GOD Is – Thanksgiving

Chris Tomlin was singing this when I got up this morning. In the wake of more violence; more disasters, he sings about the one thing that brings peace into our hearts. Without GOD, is it even possible to have real thanksgiving and love?

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation

You’re the Light in this darkness

You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless

The song was written by a band called Bluetree, who are from Belfast, Ireland, and it was first recorded in 2007. I encourage you to read the backstory on https://www.songfacts.com. Fascinating story; what a witness!

We are 2 days away from the National Day of Thanksgiving, a day set aside to remember where we have come from as a nation, as families, and as individuals. A day to give thanks for the freedoms we have as Americans. According to https://history.house.gov, “On Thursday, November 26, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” Beginning in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to recognize the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving.” A few years later in 1870, Congress followed suit by passing legislation making Thanksgiving (along with Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day) a national holiday.”

In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and VP Harry S. Truman wrote this in the official Thanksgiving Day Proclamation:

“In a year which has seen calamity and sorrow fall upon many peoples elsewhere in the world may we give thanks for our preservation. On the same day, in the same hour, let us pray:
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.”

They could write it for 2018, too, but I would revise the first sentence to read “…. many peoples here and elsewhere ….”

Thanksgiving has become a day for frenzied shopping and gross commercialism. People aren’t encouraged to spend time with family because they have to work. Even in corporate offices, people have to work. No respect for the traditions of our country, no respect for people’s personal lives or space. No respect for anyone except me and what I want. This day has become a travesty of the original intent. Shut the doors of your establishments, people! This goes for Sundays, and all National Holiday’s. Do you really need that thing on that date? It won’t kill anyone to have a day off! I know there are exceptions. Nurses and doctors, pharmacists, emergency personnel….. these need to be available, but Big Lots? Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply? The malls and commercial establishments? I say a resounding No. Let us join our families, whether they are blood or adopted, and give thanks that we can.

“Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His Presence with singing! Know that the LORD, He is GOD! It is He Who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His Name! For the LORD is Good; His Steadfast Love endures forever, and His Faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalms 100:2‭-‬5 ESV

The Promise

This is now:

“…. but [JESUS] said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for Power is made perfect in weakness.” ” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a NRSV

His Power; my weakness. His Grace; His Mercy, is what has kept me alive – literally – this far into my life. I am lost without Him. My decisions, my “best thinking” is the primary reason for the troubles and hardships in my life. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I lived it for years. Life is so much better when I say “Your Will be done, not mine.”

This is GOD’s promise:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2‭-‬3 ESV

The SON of GOD said that He will prepare a place for me. Can it get any better than that? I may live in a hovel on earth (I don’t, presently, but very little separates me from homelessness. It’s just a fact of living on earth), but imagine what awaits us when we leave here! I know that JESUS left His heavenly throne to live and die on this earth to atone for my sins; that He walked out of His tomb after 3 days and that thousands testified with first-hand knowledge to the fact of His Resurrection. I know that He died for ME. Do you? Can you say with certainty that you have accepted Him as your Saviour? If you have, then you have His promise, this future, to look forward to.

And this is my future:

“See, the Home of GOD is among mortals. He will dwell with [us] as [our] GOD; [we] will be His peoples, and GOD Himself will be with [us]; He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3‭b-‬4 NRSV

Can you picture it?? Without GOD’s Promise for my future, life would, indeed, be bleak. My heart cries out for all the people who don’t understand that there is a hell, there is a heaven, and we will spend the rest of eternity in one of them – NO exceptions. Just reading the descriptions of hell in the scriptures is bone-chilling. Hell, Hades, Gehenna, the Lake of Fire…. it goes by many names, just as the “ruler” of hell has many names. Don’t be fooled! He and his demons start out making sin look so innocent and pretty, but it is all lies, deceptions, and untruths. I promise you that it is just a front that they hide behind to trap you. I was snared once. I couldn’t escape his claws and chains for years, and it was ugly. I would see glimpses of light, and I believe they use that to help keep their captives in line.

JESUS saved me. No one and nothing else could. Just JESUS. Call His Name anytime, anywhere, and He will rescue you! When you can’t reach out, He will reach for you. When you can’t see, He will guide you. When you can longer walk, He will carry you. When your burdens are too great to bear, He will take them. He PROMISED. He is the Deliverer, the Great Physician, Saviour of the world. Do you know Him?

Truths, Halftruths, or Lies?

Talking Heads. That’s one way of referring to reporters. I remember when we believed that the reporters told the truth, and we didn’t need to second guess them, or research to determine the real truth. We trusted that whatever Walter Cronkite said was right; true. Unfortunately, it is no longer true that we can believe whatever is said. The news now is full of blatant partisanship, outright disdain, lies, and halftruths. Nighttime talk show hosts are among the worst offenders, and are so prejudiced that I refuse to watch them. Making a couple of offensive jokes is one thing, but making the entire monolog about disrespecting our elected officials is not acceptable. Even when I cannot stand a person or their politics (and there have been many!), I still should respect the office they hold.

There are reporters whom I hold in great respect, and they are the recorders and reporters of the scriptures; the writers of the Bible. When GOD spoke, they listened and accurately recorded His messages alongside first-hand accounts of their history. In the New Testament, the Gospels are eye-witness accounts, and well researched accounts, of the Life and Testimony of the One known as JESUS CHRIST, MESSIAH. Luke, a physician, began his account:

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” – Luke 1:1‭-‬4 NRSV

“Then He [JESUS] said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the SON of MAN, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the SON of MAN be in His day. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.” – Luke 17:22‭-‬24‭, ‬33 NRSV

We should give serious thought to who we listen to, whether on the nightly news or in the pulpit on Sunday, or on social media, 24/7. What is the real TRUTH? Are we listening to GOD’s Truth or the half-truths and lies of the world? I try to follow Luke’s example and investigate, but we all fall victim to the propaganda and outright lies being promoted, at least part of the time. A couple of days ago, we had the opportunity to vote for a number of political offices. For months beforehand, there was a huge amount of rhetoric (i.e. lies and halftruths) that went on from the candidates, their PAC’s, and the groups who supported – or opposed – them. Lines were drawn between parties, and I think people failed to look at the candidate’s records, choosing from emotion rather than fact. As a result, I believe our country lost people who were much better suited for the job at hand than some who were elected. We desperately need to look to GOD for guidance through His Word, rather than looking to the news pundits; the Talking Heads.

JESUS is coming back, I believe sooner rather than later. The earth and all of her people, all of humankind, are in the throes of great trials and tribulations. Just look around! Research it! Matthew 24:4-29 describes how bad things will get here on earth, and it is all happening now. John was a great reporter, and in his book of Revelations, chapters 6-18, he tells in detail everything that will occur before JESUS returns, and in Revelations 19 reveals how JESUS returns:

“Then I [the Apostle John] saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its Rider is called Faithful and True, and in Righteousness He Judges and makes war. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, “KING of kings and LORD of Lords.” ” – Revelation 19:11‭, ‬16 NRSV

What does this all mean to me? It means that I need to take everything I hear and carefully weigh it against GOD’s Holy Word, the Bible. I need to be quiet and listen, try to discern the truth behind the rhetoric, and look to the recorders of Truth. Remember this:

It’s That Time, Again

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance ….. ” – James 1:2‭-‬3 NRSV

Tomorrow, we vote. At least, I hope and pray we all do! Do we vote our conscience, do we vote party-line, do we vote the politically correct way – or do we skip it altogether because we don’t like the choices? I think that for the followers of CHRIST it has become a battle to know the ‘right’ way to vote. Negative political ads flourish on television and social media, every candidate trying to destroy their opponent’s credibility. Often, it comes down to picking the lesser of the two evils as presented. These are indeed times of trial for us. We cannot, unfortunately, take anyone at their word. It’s a definite challenge to “consider it [ALL] joy,” when it appears to be more of a time to weep.

I know who I will vote for. I have done the research, I have spoken with candidates when possible, I have talked with friends who might know the candidate, and I have prayed. Read the rest of these verses from James:

“…. because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask GOD, Who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the LORD.” – James 1:2‭-‬8 NRSV

I admit to being frightened by so much of the current rhetoric and hate being spewed out across all of the media. The reality is that these United States are being dragged into an exceedingly liberal, socialist time. Regard for Christians is falling rapidly as we embrace diversity in everything, including religion (except Christianity!), and especially the religion of “ME.” Selfishness abounds and is rampant in our so-called heroes of the day. The honor and respect for patriots, our armed forces, and our leaders is rapidly waning as Hollywood and pro-athletes and liberal politicians take over.

What can I as an individual do? Pray. Vote. Most of all, I must bow to GOD’s superior Will, realizing that it may not be what I see as the best for my country….. but that doesn’t mean I will just lie down and let my country go to hell in a handbasket! No matter what happens tomorrow, or in the next election, or the next, I know this without a doubt: GOD WILL PREVAIL IN THE END. There will be much tribulation, and many trials, for CHRIST-followers before our LORD returns, including the rise to power by the Liberal Socialism being touted as the answer to those trials. [Side note: L.S. is NOT the answer! Only JESUS.]

Don’t lay down, and don’t be complacent. Listen to Carrollton sing “Made For This” from their album “Made For This.” Ask GOD, and ask in Faith, never doubting. In the end, Satan loses. How do I know? Because my LORD promises the defeat and destruction of all of the Enemy’s handiwork. (Read the “back” of the Book, Revelations.) Amen!

The NAME

“The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name in a curse. And they brought him to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan— and they put him in custody, until the decision of the Lord should be made clear to them.” …… “Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying: Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.” – Leviticus 24:11‭-‬12‭, ‬14‭-‬16 NRSV

Walk around any public venue today, and you will hear GOD’s Name used every way possible, except in Praise. Blasphemy isn’t a term we hear or use much anymore, but that is exactly what we are doing. I’ve had my stint at cursing, and was good enough at it to make people reel at my words (years ago, and it was a terrible habit to overcome). Despite the garbage coming out of my mouth, subconsciously my mind prevented me from cursing GOD directly. Even in those days of shaking my fist at Him, I feared His wrath. WHY, do you think, that so many people curse GOD, but you rarely hear Satan’s name used to curse? Perhaps we are afraid of him, but primarily, I believe it’s because the enemy is already cursed and he encourages blasphemy as part of his plan to subvert us.

Judging from the current language standards, I’d say that the enemy is succeeding in a huge way. It has become the norm to curse and be disrespectful of the LORD; so much so, that we hear it from newscasters, athletes, politicians, teachers, actors, and bosses; on tv and in movies. Even people professing JESUS as LORD use foul language as part of their every day, ‘normal’ speaking patterns. I shudder to think of all those people (including myself) facing the Day of Judgement and confessing our use – no, our misuse – of our language, especially for those who don’t have an Advocate in JESUS. This verse from Proverbs states it well:

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” – Proverbs 13:20 NRSV

We have to determine who we will walk through life with. Most, if not all, of us chooses badly at some point in our lives, or maybe many times, like I did. Without choosing JESUS as our primary partner in life, I’m not even sure it’s possible to walk with the wise, but I can testify to the folly of keeping company with fools! Do you choose life with the companionship and wisdom of the LORD, or are you past all that and making your own choices? I promise you, choosing to walk through life with JESUS may seem to be more difficult than life without Him, but the Peace and Joy – and Mercy! – more than compensates for our difficulties. The thought of having a Glorious Eternity with Him keeps me going!

Are you confident of your eternity? Take a Salvation check – are you ready? Let’s be Radical Christians together.

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have Eternal LIFE. “For GOD so loved the world that He gave His Only SON, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” – John 3:14‭-‬16 NRSV

Image credit: http://www.charlesspecht.com

Do As I Say….

So JESUS said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but GOD knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the Sight of GOD.” – Luke 16:15 NRSV

When we don’t fear GOD, we leave a vacuum to be filled by self and the enemy. Luke 16:19–31 is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man – did you know that the name ‘Lazarus’ literally means ‘GOD helps/has helped’? And that this parable is the only one JESUS told where He named the characters? The parable is a way to compare lifestyles and determine if we are living as the LORD would have us live, and if we are hearing – and spreading – the Gospel. The rich man, being tormented and in agony after his death, begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family to tell them to repent. This is how Abraham answered:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” – Luke 16:31 NRSV

I believe that JESUS is speaking of His own approaching death and Resurrection. How many thousands; how many millions of people have done/still do just as the rich man, ignoring JESUS in our everyday lives? Are we more concerned about the feasting and partying and our appearances, than we are about those surrounding us who are struggling and in need? We are our own worst enemies in life. We allow selfishness (GUILTY!) to rule our lives, sowing disharmony, discord, dishonesty, and dissension all around us. We live by he “Do as I say, not as I do” rule. Read Exodus 22, especially verse 25. It’s about selfishness.

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26‭-‬27 NRSV

“We can be angry and not sin when we are angry at sin.” – Pastor Mark Hitchcock. Even justified anger can be sin when we use it to attempt to judge others. (Again, GUILTY.)

So [Nehemiah] said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our GOD, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” – Nehemiah 5:9 NRSV

It can be a hard lesson to realize how much of the world’s ways we have accepted into our lives. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and allowing the desires of our hearts to turn from GOD to the selfishness modeled by so many people who claim the name “Christian” but don’t live it. If they can do/have/say it, it must be okay for me to follow their example, right? No, it’s a recipe for disaster with our LORD. He doesn’t tolerate being second in our lives; He is all or nothing, never-ending, ALL-Powerful, and ALMIGHTY.

On my face before Him, Loved by Him despite my constant fails, I say, so be it in my life, LORD, Your Will be done. Amen.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, 1035-1040, German National Museum, Nürnberg. Top panel: Lazarus at the rich man’s door Middle panel: Lazarus’ soul is carried to Paradise by two angels; Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom Bottom panel: Dives’ soul is carried off by two devils to Hell; Dives is tortured in Hades.

You WIN!!!

Lotteries, PCH (Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes) casinos; betting on sports, dog tracks and horse racing, fights – human and animal. Schemes on how to make millions, and evangelists who twist the WORD – the BIBLE – to persuade you that GOD will reward you with abundant financial wealth if you just do what they say (starting, of course, with supporting their ‘ministry!’

Everyone is looking for the eeee-sy money; the life of leisure. What shows are popular on tv? Reality shows that promise large sums to the ‘winner,’ gossip shows and ‘celebrity watch’ shows, glorifying the power, glitz and glamour that comes from having millions. Game shows – Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I’ve had a running joke for years, saying “When I win the lottery, I’ll ….. Oh! That’s right, you have to buy a lottery ticket!” (Never have bought one, either!)

If you actually won, how would you use the money?

The reality for Christians is that we don’t need millions. How can I say that? I don’t know your circumstances, or your life. Ah! No, I don’t know your life; I’m too busy negotiating mine to try to know anyone else’s! I care about you, and I pray for and do what I am able to do to help others. So why do I say Christians dontneed money? Here are a few reasons:

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalms 23:1 NRSV

JESUS said to His disciples, “….. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 NRSV

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve GOD and wealth.” – Matthew 6:24 NRSV (also Luke 16:13)

I am facing a mountain, and a boatload of cash would go a long ways toward conquering that mountain. I can despair and focus on the mountain, wishing for that mound of cash …… or I can lift my eyes from the mountain, and focus on my GOD. It’s a choice we get to make every day. I choose to look up….. and I WIN.

“To YOU I lift up my eyes, O YOU who are Enthroned in the heavens!” – Psalms 123:1 NRSV