What has happened to Giving Thanks?

What is happening to the celebration of Thanksgiving Day?

The holiday intended to celebrate God’s many blessings and to give Him thanks for all He has done has become a day to indulge ourselves in the blessings without truly appreciating them, or considering who they really came from, or to give the Giver thanks.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father,” James 1:17

How important is thanksgiving?

How does giving thanks to God affect our lives?

The word “thank” is found 165 times in the Bible. That includes thanks and thanksgiving. And the word “thankful” is found 10 times.

When I read through the verses that include these words it is very clear that God intends for us to be a thankful people.

I listened to an audio book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp, several years ago and it opened my eyes to the amazing opportunity we have to live fully aware of the very things that are right in front of us each day for which we are to be thankful for. Ann includes many scriptures that show miraculous things happen when thanksgiving is expressed to God.

If thanksgiving is so important and so powerful no wonder the enemy of our souls wants to rob it from us. Not only has Thanksgiving Day become a day of indulgence that crowds out the giving of thanks, but every day of the year has become so filled with busyness, cares, and worries that we rarely take the time to stop and truly appreciate what we have, what we are experiencing, and bow down before God and give Him thanks.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is an example to us that we must never allow the enemy to steal our thanksgiving.

Daniel’s faith in God and his obedience to God’s commands caused him to live a righteous life that brought favor from the king. The king’s favor lead to position and power. The other administrators became jealous of Daniel and looked for a fault to accuse him of.

But Daniel was faithful, responsible, and trustworthy in all his dealings, and so they decided that the only thing they could accuse him of would be something connected to the rules of his religion.

“So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.  And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law.” Daniel 6:4-9 

The administrators’ jealousy plotted a scheme against Daniel. Either he would forsake his God or he would be killed in the lion’s den.

The enemy of God’s people continues to plot schemes intended to steal our prayer and kill our thanksgiving!

Those who have faith in God, who obey His commands, and live a righteous life have God’s favor upon them. God has crowned them with glory and honor intended to bring Him praise and thanksgiving that will produce miraculous works here on earth!

But as the administrators in Daniel’s day, we have an enemy who is jealous. The enemy knows the power of praise and thanksgiving and plots schemes meant to keep us in fear and busyness so that miraculous things won’t happen and God won’t be glorified.

Daniel gave us an example of how to respond to the schemes of the enemy.

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10

The scheme of the administrators didn’t offend Daniel.

The king’s law that couldn’t be changed didn’t phase Daniel.

The threat of the lion’s den didn’t scare Daniel.

Daniel’s trust in God enabled him to pray and thank God as he did every day!

No threat of the enemy could steal Daniel’s prayer or kill his thanksgiving! 

Of course Daniel’s enemies were right there to catch him in the act of praying. When they went and reported this to the king the king was deeply troubled, and tried to think of a way to save Daniel. But a signed law couldn’t be revoked and so the king ordered Daniel be thrown to the lions. But the king said to Daniel…

“May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” Daniel 6:16

What did the king see in Daniel that caused him to speak words of hope into an impossible situation?

God’s favor brought a prophetic word even from an unbeliever!

Prayer and thanksgiving to God in the midst of persecution brings favor and protection from the One who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond anything imaginable!

God’s favor isn’t limited to the thoughts and ways of men. His favor goes beyond the possible, the probable, and into the supernatural!

And though he couldn’t do anything within his power to save Daniel, the king hoped the favor and power of Daniel’s God would be able to rescue Daniel.

“Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:20-23

The ironic thing is that though Daniel’s prayer and thanksgiving had him thrown into the lion’s den, it was his prayer and thanksgiving that rescued him from the lion’s den!

I don’t know what would have happened if Daniel decided to stop praying for thirty days. I don’t know what would have happened if Daniel decided not to thank God for thirty days.

But I do know we wouldn’t have this story to learn from today.

We wouldn’t know of the power of prayer that enables God’s people to face the impossible. We wouldn’t know the power of thanksgiving that shuts the mouths of lions!

What scheme is the enemy using to keep you from prayer and thanksgiving?

I encourage you to look up verses about thanksgiving and be reminded of the importance and power it has in your life.

May this Thanksgiving Day be the day that you resist the schemes of the enemy to steal your prayer and kill your thanksgiving and choose to do as Daniel…

 

To kneel down every day in prayer and give thanks to God and watch for the miraculous to happen!

Expose the Hidden Shadows

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:12-13

I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning the other day. The hygienist said it was time for a full round of ex-rays. I’m not really a fan, and I wasn’t having any symptoms of anything wrong, but apparently I didn’t have any say in the matter as she began to shove this huge thing into my mouth and told me to bite down.

Then she proceeded to clean and polish my teeth. I was feeling good about the whole thing expecting to leave with no problems. For several years prior all my molars that were filled with decay and old fillings were replaced with crowns. My mouth had been made beautiful so this time everything should be good!

Then the doctor came in to examine my teeth. He looked at the ex-rays and noticed something. Something that wasn’t there five years ago. Something that I was completely unaware of. Something that wasn’t visible when I looked at my teeth. Something that didn’t even hurt, but there it was a shadow at the base of the root of my tooth.

There was no decay in that tooth, yet somehow infection had set in. The doctor asked if any trauma had occurred to that tooth. I didn’t know of any one time it was hit or bumped, but I did mention that I tend to clench my teeth when I’m stressed. He agreed that perhaps that was the cause of this mysterious shadow.

The dentist told me that though it was a healthy tooth the infection at the root required a root canal.

I have to admit, at first I was in denial. I was thinking to myself…

“It is a healthy tooth, how could it be infected?”

“It doesn’t hurt, why do I need to do anything?”

So I asked the doctor how long I could let it go expecting him to say several months, but he said two or three weeks.

Hummm…

So, as I walked out to the desk to pay the bill for my ex-rays and cleaning I wasn’t sure what to do about the root canal.

I left the dentist office feeling much different then when I walked in. Now that I saw the shadow I knew something I didn’t know before I walked into the dentist office. Something was revealed to me that needed consideration. I had a choice to make.

I realized this is the same as with the shadows of my heart.

When I sit and read the Bible, or listen to a sermon, God is as the dentist who examines my heart. His job is to care for my heart so that it is clean and healthy. He examines my heart to rid it of any decay or infection that threatens to bring harm and pain.

God uses the Light of His Word and the Power of His Holy Spirit is as an ex-ray to expose any unseen shadows of the heart! 

Perhaps my heart is as my tooth, perhaps I’m walking around feeling good about all God has already done in my heart and thinking that there probably isn’t anything else that needs to be done, but I have a shadow of a sinful habit that I am unaware of.

What if the stress of every day life is slowly causing infection to grow in my heart that will eventually cause pain and suffering?

But, because I’m not a fan of the ex-ray of God’s light I avoid His penetrating truth.

Or, because I don’t think anything is wrong I don’t allow for God’s light to shine into my heart.

I’m glad I didn’t stop the hygienist from taking the ex-rays. I’m glad she didn’t give me a choice. I’m glad she did her job whether or not I felt like it was a good idea or not.

Though we have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, and we are a new creation filled with the Holy Spirit, the stresses of life and old sinful habits can cause shadows to occur in our hearts.

When I saw the shadow at the root of my tooth I had a choice.

I could make an appointment for a root canal,

or I could ignore it.

I wanted to ignore it, but now that I had seen the shadow I became more aware. When I was outside I drew in cold air and felt a sensitivity in that tooth. When I clenched my teeth I felt a slight sensitivity in that tooth.

Once I saw, once I felt the pain, I could no longer ignore!

It took me about two weeks to choose to have the root canal.

The root canal required my healthy tooth be drilled and an implement pushed through with which the dentist ground out all the infected cells of my tooth, the root, and the surrounding tissue. All the infected cells needed to be removed. And then he poured in an antibiotic that was meant to kill off any remaining infection. Once the bad was removed, he filled the hole with a sterile plug and sealed it so that nothing else could seep in and cause another infection.

Nobody chooses to have a root canal done because they enjoy it. It is done because it is needed. There is infection and if left unattended it will cause much pain and suffering.

Why then do we ignore the shadows that the light of God’s truth exposes? Exposed shadows are not intended to bring shame, or to be ignored, but to bring awareness and to allow for permission for God to do a root canal for complete cleansing and healing.

Shadows are evidence that there is a battle going on, good cells are waging war with bad cells that are trying to take over!

God wants to remove the bad cells of old sinful habits and fears from your heart. God knows that the constant stress of fear, worry, unforgiveness, and resentment, will lead to a battle within your heart. This battle between good and evil will grow and eventually cause great pain to you and to those around you.

As God’s son or daughter, it’s His job to examine your heart and to keep it clean and healthy. When His word of truth and the power of His Holy Spirit reveals a shadow in your heart all He wants of you is to choose a spiritual root canal.

An interesting fact about my root canal; the infection separated the nerves of my tooth from my brain so I had no pain.

But, even this is an example of God’s root canal of your heart. How you think about the cleaning God wants to do in your heart will greatly affect how you respond to the pain involved in removing the bad cells.

When you realize the bad is only going to get worse and create more pain, and when you realize the bad needs to go so that the good God intends for you will bring peace to your heart, you will choose to submit to His loving hands and will be amazed at how painfree His root canal to your heart really is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fully Empowered by God

When I listen to the news, commercials, or conversations around me I realize there are many things that vie for my attention. The words, agendas, and convictions of others have an affect upon me whether I realize it or not. What I do with the words I hear will impact my thoughts and my thoughts will form my beliefs, and my beliefs will determine my direction in life.

What words, agendas, or convictions of the world have you given power to?

Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians about this…

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

We are surrounded by a culture that has many world views; many diverse convictions, agendas, and beliefs. Within them there are many things that are okay in and of themselves. There is no law against them, but they may not be helpful or good for you. It is one thing to be surrounded by the things of the world, but as a child of God you are not allow them to have any power over you.

Paul was addressing some issues of the early church and he reminded them of the things they used to do, some of the things that they had given power to, and had taken them captive.

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality,  or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Sexual immorality is rampant in today’s culture. Satan realizes purity in singleness and godly marriages are powerful influences for the kingdom of God. God created male and female to become “one flesh” in the covenant of marriage. The love and devotion they pledge to one another is a picture of Christ and His church. The intimacy they share with one another produces a legacy of godly off-spring. It is this beautiful and powerful gift from God that the enemy is adamant to steal, kill, and destroy by enticing people to come under the power of his lies that twist, pervert, and redefine.

Idol worship is imbedded in the core of our culture. Worship is a matter of the heart expressed by your lifestyle. It is the honor, love, and submission you give to something or someone. You were created to be loved by God and to worship Him alone! A life lived in the truth of who God is and of who you are brings God’s kingdom to earth and powerfully changes everything! It is the worship of God alone the enemy seeks to entice with the desires of the flesh. Everything around you promotes idol worship; to come under the power of material things, positions, and self.

Greed is what drives so much of our culture today. We have come under the power of “never enough.” God has always provided for His people and promises that those who seek Him first will never go without, but have everything they need. From the beginning in the Garden of Eden, Satan has enticed people to doubt that God is really good, that He is a good provider. Eve fell for the lie that she should take care of her self. That she should decide what was good for her. This is the lie the enemy still uses so that you come under the power of striving to take care of self.

Drunkenness and addictions plague our society and bring so much pain and brokenness. God has created us with a “void” that is intended to be filled with Him; empowered by His Holy Spirit, and overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit so those around us will taste and see that God is good. The enemy is threatened when God’s power is displayed and he rages when God receives glory. So he looks for the weaknesses of your flesh to discover how to entice to be sure you will to fill the “void” with a counterfeit.

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18

You were created to give power to God alone and to be filled with His power!

A spirit-filled believer is a powerful force intended to bring the kingdom of God to earth so that His will and His works will be done here. It is this power that the enemy hates and he will do all he can to keep you from knowing about the power you have available. His strategies include; hiding the truth about the Holy Spirit, bringing division concerning the Holy Spirit, causing abuse of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s society you don’t need to look far to see those who have given power to the things of this world.

Paul wrote that many of the people of Corinth were “once like that.” And so today many believers in the church were like that, but perhaps many are still deceived in some of these areas.

There is a war between the lies of the world and the truth of God and you alone will decide which you will give power to.  

Paul made the distinction between people who are of this world and those who belong to God. Believers don’t need to give power to anything other than God because…

“But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 

When you fully know and fully understand the truth of this verse you will not allow anything of this world to have power over you, but to live fully empowered by God! 

 

 

Enclosed and Surrounded!

Have you ever thought about what Jesus meant when He said, “I am in the Father,” “you are in Me,” and “I am in you”? Jesus used those phrases several times when He told His disciples that He would be going away and gave them some instructions about living without Him personally walking and talking with them.

“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:20-21

I pondered what Jesus meant by the word “in.” What does that look like? What does that mean? And so, yes, I actually looked up the meaning of “in”.

“Expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.”
So, Jesus is enclosed and surrounded by God.
And so I am enclosed and surrounded by Jesus. 
And I enclose and surround the Holy Spirit.
And yes, I drew a picture of it!
When I see it and consider the truth of what it means; that Jesus is “in” God, and I am “in” Jesus, and His Spirit dwells “in” me, I realize what an amazing position I have been placed into!
“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
My position is one of protection, privilege, and power! I’m not just left on my own to live out the Christian life by myself.
The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He said He was going back to the Father. For three years they followed Jesus, learned from Him, and were encouraged by Him. Now, the thought of Him leaving brought fears and doubts that they could make it on their own. Jesus knew the trials, the difficulties, and the persecution they would face, and He knew exactly what they needed to know to prepare, encourage and strengthen them for the days, months, and years ahead.
While walking and talking with His disciples Jesus set the example of what it looked like to be “in” the Father. Jesus only did and said what His Father told Him to. He listened to and obeyed everything the Father said, even when His will didn’t want to.
Jesus was fully God, yet fully man. Something I can’t really wrap my brain around, but I believe the fully man part was the part that was “in” the Father.
Jesus demonstrated to us what a life lived “in” looked like.
Jesus’ love for His Father and joy “in” the presence  of His Father, allowed God’s power and love to flow through Him to meet the physical and spiritual needs of everyone He encountered.
Jesus’ passion “in” the Father fueled His righteous anger against the hypocritical attitudes of the Pharisees.
Jesus’ trust “in” His Father empowered Him to completely obey His Father’s will.
Jesus didn’t live life on his own.
And He knew the disciples couldn’t live life on their own.
Jesus entrusted those twelve men with His example and with His words of instruction, expecting them to believe Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him so that the Gospel would be lived and spread throughout the world for generations. Jesus knew it would require they lived “in” Him, filled with the Holy Spirit, to carry forth their mission.
We can’t live life on our own either!
Jesus’ voice speaks to us today, just as it did to His disciples. May we not take our position “in” Jesus for granted, but earnestly seek out what that means in our every day lives.
What would your days look like if you woke up each morning, looked in the mirror, and saw yourself fully enclosed “in” the sovereignty and love of God, completely surrounded “in” the peace of Jesus our Savior, and saw “in” you all the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
It would change your thoughts completely!
It would change your behavior completely!
You would see the attributes of God that would bring awe and appreciation of who God is and you couldn’t help but start your day by praising  and thanking Him! You would see God’s power and love and they would dispel all your fears and insecurities! You would feel safe and protected by Him. You would have a confidence in your very core that you are a child of God and that no matter what happens that day, God will work it out for your good!
You would see the peace of Jesus and be compelled to lay down all your cares and worries at His feet. You would no longer see your sin and shame, but you would hear His voice pronounce, “It is finished!” and you would see yourself as He sees you, dressed in His robe of righteousness. And standing there in front of the mirror wearing His robe of righteousness, you would realize you have been given the gift of this day to take up your cross and follow Him, and to make a difference to those around you.
You would see you really are a temple of God, because right there living inside you is the Holy Spirit! You would see His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control all radiating inside you; ready and waiting to be poured out on those around you that need to know how amazing God is!
Oh to be enclosed “in” the love of the Father, surrounded “in” the peace of Jesus, and filled with the joy of the Spirit!
May this be the truth that sets you free from the fears, doubts, and challenges of living the Christian life on your own, and may you discover the protection, the privilege, and the power that is found “in” Jesus so that you do the works of God here on earth!

A living, breathing miracle!

I know a man who needed for someone to die that he might live. He was diagnosed with a lung disorder that threatened his life. His only hope was a lung transplant.

I saw him several days ago and was amazed at the miracle God did  through the knowledge of medical science, and the skilled hands of doctors.

He is a living, breathing miracle!

It caused me to consider…

I too had the diagnosis of death upon me. My life was threatened with the guilt of sin. My only hope was salvation through the forgiveness of sin.

“For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

I too needed Someone to die that I might live.

This is exactly what Jesus did on the cross, He died, that I might live!

“But now, once for all time, he (Jesus) has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.” Hebrews 9:26

The love of God poured out on the cross as Jesus’ blood was shed for the forgiveness of my sin is truly amazing! The power of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead so that I too have the promise of everlasting life is absolutely miraculous!

I am a living, breathing miracle…forgiven, and alive for eternity!

I wonder if the man with the new lungs wakes up each day with the thought that he is alive today because someone died? I wonder if he embraces each day as a gift to be thankful for; to be treasured and lived fully?

But then I consider…

Do I wake up each day aware that I am truly alive because Jesus died for me? Am I thankful for each day as a gift from God to be treasured and lived fully for Him?

Each new day is filled with possibilities, potential, and promises! The God who spoke light into darkness, and order into chaos, continues to speak creative ideas, unimaginable desires, and impossible dreams, into the hearts and minds of all  His living, breathing miracles!

He is a God of miracles and He intends to use us to display His supernatural power here on earth!

The amazing love, intense sacrifice, and supernatural power demonstrated in sending His Son to live, die, and rise again must not be taken for granted.

I’m sure the man who went through the pain of lung disease, the agony of hoping for lungs to become available in time, then finally undergoing successful surgery, will never forget his experience.

It was truly life changing! 

The miraculous experience of the new life we have been given through faith in Jesus was never intended to be taken for granted.

We are living, breathing miracles of God, filled with His Holy Spirit, set apart for His glory!

The power and love of God is within us so that we live differently than the world around us. We aren’t like those of the world and we aren’t to blend in with them.

Living, breathing miracles are intended to live miraculous lives!

We are meant to live beyond ourselves, supernaturally, so that those around us who are in pain from the disease of sin, who are hoping for an answer, who need surgery, will finally realize there is a cure, and His name is Jesus!

“These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Mark 16:17-18

You are a miracle…live the life!