Thankful For Or Thankful To?

This is the time of the year when we can get excited about gathering with family for turkey and all the trimmings; we become more thankful because our thoughts turn to the feast, the things that we usually only have at this time of the year.  We sometimes can even taste their goodness before we ever sit down at the table to eat.  Dressing is something we don’t usually see on our tables at any other time except possibly one other and truly it is never often enough.  I wonder why that is and why it seems to be a time when being thankful is seen and felt more than any other.  Surely, we are smart enough to know that there is a difference between being thankful to the giver rather than simply for the gift.  I wonder!

From the time we were little children, most of us were taught to say, “thank you” when someone gave us something.  We probably didn’t really understand what being thankful really meant, but it was impressed upon us by our parents and so we learned to simply say the words without any real show of emotion.  Unfortunately, many of us still categorize the words as simply being polite as our parents instructed.  Have we simply kept the habit or have we actually learned what it is to be thankful and do we say, “thank you” to the One who is really responsible?

God’s word has much to say about being thankful.  Apparently, it is to be a part of our everyday lives, not just for a single event or item.  The Psalmist tells us to Offer to God thanksgiving (50:14) and to enter into His gates with thanksgiving (100:4).  We are not to be concerned with what we want or think we should have, we are to be grateful that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and cares that our lives are full of gratitude for the things He has provided for the children that He loves.  I wonder how and why things have changed so very much.

It is true that as society changes we usually end up dropping some habits.  After all there is only so much time in one day.  However, there is one thing that should never change; in fact, it should grow as we grow and that is a spirit of thankfulness.  You really don’t have to spend much time thinking to realize how good the Father is to His children.  And as is true with earthly parents I am sure that He would like to hear from His children how very much we appreciate what He has given us.  That shouldn’t be so hard for us to do so why don’t we do it?

One of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Psalms – I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (121:1-4)I realize that was quoted from the old King James version, but even today that strikes a chord in my heart. 

So, the question we asked in the beginning actually has two answers that are both valid.  We should be thankful always for our Creator, but we should never forget that He takes pleasure in being thanked by us for the favors we have received.  He leaves us with the job to convey in whatever manner necessary or possible the great love that He has shown us in order that others may come to know and love Him as we do.

Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple come, raise the song of harvest home.

One Reality, One Solution!

Before I ever got out of bed this morning I was faced with thinking about reality and quite frankly not liking where my thoughts were turning.  You see, I wanted an answer and I wanted God, my Father, to do something about it right now.  I was also wondering why there were so many lessons to learn and why it had to take us so long.  I thought I was willing to learn.

Have you ever played chess?  It is a game of strategy where one must not just casually make a move; one has to consider what one’s opponent is going to do next. If this is a serious game you know he is a very sneaky character and you have to be careful.  You might be saying to yourself at this point “what does that have to do with me?”.  That’s a good question - I asked it myself.

Many of us have the habit of scanning the newspaper to see if there is anything worth reading and listening to the news late at night to be sure we are not missing anything.  If you are one of those you may be wondering what God has in mind next and just exactly how much time is He going to give us to correct our upside down thinking.  Your next thought is probably “how sad” and then you go back to your every day agenda assuming that tomorrow will take care of itself.  What will it take for the One who loves us to get us to stop, look, listen and then put our hand to His plow?

How many people do you know that have really believed they could do it right the first time only to find that they were not as smart as they thought they were. We rarely can get away with wishing for a second or third chance so the answer seems to be that we need to practice it and practice it and practice it until habit makes it become automatic.  And besides practicing what we can actually see we have to continually strive to learn more and then more until we become what we believe.  If you are thinking that seems rather hard you might want to remember that our God knew we would have to be as little children and use the tools He provided for us to learn.  It is in the Bible that we will find recorded all that we need to live the lives He planned for us to live.

What did you just say?  You will put it on the calendar to do tomorrow.  You will have to agree that is one of our biggest problems; we assume we will have tomorrow.  In 2nd Corinthians Paul leaves us this advice – God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work  (9:8).  Now, before you attempt to remind me he was talking about money may I remind you that money is only one way to offer a gift and frequently a gift of love and/or service is often of more value.

Malachi told the people of his day that Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (4:5) He would send Elijah, the prophet, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse (6).  Paul, who gave his very life for the love of the Lord told the people of his day – I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children, I warn you (1st Corinthians 4:14).

Paul recognized that there was only one reality and one solution – that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15).

For the past there is forgiveness; for the present there is divine companionship; for the future there is absolute assurance - L. Nelson Bell

Are You Trip Ready?

There is one thing many of us like to do and would more often if we could just find the time.  We love to think about where we might go, what we would like to see and even what we might experience for the first time.  We even go through in our minds what we might need to take with us.  Depending on where we are going we might need new clothes; are we going to fly or take the car? And, if that is true, we will need to be sure it is in good condition for our trip and we will probably need a few essentials, maybe a beach umbrella or gloves and a parka for skiing.  It surely is fun to think about even if we never manage that particular trip.

However, friends, there is one trip all of us will eventually take and frequently not many of us are prepared.  It doesn’t take long to pack.  But then we won’t have to pack, will we?  However, if we want to be able to get on the right track there really are some things we should think about ahead of time.  And truly, that is something few of us are ever prepared for.  Does it make that much difference?  I hate to upset apple carts, but I actually think we should consider that question seriously before we answer.

Preparation is one thing that is important in any undertaking; it frequently makes the difference in how we enjoy and remember our adventure.  And sometimes since we all enjoy different things we might need to make some concessions with the rest of our family.  You might like skiing in the snow and your mate or children might prefer wiggling their toes in the sand at the beach.  Is there any way to make everyone happy at one time? 

We might want to get the whole family together as we want to be careful and not leave anyone out.  Okay, I have my pencil ready.  Just a moment, let’s not all talk at once.  You know this is simply not going to work out.  We will need to elect a boss, one to take charge so that we can hopefully reach an agreement.  Are you beginning to get the picture?  There is and always has been only one Architect when this world was created and He had the plan for how He wanted things to be done.

In the book of Isaiah we find God saying – Indeed I have given him (David) as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people (55:4).  In the book of Psalms we read – He leads me beside the still waters….He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (2-3).  In the New Testament we find Jesus himself telling the people – Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

What? You are saying you were just going to take a little family trip.  You didn’t mean for it to become an eternity issue.  I understand what you are saying, but I don’t believe you have the ability to determine the future so maybe you should consider placing a little more value on creating a habit that doesn’t change like the weather.  I do know that a pregnant woman will often keep a little bag packed in case she doesn’t have time to do so at the last moment.  That has always seemed like a wise thing to do.  I believe that most of us would rather be safe than sorry.

Saviour, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care;
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
For our use Thy folds prepare.

A Smooth Ride

There is one thing that many of us have in common these days: we often wish for and hope to find a smooth ride for our day.  Has life become so complicated and so fast paced that we feel the necessity to ask for help to finish our day with our head on straight and the energy to get home and wind down?  It seems often to be that way and there are many employers in today’s world who realize that their employees do not really have their heart involved with what they are doing.  Is there any way to change that or has the passage of time simply removed it from our expectations?

I do believe that God allows for our days to frequently be hard simply to give us a glimpse of how complicated we have allowed His world to become.  It began simply in a beautiful garden with all that one could wish for or need until man’s ego began to take over.  We are the ones that placed all the restrictions on ourselves by allowing greed and laziness to take over first place.  We will all agree that we cannot go back and start over, but is there anything we can do to make this world of ours a better and easier place in which to live?

Where do we derive energy from?  That’s a question a lot of us have in these days.  Do we eat the right foods and get enough rest or will that new little pill that is on the market do the trick?  I think there are some things that might help, but turn out to have bad results.  How can we know what is just advertising to make money?  Actually where does strength come from?  Guess what!  I have just exactly the right answer for you and believe it or not it is free.

Many, many years ago there was a man named Isaiah, one of the foremost of the Hebrew prophets, and he lived a hundred and fourscore years.  You might wonder just why things have so drastically changed, but maybe there is a reason.  He gave those of his day the wisdom God gave him – But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (40:31).  Could that possibly work for those of us who live in this day?

He went on to say – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand  (41:10).  Just knowing that He is with us and is in control is so much better than any pill we could take.  I do know that when we have a day in which we are satisfied with our accomplishments our tiredness takes on a pleasant face.  Why shouldn’t we breathe a sigh, put on a smile, thank our Father and be happy.  I believe with all my heart that God smiles when we live each day filled with His peace and joy and love.

As we watch our days speed by complaining to our doctors that something is not right or stopping at the drugstore on the way home from work hoping to find a solution on their shelves, maybe we should simply accept the fact that while our cars run on gas we are made to run on the rules that our Creator set down for His children.  If you know someone whose life you admire you might even ask them how they do it.  I have found for myself that when I answer the Lord’s calling, even in the middle of the night, I find myself with an energy I don’t understand but am grateful for and the interesting thing is that it also makes me happy beyond description.

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better that the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold  (Proverbs 3:13-14).

Well-Seasoned Salt

While many of us want to be assured that our daily fare is well seasoned, we are often in too big a hurry and just accept things as they are given to us.  We may remind ourselves later that we would have done things differently if we were doing the cooking – things are just flat when they do not have enough salt.  Could it be that life in general needs the same thing that our food needs – a little more salt?

As far back as the days of Moses we find him telling the people – And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering.  With all your offerings you shall offer salt (Leviticus 2:13).  One of the definitions of salt is that which preserves, corrects or purifies.  I doubt many of us think of that these days.  Salt has simply become something that makes food taste better.  Has the passage of time caused salt to lose its value?  Today’s doctors will often tell us to cut back on salt, that it is really not good for us, especially as we get older.  Hmm! just maybe we should consider how we can please our Lord and our doctor at the same time.

If we return to the days of Jesus we will find Him telling the people – You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matthew 5:13).  Mark follows with another of the words of Jesus – Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another (9:50).

Well, we finally found the answer.  Salt is not simply something to put on food to make it taste better, it is something a life needs to be significant.  And, after all, that is what our Lord desires for us to be: a people who can and will make a difference because of what we know, what we believe and how we will live our lives in this world.  Surely as we look at our newspapers today we realize that somehow or another we have gotten off the beaten path.  Obviously we cannot back up in time, but we can strive to correct and improve our actions as we deal with the children God has created.

If you followed up the first reference in Matthew you will find Jesus adding these words – A city set  on a hill cannot be hidden….let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (14,16).  So now we have our answer as to what we should do, but how do we go about adding these instructions to our already overloaded lives?

First of all and most important we need to make the time to be still, to read, to learn and to listen.  You don’t have to understand right now all there is to know, seeds that are watered will grow and in time you just may look back and as is with all growth wonder why it took you so long.  However, in the process you will find that our Lord, our Creator has always been available, is ever forgiving and loves His children more than we will ever understand.

Without a doubt we are living in hard times; times filled with anger and jealousy, and even simple hatred.  People who are without the treasures of life are looking for them, but in the wrong place and the wrong format.  Things will never fill or satisfy us in this earthly life no matter what we may think or accomplish.  The best thing we can do is to follow Paul’s advice – Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).

AMEN!

Lost or Found?

Have you ever lost something that you just couldn’t forget until you found it and were relieved that you hadn’t actually lost your mind, you had just misplaced the item?  Besides losing things I think we can sometimes lose our focus and that is likely the most important thing we will ever lose.  While it is true that we are living in a time that is overloading us, there is one thing that we should not overlook and that is the question of why God made us in the first place and just exactly what was it to do or be.

I often wonder just what the bottom line will turn out to be for myself; there are many things I would like or need to change, at least in some degree.  To be very honest I never thought about writing, but I will say that it brings me much joy as well as increasing my knowledge of things in general.  I guess our Creator really did make us for a particular situation in a particular time, but it often takes years to realize just what and why that is.  Maybe it is somewhat like buying a horse for racing, but you never really know how it is going to turn out until time and opportunity presents itself. 

Maybe if we could accept that we have a Father in charge we could relax a little more and find we can actually be better and happier people when we shut the door on stress.  When the right time comes we can be sure we will have all the help we need.  Nothing is ever truly lost until God says so; you should believe that because it is absolutely true.  The book of John tells us what Jesus, himself, tells us – While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name (17:12); Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none (18:9).  Although time has passed things have not changed; those who love the Lord are still kept by Him for His purpose, to glorify the Father.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Lost Son found in the book of Luke.  He felt the same as many of us at one time or another may have felt; that somewhere, other than where we are, there is the end of the rainbow where we will find everything we could possibly desire.  We also know the end of that story; the son learned the same lesson that we will learn in like circumstances – I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants (15:19).  Fortunately, that was not the end of his story or ours.  Jesus told those of His day what He would tell us today – Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours (31). 

Even though we have heard this story all of our lives the picture changes when we experience the same situation for ourselves.  No matter how far we travel or how far off the track we allow ourselves to venture, our Creator does not change and never will.  He created us for the sole purpose of sharing with Him the beauty and joy of His world and no matter what we choose to believe that will never change. 

Have you ever lost or even misplaced something in which you have placed more value than you probably should have?  It doesn’t really matter what its value is; it is something you didn’t want to lose and you will never rest until you finally find it and return it to its place.  It might seem strange that you would worry over something with probably little value, but that is who we are.  Does that give you even an inkling of how our Creator might feel when something He created for a purpose is lost?  Do you think we might try a little harder to be what He expects us to be?

Oh, Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end; Be Thou forever near me, My master and My Friend; I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side, nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.

O'er The Tumult

It’s alright, you can smile.  If you are one of the ones who never heard of the word you can simply remember that I am not as young as you and it comes from an old hymn; one which the Lord brought to my mind because He already knows the way the world is turning and He also knows the answers to the questions many are asking in these confusing days.

To save you some trouble I will tell you what the dictionary says – “the commotion, disturbance, or agitation of a multitude; any violent commotion or agitation, as of the mind.”  I think you will agree with me, even if you have peace, that there are many in this world who long for peace and it seems to be increasingly evident that we will probably have very little of it until something drastic happens.  If you think about it, it does seem a shame that a society advanced in so many things cannot simply enjoy what we have and love one another and the Lord who has provided for us beyond what we have any right to expect.

It would seem that we, as a people, have not learned very much over the years.  Even in the days of the Old Testament tumult was not uncommon.  In Samuel, we find Eli who was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see (1:4:15).  A messenger came from the battle line and told him Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people.  Also your two sons….are dead; and the ark of God has been captured  (1:4:17).  In Kings, we find Isaiah sending a message to Hezekiah relaying God’s message saying Because your rage against Me and your tumult have come up to My ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came (2:19:28).

It would seem things have never changed permanently for mankind in spite of the fact that God finally sent His Son to set us straight and we all know that story.  Evil is what causes tumult and until we can see that for ourselves we will never, either as individuals or a nation, be able to have the peace that we desire; the one that resides in our innermost beings.

At this point you might be saying to yourself that you cannot create this change in mankind.  Yes, that is true, but you can become a part of the plan to change things.  You can replace the fear within yourself with deep seated joy.  Even the simplest people who are little in many eyes can have the greatest joy in life because joy is one of the things the Lord gives us to carry us through the hard times; it is His joy, His gift, His plan for His children.

Also, you probably know from your own experience that joy seems to beget joy.  It is hard not to let joy affect your life in such a way that you think better, you act better and people see the joy which the Lord gives you and want that for themselves.

Do you think it possible at this late date to make the changes necessary to have a world of not only peace, but joy; a world in which we can look forward to a new day dawning, a time in which the people around us will want what we seem to have.  Why don’t we just give it a try?

Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea, day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying “Christian, follow Me.”  Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store, from each idol that would keep us, saying, “Christian, love Me more.”  Jesus calls us by Thy mercies, Saviour, may we hear Thy call, give our hearts to Thy obedience, serve and love Thee best of all.

           

The Last - The Best!

I can’t remember just where or even how many times I have heard that the best is yet to come, but my understanding of the phrase is interpreted with the Biblical knowledge of how much our Creator loves us.  He constructed us in His image and has watched over us like a mother hen even during the many times when we have stumbled and fell, often wondering just where He was at the moment.  I believe that our God loves us with an everlasting love and the times of difficulty which we may or may not understand are simply those times when we have the opportunity to grow into the people God created us to be.  While my grade I am sure will never be the 100 that I long to achieve I pray that it will at least come with the words “I know that you tried to do your very best, My child, and I still love you.  Come and let me show you My world at its best”.

I believe, whether or not you accept my thinking, that the clock is moving very fast toward the time when we will actually see and know what many of us have spent our days lately wondering about.  What could Heaven really be like and will I be able to get through the gate?  One consolation that we all can claim is the knowledge of how Jesus, Himself, dealt with one of those who joined Him at His time of suffering and death.  One of the three crucified that day was arrogant, knowing who he was and what he had done and accepting the end of his life.  The other, likewise convicted, saw something in Jesus and was recorded as saying “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.  And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:42-43).

We have no way of knowing just exactly how our lives are going to stack up when it comes to the purchase of our ticket at the gate, but we do know that it will then be too late to go back and do any of it over.  Does that give you cause to stop in your tracks and go over what it is going to take to actually find your ticket waiting at the gate?  At that point, it is going to be too late to ask for a “do over”.  As human beings, we have a way of postponing almost anything if something more desired and attractive appears before us.  We are used to being given another chance, in fact, we take it for granted.  Forgiveness is what we expect from the One who loves us.  As a child have you ever had the experience of losing a battle to your parents?  Of course, you have; why would you assume a difference before Almighty God? 

No matter how our lives have differed in actuality we all have something in them which we wished we could go back and do over and, sad to say, we have often found that there was no way to effectively accomplish that.  In the book of John, we find these words – Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do whatever I command you (15:13-14).

Friends, there is no other way no matter how hard we wish it, to one day be with our God, our family and our friends.  The only opportunity we have is what is right before us at this very moment; which road or path shall we take?  It is plainly marked leaving no room for lack of understanding or challenge.  What is your answer going to be?

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and it told Thy love to me,
But I long to rise in the arms of faith, and be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died,
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to Thy precious bleeding side.