Thanksgiving 2020

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

In the United States, Thursday, November 26, is a national holiday that commemorates the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. Thanksgiving Day is a day to give thanks.

All of us will agree that 2020 has been a challenging year. We have encountered numerous situations that may be causing us to wonder how to be thankful on Thanksgiving. However, God desires us to always have a thankful heart. The point to remember from this verse in I Thessalonians is that we are to give thanks in all situations – not for all situations.

Let’s think about an acronym for THANKS that will help us be thankful in 2020.

T = TIME
Psalm 118:24 NKJV says, “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Each day we are given 24 hours of time. During the pandemic shutdown, we had extra time when normal commitments were not required. We had time to do things we previously did not have time to do. More time for family. More time for home projects. More time for God. We were given the opportunity to devote more time developing our relationship with God and going deeper into the Word. I have heard it said that sometimes the worst of times can also be the best of times.
Give thanks!

H = HEALTH
God declares in Exodus 15:26, “I am the LORD, who heals you.” Jesus fulfills this scripture a multitude of times throughout the New Testament.
Our need for the Lord as our Healer has been accentuated by the pandemic. Those of us who have not contracted COVID are thankful for health. Those who have recovered from the virus are thankful. Family members of those who were not healed need healing from their grief. The Lord is our Healer spiritually, emotionally and physically. When focusing upon health, we must also be thankful for our healthcare workers who continue to give sacrificially.
Give thanks!

A = AMERICA
Psalm 33:12 states, “Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.
I sing and pray the words of God Bless America.
In spite of all we have encountered during 2020, we are still a democratic nation. We have the privilege of voting for our leaders. We are a melting pot of races and nationalities striving to learn more of how to best offer equality and freedom to all. We proclaim through the words of the pledge of allegiance to our flag that we are “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” ALL regardless of race. ALL regardless of gender. ALL regardless of political party. ALL regardless of religion. The Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom – and they were the originators of Thanksgiving.
Give thanks!

N = NEIGHBORS
Jesus says, in Mark 23:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.
In Luke 10:29, Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbor?” He responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Verse 37 reveals that “The one who showed him mercy” is the neighbor to the wounded man.
We have had many opportunities to love our neighbors this year. Personally, we have had more interaction with people in our neighborhood since many people are out for walks. Even while social distancing, we have waved to more of our neighbors than usual. There are many people who have been wounded in various ways. Let us show mercy. Matthew 5:7 says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” I am thankful for law enforcement officials who keep our neighborhoods safe. This includes neighbors next door and neighbors across our nation.
Give thanks!

K = KINDNESS
Ephesians 4:32 NKJV instructs, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” According to Galatians 5:22-23, kindness is included in fruit of the Spirit.
Kindness has abounded! During the shutdown, people were helping people. Our daughter-in-law became our primary grocery shopper when it did not seem same for us to be in public because we are in the more vulnerable age group. A friend baked bread and shared it with families who were unable to find bread in stores. Our grandchildren chalked encouraging words on driveways. They did errands for family and friends.
Give thanks!

S = SEASONS
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Verses 1-8 list specific seasons we encounter.
This season of a pandemic and protests and political strife may be lasting longer than we prefer. However, God is with us and we will get through it.
I believe we will be stronger because of what we have encountered. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Give thanks!

Let us give THANKS for
Time – Health – America – Neighbors – Kindness – Seasons
Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
His love endures forever.Psalm 106:1
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
Psalm 34:1
Happy Thanksgiving!

I Don’t Know What to Think!

“I don’t know what to think!” This is a statement many of us may be expressing at this time. Who can we trust? What can we believe? People respond differently to these questions when answering from a human perspective. Sarah Young points out that people’s thoughts are unreliable because they are distorted by our sinfulness, weakness and insecurities. Let’s look to a more reliable source – God.

Who can we trust? Proverbs 3:5 tells us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding .”

What can we believe? I Thessalonians 2:13 says, “When you received the word of God, . . . you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

With these answers, we cam hear Jesus say in John 14:1 NIV, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.” The New Living Translation says, ““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.” With this assurance, we do not have to exclaim, “I don’t know what to think!”

God’s perspective is very different from that of human beings. Let’s think about how God thinks.

Isaiah 55:8-9 states, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” We may think we know the way something should be done. But, God may move in ways we never thought about. The Lord’s ways and thoughts are not only different from our ways and thoughts – they are higher and greater!

Ephesians 3:20 says, “(God) is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” The New Living Translation says “He can accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or think.” I like the words “exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think” in the New King James Version. Whatever descriptive terms are used, this verse reveals the vast difference between our comprehension and God’s ability. God sees a bigger picture with a greater outcome. May we never limit the Lord by seeing too small a picture.

The account in Mark 2:1-12 validates these scriptures of Isaiah and Ephesians. Four men thought Jesus could physically heal their friend who was crippled. So, they brought him to Jesus. Verse 5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Jesus did more for this man than the others had imagined! In verses 9-11 Jesus continues, “Which is easier: to say to a paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, pick up your mat, and go home.’” Jesus’ ways were different and more inclusive than what the men had considered.

Our human minds limit our ways and thoughts. Jesus testifies to this when He says in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Max Lucado writes, “When we say, ‘No way’ God says ‘My way.’” Henry Blackaby writes, “Don’t tell God it can’t be done – that is doubt or lack of faith.”

When we don’t know what to think, Psalm 5:3 gives us a good suggestion. “In the morning, LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.” Prayer is always a positive option. Seek God’s guidance and ask for His sovereign will and ways to reign.

Then, we wait for God’s answer. I Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” The Holy Spirit helps us see and hear and understand. Spiritual truths can only be revealed by God. Jesus says in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” God’s supernatural response is greater than our natural response.

We may not know what to think about current situations, but we can trust the thoughts and ways of God. May we echo Job’s words in Job 42:2, “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Let’s yield to God because He knows what to do and when to do it and how to do it. In the meantime, may Psalm 29:14 be our goal. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

God Questions

I was reading Genesis 6. Abram and Sarai were frustrated because they could not conceive a child. In hopes of solving the problem, Sarai gave her maid, Hagar, to Abram. Hagar became pregnant. It seemed like one problem may have been solved, but another problem arose. Sarai was jealous. Finally, Abram told her to do what she wanted. Sarai sent Hagar away.

My attention was drawn to the angel’s questions for Hagar. The angel asked in Genesis 16:8, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Hmmm. If God is omniscient and knows everything, why did He send an angel to ask Hagar where she was? Didn’t God already know where she was? Didn’t He know where she was headed?

At the conclusion of Genesis 16:8, Hagar responded, I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Her answer did not give a specific physical location. She replied by describing the situation she was escaping. She did not answer the second question.

I think God sent the angel to ask Hagar these questions to encourage her to evaluate what she was doing. God was holding her accountable for her actions. I suspect God was trying to teach her a lesson or two. He may have wanted her to think about the consequences of what she was doing. She could not simply run away and have everything be OK. Also, God may have been letting her know He was with her. She was not completely alone in the wilderness. God sent an angel to help her.

As I meditated upon these questions, I wondered if God was asking me the same questions. Where have I come from? Where am I going? I can get busy with all my coming and going. Am I on the path God is leading? I do not want to just run away like Hagar. I want to learn from each life situation.

I believe God has a reason for asking us these questions. He wants us to think about what we are doing and why we are doing them. He sees and He wants to guide us. He may point out wrong turns we make. However, He reveals these to help us get back on the right track. He does not condemn. But, He does convict so we can correct.

In the English language, we have 3 tenses of verbs – past, present and future. All are depicted in Hagar’s conversation with the Lord. The angel refers to the past when he asks, “Where have you come from?” The angel is interacting with Hagar while asking the questions. This signifies the present tense. The second question, “Where are you going?”, looks into the future. The Lord cared about the complete life of Hagar. The same is true for us today. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The questions God asked Hagar and asks us always have a purpose. He does not ask to get information. He already knows everything. He asks to prompt us to seriously think about where we have been and where we are going.

God is interested in more than geographical locations. Where we are spiritually is His primary concern. He wants us to rely upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance for where we are going. He knows where we have been in the past. He is presently with us. He promises to be with us in the future.

My Reader, where have you come from? Where are you going?

Going on Empty – Time to Fill Up

If the car’s gas gauge is nearing the empty mark, it is not a good thing. However, if our spiritual gauge is revealing an emptiness, it may be a good thing in God’s eyes. In both cases, it is a warning sign. A fill up is required. The car needs the fuel’s power to keep running down the road. We need the Holy Spirit’s power to keep running for the Lord.

It seems strange that God may perceive our spiritual emptiness as a good thing. However, He sees our weakness as His opportunity to be strong. Paul talks about this concept in II Corinthians 12:9-22. “He (the Lord) has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

A car completely stops when it runs out of gas. In contrast, we will try to keep doing things under our own power. And, God will let us keep going in our own strength as long as we want. However, we will not succeed. We need the Holy Spirit’s power. The Lord says in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 says, “be filled with the Spirit.” The tense of the Greek verb to be filled clearly states that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is ongoing – not just a one time occurrence. Similar to a car needing gas, we require the Spirit’s refueling.

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” It is easy for us to understand the need to fill our empty stomachs when we are hungry and thirsty. Jesus offers us the same promise to fill our empty souls. Empty gas tanks, stomachs, and souls need to be filled and refilled.

John 7:38-39 says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit, we are energized to give to others. The Living Water of the Holy Spirit will enable us to spread the gospel over many more miles that a tankful of gas will take a car.

Matthew 11:28 extends us an invitation to quit striving under our own power and yield to the Holy Spirit. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest is a source of infilling. Cars do not run without gas. Neither do we function without the Holy Spirit’s strength. We need to give up – to rest from our efforts in order to receive the Lord’s rest and refreshment. Otherwise, we will run out of gas from exhaustion.

I like Andy Stanley’s statement, “Kindness is loaning someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weaknesses.” God is kind and extends His kindness to us. However, God gives us strength – He does not just loan it to us. God does not remind us of our weakness. He just wants to fill us with His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our source of power just as a gas station’s fuel is the car’s power. Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.Jesus gives this promise before His ascension and it is fulled at Pentecost. Acts 2:4 records, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.Acts 13:52 further states, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

I keep an eye upon what my car’s gas gauge registers so I know when to fill the car with more gas. I must also watch what my spiritual gauge is revealing. Do I need to spend more time with the Lord and allow His Holy Spirit to fill me with His power? When I am weak, His strength is available. He wants to fill me up.

I close with Tasha Cobbs’ lyrics of the chorus Fill My Cup, Lord.

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more–
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!