Thanksgiving – Giving Thanks

 

thanksgiving-2Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day for us in America. The event we commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in this country. Their feast lasted three days, and it was attended by both Native Americans and Pilgrims. However, celebrations of feasts and times of giving thanks go back further in time than the 1600s. Throughout the Bible, we find references to feasts being observed in honor of what the Lord had done for His people. According to the Jewish faith, there are seven feasts they observe. The Israelites enjoyed special food at these feasts, but more importantly they celebrated how the Lord intervened in their lives. Honoring the workings of the hand of God is the most important reason for thanksgiving feasts whether the times be observed by the Israelites, the Native Americans and Pilgrims, or us today. I want to give the Lord a prominent place on Thanksgiving Day. I want to honor Jesus as the unseen but not uninvited guest at our Thanksgiving table.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving celebrations include a feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, cranberries, pumpkin pie etc. While I think about loading my plate with the Thanksgiving dinner and all of its trimmings, I am reminded of Psalm 68:19 NJKV, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” On this special day, I want to take time to give thanks to the Lord for the benefits He loads upon my life every day as well as to give Him thanks for the food I  load upon my plate. Thanksgiving Day is a special day to focus upon being thankful but I desire to give thanks to the Lord daily just as He daily pours out blessings upon me.

As I look upon my full plate of food tomorrow, I want to think about Psalm 34:8 NIV, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.” As I taste the delicious foods, I also want to take time to tantalize my spiritual taste buds to experience the goodness of the Lord. A full gravy boat is always found on our Thanksgiving dinner table. Pouring out the gravy on my potatoes reminds me of the grace God pours upon my life. His grace is my gravy! I must admit that my soul will be contented longer with the goodness of the Lord than my stomach will be satisfied because of the turkey and stuffing I will eat.

I predict that by the time I have eaten all the food that I put on my dinner plate, I will be very full. I will declare that everything was delicious and I will thank everyone who has helped to prepare the meal. This fact reminds me of the scripture found in I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” My attitude of gratitude must extend beyond thankfulness for food. It is polite to thank others for what they have done, but I also want to perceive them as vessels God has used to orchestrate the blessings I receive. I want to direct my thankfulness first and foremost to the Lord. On Thanksgiving Day I especially want to take time to verbally thank God for specific blessings He has bestowed upon me during the past year.

As I conclude, I think back to the Pilgrims and the Israelites. The early colonists regularly celebrated “thanksgivings” by setting aside days of prayer to thank God for His blessings. The Bible reveals that the Lord instructed the Israelites to celebrate and give thanks more than one day a year. Yes, as Americans, we still celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. However, I believe every day should be a day of giving thanks based upon Psalm 118:1 NIV, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Let us follow the advice of Paul in Ephesians 5:20 NIV, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Advertisements

Battling with Prayer

prayer-man2prayer-man-1Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and
go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand
on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
Exodus 17:9

The Amalekites had attacked and now it was time for the Israelites to fight. However, Moses was not going to let his men fight without the help of the Lord. Moses said he would oversee the battle with the staff of God in his hands. This was not the first time Moses relied upon the help of his staff while leading the Israelites. He used this same staff when he initiated each of the 10 plagues before Pharoah while in Egypt. This was the staff he held over the Red Sea when it was parted and the staff with which he stuck the rock to create a spring of drinking water. I believe that the staff Moses held in his hand was the staff of God, To me, it symbolizes the power of God that brings about change.

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered,
and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were
winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the
Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired,
they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.
Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one
on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
Exodus 17:10-12

The day of battle arrived! Joshua and the men were on the battlefield while Moses, Aaron and Hur were on a hill overlooking the field. I believe there were two battles taking place that day. There was the physical battle fought by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua and there was a spiritual battle under the direction of Moses, Aaron and Hur. Physically, it was a battle at Rephidim fought between the Amalekites and the Israelites. Spiritually, there was a bigger battle being fought in the heavenlies. Paul reminds me in II Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of the  fortresses.” I continue to set the stage for this spiritual warfare according to scriptural references of other battles in the Bible. In Joshua 5:4, the Lord says, “as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” and II Chronicles 20:15 states, “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’” I want to suggest that Moses, Aaron and Hur are members of God’s army portraying different aspects of prayer. First of all, Moses oversaw the battle with his staff in hand. In the previous paragraph, I pointed out that the staff symbolized the power of God. Through intercessory prayer petitions, Moses pleaded for the power of God to be active in the battles both at Rephidim and in the heavenlies. His prayers were answered because as long as he held up his hands the Israelites were winning while when he put his hands down, the Amalekites had an advantage. Another thing I notice in verse 12 is that Moses sat on a stone. I believe the stone or rock represents the Lord. Psalm 78:35 says, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” Effective prayers have Jesus as their cornerstone and are prayed in the name of Jesus. Verse 12 also says that Aaron and Hur held up Moses’s arms. I want to suggest that Aaron symbolized thanksgiving and Hur represented praise. Both are aspects of prayer. I may get tired of repetitively asking God for the same things, but I can expand my prayers to include thanksgiving and praise. I can thank God for what He has done in the past, what He is doing at the present, and what He will do in the future. I can praise God for who He is; my conversations with the Lord do not always have to be focused on His actions. I want to use Philippians 4:6 as a guideline for my prayers. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Another good scripture is Hebrews 13:15,“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Thanksgiving and praise, represented by Aaron and Hur, helped Moses to be steadfast in his intercession. Thanksgiving and praise will also help to increase my faith for answers to the petitions I pray.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His
might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able
to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our
struggle is not against flesh and blood, but
against the rulers, against the powers, against the world
forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of
wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up
the full armor of God, so that you will be able to
resist in the evil day, and having done everything,
to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:10-13

 I began by focusing upon an Old Testament account regarding battles that were fought. However, you and I still fight battles today. Ephesians 6 is a good place for us to go for help regarding our battlefields. Our strength comes from the Lord and does not lie within us. Paul describes the armor of God and we need to put on these powerful pieces. Ephesians 6:14-17 describes the specific pieces of armor available to us. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The sword of the Spirit, or God’s written Word, is our only offensive weapon. I see a similarity between the sword of the Spirit we can hold in our hands and the staff Moses held in his hand – both entail the power of God. We may think we are only fighting a physical battle, but we need to see that we are warriors in a much bigger battle. This is something I need to remember when praying.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of
prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and
always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Ephesians 6:18

In this verse, Paul not only gives us a mandate to pray but he also gives us directions as to how we are to pray when battles are being fought in both the natural and supernatural realms. I feel that the spiritual warfare done by Moses, Aaron and Hur is an example of what Paul is encouraging us to do. In Ezekiel 22:30, the Lord says, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” This verse refers to the Lord’s need of intercessors to stand in the gap. Intercessors pray presenting the needs of people to the Lord while also presenting the Lord to the people. We are part of God’s army and He needs prayer warriors to fight for Him and with Him. However, we do not need to pray alone. Moses became tired and needed the support of Aaron and Hur. If we are to stay alert, it is wise for us to become a part of a body of intercessors, a part of God’s army. Jesus promises us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

We are all aware of the tragedy caused by terrorist attacks upon Paris this past week. This is a current example of a physical battle that is taking place within our world. However, I believe that every physical battle is ultimately a spiritual battle as well. Let us support France with our spiritual warfare just as Moses, Aaron and Hur supported the Israelites. My Reader, will you enlist in God’s army to be a prayer warrior with me? I encourage you to be like the Old Testament characters we have focused upon today. Remember to incorporate petitions, thanksgiving and praise within your prayers. The Lord is the commander-in-chief of all battles but He needs you!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Waiting as a Waiter

Wait a minute!” How may times have I said these three words when someone asked for my help while I was in the middle of doing something else? It most likely was not that I was unwilling to help but just at that very moment it was not convenient for me to help. I wonder how many times God has responded to my prayers by saying “wait a minute” or maybe even “wait a few days or weeks or possibly years.” It is not that it would be inconvenient for God to answer immediately but it might not be in my best interest or according to His plans. “Wait” is a response I prefer to say to others rather than have spoken to me.  Today I want to think about waiting from a spiritual perspective.

wait-8Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles.
Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

This verse from Isaiah is one of the best known scriptures about waiting. Although I may not like waiting, I do like the promise of renewed strength mentioned by Isaiah. The strength the Lord promises me may be physical strength or spiritual strength. Waiting involves a surrendering of my time and my desires unto the Lord. Psalm 90:4 says, “A thousand years in your (the Lord’s) sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” God’s perspective of time is entirely different from mine. God is patient; I am not. I want an answer now! Teaching me patience may be part of God’s plan when He chooses for me to wait. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.Testing my obedience may be another part of God’s plan when He chooses for me to wait. The Lord says in Jeremiah 7:23, “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”  The Lord desires for situations to go well for me, but He does not act on my behalf until He knows I will be a good steward of His blessings.

Does waiting mean that I have to sit around and do nothing until the Lord intervenes on my behalf? I don’t think so. Waiting on the Lord is not idleness. I turn my thoughts to another use of the word “wait.” I think about waiters and waitresses in a restaurant. They wait upon me by serving me. Hmmm. Maybe I need to serve, or wait, upon the Lord while I am waiting for Him to act. A good waiter in a restaurant will anticipate the needs of the people he is serving and this should be my goal while I am waiting upon the Lord. How can I best wait upon, or serve, the Lord? Ephesians 6:7 encourages me to “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.I believe that God desires for me to serve Him through praise and worship. I can wait upon Him through these actions while waiting for Him to answer my prayers. Psalm 2:11 NLT says, “Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling.” 

wait-8And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you,
and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you:
for the LORD is a God of justice: blessed are all they that wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18 NKJV

Not only am I to wait upon the Lord, but the Lord also waits upon me. This concept is amazing to me. When God waits, He is showing grace and mercy to me because He knows best. Waiting has always been incorporated into God’s plan. God works in the hearts and lives of His people while He waits. In order for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land at the most opportune time, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years preparing their hearts. When Lazarus died, it was part of Jesus’ schedule to wait before returning to Mary and Martha in Bethany and raising their brother back to life. The Lord waits for nine months for an embryo to grow into an independent infant before He allows an expectant mother to give birth to her child.

Knowing that the Lord waits upon me, motivates me to wait upon Him. I echo the words of Lamentations 3:24, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” God may wait longer than I would prefer, but He knows the best timing. He is sovereign! God may wait, but He never waits too long. I must agree with Lamentations 3:26, “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Because the Lord has shown me that He works while He waits to intervene on my behalf, I will follow His example and actively wait upon Him to manifest His best plans and purposes for my life. Waiting may not be a bad thing after all!

wait-8I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5 NIV 

My Reader, will you join me in personally declaring these words of the Psalmist? Maybe you are being asked to make a major decision and your best response would be “Wait a minute!” Take time to seek the Lord’s guidance rather than making a snap decision that you might later regret. Other people can wait for you while you wait upon the Lord for direction. Craig Bruce is credited for the quote, “You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.” I encourage you to wait upon the Lord because the Lord is waiting for you to call upon Him. You will be glad you took the time to wait.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

 

 

The Fragrance of Humility

 

humility-2perfume-bottle-1And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Luke 7:37-38

humility-2Last week I shared this scripture from Luke 7 focusing upon the brokenness of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus. This week we will continue to look at the same scripture while thinking about the humility of the once sinful woman. In order for the woman to be able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair, she had to have her head near His feet. She had to bow down with her face to the ground. To me, this woman’s actions and lowly position reflect humility.

Wikipedia describes humility as an act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others. Humility involves having a clear perspective and respect for one‘s situation or relationship. Specifically in a spiritual context, this can mean a recognition of self in relation to God. The woman in Luke 7 certainly emulates this description. She experienced brokenness because of her former lifestyle and then she humbly accepted forgiveness for her sins and desired a new relationship with Jesus. James 4:6 states, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  I believe that Jesus found pleasure in both the presence and the actions of this woman at His feet. He experienced the fragrance of humility exuding from her.

perfume-bottle-1With the fragrance of humility in mind, I want to think about the perfume with which the woman anointed Jesus’ feet. The costly perfume poured out from the vile represented the woman’s life savings. She was willing to give her all in gratitude to the Man who had forgiven her sins. At one point in her life she may have been proud, but now she was humble because she had been broken free from her former sinful life. Most likely the fragrance of this scented oil was myrrh. It is interesting to note that the myrrh seed has a hard shell that must be crushed before its pleasing aroma can be emitted. The existence of the perfume used by this woman was evident by its aroma. The reality of the brokenness of this woman was manifested by her humility. The fragrance of the oil would have been noticed not only by Jesus but by everyone in the room. However, I believe that the humbleness of this woman was more pleasing to the Lord than the aroma of the perfume. There is a sacred fragrance to humbleness that is transmitted through a person’s life in a unique way. C. S. Lewis has said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Lewis’ quote describes the character of this woman and it is a character trait I want to assimilate in my life!

Now let’s relate a couple more scriptures with the story in Luke 7 as we continue our study about humility. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Another scripture in II Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Is humility an attitude we simply choose to put on when we get dressed in the morning? Is it a scented oil we dab behind our ears like a spritz of perfume? Definitely not! Philippians 2:3 exhorts, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” If we are to emit the fragrance of humility to those around us, we must not only follow the example of the woman in Luke 7 but we must also follow the example of Christ described in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Specifically in verse 7, we notice Jesus being in the humble position of a servant. The New American Standard Bible uses the words, “He emptied himself.” This reminds me of the woman emptying, or pouring out, the perfume from her alabaster vial upon the feet of Jesus in Luke 7. It also reminds me that I need to be emptied, or forgiven, of my sins. All these efforts reflect humility in action and they have a pleasing aroma to Christ

My Reader, humility is costly but it is worth the price. James 4:8 exhorts us to “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This is what transpired for the woman who was forgiven of her sins. Proverbs 27:9 says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad.” Join me in discovering the joy of the Lord by humbly approaching the throne of grace and experiencing a fragrant fellowship that can only be found at the feet of Jesus. There is a special fragrance found only in humility.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new