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Exodus 23:16 [Full Chapter]   (www.BibleGateway.com link) 

“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

I’m one of those people who wants to enjoy Thanksgiving before jumping into all the craziness of the holidays.  History tells us that the first Thanksgiving was about gratitude, sharing and reaching out to others.  Times had been harsh for the Pilgrims trying to survive at Plymouth.  Many perished.  Those who survived did so with help from the Indians.  To celebrate their first harvest and show appreciation to their new friends, the Pilgrims broke bread with the Indians.

Being faithful Christians, I imagine they began with prayer, focusing not on their struggles, losses and things they were without; but instead givng thanks for what they did have – shelter, food, each other and their very own lives.  In giving thanks, they displayed hope for their future, even though life was very bleak at times.

After delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians, God explained to the Israelites that He wanted to set them apart from others as a holy nation.  He began teaching them what it meant to be holy and live righteously.  One of God’s instructions was to hold a Festival of Harvest to celebrate the firstfruits of the crops they would sow and grow, and then celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of they year after they had gathered in their crops.  It seems likely to me that this was the inspiration for the first Thanksgiving.  The Pilgrims may have observed this religious tradition in their native country, but Thanksgiving at Plymouth would be different.  The Pilgrims included the Indians, wanting to not only give praise and thanksgiving to God, but also to show appreciation and gratitude to the Indians.

Observing Thanksgiving is the perfect way to center our hearts before getting caught up in the busyness of Christmas.  This year I’m going to do something new, something I’ll call THANKS(4)GIVING.

In the spirit of the first Thanksgiving that was about gratitude, sharing and reaching out to others, I’m going to send notes or messages to people letting them know I’m thankful for something they’ve done that blessed, helped or inspired me.  I’m going to tell them, “Thanks for giving” of themselves.  My gratitude will be for their kind or encouraging words, help they gave,  an opportunity provided, or kindness shown.  The recipients might be people I know well, or someone I’ve never met whose words or story  made a positive difference.  Maybe it will be a teacher who made difference for my child,  the worker at a business I frequent whose positive, cheerful attitude brightens my day,  someone who went above and beyond what was expected of them. or a dear friend who’s good and godly ways inspire me – like an elderly friend who sometimes despairs, but stays strong in faith.

It is my hope that THANKS(4)GIVING will not just prepare my heart with appreciation and gratitude, but also be a gesture of positivity and encouragement for others.

I challenge myself to send a THANKS(4)GIVING note or message to at least 4 people, and I challenge you to do the same!

May you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.  Be sure to save room in your tummy for dessert, and room in your heart for thanks and giving!

“Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 KJV

” I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:16 NIV

Blessings to all,

Renee

 

 

 

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“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Hearing that Dad had been re-admitted to ICU with pneumonia and fluid on his lungs six days after having open heart surgery did not seem like a time to rejoice as the verse above instructs – especially when I lived far away and could not  be there with him during this set-back. Time to pray without ceasing? Yes. Definitely. Time to give thanks in all these circumstances? Actually, yes, and as I considered the many reasons I had to be thankful, I realized that, actually, it was a time to rejoice, too. 

 

I was thankful Dad had been able to have surgery and especially thankful he survived the procedure. Surgery had been risky for him. I was thankful I could go to Indiana and spend time with Dad before surgery. Neither of us said it, but we both knew it could have been the last time we saw each other on this side of heaven. I was thankful for his faith and acceptance of God’s will for his life. 

 

As Dad strives to recover, I’m thankful  that Carolyn loves him and takes good care of him; and I am very thankful for the doctors, nurses and caregivers at Community North Heart Hospital in Indianapolis. They’re skills, care and treatment have been excellent!

 

I’m also thankful for everyone who has prayed, encouraged, cared and offered support for Dad. I am beyond blessed to know so many kind and caring people! 

 

With all those reasons to be thankful, how could I not also feel like rejoicing? 

 

In times like these, when we worry about loved ones or go through personal struggles, our greatest reason to rejoice is for the love, hope and joy we have in Jesus Christ. 

 

We can also rejoice that each day is a new day, a God-given gift, bringing new mercies, new opportunities, new possibilities, and new hope. Sometimes it’s hard to feel those things in tough times, but these are truths – promises from God – that we can hold onto.

 

Today I have a new reason to rejoice and give thanks. It’s Day 19 after open heart surgery, and Dad seems to have finally stabilized. (Thank You, Lord!)  He is being moved to rehab today.  Dad is 85, still weak, and not completely “his old self” yet, so rehab and recovery will take some time, but in response to prayers of many, it appears that God has blessed Dad with the time he needs. I can certainly give thanks and rejoice about that!   

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  – Romans 12:12

My 85-year old dad had open heart surgery six days ago.  The procedure went well – praise the Lord – but he has been in constant pain since.  Consequently, he has been on various pain medicines, some that cause him to be in a “drug fog.”  He becomes groggy, slow to speak, wants to communicate but can’t think of the words he needs to say, and sometimes becomes confused and agitated.  When he is awake, Dad pleads for us to help him with the pain, then he seeks God’s help saying, “Lord, help me.  Help me, Lord.”  He does the same when he is asleep and in a “drug fog,” saying  aloud, “Lord, help me.”

Did you catch what I just said?  Dad calls upon the Lord when he’s awake, and he also speaks aloud to God when he’s sleeping and even when his mind is altered by medication.   Dad’s default is prayer!

It’s not unusual to cry out to God for help when we are desperate or struggling.  Even those who don’t keep a relationship with God will do that at times, but to call upon the name of the Lord in one’s sleep and when one is not able to have conscious thoughts is inspiring.

I thought about this as I drove home to Charlotte from Indianapolis.  Would I be the same way?  I pray when I am awake and conscious, but where do my subconscious thoughts go?  If I were crying out in my sleep or under the effects of medications, what would I say?  Do I keep such a close and constant relationship with God that I would call upon the Lord to help me?

Jesus prayed.   The Bible tells of many times when Jesus prayed – often separating himself from the crowds, and even the disciples, to pray.  He needed to connect with the Father.  Jesus prayed to honor God, intercede on behalf of others, and seek discernment and strength.  He pleaded with God, agonized with God, and cried out to God in pain and suffering.  His default was prayer.

Luke 3:21 (Jesus prays after His baptism during which time the Holy Spirit descended upon Him), Mark 1:35 (Jesus rose early, while it was still dark, and departed from the others to pray, spending time with God before preaching to the crowds), Luke 11:1-4 (while Jesus prayed, the disciples approached and asked Him to teach them to pray, and Jesus taught them The Lord’s prayer), Luke 9:18 (Jesus was praying alone),  John 17 – The High Priestly Prayer (Jesus honors the Father, prays for Himself, His disciples, and all believers).

Perhaps the most well known prayer of Jesus is recorded in the Gospel writings of Matthew 26:36-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:39-53 and John 18:1-11 when Jesus went to Garden of Gethsemane to pray (“as it was his custom to do”). After their Passover meal (The Last Supper), Jesus took the disciples with him to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed in preparation for his arrest and crucifixion, when He would bear the sins of all mankind by allowing Himself to be a sacrifice for the sins of all.  At times Jesus was in such agony while praying that he was sweating drops of blood.

Luke 23:34 Jesus prays to ask the Father for forgiveness for those who mock and crucify Him.

Each Gospel records that Jesus’ final words were to the Father before taking His last breath.  Even in death, His default was prayer.

In Mark 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”     He remained one with the Father through prayer.

My dad went into open heart surgery weak and frail.  His surgeon said he was “very fragile” so they would take him through recovery “slow and easy.”   Because of this, his teams of caregivers were amazed when Dad became ahead of schedule in recovery!  They couldn’t explain it, but I could.  I knew it was because of his faith and prayers, and the prayers of many others on his behalf (thank you Facebook family and friends who prayed for him!).

Dad has a long road of recovery ahead of him, so prayers are still appreciated.  I am thankful for my dad’s faith and the opportunity I had to observe that his default is prayer.  The Bible says that Jesus is still praying for us, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty, interceding on our behalf. (Romans 8:34, Mark 16:19, Acts 7:55, Hebrews 12:2) We can all be encouraged and have hope through Jesus because His default is still prayer.  Praise be to God, and thank You, Jesus!

Lord Jesus, thank You for teaching us to pray and for defaulting to prayer on our behalf.  Please help me set my default to prayer, too.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.  

UPDATE ON MY DAD (May 2, 2018):  Dad was taken by ambulance  from rehab back to hospital with pneumonia and possible blood clot in his lung.  Dad is at peace with God and accepting of God’s will for his life, but those of us who love him pray that it be God’s will to grant him healthy days on this side of heaven.

Want to read the referenced verses, learn more about Jesus, or read other Books of the Bible?   Go to http://www.BibleGateway.com    You can look up scripture by verse or topic (I searched “Jesus prayed”), do research, and even hear the Bible read to you!

 

 

 

 

Last week a young woman was found guilty of manslaughter for using text messages to convince her boyfriend to commit suicide and instruct him on how to do it.  They were teenagers at the time.  He had just graduated from high school and was preparing to go to college.  She was in another town 35 miles away, but her words were powerful enough  through her text messages  to convince him to take his life.

I was intrigued by this case and curious how the judge would rule.  One analyst said the guilty verdict showed that the words were viewed as a weapon.  Legal analysts will debate the outcome of the trial, but I think most will agree this case proves that words matter.

Words have the power to build up, instruct, inform, inspire, give healing and hope, and share love.  Words also have the power to inflict pain, tear down, be destructive, spread hate, and even destroy lives.

The Bible says:  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Epheshians 4:29  ESV)

The same verse in New Living Translation says: “Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

New International Version: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”    (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

I’m guilty of talking too much and speaking with a sharp tongue when I’m mad, impatient or upset.  Ephesians 4:29 reminds me to not share every thought that comes into my head, but only say what is necessary to build others up or help a situation, and to choose my words carefully.

My mom has often told me that it’s not what I say, but the tone in which I speak that gets me into trouble.  In other words, it’s not just what we say, but the attitude and emotions behind our words that can cause problems.

The Bible instructs us to speak in a way that is gracious for those who hear, for the purpose of doing good, not causing harm.

I once shared this verse with a group of 7th graders.  After we talked about it, one of the students said it reminded her of Thumper in the story of Bambi, when Thumper said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”  Good advice, Thumper.

However, I hope more people choose to speak up, not keep quiet, finding ways to share words of kindness and grace for the purpose of encouraging, comforting, building up and sharing love.

Who can you encourage or inspire today?

For more on this topic, see my related post titled “The Power of Positive Speaking”, and go to http://www.Biblegateway.com to learn what the Bible says about “speech” and “encouragement.”

God bless you.  🙂

 

God’s breath of life was the umbilical cord for the creation of each of us.  That cord was never cut.  We are forever connected to God; thus we have an intrinsic need for Him that nothing else can fulfill.  The umbilical cord is the source of life for a developing fetus, providing everything it needs to survive.  As Christians, our connection to God is through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, giving our souls all that we need to thrive and survive.

The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Counselor, to lead, guide, speak to our inner souls, and give comfort, peace, healing and hope so that we will grow in faith to better serve the Kingdom of Christ and bring glory to God, the Father.

That is why we celebrate Pentecost today.  It was at Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit gifted and empowered those who were present so that they could begin ministering to others and start building Christ’s church.  That same Spirit is alive today, seeking to empower us and dwell within us that we will grow deeper in faith and stronger in the love, grace and peace of Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Praise be to God.

To read the story of Pentecost, go to Acts chapter 2.  For more, about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit go to http://www.BibleGateway.com

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…    – 1 Peter 1:3-4

You’ve heard it said that to everything there is a season. That saying comes from Ecclesiastes Ch 3.  Seasons were promised by God in Genesis 1:14.

We have Calendar Seasons:

  • Spring – new life
  • Summer – warmth, long days
  • Fall – changing colors, waning days, cooler temps
  • Winter – cold, bleak, longer nights, end of year

We have Seasons of Life:

  • Spring – birth and young life (babies, children, teens, youth)
  • Summer – prime of life
  • Fall – physical changes, slowing of life,
  • Winter – final stages of life, death

In the Seasons of Life, winter is associated with death, but is winter really about death?  Winter is actually a season of preparation for the spring to come!  During winter the landscape might look stark and bare, but underneath the ground, trees and shrubs are growing stronger by extending and deepening their roots.  Seeds and bulbs are establishing themselves by sprouting new roots down in the soil.  When spring arrives, sprouts will push up through the ground, and soon the new plants will bud and bloom.  Winter is also the season with longer nights that gives people and animals time for rest.  In God’s created world, winter is not a time of death, but a time when God is at work in ways we can’t see to make His creations stronger and prepare for new life.

The picture on my calendar is the perfect metaphor for winter.   It is a cheerful image of colorful wildflowers with butterflies flitting around against a beautiful blue sky.  There’s a quote that says: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”   (2017 Lang Calendar, artwork by Debi Hrom)

Yeah, just when winter looks like things are dead and dying, spring comes again and the world bursts forth with new life!

That’s how it is in this season of the church.  Christians are in the Easter season, the time when we celebrate Jesus as our resurrected Lord, Whose death was the payment for our sins, that we could not only be forgiven of our sins, but also given new life here on earth and life everlasting for those who confess Jesus to be their Savior and Lord.  Jesus offers us a new season, the Season of Hope, taking us from a season of darkness to that of new life!

Those who followed Jesus back in the day were given hope – hope for healing, ending oppression, being cured, and most importantly, being saved.  Crowds came by the thousands to hear Jesus teach the scriptures, and to seek His miracles.  Then came a dark day, when Jesus was crucified as a criminal – an innocent Lamb led to slaughter. He was hung on the cross and died.  Scriptures tell us the mid-day sky became dark, and the earth shook.  How terrifying that must have been, and how tragic for all whose hopes died with Jesus  on that cross.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

That wasn’t the end of the story, though!  No, the best part of the story was just beginning!  Jesus arose from His grave, fulfilling scriptures and the promises He made to the disciples, and ushered in a new Season of Hope for all who follow Him!

The caterpillar and butterfly are often used to symbolize the life of Jesus.  The caterpillar represents Jesus’ life and ministry, the cocoon represents the three days He was in the tomb, and the butterfly symbolizes Jesus as the resurrected Christ.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Just when the “Christ Ones” thought all hope was lost, Hope was born anew through Jesus!

In the verse above, Peter is speaking to the early Christians, reminding them that Jesus’ resurrection is a gift from God the Father to give us the opportunity to be born again!  To be forgiven,  freed.  Peter is telling them, and us, that we can be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of  Jesus. (1 Peter 1:3).  Jesus gives us the Season of Hope.

Peter goes on to tell the early Christians that they will be tested in their faith, that times of trials will come, but that the genuineness of their faith is more valuable than gold – that even though gold is tested by fire, can perish – but our faith will not let us perish, but bring us to rejoice with inexpressible joy, through the revelation of Jesus the Christ, which will give us salvation for our souls.  (1 Peter 1:5-9 paraphrased)

As word spread about the Risen Jesus, Christ followers rejoiced, became stronger in faith, and grew in number.  Then a great persecution began.  It felt like their world was over, so Peter reminded them that just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.  Christians always have the promise of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus the Christ.  It is Jesus that gives us a Season of Hope.

Sometimes the Seasons of our lives are marked by the stages of our lives.  When things are going well and we feel good, we are in the Spring and Summer seasons; but when trials and challenges come, when we are suffering, feel hopeless or oppressed, we are in the Fall and Winter of our lives.  From what we see around us, the winter season can seem cold, dark and bleak, but remember that God is at work in the winter season in ways we cannot see to strengthen us, help our roots of faith grow deeper and prepare us for the Spring to come, beckoning us to the Season of Hope.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

The Season of Hope isn’t a limited to just a few weeks every year.  It is available all year long, 24/7/365.

My prayer for you is adapted from 1 Peter 1:1-2

To followers of Jesus the Christ, wherever you may be, and in whatever situations you might face, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:  May grace and peace be multiplied to you.    Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting a friend, I was trying to find my way out of a large hospital, from the top floor to the main entrance.  The first elevator only took me part way.  A hospital employee directed me to another set of elevators.  As I walked, I overheard a man, clearly agitated, also ask for directions.  I told him to come with me, we’d find our way together.
He was an older man with a long, unkept beard.  He wore old clothes – a baggy fleece jacket, flannel shirt, t-shirt, jeans and old shoes.  He was carrying a white plastic bag with items inside.  Yes, he was definitely agitated, his eyes darting around and his brows drawn tightly down.
I said something to make small talk while we waited for the next elevator.  His darting eyes then focused on me, and looking me straight in the eyes, he told me he just lost his son.  “Oh, sir, I’m so sorry,” I said as I put my hand on his arm.  He went on to say that “it happened on Thursday and they pulled the plug today.”
By this time a few other people were waiting with us.  I shared that the man had just lost his son.  Another man offered condolences and asked how the son died.  Attempted suicide.
Then the father’s agitation turned to anger and he told us that no one had come to see his son.  Only his sister and her family had come to Charlotte to be with them.  Then he pointed upward and said at least now I know my son is ok and he’ll be up there.
“I’m glad you had time with him,” I said. Yes, he replied, still angry, but the others didn’t come, and in his anger he vowed to “take care of them” next time he sees them.
“Oh, sir,” I said, “I hope you’ll give these things to God.  Please give your anger and grief to Him.”  At that time the elevator arrived and our small group entered.  The others kept their distance, but my heart went out to this hurting man.
I asked if the bag held his son’s belongings.  “No. These things are for me.  I live on the streets.  My sister brought me a fresh change of clothes.”
(Grieving and homeless?  Could his situation be any worse?)
Just then the elevator door opened.  We were finally on the ground floor.  I silently prayed asking God what I could do, should do for this man – buy him food, offer money?  The man hurried off the elevator and got ahead of me.  His sister was waiting for him, so I went on, saying silent prayers for him as I exited the hospital.
Tonight there is a homeless man on the streets, carrying a bag of clothes and a heart full of grief after losing his 31-year old son, whose death he witnessed when life support ended.  I pray he’s in a shelter with people to help him through this difficult time.

My problems seem so small.

All I could do was pray, but I trust God will make good on my prayers.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  – Matthew 5:4

There’s a big celebration with parties and parades going on in New Orleans today.  It’s called Mardi Gras, and it happens every year for Fat Tuesday.  Most people know what Mardi Gras is, but what about Fat Tuesday?

Fat Tuesday is actually a Christian-inspired day.  It occurs every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the Season of Lent; and Lent is the season that leads up to Easter.

For many Christians, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, moderation, or modification of behavior with goals to grow spiritually, draw closer to God, and try to better ourselves as Christian as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.  Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  His death on the cross served as a sacrifice for our sins.  It was a mournful time for His followers.  However, three days later it was discovered that His tomb was empty!  As He had foretold, Jesus had risen from the dead!  He remained on earth for 40 days before ascending into heaven, where He awaits to welcome all who claim His as their Savior and Lord, into eternity.

When Christ died on the cross, He did so to offer himself as the payment for our sins.  Through Him, all can be forgiven, slates wiped clean, and new lives begun, for all who confess their sins and strive to change their ways.  However, despite being ransomed from shame and guilt, we are still imperfect humans.  We still face challenges and temptations, make mistakes, and fall short of being perfect in any way.

The Season of Lent is a time to reflect on all of these things:

  • To acknowledge the sin debt Jesus paid on our behalf so that we could be freed from our sins
  • Celebrate that Jesus is the Risen Lord who overcame death to offer of us eternity in Heaven with Him – that we will not die spiritually, but find life everlasting
  •  In choosing life with Jesus, we overcome death to sin (hell)
  • Recognize our need for a Savior, that we even the most faithful among us are prone to sin.  That every day, as the Bible says, “We fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Lent is observed as a time to dedicate ourselves to Jesus, making an offering of ourselves for Him.  For me, this offering is a way to acknowledge the offering Jesus made for us when He died on the cross.  The Season of Lent also reminds me of my need to be focused and intentional every day in how I live out my faith, and in my personal relationship with God.

Christians observe Lent in various ways.  Some choose to fast by denying themselves particular foods and/or drinks (i.e. sweets, chocolate, snacks, meat, coffee, alcohol, etc.).  Others might try to undo habits like smoking, bad speech (cursing, gossip, negative comments), watching too much tv, etc..  Some people minimize or give up screen time and use that time to read the Bible or pray. ( If reading the Bible or devotions online, it would probably be ok to use screen time for that. 🙂  )   Other people set aside dedicated time for prayer and devotions, find ways to serve in their communities, or take their lunch to work and give the money they would spend eating out to their church or charity.  There are many ways to observe Lent – no specific rules, just the suggestion that the time spent or sacrifices made be done for the purpose of honoring Jesus, growing spiritually, and drawing closer to Him, recognizing our need for Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Lent is not Biblical.  It is not commanded or even mentioned in the Bible.  It is a Christian tradition that has evolved over time, and that brings us back to Ash Wednesday and Fat Tuesday!

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, literally.  Many Christians attend an Ash Wednesday service during which the sign of a cross is marked on their foreheads with ashes.  In both Old and New Testament, ashes are a sign or mourning and repentance.  People humbled themselves before the LORD by covering themselves in ashes. Why ashes? Because man was created from ashes, and to ashes he will return.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.  – Genesis 2:7

God says to Adam and Eve: “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We are humbled by our humanity (being prone to sin), and also by our mortality.  Ash Wednesday reminds us these things.

Since Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, which will be a time of sacrifice and denial for those who observe the tradition, Fat Tuesday evolved as a way to have one last day of indulgence and revelry before Lent begins.

There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, so the 40 days of Lent can be observed by fasting or sacrificing Mon-Sat and taking rest from the fast on the six Sundays, or  offerings fast or sacrifices for 40 days straight.

Since Lent is intended to be a time of spiritual growth, I hope you will pray about it and see if you feel God leading you to observe Lent in some way, or perhaps in a new way if you have observed Lent before.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

For more about the observance of Lent, you can go to http://www.BibleGateway.com and   GotQuestions.org.

God bless you.  May you be blessed and be a blessing.

Renee

 

 

 

REPLACING “WHAT IF’S” WITH “WHAT IS”

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

I often find myself worrying about “what if” questions.

What if this happens, or that? What if this situation doesn’t get better, or that situation gets worse?  What if things don’t work out as planned?

Recently I asked many of these questions as my 16-year old son battled illness for several months. Due to complications from an auto-immune condition (CRMO), a sinus infection led to months of extended illness for him.  Despite being an otherwise healthy, strong and athletic young man, his auto-immune disease and compromised immune system were working against him, causing his body to “catch everything going around” his doctor said.  He was sick with one viral illness after another, running fevers and becoming weak. Eventually the auto-immune condition itself flared up.  When the first viral illnesses set in, we were worried, but thought surely he’d get well soon.  However, as illnesses continued for weeks and then months, and his condition worsened, I worried about many “what if’s”:

What if he doesn’t get well soon? What if he’s sick for the rest of the semester, or entire school year? Will he be able to play baseball in the spring?  What if his grades suffer?  He’ll be applying for college next year and this will affect his GPA.  Oh, no, college! What if he’s sick in college?  How will he manage then? If he continues to be sick, will he be able to go to college? What if this affects him as an adult?  The jobs he wants are physical – construction, engineering or agriculture.  What if illness prevents him from being able to do his job?

This was all too much.  My “what if’s” were getting way ahead of things – worrying about my son’s ability to work as an adult when he’s just a sophomore in high school! I needed to pray. As I prayed, the Spirit of the Lord began to reassure me, not by answering all my “what if’s,” but by reminding me of “what is” –  bringing the following scriptures to mind:

Jeremiah 29:11    God created Jackson with His own plans and purposes for him, plans not to harm him, but to prosper him.   God knows who He created Jackson to be, and He has good plans for Jackson’s life!

Psalm 139   Before Jackson was a physical being, He was conceived in thought by God, and then intricately formed in accordance with those plans by the God of the universe.  God knows what is going on with Jackson, for God knows his strengths and weaknesses.  God intricately formed Jackson with the skills, abilities, talents and gifts to become the person and do the work God has planned for him – whatever that work might be.

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8    God is with us in this situation.   The Bible clearly says the Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  He doesn’t pull away from us.  We pull away from Him.  Even when we are too bogged down or overcome by a situation to sense the Lord’s presence, it is there.  Sometimes God reveals Himself directly.  Other times He reveals Himself through the words and actions of others, leading them to act on His behalf to give us comfort and encouragement.

 Romans 8:28   God works all things for good.   Challenges and set-backs can be the result of consequences for our actions or part of God’s plan for us.  Regardless the reason, when we give our situation to the Lord, and trust in Him, we can be reassured that God will work through our situation for good.  We may see results immediately, or maybe not for years to come.  The good might be for us to witness, and often I think God works in ways that we will never know.  Knowing God can harvest good from even the worst of times helps us tolerate the tough times better, and more importantly, enables us to continue finding joy and strength in the Lord.

Matthew 6:25-34 Do not borrow worries from the future.   God’s got this today!  

Being reminded of these Biblical truths changed the anxiousness of my “what if’s” to assuredness of “what is.”

What is: God knows the plans and purposes He has for my child. Illness may seem to be a set-back, but it’s part of who Jackson is, and God knows all about it.  Dealing with illness has shown me much about Jackson’s character – his ability to persevere, be strong, and overcome discouragement and disappointment.  God knows what He wants of Jackson’s future, and surely he has a good future planned because He has gifted Jackson with many interests, skills, abilities and talents.  It will all come together as it’s supposed to if we trust God, allow His will to be done, and follow the paths He puts before us.

Matthew 6:25-34  says:

25 (A)“Therefore I tell you, (B)do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 (C)Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (D)Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his (E)span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, (F)even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, (G)O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For (H)the Gentiles seek after all these things, and (I)your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But (J)seek first (K)the kingdom of God and his righteousness, (L)and all these things will be added to you.

34 (M)“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  

 Regardless of what causes our worries or anxieties, we can be assured that if God provides for a single blade of grass, tends to the sparrows, and gives beauty to fleeting lilies of the field, then surely He will provide and take care of us, too! When God says not to be anxious about tomorrow, we can trust that He knows what we are going through today, and He’s saying, I’ve got this. Don’t be anxious about all the “what if’s.”  Be assured with “what is.” 

Yes, as Psalm 34:4 says above, I sought the Lord and he delivered me from my fears by replacing my “what if’s” with “what is.”  Praise be to God. 🙂

Are worrisome “what if’s” on your mind?

How can God’s promises and truths from the Bible help when we feel worried or anxious?

Do you have particular verses that help you when you feel anxious or worried?

Need to know “what is” for you?    Go to www.BibleGateway.com and enter keywords that address what you’re feeling or what you need. i.e. hope, fear, plans, purpose, courage, strength, joy     Then read through the verses that come up and take note of the verses that seem to speak to you. Those are the “what is” assurances that God is sharing with you.

May the assurances of God’s truths strengthen your faith, fill you with hope, and bring you peace.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen. 

Renee Myers 1-31-17 (revised 2-2-17)

Not for Christians only.

If we put aside race, religion, politics, and issues that divide, I think many would agree that what we seek most from the world around us is love, respect, grace and peace.   If we get back to basing our hearts, thoughts and actions on those things, we can move forward in a way that will promote what I’m thinking of as Civil Unity.

Civil means applying to individual citizens and citizens as a whole.  It also speaks to public order, being peaceable in behavior, mannerly and polite.

Unity is about oneness, harmony.

Civil Unity speaks to all people about striving for public order, being peaceable and mannerly with others for oneness among us.

Civil Unity doesn’t mean we have to agree on all the issues. Differences of opinion can be good, and ultimately bring us to the best outcomes; but for that to happen, we have to approach things with an attitude of love and respect, showing grace and seeking peace.

Doing so requires something our society and many leaders lack – humility.  Humility is something I have to work on every day, for my human tendency is to be about self.  Humility teaches us to put others first, serve others, put others’ needs ahead of our own, and being more about the greater good of our community and the world around us than what we personally want from the world.

When we stop trying to make ours the loudest voices heard, we can listen to what others have to say, too, and listen with respect.

When we can offer grace to others by letting go of anger, frustration and personal grudges(those things hurt us more than the other person), we will reduce the tensions around us and create an environment that allows everyone to find their place and have a voice.  Thus, bringing about peace.

This will never be a perfect world, but if we humble ourselves and strive for civil unity among us, we can make it a better world.

Yes, I write from a Christian heart, and these are common themes in Christianity for they are what Jesus taught, how He lived and why Christians believe He died for us.  However, even those who do not claim Jesus as Savior and Lord, can benefit from His teachings.  We all benefit from those who live with love and respect for others.

Borrowing from the words of Paul:  Grace and peace, for all.

NOTE: If you would like to learn what Jesus taught, I encourage you to read about Him in the Bible, perhaps starting with the Book of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (the first four books of the New Testament).  Some Bibles have red print indicating the words Jesus spoke.  You can read the Bible online at Bible Gateway.  They also have a great app!

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