30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 27 – Our Humble God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

While the kings of this earth choose to dominate their subjects, our God chose to humble Himself before the very people He made.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:5-11

5 “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross! 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow–in heaven and on earth and under the earth–11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

2 Corinthians 8:9

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Being humbled is embarrassing – I ought to know. I took a spill in a grocery store last week that left me flat on the floor, covered in oil, glass and chocolate. Almost death by chocolate. Ok, not really, but the whole chocolate chip display falling upon me was a wee bit humbling.

Humility is not something we desire, certainly not to be shamed in front of people. But our Almighty God, Creator and Ruler over all – is humble. He chooses the path of humility and shame to win our stubborn hearts. What an oxymoron to the world where power is often wrapped in pride and self-sufficiency. While the kings of this earth choose to dominate their subjects, our God chose to humble Himself before the very people He made.

When we disobeyed Him and were faithless, He relentlessly pursued us and came in humble flesh as a helpless babe, demonstrating how we should live on this earth and bearing all of our burdens.

One Who is LORD over all is typically thought of as commanding His followers. God gave commandments of His righteous decrees, fulfilled them when we couldn’t and offered Himself in our place.

This kind of behavior is foolish to men who view humility as a weakness. But then that is how our God chooses to appear to us, in beautiful, perfect humility. He then chooses the weak among us, too, to demonstrate His power.

Satan thought He overcame when He crushed the Son of God, Who seemingly was too powerless in His surrender to death. But His surrender was our salvation and Christ overcame the grave and our souls in humility.

Lord, thank You for coming humbly to us when we deserved Your wrath. Thank You for revealing the wisdom of Your humility, which triumphs over man’s pride every time. Help us to be a humble people, recognizing that all that we have is Yours. Be glorified in Your people, O humble King of our hearts!

A SEASON OF THANKFULNESS: DAY 18 – OUR HUMBLE KING

Humility

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Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

There is perhaps nothing more ironic than a King becoming a servant, saving the very ones who were His servants in the first place.

In Christ we find the perfect example of humility.  He alone could boast of all the good works He accomplished or of how great He is, yet He chose a crude birth and a lifestyle among commoners.

Materialism and comfort might have appealed to his flesh in that he was 100% man and 100% God, but He did not want those things.  They were distractions from the calling His Father had for Him.  Instead, He was single-minded in His humble approach, prizing the cost of a soul as superior by far to being praised by man.

Sober-minded and dependent upon God, Christ modeled the wisdom of humility.  He captivated the hearts of His enemies not by ruling over them, but by loving and serving them.

There will come a day when Christ returns in righteous judgment, but He first exhibited godly leadership that sacrificed and made Himself subject to the very ones He sought to save.

By laying down His own life, He made a way for the prideful, lost ones truly in a humble position to know their majestic King.

Lord, thank You for demonstrating what it means to not live for self, but to live for the glory of God, instead.  Thank you for choosing a humble life that we might know You!

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 8 – God of Mercy

Hebrews 8:12

“For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.”

Micah 7:18

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

Isaiah 43:25

“”I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

Guilty, yet pronounced innocent.  Unearned, undeserved, unworthy.  Why extend mercy to people such as these?  Because that is His nature.  He is good.  He is kind.  He is loving and He is merciful.

We deserved wrath and He would have been righteous to give us His judgment, but instead He wanted to demonstrate His forgiveness and compassion toward us.

A prisoner who is set free cannot contain the joy and gratitude over a punishment being rescinded; so it should be with us. If each day His mercies are new, may we recognize all of the mercies around us.  Are we able to think, speak, walk, breathe?  Basic components of living, but God allowed us to have those abilities another day.

Sometimes we can equate mercy with comfort – “if God is merciful He won’t allow suffering”.  However it is often in God’s mercy that He permits afflictions to visit us, for otherwise we would not be cognizant of all the blessings He has brought into our lives.

This God of mercy extends grace to those who are willing to humble themselves and ask for it.  To see our need of Christ’s amazing forgiveness is yet another sign of His mercy in opening our eyes at all.

Lord, thank You that You delight to show us mercy.  So Holy and righteous are You!  Help us to extend the same grace that you have given to us, ever mindful of your gift.

Weapons of Warfare

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2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

Ministry of Reconciliation

reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 18-21

14 “For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died.  15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 16 So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:4

But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, with distresses, 5 in beatings, imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 7 by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and the left, 8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as imposters, and yet true.”

Relationships can be tricky – especially if we go by feelings.  Offenses can run rampant in families, friendships and even the body of Christ.  Wherever two or more are gathered, there can be conflict or hurt feelings.  But in Christ, we who have been saved are new creatures and called to a different standard.

Likened to a soldier serving his country, we have been called as ambassadors for Christ and given a ministry of reconciliation.  What a wonderful occupation – peacemakers.  And yet in all honesty, there is not a lot of glamour or appreciation that comes from this position; rather, a lot of humble pie.  But the joy of pleasing God far outweighs the bitter heart weighed down with unforgiveness, resentment or bitter envy.

When someone is uncharitable or unkind to us, it hurts, but what an opportunity to glorify God.  If it is a Christian who is envious or bitter with us, God help us to see the individual as one whom God has forgiven.  We cannot hold a grudge, no matter how justified we feel we may be, for we, too, have trespassed against God and been forgiven.

This ministry of reconciliation should consume our souls.  We are on a mission from God to reconcile man back to a right relationship  with God.  And not just that, but with one another.  God demonstrated relationship to us through His Son.  We are called to relate to one another in humility and grace; embodied by Christ Himself, who we were enemies of and crucified, yet He did not count our sins against us.

At this present time, the “sufferings” of a Christian today in our country do not compare with those of the first generation of Christians in the New Testament.  They armed themselves with being prepared to die to self, to endure hardship all for the glory of God.  Their weapons were righteous – not self righteous, not for their own defense, but to win one soul to God.

Lord help us to not forget our calling and purpose or be distracted by controversies that just do not matter.  We can pursue unity as far as it depends upon us and leave all matters up to God.  Recently I saw a quote, which I had heard many years before in a sermon and it was such a fresh reminder of how to respond when people say things that are not true of ourselves.  To paraphrase, the part of us that wants the truth to be told fights against someone spreading falsehood, yet, in reality, there are things which are true of us that are just as hideous as the lie being told.

God help us to just let it go.  Let God straighten out any misperception and just be about the business of reconciliation as much as depends upon us.  Reconciliation is not for the super religious; it is not for the religious at all; it is expected by all who profess Christ and who have received mercy, grace and reconciliation themselves.

Lord, we surrender to You and ask You to help us to be focused on Your purposes and glory, not our own.  May zeal for Your salvation consume us and may we never tire of serving in this ministry of reconciliation.

Perception’s Deception

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1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

When Samuel was choosing the future King, he was led by God.  Men tried to sway him to pick according to their own prejudice and preference, but Samuel sought God’s favor.  People were shocked that David, a mere shepherd boy who played the harp was selected.  He was the youngest, the least that anyone would have expected.  It was, perhaps, politically incorrect.

The people qualified Samuel’s choice: “but he’s taking care of the flock . . .” – not someone God would choose, would He? David might not have been esteemed as a leader in man’s eyes, but to God, who knew his heart, David was the perfect choice.  Confidence in appearance never lasts, but character endures long past looks, wealth or popularity have faded.   Waiting for God’s best requires patience, trust and obedience in God, not fear of man.

It is a humbling thing putting ourselves before man, whether it be to step out in ministry, to share what God has done, or to lead in some fashion.  We will be tested in those times to develop character and sometimes in our own hometown we will not be endorsed.  Like David, people around us know we are imperfect.  They may hold a perception of us that we cannot affect.  The true moment of freedom comes when we realize that we do not have to.

None of us wants to be misunderstood, but it is a fact of life.  People have their perceptions formed on the surface in the chalice of opinion, gossip, envy, or experience.  Whether or not there is truth behind that perception often doesn’t matter, as the power of emotion can be stronger and people are often fed opinions by the peecee police in an attempt to control outcomes.  But the humility of reserving judgment before tearing down another brother or sister is rare and needed today.

To form a viewpoint on another person without attempting to know their heart is prideful and demonic.  It is also folly to trust in what someone or something appears to be, only to be let down.   Discernment comes through prayer and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

These same patterns of judgment and jealousy are in the body of Christ today.  They were also present in the time of Christ. Jesus’ own disciples questioned the motives of other followers of Christ casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  A competitive spirit was quickly quelled by the Master, though, who saw all working together for the glory of God.

Are we a David, being chosen for a work, or the older brother, scorning someone else who is seeking to work for the kingdom of God?  In either station, may we recognize we are nothing apart from Christ.  We are all unqualified to serve the King of kings.  Therefore no jealousy is permitted and no pride, either, in whatever position we are in.

Blind trust in someone can bring devastation, but we have to be willing enough to be vulnerable and not allow ourselves to become embittered and believe the worst in others, either.  We all need grace and need to believe we are capable of being better tomorrow than we were today – no matter what the appearance suggests.

Lord, we answer to you alone.  Thank You for calling each of us for Your glory.  We are so needful, yet You use us.  Help us to not fear man, but to serve you faithfully.  May we also not discourage another because of a weakness we see in them, either.

Worshipful Wednesday: The God Who Teaches Us

Psalm 25:1, 4-5, 8-9, 12, 14

1 “O Lord, I come before you in prayer. 4 Make me understand your ways, O LordTeach me your paths! 5 Guide me into your truth and teach me.  For you are the God who delivers me; on you I rely all day long8 The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live9 May he show the humble what is right!  May he teach the humble his way!  12 The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. 14 The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

We have all had teachers we have admired and ones we could have done without.  Some inspired us and some discouraged us.  Although teaching is not always a lucrative career, teaching is valued highly by God and near to His heart. David knew where to get wisdom on how to live.  He cried out.  Those who want to know more of God or how to live in order to please him just need to ask Him.  He is willing to teach us!  To be tutored by the Most High God is no small thing. Today, I worship our Almighty God and Shepherd, the best teacher of all, Who will personally guide each of us and instruct us through his Holy Spirit.  His rebuke is life-giving, but only the humble can receive it.

As a homeschool mom for 18 years, teaching brings an inner delight to me.  God called me to home educate the children He gave me before my first child was born.  I chose to home educate out of obedience and also because more than anything, I cared deeply about my children’s character and knowledge of God.  To be able to convey a truth to my children and have them perceive and comprehend it on deeper and deeper levels over the years has never ceased to amaze me. The first time my oldest was reading at age three was thrilling!  A door had just been opened to her – though it could be for knowledge of good or bad – she was most importantly able to gain insight into her Creator and into life.

I vividly recall when we were doing a bible study out of the book of Romans and the look on my oldest daughter’s face at age four conveyed her understanding for the first time that “no one was good, no not one”.  She wept and realized that she needed a Savior.  Wow.  God instructed her through His living word.  Over the years, all of my children have had crowning moments of academic success as well as difficult moments of realizing they still had so much to learn.  So do we all.

The paucity of knowledge is not to be lamented, however, when we have a God Who has all knowledge and He wants to give it to us. Even knowledge that appears unimportant can become a treasure.  Each station in life offers opportunities to learn something new.  When the subject or trial we are in appears mundane and inapplicable to life (like some school subjects my kids tell me are not important), God uses it all.  Education equips us for future endeavors or callings on our lives that He wants to use to enable us for that season and for His glory.

I have always loved to learn new things, so it is difficult for me to comprehend someone not being fascinated with the opportunity of obtaining more knowledge.  Knowledge is a doorway to wisdom, when correctly applied, and to be able to understand more of God is the highest privilege.

Sometimes, though, teaching is not a delight.  Burnout can occur, of course, but when the pupil is lazy, not teachable or not desiring to learn, teaching can become a daunting task.  I imagine that our lack of zeal to instruct as a teacher or to search for more insight and understanding from God as a student hurts His heart.  He is ready to teach us, to show us more of Him, and we often do not even arise to knock on His door.

As a teacher, our children might not be crying out for wisdom, but we can also ask God, Who is the wisest teacher, to help us to provoke them to want to learn.  When I consider how good God is, that He would not just command, but would show us how to obey by walking among us as a fragile human, I am completely undone.  We have no excuse – we have a God Who is alive and Who has not left us without instruction.  He was also willing to live it out before us.  Ignorance kept us in sin – but God did not leave us in that place.  Our flesh may often tire, but we can still cry out for God to give me a hunger to learn more of Him.  If we feel discouraged or unmotivated to continue educating others or to to be inspired to learn, God can meet us at that place and ignite our hearts again with deeper truths worth exploring – we just need to ask Him.  His knowledge knows no end and He promises to give wisdom to those who ask Him.

Lord, thank You for teaching us daily and in Your mercy showing us our faults and sins, that we could become more like You.  Helps us to be teachable and to yearn your correction, for it brings life – and that abundantly.

Thankfulness: Joy in the Humility of Gratitude

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Numbers 11:1, 4-6, 10, 18-20

1 When the people complained, it displeased the Lord. When the Lord heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!”  10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

As a mom and chief chef in our home, I feel the sting of this one.  Slaving over the stove to provide tasty meals, sometimes the creativity runs low.  But the attitude of gratitude is what the recipient should bear when provided with food.  God provided the food for them – they merely had to gather it.  But that was not good enough.  Ouch.  We can easily get spoiled when our needs are provided for.  When things come easily to us, we contemplate the value and wonder if we could do better.  Maintaining thankfulness takes effort.  It takes humility to understand what we really deserve instead of thinking we deserve better.

Moses was very humble – more than any man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).  He was surrounded by complaining yet lodged none of his own, well, except for having to lead the complainers themselves.  This is also something I have seen as a parent.  Loving parents tend to want to make their children comfortable.  But too much comfort leads to idolatry of that comfort and the flesh is not pleased when comfort is removed.  How do we treat such whining?  When tempted to complain we can always consider one less fortunate, but perhaps beyond consideration should be action.  Serving someone who has less would help produce a humility and take the focus off of ourselves.

Another aspect of our humanity is comparing – thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.  For the Israelites to say it was better to be enslaved than to follow God and be provided for by Him is a slap in the face of our LORD.  But do we do the same thing? Somehow we think earth should be like Heaven and when hardship happens or someone else is blessed more than we are, discontentment can grow – if we let it.  Back to the example in my own life.  One of my sons was not fond of split pea soup when he was a toddler.  So, much like the Israelites who consumed manna daily, he had split pea soup every day until it became his favorite.  He learned thankfulness and to appreciate what was given to him.

The parent/child relationship serves as a great analogy in my life when trying to understand why God our father would be offended over our discontent.  The hurt of sacrificing for another only to have it poorly received is painful.  If I am willing to examine myself, I can see where seeds of dissatisfaction are sown in my life, too.  A migraine kept me from blogging earlier today – crippled with pain, I first complained about headaches but then thanked God for medicine and a wonderful husband who made me soup.  Medical or household bills can be a source of a disgruntled attitude on my part, too, until I thank God that we have physicians.  As we are nearing the celebration of Thanksgiving, and in everyday life, may we turn the discontent in our hearts around into a praise instead.

Lord, forgive our discontent and lack of thankfulness.  Help us to trust Your provision and to recognize the everyday graces you bless us with and to have an attitude of gratitude and humility all for Your glory!