does this symbolism fit with the fact that His friends ran out of wine at their wedding?

 

What God showed me blew my mind and made me burst into tears. He said it has to do with the BIG PICTURE and the words spoken by the master of the feast. “’…Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’” [1]

 

Believe it or not, this speaks of the old covenant versus the new. The inferior wine represented the OLD COVENANT – God’s Law with animal sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats.[2] The good wine symbolized the NEW COVENANT in the precious blood Jesus spilled when He died for our sin and purchased our redemption.[3] God gave us His Law, the inferior first, and in the fullness of time, when we had well drunk, being saturated in our sin[4], He presented the Good Wine.

 

The good wine replaced the inferior. And as God helped me to understand this, everything else in the passage fell into place. My eyes saw the remaining symbolism, and trust me; there’s a ton more. Still, I’m humbled, and I feel very unworthy of such deep revelation.

 

If you would like to know what besides this is in the short passage of John 2:1-11, I’d like to say ask me, because I would love to share. However, the best person to ask is Almighty God. He’s just waiting to reveal His Word [5] and give you your own happy ending.

 

[1] John 2:10

[2] Isaiah 1:11; Hebrews 10:4

[3] Luke 22:20; I Peter 1:18-19

[4] Romans 5:8

[5] Jeremiah 33:3