Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankful Every Day

I have been contemplating the topic of thankfulness for the past few weeks. I thought I would wait until after Thanksgiving Day to write this post. I have noticed an increasing trend on social media sites where people will post things they are thankful for daily in November, and most especially on Thanksgiving Day itself. While I am thankful that people take time out from their busy days to think about what things they are thankful for, I have a couple of observations.

I am thankful for my family, friends, house, and health. We are to be "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Ephesians 5:20

I am thankful when we are in want or have plenty, I am thankful when it rains, when it is cold, and when it is hot and dry. I am thankful for the mountain moments in life and I am thankful for the dark valleys. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

I am thankful that I can come before the throne of grace and "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let [my] requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6

I am thankful that I can gather freely on the Lord's Day to worship Him. I can "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name." Psalm 10:4

I am most thankful for my salvation which was made available to me through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Which brings me to my first question- to whom are we thankful?

Most of the posts I read include long lists of people and things that the person writing is thankful for. Most people over the age of about 12 know that when you receive a gift, it is appropriate to read the attached card first and see who the gift is from. After opening the gift then, you say, "Thank you Aunt Sally for this beautiful thing." You don't rip open packages and bags and just generally say I am thankful for all my gifts, you focus your thanksgiving to the one who provide that for which you are thankful. It is God who provides and allows us to have all that we have, whether material goods or people in our lives.

Many people will proclaim their thankfulness and deny the truth of the One who provided that for which they are thankful. "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Romans 1:21

Secondly, we are to be a thankful people all day, every day, 365 days a year. Let us remember that we should be daily practicing thanksgiving. When I daily (sometimes it is minute by minute) remember that it is God's merciful hand of providence through which all of my life's joys and sorrows are filtered, when I being fully convinced that He alone knows what I need; He alone works all things for my good because I love God and am called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), then, and only then can I keep myself from falling into the wrong thinking that I am the one in control; being constantly reminded to whom I am thankful. I am made aware of my utter dependence upon Him. I know that it is not my credit to take for all that I have, and can be humbled in my walk before God.

Let us remember to be thankful to God always.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Two Sundays ago, our pastor started a sermon series on the book of Job. Job happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible, as I can relate to Job in some small way, as most of us can. I figured this would be a great series for me to hear right now. The fact that Chad and I were both brought to tears by the end of the first week is an indication that these next few weeks are going to be good for our hearts. While, I don't want to steal my pastor's content, it did get me thinking about posting regarding Job 1:21 where Job says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."

We live in a day and age where we buy now and pay later because we don't like waiting. We feel entitled to have lots of stuff. Society pressures us to keep up with the the neighbors. We want the biggest, the best, and the newest. We see and hear about clawing your way to the top and taking what you want. I want what I want, when I want it. Impatience and pride reign supreme. While I am not trying to climb a corporate ladder, I do have some of those same issues in my own life. I wish I could run; wish I didn't live in pain. I want my house a certain way. I think I need the latest gadget or want more of them.

I have just a couple of observations to make. First, I think it is hard every moment of every day to remember that we came into this world with nothing, and all that we have is from God. I mean, when I stop and actually think it through I willingly admit that this is true, but then turn around and walk away and act as if I can scheme and work and make it all happen on my own. As if I were the one getting myself what I feel I deserve. The truth is that it is God who wills; God that gives and takes away. All our effort is futile and puny in God's sovereign plan for our lives. The truth is that the only thing we deserve is punishment. Our pride and arrogance that make us think we control everything, that we alone work to get what we want and we alone provide things to our families, is just one example of our utter sinfulness deserving of hell. The Lord does indeed give. He gives forgiveness and and reconciliation through His son, Jesus Christ, to all who believe.

Second, none of this earthly "stuff" matters. We will not take any of these things with us when we die. Even if, by the grace and favor of God, you amass a fortune, it will be left behind for others. And ultimately we know that we are not to "lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19). Instead of being earthly-focused (focused on self), we should be heavenly-focused (focused on Christ). I should give thanks when the Lord gives, but also when He takes away. He alone is to be glorified, and if I have to walk through the valley instead of running on the mountain tops, my one consistent prayer has been that He may be glorified in me and through me. That I may carry the burden of suffering, suffering well, that He might let others see my light shine, and they would glorify my Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So instead of striving to build our empires, we should "lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:20)

May we continually remember that as believers in Christ we "have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) At the end of the day it isn't about me. It isn't about what I have or who I know. It has been and always will be about Him. I would not have chosen the path I find myself on, but I know that He has a purpose. So I cling to my Savior in the midst of suffering and pray that I might have tunnel vision; to keep my eyes fixed upon Him, and not on all the distractions and desires of the world.

I will leave you with the words of the hymn we sang after the Introduction to Job. My eyes were already tearing up at the conclusion of the sermon, and this hymn really touched me. (If you would like to hear the sermon series -and I highly recommend it-you can catch up here.)

Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my Physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

From Generation to Generation

I have found myself thinking about the past a lot recently. This is not typical for me. I tend to keep moving forward, so I don't get "stuck" there. I am not one to relive the "glory days" or hang on to anger and thus stop forward progression. But lately, my thinking about the past is different. I believe the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. This all started after my mother's passing. Since she was always there and we had constant contact, I never thought much about what would happen when she was gone.

For starters, I find myself intrigued by digging up my genealogical records. Trying to go way back. Where is our family from? What were my grandparents, or great-grandparents like? While none of this information is of real importance in my daily living, it somehow interests me. I also have thought more often about the recent past. Why hadn't I taken more pictures of my mother, or with her? Why did I not record more of her stories and memories she used to share? And probably the biggest question of all, why were there no items past down from other generations to share with my children.

Most of my past isn't worth remembering to be honest, but it did shape who I have become. All the bad things, all the people, every minute of every day, God used to draw me onto Himself. While I don't intend to sit around longing for the "good ol' days"; I do wish our family had more of a story to tell. Months ago, I started to record my life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Written partially like a memoir and partially just a list of things I remember doing, places I have gone, and things I have learned. Some day I think my children and grandchildren will enjoy reading through some of those things. I know I would love to read through some things like that of my mothers.

So, why do I ramble on about the past? Well, for two reasons.

First, I am so very thankful that God in His mercy reached down and touched my heart that I might believe, and in doing so forever changed our family's trajectory. The Bible mentions in so many places about the blessings and curses that are past down from generation to generation. My prayer has been that we might nurture our children and they might nurture their children, and so on and so on, and that God might be glorified as we do. I pray that the past that I remember from my own childhood, would never repeat itself.

Secondly, this nostalgia has spurred me to make sure I record some memories for future generations. It has reminded to start traditions, and to make meaningful keepsakes. This is why I have started our other blog. Why I create. Why I scrapbook. That I might pass down my faith, my memories, and any wisdom that God has taught me. I will leave you with a verse to inspire you to do the same: "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." Psalm 145:4

If you wish to find out more about why I have started scrapbooking again, or how easy it is to record your own memories, please visit my other blog.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Lord's Day!!