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

Socialism – GOD’s Path or Man’s

“When JESUS heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ” – Luke 18:22 ESV

By definition, “socialism (so·cial·ism) is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole:

  1. A policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
  2. (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

People have taken this passage in Luke (and others) to advocate socialism as a way of life for all Christians. I don’t believe that that is what JESUS is saying. This verse, as well as all of Scripture, must be read in context, because any action – any action – can be justified by taking a verse or two out of context. We have to be on guard about this! Using this case, I don’t see JESUS espousing socialism for the whole. He is speaking to one individual about his life. We don’t know why JESUS told the young man to sell everything and give it to the poor, just that in this instance, it was what the LORD required. He might require it for you or me, and He might not. Much good can be done with wealth (money or time), but wealth can also be a hindrance to our lives with CHRIST. As Christians, our concern should be to search the scriptures for the message to each of us as individuals. We can’t expect non-Christians to understand, because as Paul says:

“For the Word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of GOD.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

But for us, those of us who are coming to Christ and those who are already in Christ, the Word is where He shows His Will for us to follow. For unbelievers who are without GOD’s Love, the Word, when we share it, is like “a clanging gong:”

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 ESV

We can try to reach the lost by creating a socialist society with everyone on the same financial footing, or we can glorify our GOD for the diverse talents He has given us, and give thanks for the different paths He has set us on. Our blessings don’t come from following a way of life set out for us by the enemy – and if it doesn’t come from GOD, it comes from the enemy! Whether the path GOD puts us onto is a life of missions, or selling everything and giving it to the poor, or serving in some capacity in His church; using wealth to help those in need; or being the best wife and mother – or husband and father – that we can be, as long as we are on GOD’s path and in His Love we will be overflowing with blessings.

“But You, O LORD , are a Shield about me, my Glory, and the Lifter of my head.” – Psalms 3:3 ESV

If It Feels Good, DO It!

“And now we thank You, our GOD, and praise Your Glorious Name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.” – 1 Chronicles 29:13‭-‬15 ESV

It’s hard to let go of people, things, and especially money, that we think we deserve. Oh, my friends, if we really got what we deserved, I imagine we would all be in some really rough, ugly circumstances. One of my ‘life-partners’ (yes, I’ve had too many, and I have married too many – but that’s for another time) liked to throw scriptures at me. One of his favorites was “Wives, obey your husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1a) In his mind, the words before and after that single sentence were irrelevant to him. He needed my obedience (read: servanthood) to make him happy. He expected me to accept his selfish behaviors, his affairs, to make him happy. My feelings and concerns were of no importance as long as I was catering to him. He had had a rough life and he considered ‘happiness’ his due. Like the hedonists who came before him; like his contemporary hedonists, and like the many who are still to come, He lived the creed “If it feels good, do it.” A commitment was just a tool to get others to support him and do as he wanted – the commitment itself was just a string of words to use as a tool. I read an article this morning that really nails this topic in relation to real happiness, which can only be found in our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

“A Deeper Look At What The Bible Says About Happiness,” by Owen Strachan on the websire “explore God” at https://www.exploregod.com/what-the-bible-says-about-happiness-paper

Every thing we have, every healthy relationship we have, every financial blessing we have, does not come about because of us. They are all from God. Like the author of 1 Chronicles, we should be thanking GOD for the abundance He has Blessed us with. If you think you don’t have any of those Blessings, take a look around you. Even bowing under the strain on me right now, I can count many Blessings (Be thankful for toilet paper! Thanks for that reminder, Katy). God doesn’t promise continual happiness on this earth; however, He does promise Grace, Mercy, JOY, Peace, and contentment within our hearts when we walk with Him. Happiness is fleeting; Joy is not. Happiness; abiding, forever Happiness, will be ours when we join our SAVIOUR in heaven.

And now I thank You, my GOD, and praise Your Glorious Name. …. For all things come from You, and of Your own have I have given You. …. My days on the earth are like a shadow .In JESUS’ Name we pray these things, Amen.”

The LORD Is My Portion

The author of the book of Lamentations is disputed, but regardless of whether it was Jeremiah, his scribe, or someone else, it is a book expressing deep torment. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At one particularly bleak period in my life, had I the eloquence of Jeremiah, I could have written this about my own life. These verses can apply to both our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Can you relate it to your life?

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” – Lamentations 3:19‭ NRSV

Despite his sorrow and angst, Jeremiah doesn’t lose his trust in the LORD. Like David, Jeremiah suffered through soul wrenching sorrow, but his faith didn’t waver ….. unlike mine. I questioned GOD, I blamed GOD, and I cursed the situations I found myself in. I know – my choices, my consequences. When I finally said, “Enough! I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” Then I could call out to JESUS, LORD, and allow Him to pull me out of the muck and he mire and the just plain ugliness of my life. Am I always thankful of GOD’s Mercies? Do I always accept His Portion and let contentment into my life? The answer is a resounding “No, I do not.” I am human, and my ‘feelings’ and emotions can overwhelm me. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in my self-pity, but a mentor said to me, “Feel sorry for yourself for 5 minutes, then get up and get on with your life.’ Don’t let the ‘shoulda coulda woulda’s’ run your life, because they will ruin your life!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have Hope: The steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will Hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:20-24 NRSV

I have HOPE in the LORD, AMEN!

Image of the prophet Jeremiah from Wikipedia Commons

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Do you know the words to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O GOD my Father …. All I have needed, Thy Hand hath provided …. Written almost 100 years ago, and sung in churches across the world, it is on my top 10 favorite hymns to sing (well, it was, when I had a voice! Now, I just immerse myself in the lyrics and sing it in my head. 😁) If you are able to, take a minute to Google Chris Rice singing it. It makes a beautiful moment of worship. Listen to the words. They are straight out of the Bible. Of the hundreds of times I have sung this hymn and read these scriptures, this reality hit me this morning:

GOD, our LORD and SAVIOUR, is Faithful to me – and to you!

I’m having trouble grasping this concept! I’ve always known that we as Christians should be, and try to be, faithful to our GOD and SAVIOUR. But for HIM to be faithful to me? We know that GOD is omnipotent and omnipresent, so why should He tell us, over and over in the scriptures, that He is Faithful to us?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 NRSV

If He sees all and knows all, where does faith come into play for Him? Of course, we’ll never know the real answer until we see Him face to Face, once we have passed from this life into His Life and eternity. My supposition is that because of the Free Will He gave us when He created us, He doesn’t look into our hearts until we invite Him in. Therefore, He expresses to us that He will remainful Steadfast and Faithful while waiting for us and on us. In His Faithfulness, He sent JESUS to us for a visible, real-life example of His Love and His Faithfulness.

“And the WORD became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His Glory, the Glory as of a Father’s Only SON, full of Grace and Truth.” – John 1:14 NRSV

“…. so CHRIST, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” – Hebrews 9:28 NRSV

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of GOD.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1 NRSV

Have you experienced GOD’s Faithfulness in your life? Do you know; can you feel the depths of His Love? JESUS came once (Got that? ONCE) to cleanse us of all of our sins; to relieve us of the necessity to make sacrifices as our ancestors did, and to seal us, once and for all, and bring us into His Presence. Following the words of JESUS and His disciples, we should do our best to live an exemplary life, reflecting Him into our world. Accepting Him as LORD and SAVIOUR doesn’t make us perfect, it makes us forgiven. Read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

“The Steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:22‭-‬24 NRSV

GREAT is Thy Faithfulness! AMEN.

Every Thing, Every Moment, Every Thought

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The LORD is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GOD. And the Peace of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:4‭-‬8 NRSV

Lauren Dagle sings a song called “Trust In You.” It reminds me that GOD is with me, no matter what I face, no matter where I am, no matter who I am with. He may not move the mountain or part the waters for me the way I ask, but He knows what I am going through because He has already been there. He is right beside me through every challenge and situation, and lifting me when I can’t do it on my own. Perhaps part of the motivation for the letter to the Philippians was to remind them and to reassure them that they are not alone, even while telling them to submit their prayers, their requests, to the Father – with thanksgiving. If we do this, when we pray and worship Him with thanksgiving, then He promises us that He will cover us with His Peace. Do not worry about anything. Any thing.

Like Abraham, GOD has made promises to us. Remember that although he and his wife were well past the ages of creating a child of their bodies (99 and 90, respectively!), GOD had promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son and that he, Abraham, through that son, would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed, and he and Sarah were blessed with their son Issac. So GOD hasn’t given you the perfect job, or the perfect house, or the perfect spouse ….. did He promise you would have them? I think not. Does that mean we need to go out on our own, without GOD’s guidance, and acquire them ourselves? Lke Abraham, are we reaching and not waiting? Look at how his not being patient worked out for him, because we are still dealing with the result in the continuous conflicts and wars between the descendants of Issac and Ishmael.

Every Thing, Every Moment, Every Thought – that’s exactly where we need to be looking for GOD; extending our thanksgiving away from we want and into every thing we see of GOD’s Creation; in every moment we are given to breathe on this earth, and with every thought focused on GOD’s Will, rather than on our agenda. I end today with this prayer for you:

And may the Peace of GOD, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS. Amen.

Photo image credit: http://www.open.edu

‘Perfect’ Christians

Perfect Christians don’t exist, nor do perfect churches, and anyone who tries to say differently is a liar and possibly a fool.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to His [JESUS’] disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” JESUS answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:30‭-‬32 NIV

Do you find a sense of relief in this passage? I do! Knowing that JESUS came for me, the bruised and the broken, full of faults and cracks, it’s amazing, …. and unbelievable??? Why would the King of Heaven, Who created this amazing universe, care about an insignificant being like me? I say inappropriate things, I want to be the center of attention, I keep getting involved with men who just want to use me. I’m selfish and self centered. All these faults, and JESUS Loves me??? I used to be one of those people who thought that I had to be perfect for GOD to Love me. You know, wear the ‘right’ clothes, act the ‘right’ ways, don’t smoke or drink or curse or dance. Be in church for Sunday school and training union (Sunday evening classes) and services, and Wednesday prayer meetings. I was pretty self-righteous and judgemental, and it can still creep up on me at times – I have to be on guard against it.

There’s a song from Hilary Scott (of the group Lady Antebellum) called “Thy Will” that seems so appropriate for me – and probably many others – right now. Here’s the first verse:

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

Sound like anything you’ve been through, like feelings you’ve felt, thoughts you’ve had? Then I follow it with this beautiful song by Lauren Dagle, who sings from her heart:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory,

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

I think that sometimes we think, we believe we are following GOD’s Will, but maybe it becomes more what we want more than what He wills for us, and maybe, sometimes, it is His Will that we go through the hard time so that we remember that He is GOD, not me or you. I don’t like being told I’m wrong, or that what I’ve done wasn’t correct, and I’ve never liked being called out or disciplined. It makes me bristle and want to argue, to show that I was right, dadgummit, even when it’s the LORD GOD Who is doing the discipling! Really, do I honestly think the CREATOR is wrong? Yeah, oops. I think it’s pretty obvious that I am far, far from perfect! But, perfection – and perfectionism – aside, the GLORIOUS Truth is that our GOD, our LORD and KING of Heaven, LOVES me, Loves us, anyway! He Loves us through our imperfections and our brokenness, He Loves us regardless of our silliness and stubbornness – HALLELUJAH! Remember what JESUS said: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I thank my GOD every day for the gift of His Salvation, even when I’m felling down because of the situation! Can you say the same? Oh, I pray that you can! All the brokenness, all the junk and bad times probably won’t meticulously change for the better, although our LORD can do anything, especially the things that we see as impossible.

This is what God says to us, and whispers in our ear: