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Archive for November, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear readers!

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Take a walk over wooded hills and chances are you’ll encounter a spring-fed, babbling brook, tumbling over rocks and ever-flowing to its mouth.

Just the sound of it refreshes the soul.

Perhaps in his travels, the Apostle Paul encountered spring-fed brooks, and God brought them to his mind as inspiration for this instruction:

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

–Colossians 2:7c MSG

Such a lovely image of refreshing, ever-flowing gratitude.

Paul urged his readers to be thankful seven times in the four-chapters of Colossians, and forty more times in his other epistles.

Now why would God inspire Paul to encourage gratitude so often?

Surely God wanted us to discover that when we seek to be thankful, we find our trust growing. Look at all these wonderful ways God is blessing and investing in my life, we begin to realize. He IS a good and loving Father; I CAN depend on him!

Perhaps Paul himself had learned: the more we thank, the more we see to be thankful for.

“The grumbler undoubtedly sees few blessings;

The grateful person finds blessings everywhere.

In fact, blessings seem to find her.

J. E. Yoder (1)

I also like Warren Wiersbe’s reason for cultivating gratitude: “When a believer is abounding in thanksgiving, he is really making progress!”

Surely this was one of Paul’s strong desires—that all Jesus-followers make progress toward becoming all that God intends them to be.

But gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes we’re more likely to be overwhelmed by our worries than overflowing with thankfulness. Or we’d rather talk about our woes in order to gain sympathy than share our blessings in order to encourage.

So how do we open the channels of our hearts to let gratitude flow?

We might begin with a daily (perhaps hourly ) habit of giving thanks for the benefits we enjoy—no matter what our circumstances—even if the family is in turmoil, or friends have proved unfriendly, or trouble has dropped in our laps.

As noted, ever-flowing gratitude refreshes the soul.  

Perhaps we could begin with these five blessings:

  • The indescribable gift of Christ and all he offers
  • Rescue from the powers of darkness
  • God’s glorious attributes at work in our lives—his goodness, grace, compassion, and more
  • The precious, life-changing truths of scripture
  • God’s constant presence with us (2)

Of course there are many more. We’d do well to keep a written list of such ever-present blessings, ready to refer to when the flow of our gratitude is blocked by disappointment or discouragement.

And at the top of the list we might copy this wonderful reassurance:

There is always good because there is always God . . .

Even when nothing else around us is good,

his presence in the midst of our deepest pain

is a good gift indeed.

Aliza Latta (3)

Picture a glass of water so full it will not hold another drop. Now what if you bump against it? The water is bound to spill over. Similarly, when trouble bumps against us, what’s inside will overflow.

Out of an angry person will come anger, out of a fearful person will come fear, out of a self-centered person will come self-pity. (I have been all three of these people at one time or other!)

But a grateful person? He/she overflows with gratitude, cheering and soothing the soul like a babbling brook. In addition, their trust in God grows and greater maturity develops. Best of all, their thankfulness delights God.

As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver,

So likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.

John Boys (4)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, keep me mindful that no matter what I face, there are ALWAYS reasons to rejoice. I don’t want to give in to anger, fear, or self-pity. I want my living to spill over into thanksgiving—a superior way to spend my days and bring you glory as well.

Notes:

  1. Our Daily Bread
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:15; Colossians 1:13; Psalm 145:7-8ff; Psalm 119:72, 93, 103; Psalm 23:4
  3. Take Heart, 16
  4. Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625, quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

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Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her through that rock-climb. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past,. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

Photo credits: http://www.youtube.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com (Noah Berger); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

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I remember the moment; I don’t remember when it took place . . . perhaps in young adulthood, during my quiet time. A Bible verse caught my attention–John 17:21–causing my eyes to widen and fill with tears.

First, a bit of context. That chapter includes Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper and mere hours before the crucifixion. He asked his Father to sustain him, to manifest God’s power through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and in so doing, prove that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 1-5).[1] 

Second he prayed for his disciples—for their protection, joy, spiritual growth, and unity (vs. 6-18).

And then (wonder of wonders!) Jesus prayed for you and me, his future followers!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me,” he said (v. 20, emphasis added).

I read on with eager expectation. What did he ask God to do on our behalf? Strength to endure? Guidance for wise choices? Kind and generous hearts?

Those are worthwhile prayers, but it would seem Jesus left those for us to request.

Instead, he prayed for one over-arching blessing to characterize his believers: unity.

“I pray that they may all be one, Father!

May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

John 17:21a GNT

Among all the things we need as his followers, why would Jesus pray for unity? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, we need to understand he wasn’t praying for uniformity, expecting his followers to agree on every issue. The apostle Paul and his co-missionary Barnabas disagreed over their young companion Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and godly men throughout church history have taken different sides of various issues: Martin Luther with Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley with George Whitefield, and John Stott with Martyn Lloyd-Jones—to name a few.

It’s doubtful Jesus expected his followers to grow into one big denomination. What he did desire was a spirit of love and an attitude of grace to bind us together, equipping us to overlook differences of preference and tradition. He’d have us focus on what we have in common.

At the Christian university I attended, all students were required to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks (a very thick one!) was titled, The Protestant Faith. And though the differences between denominations were certainly laid out, I was struck by how much doctrine and theology we share in common—much more than what divides us.

That’s what we need to concentrate on: the foundational truths like those we recite in the Apostles’ Creed, and our purpose of introducing others to Christ as well as taking delight in obeying him and growing more like him.

Even more important? A covering of love—love that admits wrong, forgives grievances, allows for differences of opinion on nonessentials, and doesn’t dishonor others but seeks the best for them.

Last but foremost: we must continually look to Jesus through prayer and worship, privately and publicly.

Perhaps you remember A. W. Tozer’s illustration. If one hundred pianos are all tuned to the same fork, they’re automatically in tune with each other. Similarly, if one hundred worshipers look to Christ, they’re going to be much more in tune with one another than if they focus on other matters, worthwhile as they might be. That would include unity itself.[2]

And now to answer that question, why would unity be so important to Jesus? His reason is revealed at the end of John 17:21.

“May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

John 17:21b GNT

The world is plagued by ugly divisiveness, hatred, and vitriol.

Jesus desired his followers to be characterized by the beauty of unity as we strive to love like him—overlooking slights, sidestepping fights, and giving up our rights.[3]

When people witness such beauty, there will be those who desire it for themselves and come to faith in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, point out those areas where my preferences and opinions interfere with my love for your people. Help me put aside differences and focus on areas of commonality. May I play an active part in the beauty of unity within my circle of influence, drawing others to you.   


[1] Barnes Notes on the Bible, www.biblehub.com.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 90.

[3] Patsy Clairmont, Boundless Love, 236.

Art & photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedi.org; http://www.flickr.com (Long Thien); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Peter Swain); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.rawpixel.com.

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