WHEN I THINK OF THANKFULNESS, I’m drawn to the BIG things I’ve been blessed with: a loving family, freedom, work, a home…all the good stuff. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Lord tells us (through Paul) to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” JESUS PROCLAIMS that in this (fallen) world, we will have troubles, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Certainly, being thankful for hardship and loss is counter-intuitive to say the least. Nonetheless, if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He lives in us and we are to assume the conduct and character of Christ, and reject our worldly inclinations. NOTICE, the very next time you face difficulty, whether it be a relationship, a health or financial issue, or everyday stress; what is the first thing that happens after your heart pounds, blood pressure rises, and nerves twitch? Is God the first person you turn to, or do you become overwhelmed, never thinking about God, but instead taking out your worry beads and driving yourself into a frenzy. This is our natural, or worldly inclination. What an amazing difference it makes when we turn to the Lord first. “O God. You are my God; Early will I seek You” (Psalm 63:1, NKJV). READ Isaiah 41:10, one of my favorite verses when I need to feel the loving arms of God around me. MY PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING FOR TODAY: LORD, THANK YOU for blessing me with Your favor. I pray that You will lift me above my current difficulties and trust that You will bring me through them—as You always have—toward Your ultimate Grace, which is often hidden in trials as you refine our nature to make it more like your own. I give you thanks, praise, honor, and glory for your unfailing love.
We—human beings—are such creatures of habit. There is, I am convinced, some sort of systemic chemical activity that impels us to require order, if even within chaos. We develop patterns, routines, and methods, and follow them, regardless of what’s going on around us. For example, think about your morning routine. How many of us make a bee-line for the coffee maker first thing in the morning, every morning. Or if we have a dog, let it out before we do anything else, every morning—then head for the coffee maker. My point is, most of us get caught up in a cycle of activities without even realizing or questioning it…thus, our awareness is deadened. As Christians, it is our objective to seek, to know, and to be in relationship with God; it is the reason He created us. We cannot pursue that objective very meaningfully, if at all, if we are unaware of His abiding presence—in our lives, in our hearts, and in proximity. He is, after all, all around us. Being mindful of God’s presence means that we are aware of His unfailing love for us, and His unending Grace. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. If you ever feel alone, know that He is there with you; be aware of His presence. It makes all the difference in how you approach your daily routines. “You are all around me on every side…” (Psalm 139:5. Also read Psalm 139:7-10. BLESSINGS!!
IF you have not read the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, I ardently recommend it. It is short (only four chapters), and enlightening...as all biblical books are intended to be. Ruth is a love story; a story of devotion, loyalty, and commitment. Ruth, being the great-grandmother of King David, played an essential role in the lineage of Jesus Christ (something many Christians may be unaware of). In addition to its many themes, The Book of Ruth (who was and outsider—a Moabite (gentile) among Isrealites) teaches that there are no outsiders, for who we are, and what we do, counts in the eyes of God. Synopsis: Because of a famine in Bethlehem in Judah, an Isrealite, Elimelech, takes his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to live in Moab, a pagan nation. The sons eventually marry Moabite women, and after the death of her husband, and later her sons, Naomi and her two daughters in-law start back to Bethlehem. Only Ruth continues the journey with Naomi (“whither thou goest, I will go . . . 1:16). Ultimately, Ruth is “covered” by and marries Boaz, her “Kinsman Redeemer” (closest relative bound to carry on the family name) and bears a son, Obed. The link to Jesus is thus: Obed fathers Jesse; Jesse fathers David, and Jesus is of the lineage of the house of David (for more on the lineage of Christ, read Matthew 1:1-25).
Some Christians . . . or former Christians . . . have either become hearing-impaired, or turned off their amplifiers, deafening themselves to the idea of a relationship with God. Having such a relationship begins by listening for His voice through Scripture, which is the sacred Word of God through which He speaks to us on a personal level. Certainly, there are other ways in which God speaks, guides, and directs us, but Scripture is the baseline. “Come and See . . . " “I feel at times as if I could never cease praising God. Come and rejoice with me over His goodness. I reached for Him out of my inner conflicts and He was there to give me strength and courage. I wept in utter frustration over my troubles and He was near to see me through. What He has done for me He can do for you. Turn to Him. He will not turn away from you. His loving presence encourages those who yield to Him. He is with us in the midst of troubles and conflicts. He meets our emptiness with abundance, and shores up our weakness with His divine power. REACH FOR HIM! (Read Psalm 34:1-4)
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” I recently happened upon this quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—a Jesuit priest, philosopher, paleontologist, teacher, and theologian—and it got me thinking about joy in a different way. So I did some research. The word joy appears over 200 times in the NIV Bible. For example: “ . . . for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace . . .” (Isaiah 55:12). “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). If you have an opportunity, listen to the words of Hymn to Joy (set to the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy). GOD IS JOY; OUR JOY IS IN GOD. BE JOYFUL!!
Life is messy-and often hard. Jesus assures us that in this world we will have tribulation, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33). I don't know anyone who has not experienced the angst . . . or worse . . . associated with the Covid Pandemic. But we are an irrepressible and resilient people, and HOPE springs eternal. It is built into God's children. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)
“The words of ‘the Preacher,’ the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1: 1-3). At a glance, Ecclesiastes seems rather depressing . . . but read on. The author describes himself as the “Preacher” (Qohelet in Hebrew), “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (clearly suggesting Solomon). In Ecclesiastes, Solomon takes us on the journey that is life through his very human eyes: life is unpredictable and often unfair . . . meaningless. Haven’t we all felt that way at some level, one time or another? What’s the point? Nothing makes sense? Why? What is my purpose here? No matter what we do or what we have, it’s all “vanity.” Indeed, Solomon experienced it all: pleasure, power, wisdom (1:14), only to feel lost in the world. However, despite our human frailties and failings, God is present throughout our lives—Jehovah Jireh—always providing (2:24-25). And he privileges us with enjoying his provision (5:18-19). “Ultimately, the great truth of Ecclesiastes lies in the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty--His ever-present hand on our lives. Even when injustice and uncertainty threaten to overwhelm us, we can trust Him and follow after Him." (Chuck Swindoll; Insight for Living Ministries). Conclusion: the meaningfulness of life is unreachable apart from God.
Man has been blessed with free will to follow the path of his/her choosing. I choose the path to Christ--despite the potholes--for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)