A Season of Thankfulness: Day 6 – Our Sovereign God

Photo Credits: bluecollargospel.com

Photo Credits:
bluecollargospel.com

Job 42:2

““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 46:9-10

” Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”

Proverbs 19:21

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

People want to be around people of power … if they are in good favor with them.  It is also impressive to be around someone who is extremely knowledgeable, but no one likes a know-it-all.

But being in the presence of God, the only truly sovereign being, is at once humbling and comforting.  He knows us completely, yet He chooses us.  Nothing is Hidden from Him, yet He accepts us.  The plans of this world seem out of control, but He is in complete control of it all.

This is perhaps one of the attributes of God that I am most thankful for.  A King Who rules over all takes time to notice each one of His former subjects who have become His children.  His promises are always kept and His plans are foolproof.

His rule is perfectly righteous and He never wonders whether His decision is the right one, for He knows the end fully.  He is never surprised nor anxious, for He set the world into motion and holds it all together.

In Him coincidences are truly divine appointments and circumstances are designed and orchestrated by Him.  When evil makes its way into our lives, He is sovereign over that, too.  Using all things together for our good and His glory.  What an amazing God!

Lord, thank You for being Sovereign, Holy, Righteous.  You amaze me, God, and are too great for me to fully comprehend.  

A Season of Thankfulness – Day 4: Surrounded by God

Psalm 125:1-2

“Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion; it cannot be upended and will endure forever.  2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, now and forevermore.”

Psalm 21:7

“For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.”

Psalm 46:5

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

Psalm 61:7

“May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.”

Proverbs 10:30

“The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.”

Surrounded by a basketball team in 8th grade who all wanted to beat me up for a false rumor spread around, I was terrified.  Being surrounded meant there was no way out.  No chance to get out of this hot water…until one faithful friend stood between me and the basketball team.  “You have to go through me first to get to her”.  Now Rhonda was a formidable athlete.  No one wanted to mess with her.  Consequently, no one wanted to mess with me, either.

This moment has remained in my mind as a defining moment.  When things seemed impossible, there was a way out.  In that season of my life, I was seeking after God, but did not yet know Him yet.  Still mercy was extended to the little 4’11” blonde girl who was filled with fear and prayed to God to help her.  He sent an intermediary, a friend, to cover me.

Being surrounded can instill fear or bring peace and comfort.  What does it mean to be surrounded by the Almighty God? We are so small, we cannot fathom how big God is.  To say He surrounds us is to say His presence encompasses us.  He sees every part of us; knows us completely and is aware of all our comings and goings.  He protects us, He is always with us.  We are not alone.

Sometimes it might seem like our troubles are as vast as the mountains or the sea, impenetrable.  But God is the One Who created both – and us, as well.

God does not just surround us.  He is with us.  He is in us.  He is for us.  Mount Zion is not just any mountain – it is the Holy mountain of God that we are likened to.  He is in a covenant relationship with His children and just like that mountain cannot be moved apart from God’s hand, so we cannot, either.

Thank you, Lord, for surrounding us when we are fragile, needful and feeling alone.  When we are intimidated by what we see that surrounds us, help us to remember that You are always there surrounding us at all times, faithfully covering us.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day Three – A Righteous Standard

Day Three Thankfulness God's unchanging standard

Leviticus 19:2-3

“Speak to the whole congregation of the Israelites and tell them, ‘You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.  3 Each of you must respect his mother and his father, and you must keep my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God. 4 Do not turn to idols, and you must not make for yourselves gods of cast metal. I am the LORD your God. 11 “‘You must not steal, you must not tell lies, and you must not deal falsely with your fellow citizen.  12 You must not swear falsely in my name, so that you do not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. 13 You must not oppress your neighbor or commit robbery against him. You must not withhold the wages of the hired laborer overnight until morning. 14 You must not curse a deaf person or put a stumbling block in front of a blind person. You must fear your God; I am the LORD.  15 “‘You must not deal unjustly in judgment: you must neither show partiality to the poor nor honor the rich. You must judge your fellow citizen fairly. 16 You must not go about as a slanderer among your people. You must not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the LORD. 17 You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. 18 You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 22:9

“They must keep my charge so that they do not incur sin on account of it and therefore die because they profane it. I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

He created us, made us in His image.  He established His righteous laws and communicated His requirements to His people.  Then He paid the price and sanctified us.  Words cannot adequately convey how amazing our God is.

Some think rules spoil the fun.  They are somehow unfair and unnecessary, legalistic and burdensome; wrecking our happiness due to the judgment felt when we break God’s righteous laws.

Leviticus – that book of the Bible that many dread to read.  Gruesome with detail about sin and its consequences, we do not like to look at the devastation of sin or the standards of God because we are unable to keep His laws in our own strength.

But it is the revelation of His standards that ultimately sets us free.  God’s laws revealed our need for a Savior.  The conviction felt when we looked into God’s perfect law causes us to either run to God out of our desperate need or to rebel in our pride, thinking we are above the law.

As humans, we tend to think a loving God would let us do whatever we want.  But He loves us too much for that. He is GOOD and perfect in what He allows for His children.  That goodness commanded us to abstain from sin because He knew it would destroy us.  That righteousness would command us to rest and give us a salvation that we could never earn.

Sure, we could don our own covering like Adam and Eve tried to do, or cover ourselves with excuses that leave us feeling empty deep inside.  We could try to earn our own righteousness by good works, but ultimately, we would fail.  Rationalizing in a relativistic world does not cover our sin and making sinful actions lawful in our society will never wipe away our transgressions.

Our inability to provide for our own sin leaves us destitute before a Holy God with standards that do not grade on the curve.  But His grace overcomes our flaws and failings and His firm promises are our redemption before a Holy God when we admit our need of Him.

Thank God for His mercy and wisdom and complete Holiness that would have a standard in a world with constantly shifting standards.  Because of His faithfulness, we are secure in Christ.  Secure in a relationship with a Holy God Who does not change.  Ever.

Lord, thank You for providing us with boundaries that set us free in You.  Please open our eyes to understand more of Your perfect law and to rejoice and delight in You and Your perfect statutes.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day Two – Our Faithful Intercessor

Day two thankfulness

Hebrews 5:1-10: 22-28

“Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  

Hebrews 6:16-20

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 7:

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.  23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins,and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

King of kings and Lord of lords, and yet we were on His mind.  More than that, He still prays for us, perpetually.  And Who is this prayer warrior?  Jesus.  The One true living God, Holy, blameless, selfless and the bearer of all of our sins.

The prayers He offers up are sovereign, perfect, offered by a God whose purposes NEVER change and Who is incapable of lying.  Wow.  His prayers are outside time, always exactly what we need.  Perfect.

I am thankful for Christ’s modeling of what our prayer life should look like.  Being God incarnate, He humbled Himself and cried out with “loud cries and tears”.  He understands.  He became man and demonstrated what a passionate life in God should look like.  He did not pray for His own comfort, instead He prayed for His enemies and strength to do the perfect will of God.  God answered and we are the fruit of those prayers all those years ago in the Garden of Gethsemane.

How humbling that the imperfect would be the very apple of God’s eye, and the very ones whom Christ cried out for and laid His life down for.  May our prayer lives imitate the Master’s.

When it appears that His answers to our prayers are wrong or God does not hear, we begin to understand that His ways are far higher than our own.  When the cessation of pain is our goal, His goal is that we will be changed in the midst, become more like Him and that we would know Him.  Our faithful Intercessor is our faithful Friend, always knowing how to pray for us.

Lord, what a faithful intercessor You are!  Thank You for giving us what we need and not what we want.  Thank You for being our ever-present help in times of trouble.  Thank You, God, for never changing and for being perfect, righteous, faithful.  I love you, Lord!

A Season of Thankfulness, Day one – An Unopened Gift

2 Peter 1:3

“I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.”

Hopping on the thankfulness bandwagon a day late.  Figures.  So this is yesterday’s post.  🙂  Thanksgiving is one cultural holiday worth celebrating!  November is an opportunity to cultivate a heart of gratitude.  For the month of November, I hope to inspire thoughts of sincere gratitude for what we have in Christ.

This scripture makes me think of how silly it would be to be given a gift and have it sit right in front of us, but to doubt that it exists.  Its presence would be undeniable, because it is tangible to us and we would see it with our own eyes.  Denying the gift would be ridiculous, and yet spiritual gifts are often neglected and unseen.  Why?

Surrounding the gift are trials distracting us and people offering different answers that appear to hold promise, yet these other paths do not give us the same peace.

Our enemy is busy trying to undo the greatest gift of all.  Filling our mind with doubts and casting stumbling blocks haphazardly across our paths, the physical seems greater than the spiritual.  Sometimes it seems insurmountable and hopeless.  The answer we long for tarries and we wonder what God’s purpose could be in it all.

Still the gift still sits there, untapped, until we reach for it and apply it to our circumstances and life.  The Holy Spirit within us urges us on to open the gift!  Reaching for God’s promises and crying out to our ever-present God who sees and knows all, He is our strength, our hope, our answer in all situations.  He might not remove the pain or trouble, but He and His Word truly are the answer to everything we face in this life.

Are any of us lonely?  Hurting?  Desperate for a touch of God’s grace and faith?  We have all we need in Christ – for everything we face in this life!  What promise and encouragement we find in God’s word.  Even when our feelings betray us, God’s Word does not.  Open the gift today – get into His Word and let Him speak to You and your situation.  He is able and He loves you!

Lord, help us to access all that You have for us in Your Word.  Knowing You is the greatest treasure we could ever have. Thank You for giving us Your Word.  You are forever faithful!

Worshipful Wednesday: Worshiping the Grumbles Away

Photo Credits: fishwithtrish.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
fishwithtrish.blogspot.com

Psalm 105:1-5

Give thanks to the LORD! Call on his name! Make known his accomplishments among the nations! 2 Sing to him! Make music to him! Tell about all his miraculous deeds! 3 Boast about his holy name! Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 4 Seek the LORD and the strength he gives! Seek his presence continually! 5 Recall the miraculous deeds he performed, his mighty acts and the judgments he decreed.”

Psalm 106:1, 7, 12,13, 20-25, 29, 35-45

Praise the LORD! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his loyal love endures! 7 Our ancestors in Egypt failed to appreciate your miraculous deeds, they failed to remember your many acts of loyal love, and they rebelled at the sea, by the Red Sea. 12 They believed his promises; they sang praises to him. 13 They quickly forgot what he had done; they did not wait for his instructions. 20 They traded their majestic God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They rejected the God who delivered them, the one who performed great deeds in Egypt, 22 amazing feats in the land of Ham, mighty acts by the Red Sea. 23 He threatened to destroy them, but Moses, his chosen one, interceded with him and turned back his destructive anger. 24 They rejected the fruitful land; they did not believe his promise. 25 They grumbled in their tents; they did not obey the Lord.  28 They worshiped Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead.  29 They made the Lord angry  by their actions, and a plague broke out among them. 35 They mixed in with the nations and learned their ways.  36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood – the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted by bloodshed. 39 They were defiled by their deeds, and unfaithful in their actions. 40 So the Lord was angry with his people and despised the people who belong to him. 41 He handed them over to the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them; they were subject to their authority.  43 Many times he delivered them, but they had a rebellious attitude, and degraded themselves by their sin. 44 Yet he took notice of their distress, when he heard their cry for help. 45 He remembered his covenant with them, and relented because of his great loyal love. 

The saga of the broken down cars began to ebb away on nerves yesterday.  I confess I had a pity party.  Alright, I grumbled.  We are all entitled to a little grumbling every now and then, right?  Hmmm . . . maybe not.  I was praising Him in the storm on Monday and ready for the trial to be over by Tuesday.  Patient, aren’t I?  This morning I was so thankful for a correction in my attitude from a loving God.  His Word is just as effective and able to speak to us from a message spoken thousands of years ago to some other grumbling spirits . . .

The sea was parted for them to cross and God defended them like no other, but they were bummed over the food God provided.  While I have judged them in the past, the same whining and ingratitude can flow in my veins, IF I let it.

We were made to praise God.  Our hearts need to praise the living God, the One Who is far greater than ourselves.  We need to thank Him, sing to Him, boast about Him, seek Him and remember all that He has done for us.  This thankfulness expressed to God changes us.  But what if we don’t?  What if we choose to complain about what God has allowed in?  This passage truly is a sobering one and injects the fear of God in me.  When we do not praise God, we are not doing what we were created to do, but the consequences of ceasing to thank God at all times are devastating, as well.

The destruction of a people began because they failed to appreciate what God had done.  That simple.  They also forgot God – the One who made them.  They chose to focus on what they felt were unfair circumstances and replaced the glory of God for complaints about things that don’t matter in all of eternity.  Ultimately, they forgot how important it was to be a grateful people.  How do we fail to appreciate God?

Thinking we deserve more than what He has allotted to us is perhaps one of the chief causes.  I remember being caught off guard by a brother who, when I asked him how he was doing, he said to me “better than I deserve”.  I recognized in that moment the humility and grace to be able to say such a statement.  Could I say that with the same sincerity?

It is easy to be religious and say the typical statements associated with ascribing glory to God, but God knows our hearts.  The words fall flat when my being is not completely about bringing Him glory but is distracted, instead by bitterness, unforgiveness or irritation over our discomfort.

The root sin long ago and today is the same – a lack of thankfulness and not purposing in our hearts to be faithful to acknowledge the God Who gave us everything.  Like Jonah, who grumbled when God took away the vine He had previously provided, we must hold all that He gives us loosely and be thankful for all he has given and done for us, even when He chooses to remove the blessings He has provided, too.

God help us to see our need of Him.  How quickly our spirits can go from worshiping Him to making our worship a thing of mere duty.  Slowly time with Him can be crowded out and before you know it, gratitude is replaced with a distrust in God, if we are not careful.

The enemy is ready to take us down the lane of ingratitude.  He knows the ending result – our demise.  But we do have a choice, as powerful as emotions can be.  To be thankful even when the chips are down, to love even when someone has hurt us and to forgive as we have been forgiven.  These actions are catalysts for sincere worship and gratitude to our God, Who is so very worthy of our praise!

Lord, we take so much for granted.  Please forgive us for the many times we have chosen grumbling over gratitude.  Spur us on to worship You in all circumstances.

Thankfulness: Joy in the Humility of Gratitude

Photo Credits rootedforlife.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
rootedforlife.wordpress.com

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!

What Troubles Breed

What Troubles Breed
By: Denise Pass © 7/2/14

Psalm 66:10-14, 16-20
:10 “For You, O God, tested us; you purified us like silver. 11 You led us into a trap; you caused us to suffer. 12 You allowed men to ride over our heads; we passed through fire and water, but you brought us out into a wide open space. 13 I will enter your temple with burnt sacrifices; I will fulfill the vows I made to you, 14 which my lips uttered and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. 16 Come! Listen, all you who are loyal to God! I will declare what he has done for me. 17 I cried out to him for help and praised him with my tongue. 18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the LORD would not have listened. However, God heard, he listened to my prayer. God deserves praise, for He did not reject my prayer or abandon his love for me!”

I love the Psalms and love the fact that the Psalmists often wrote songs about their trials and relationship with God. I wrote a song based on this verse back in 1990 – just a worship song between the Lord and me. At the time I thought I knew what hard times were. That is not to say that I had not suffered through various difficulties, but compared to another significant trial that would come, let’s just say that I now understand testing and refining in a whole new way. Nonetheless, God used the song in my life then and it is precious to me now when I reflect on what God has done through hardship in my life and the lives of countless others.

Troubles have the potential to precipitate accusations against God and to initiate questioning of His character. Notice I say potential. Why would He allow evil into our lives? This verse is pretty blunt about God allowing it in. But later we see God heard and answered the prayer of the afflicted one. I chuckle when I see in verse 13 the Psalmist referring to a vow that he made when he was pressed hard. Ever made a promise to God? Best fulfill it. The Psalmist turned the occasion for complaining into an occasion of praise and crying out to His God. Struggles turned to praise.

Our flesh can be quick to get angry with God when hardships are let in. Such a response can come from a prideful stance in which we do not think we deserve hardship. What do we think we deserve? Certainly not the grace and forgiveness God has so freely given. Adversity can stir up ire without understanding, but thankfulness can quell that fire.

Our viewpoint of hardship could also possibly be in error. We consider discomfort and pain as evil, and assuredly they are not fun, but the fruit that can be produced from them is a beautiful sight to behold. Seeing calamity as having a greater purpose than the temporal suffering ignites hope in the future good that our Sovereign God is going to produce from something insidious.

The harvest of what God can breed from troubles can be bountiful, multiple and varied. Looking past the momentary pain and gazing into His Word and promises brings relief. Hang on, dear friend, God has plans for you and hears your cry.

Lord, help us to not allow disillusionment, bitterness or hopelessness to creep in when things are less than ideal. Produce a life of righteousness in us as we yield to Your will and plan in all aspects of life, good and bad.