Recounting God’s gifts

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The Thanksgiving holiday fast approaches here in the United States. Thanksgiving recipes abound, turkeys are running for cover, and plans are being made in earnest for that fourth Thursday of November. I love the trend of the past few years of posting one thing to be thankful for each day in November, as it puts our hearts in tune with the blessings God has given us.

Can you think of 30 things to be thankful for?
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Acceptance: what it is and what it is not. (Comparison Cure#2)

This is the third post in the series on Comparison cures. To read the previous post, click here.

storm coming

“Live the life you want to live”

“Don’t drift through life. Get where you want to be.”

“How could you let that happen to you?”

“You need to try harder”

Would you say that those are fairly common phrases? I hear them or read them almost daily. So many high-powered people talk about how you are the only thing holding yourself back from a “better” life.

If you have ever seen “The Princess Bride,” then you’ll remember the shrilly little man named Vincini who keeps blurting out the word “inconceivable!” Finally, after several inconceivably conceivable events, his companion, Inyigo Montoya turns to him and says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” When I hear people say the above phrases or use the word “better” I feel a bit like Inyigo Montoya. I don’t think it means what they think it means. Only God really knows what is best. Sometimes the worst things that happen fashion our hearts to be more like the Lord and less like the world.

So often we think we’ve been dealt a bad hand. We see God as unjust and unfair—though I daresay we only think it in our heart. The truth is, Satan is trying to pull us away from God by any and every means possible. Satan will use wealth and prosperity to create pride, apathy and complacency. He inspired concentration camps to create despair and hopelessness. He destroys families, feeds loneliness and abandonment so that people will seek help outside of God, falling deeper into his clutches. God is not unaware of what goes on, and we are never beyond his reach. God is able to transform any agonizing trial into something glorious if we accept the situation and allow Him to work.

Think of it this way: imagine that a father has told his son that they are going to get ice cream. Through no fault of the father’s, the ice cream shop they frequent has suddenly gone out of business. The Father tries to explain to his Son that there are alternatives, but his little boy is too busy crying and stomping his feet to listen. The Father understands that his son does not understand the unpredictability of life and tries to help him. However, if the little guy is going to ignore the reassurance of his father (and alternate plan to go to another shop) and instead chooses to kick and scream, there will be no ice cream, but a firm reprimand instead.

There is nothing wrong with being upset/hurt/disappointed, but where do you take your pain? Do you allow it to be your focus or do you turn and listen to the Father? Do you accept things and place them in God’s omnipotent hands or do you rage against the machine hoping that all your fighting will change things?

So much of our trouble in comparing ourselves to others is our unwillingness to accept both blessings and trials. But lest you think acceptance is defeat, guess again.

Acceptance is not lazy resignation.

When I hear individuals talk about success, they place those of us “less successful folk” in the lazy category. They look dubiously on the person who sighs and says, “that’s just the way it is” as if they are too complacent. In one way, they are right. We cannot just drift about as though we are fated to have it good or have it bad. We must always work toward our improvement and the improvement of those within our sphere of influence.

However, there are times when things just turn nasty and we have to determine our course of action. In life, we often find ourselves in the midst of a sudden storm. What is our usual reaction? We get upset, we cry, we analyze, we fret, we throw up our hands in defeat—we do everything except turn it over to God. The best course of action is to accept the situation, not in defeat, but as an acknowledgement of reality. People who commit suicide feel resigned to their lot and they think that death will alleviate their pain and the pain of others. What it usually does is create more destruction and grief.

No, lazy resignation is NOT acceptance.

So, what is acceptance and how will it help cure our comparison ills?

Acceptance is Situational Awareness

In law enforcement and the military, a huge portion of their training deals with this idea of Situational Awareness. Those men and women don’t get to create their circumstances. They go where they are needed and often find themselves in some sticky spots. The first and best thing to do is to be alert, sober, vigilant and highly observant. If, for example, an officer finds himself in a place where there is a suspect running down the road on foot, the first thing is to be cognizant of what they look like and where they are going. Are there other suspicious people around who might cause the officer harm? Are they going into a place where they can be cornered? Where is the nearest backup? They have to take the situation as it is and decide what to do with it.

As children of God, there will be seasons of life that are painful. They are not of our making, but are the result of living in this decaying world. The first step is to be aware of the reality and to guard ourselves against the tricks of our enemy (Satan). It’s acceptance of fact. If you jump off a cliff, you’ll die. Someday, the people you love will die. At some point, you will die. There will always be people who grasp for power, control and tyranny. There will always be people who reject God. Companies go under. Jobs disappear. Cancer creeps in. Bad people get good things and good people get bad things. That is reality, however awful it may be. Be aware of it, be on guard against Satan and set your mind on the blessings that you have in the moments that you have them. Lastly, remember the greatest reality of all—this life isn’t the end. Someday we’ll have an eternal life and that’s the better thing.

Acceptance is Trust in God

I’ve been reading the book of Daniel over the past few days and I still marvel at how much Daniel and his three friends placed their trust in God. I wrote about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a previous post, so I won’t expound on them here. What jumped out at me in this reading was in Daniel 6. It’s a familiar account to many children about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, but the den part wasn’t what struck me.

Here is part of the account:

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

~ Daniel 6.3-10, ESV

Notice a few important details. Daniel was given a great deal of power in the kingdom and things were only looking up. He had integrity. He was respected. In spite of being away from his homeland in Israel, life was good for him. What these men were planning to do had the potential to destroy him. He would lose every earthly thing—power, wealth, respect, and, of course, his very life.

On the other hand, if he did not continue to serve God, He would lose everything of value—his relationship with God.

Does Daniel weep bitter tears and ask God why these things are happening? Does he try praying in secret so they won’t find out about it?

No.

He didn’t hesitate. He went up to his room, got down on his knees and started praying; And not just praying, but praying visibly. He wanted them all to know, without doubt, that Daniel’s loyalty was to God and not men. He accepted the reality of the situation and made the choice to put his life in God’s omnipotent hands. He trusted that God would take care of him, either in this life or the next.

After being delivered from the lions’ den, the account says this in verse 23: “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Acceptance is seeing the storm and trusting that somehow, God will pull you through it. When we accept the good and the bad and place it in the hands of the Lord, we have peace. When the fear starts to grip your heart, take it to the Lord in prayer. You will never find peace or rest until you do that.

I want to conclude with this excellent poem by Amy Carmichael:

He said, ‘I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places,
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will crowd action upon action,
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain;
O tears that drown the fire of manhood cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in endeavour lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will withdraw me and be quiet,
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease.’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?’
But vain the word; vain, vain:
Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, ‘I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.’
Then did the turmoil deep within me cease.
Not vain the word, not vain;
For in Acceptance lieth peace.

 

Day 30: Jesus Christ, the Son of God

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

~ John‬ ‭1:1-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus has so many names: The Messiah, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Immanuel, the Word, the Light.

Jesus came into the World to give us life, grace, and truth.

For the last 29 days, I’ve been writing about things I am thankful for. I saved the one of greatest import for last. Why am I thankful for Jesus? I don’t think I could write enough posts to cover that answer completely…

He lived on earth.

Teenagers are so fond of saying to their parents: “You have no idea what I’m going through!” They forget that their parents were, at one time, teenagers who indeed experienced all the frustrating fluctuations of teenagerness. Parents can sympathize to some extent because they were young once too!

Jesus lived as a man. His parents had very little. He had to go through puberty. He had to suffer want. He was rejected, ridiculed, and tempted. He knows what we are going through.

He lived here on His own created earth. I am so glad that I have a God and friend who understand what it’s like to be Human. And he still loves us…

He died a cruel death for us.

I really had no concept of how truly terrible crucifixion was until my dad preached a detailed sermon on the subject. My dad is a registered nurse and a veteran. He understands anatomy and physiology pretty well. I remember cringing at the description of how each breath was torturous, particularly to those nailed spots. The Bible doesn’t really go into depth because when it was written, most people had witnessed a crucifixion—they didn’t need vivid details.

So, why am I thankful for His death?

His death gives me life.He didn’t have to die. He could have snapped His fingers and a whole army of angels would have come down and taken care of business. His death had purpose. He died because only His blood could cover our evils. He died so I could be at peace with God.

He rose from the dead.

Yes, I believe.

He conquered Satan and death.

Jesus’ resurrection is one of the hardest things for people to accept. Most people believe He lived on earth and died, but only the Christian believes in His resurrection. If Jesus had not conquered death, we would have no hope.

But he did conquer death. And we do have hope.

I walk in His light.

This world has many wonders and beauties, but it is a very dark place. Evil abounds, sickness pervades, death comes to all. Jesus gives us life and light. While we struggle through this life in our decaying bodies, Jesus is renewing our souls each day. Without Him, I would be tossed around like a boat with no rudder or sails. With Him, life has purpose and meaning.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I am thankful for Him. Every day I have abundant life—no matter the circumstances—because I have hope of better things to come. I am not stumbling about in darkness because Jesus lights the way—even if it’s only one inch at a time.

I am so thankful for Jesus. He brings us light and life.


 

This post concludes the series “30 days of Giving Thanks.”

I want to thank all of you who have read through these posts. I hope you have been as edified through the reading as I have been through the writing. Take time to give thanks to the Lord everyday for His abundant blessings—Jesus being the greatest blessing of all.

I will not be posting every day in December, but I will be resuming The effective prayer posts and coffee chats and completing a series I began in September.

What was your favorite “Thankful” post?

 

 

Day 29: The Bible

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

bible

We are nearing the end of this series! As I indicated in my post about light, these last few posts are focusing on the greatest lights of all. I’ve talked about love and hope. Today, we are going to talk about the Bible.

There’s a new trend among Christians to say that the New Testament is not the inspired Word of God, but consider: the Apostles were handpicked by Christ, witnessed His death, burial and resurrection and possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them as the toiled to bring people the gospel. God has always preserved His message for generations yet unborn. The Bible is His preserved message for us, and I am thankful that I have ready access to it. There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient historical document. God protected His message and I trust that He would not leave us in the lurch.

The light of truth

The Bible—all 66 books—brings us the light of God’s truth. Sometimes I wish that God’s expectations were laid out for us in a neat little list, but then we would seek to justify ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. God wants us to dig through His Word and learn step by step, day by day, what He wants for us. It’s a life-long endeavor, but those who seek, find.

Truth is not relative. There is one truth: God’s.

Knowledge of God

Why do we study the Word? Our primary purpose should be to know the Lord. Every book teaches us about Him—His faithfulness, His steadfast love, His justice and His mercy. We see His hand working with the proud and the lowly. Nobody can thwart His plans. We learn that we can truly trust the Lord in all circumstances.

Life-saving instruction

In the Bible we see God has had a plan for us from the beginning of time. We see how salvation is to be received. We learn how to obey God the way He wants us to obey. We just need to have open eyes and a heart set on seeking His will and not our own.

I am thankful that God has preserved His Word for me and for the rest of the world. I am thankful for this beacon of truth that hasn’t been destroyed.

 

Day 28: Hope

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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From The Return of the King, New Line Cinema.

An innumerable horde of creatures besieged the city of Minas Tirith. Dark clouds fill the sky. Ominous pounding reverberates through the courtyard as the orcs and Uruk-hai attempt to penetrate the large doors. The situation is desperate. The men quake with fear but stand ready to fight. The stench of death surrounds them. Despair is palpable.

Pippin, the hobbit, turns to Gandalf the wizard and says, “I didn’t think it would end this way.”

Gandalf looks kindly at the hobbit and remarks, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”

Pippin’s face reflects his confusion. “What? Gandalf? See what?”

“White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

“Well that isn’t so bad,” Pippin says.

Gandalf smiles. “No. No it isn’t.”

In that dark and desperate moment, Gandalf gave Pippin a glimmer of hope—an expectation of better things.

In another scene, the Rohirrim (the cavalry) appear on the hillside. As the horses begin to move forward into the fray, rays of sunshine break through the gloom as though hope for victory has finally come.

That particular series of books and movies overflows with scenes contrasting light vs darkness, and despair vs hope. On some level, we can all relate to these moments. How often have you been at the brink of utter ruin, only to be saved from destruction? Has life ever seemed purposeless? meaningless?

For the Christian, we remember that life for us was aimless before Christ. Without Him, we faced death (and life) without hope. In our cushy country, most of us have never faced starvation or persecution—at least not since the end of World War II. There is this sense that all will be well. There is confidence that the government will protect and provide. Either that or we’ll pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. That’s misplaced confidence.

What would happen if all those “supports” were suddenly destroyed? In what or in whom would people place their hope?

We have an unshakeable hope. A confident expectation for better things. And it isn’t here in this decaying world!

What is the Christian’s hope?

A hope that defies circumstance.

One of the things that perplexed the Romans during the rise of Christianity was the peace with which the Christians faced death. No matter how much they persecuted, threatened, tortured and imprisoned them, the Christians would not renounce their faith nor beg for mercy. They had confidence that God would deliver their soul if not their body.

The Romans hoped that persistent persecution would destroy the church, but it didn’t. It flourished! The people saw hope reflected in the lives of those Christians and they were hungry to have that same confidence.

Hope that anchors our soul.

When a ship lowers its anchor, it’s very hard for that ship to go wandering off with the tide. It may move around a little in its place, but the anchor keeps it from being carried off by the wind and waves.

Our hope is like that anchor. When circumstance and the deceitfulness of the world push us about, our hope holds us in place so we do not wander away from God.

The Hebrew writer refers to hope as an anchor in the following passage:

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

‭‭~ Hebrews‬ ‭6:17-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Hope in God’s Faithfulness and steadfast love.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations‬ ‭3:19-24‬ ‭ESV

The above passage is one of my favorites. It eloquently expresses why we can trust in the Lord: he is faithful, his love is steadfast, his mercy never ends. Do you know anybody like that on earth? Have your friends ever let you down? What about family? The church?

Humans will always fall short. We aren’t perfect. Our minds get overwhelmed, our bodies ache and break, our emotions take over. God isn’t frail like us. He is sure, strong and steady. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Placing your confidence in God is a secure choice. We can trust Him. We can have hope because of his trustworthiness.

Hope for eternal peace.

This world is essentially a foreign country for us. It’s a place where we are forged. God wants to know if we really love Him. He wants us all to be with Him in heaven, but many don’t want anything to do with him. They want their way. They want to satisfy themselves.

I was “they” until I decided to put my hope in something better. It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of the world and make a home here—especially when circumstances are wonderful. But with each new day I have to remind myself that this too shall pass—the good and the bad. Every day. 

My hope is in a place where my spouse and my children won’t be threatened by thugs. My hope is in a place where those who’ve gone before me are waiting. My hope is in a place where I will finally be face to face with my creator, surrounded by his perfect glory. I’ll get to see Jesus, the one who saved me from eternal death.

I have hope. And I am so thankful to God for giving me a confident expectation for better things.

Do you have this hope?

 

30 Days of Giving Thanks Weekly Roundup (week 4)


weekly roundup

Good morning, my friends!

Week 4?! Already! I can’t believe it’s almost over!

Well, ok, I guess I can. We put up the Christmas tree yesterday, so we are swiftly rushing into the getting giving season. (You may see a few posts on giving in the coming weeks). A heart that is full of thankfulness will share willingly with others, so this run of thankful posts is a good prep for the coming Christmas season!

This will be the last roundup of Thankful posts. It’s been fun and I’ve discovered a some delightful new blogs along the way.

As I said last week, It’s hard to be cranky when your heart is bursting with gratitude! It’s also hard to be stingy, when you know you have much to give.

Here is a recap of my posts this week:

Below are a list of thankful posts from around the web for the week. If you have done a post on thankfulness that I’ve missed, please leave a link to it in the comments below, and as I have time today I will update this post with your link.

God be with you my friends!

This week:

Salvageable: Thanksgiving thoughts

Light & Life: Little Things

The Mindful Chatterbox: 365 Days of Gratefulness Day 2

Traditional Cooking School: A Spirit of Thankfulness

Michael Hyatt: The Gratitude Advantage: Four Ways Giving Thanks Improves Your Life

Mom’s Going to Madagascar: Day 22: Laughter

Prayers and Piazzas: Gratitude: It’s not just for Thanksgiving (or grown-ups)

Spotlight: 7 Ways You Can Thank God

Day 27: Love

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

hands heartsAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my remaining posts will focus on some of the greatest lights of all. These lights illuminate our world in ways that make it possible to thrive.

In the English language, there is a four-letter word bandied about so casually it has lost its value. I’m not talking about a profane four-letter word; I’m referring to the word “love.”

The Ancient Greeks got it right. They had four different words for love (though I recently read that there are actually six!) The most commonly translated Greek words for love are eros, storge, philia, and agape.

If you are unfamiliar with these terms, I will summarize them briefly in this post. If you want a bit more detail, you can read a brief summary on Wikipedia. C.S. Lewis also wrote a book called The Four Loves, but I have not read it. (It’s on my book list).

Greek Words for love:

eros: “love, mostly of the sexual passion”

storge: “love, affection… especially of parents and children”

philia: “love, affectionate regard, friendship, usually between equals”

agape: “brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”

All these loves have their place, do they not? I love (philia) my friends, but not in the same way I love (storge) my children.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Where would I be without love?”

Love in all it’s forms can be taken for granted. Let’s take a moment to consider the different forms of love in our lives.

Parent-child love

God established the family for many purposes. Familial relationships teach us how to love (at least they should!). I remember thinking it odd that there was a passage in Titus that commanded older women to “encourage younger women to love their husbands, to love their children…” On the face of it, there were a lot of arranged marriages in that time and a woman would have to “learn” love for her husband (and he his wife). But loving their children? Shouldn’t that be instinctive?

If you are a parent, you may be chuckling a bit, because that may not be a surprise.

There are two things to consider. First, women have been aborting, neglecting and abandoning their children for centuries. It’s a bit inconceivable to the majority, but many people love themselves more than their children. Their children are burdensome, inconvenient. Second, parents don’t always use the best judgement in training children. Discipline and training is (or, at least it should be) an act of love. It isn’t fun or pleasurable to punish a child, but it is for their own good. The exhortation in Titus is teach the younger women how to show love. Mothers and Fathers must learn to love their children in the right way. As we raise our children, we gain insight into how God loves us. We, as parents, ought to be shaped by the experience to become more selfless.

In turn, children learn to love their parents. At first it may be a selfish love, but hopefully, over time it grows into an abiding affection. I have seen many people who were once children turn around and care for their aging parents with great love and sacrifice.

I am thankful for this kind of love. Where would I be without the love of my parents or my children? What an ugly place the world would be without familial love!

Friends, siblings

As we grow older, we learn to make friends. Being a friend takes work, but how lonely would we be without our friends? The Bible says a lot about friendship, particularly in the book of Proverbs.

“a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”

The world seems to think that friends stick by each other even when they are in the wrong, but friends don’t let friends do life-threatening or soul-threatening things. I do not like telling a friend they are in the wrong. When I have done it in the past, I’ve lost sleep, gotten stomachaches and even cried.  But a good friend looks out for the best interest of their friend. That is genuine friendship love.

Marriage

The marriage law is one of the oldest laws in existence. God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. Unfortunately, people aren’t content to have things God’s way. There is almost a longing to twist what God wants because it is inconvenient or challenging. Marriage is another relationship that shapes us. Marriage is supposed to be a covenant of committed love. It tests each partner to hold fast through good times and bad. It requires self-sacrifice. It teaches us how to love sacrificially. There is a reason that Paul uses marriage as a comparison between Christ and His church. Jesus laid down his life for the Church and in so doing he demonstrated His great love for us.

My life would be completely different had I not met my other half eleven years ago. It’s been a blessing to enjoy our lives together and raise children together. My spouse has taught me so much and I give thanks everyday for our marriage.

Where would we be without the love that comes through marriage?

God’s Love

The Bible says everything far better than I can, so let’s start with these two passages:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man;
though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

~ Romans 5.6-8, NASB

and

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

~ 1 John 4.8-11, ESV

Let me ask you, parents: If your best friend was dying of an incurable disease and only the blood of your child would save them, would you give up your child? I can guess the answer would be no. You may love your friend, but you don’t want to sacrifice your child… especially if they are your only child.

What if your enemy was dying? Would you give up your life or the life of your child? Again, I’m confident that the answer would be another resounding no.

The problem is, we all choose at some point in our life that we don’t want to walk with God. The only way we can come to Him is through sacrifice. This is a difficult concept for us to understand today because animal sacrifice/blood sacrifice is so archaic. Yet, when there is a war and there is some wrong that needs righting, how is it solved? Oh sure, on occasion countries can talk things out, but history has shown us that it typically leads to war. Someone (usually thousands of someones) make a sacrifice to protect the innocent and the weak. They shed their blood and put their lives on the line. Redemption from evil never comes without a price. It’s a constant pattern.

So, how much does God love us?

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.

~ John 15.12-14, NASB

Where would we be without the love of Christ?

What does He ask in return? He asks us to love Him and to love each other. It all seems to come back to love.

Are you thankful for love? The love of family, the love of friends, the love of a spouse… the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ? What greater gift can we receive than to be loved? What greater gift can we give than to love in turn?

Love is one of the greatest lights in a world that is ripped asunder by hate.

I am thankful for agape, storge and philia.

I am thankful for love.

Day 26: Lights

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

light

We have a fun family tradition that the kids look forward to every year—decorating for Christmas.  The day after Thanksgiving, we pack away the pumpkins and leaves and pull out the reds, silvers, greens and golds of Christmas.

I try to get everyone just as jazzed about decorating for fall, but it just isn’t the same. Fall decorations lack the warm glimmer of lights. There aren’t presents for fall either (unless, of course, it’s your birthday).

There’s just something about Christmas.

Right now, I’m gazing at our tree that is somewhat bottom-heavy with ornaments. It was fun listening to the kids chatter about memories associated with their ornaments as they placed them randomly about the tree. It’s not a Pinterest-perfect tree, but I’m glad it isn’t. It’s our tree, full of our memories. I love the warm glow of the lights and the way they soften the living room.

Outside the house, the facia is lined with a simple string of multi-colored lights inside large bulbs. Simple. Warm. Inviting.

I am thankful for lights.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

~ Genesis 1.3-5, ESV

There is the God-created light of the Sun and the beautiful hues it creates in the early dawn and early twilight. I love those times of the day all year round. The starlight gives a soft glow even on the darkest of nights and has guided many a sailor to safety.

There are man-made candle lights and oil lamps. What would we have done throughout history without the ability to light our way at night? I suppose we would have slept more… and accomplished less!

Then, there are the Edison-created lights. I am thankful that I don’t have to attempt writing by candlelight. Isn’t it wonderful that we can just flip a switch and have light? Talk about a blessing we take for granted!

As the season is lit up around us, be sure to thank the Lord for giving us light. In my final two thankfulness posts, I’ll be touching on the greatest lights of all. Stay tuned!

Day 25: Thanksgiving

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

 

happy

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you are all enjoying the day with people you love.

I first heard the term “Turkey Day” in High School. While I thought it amusing (initially), I soon realized that it was problematic. Words carry meaning, even lightly used words. By not using “Thanksgiving” the focus and purpose of the day was lost.

I am glad that George Washington proclaimed that our new nation should observe a day of  Thanksgiving in 1789. The idea was to recognize God’s bountiful blessings on our infant nation. He set a precedent. It wasn’t made a national holiday until several years later, but we have continued to observe it throughout the decades.

When God established the Passover for the children of Israel, the idea was similar: remembering deliverance from slavery. Thankfulness. Gratitude. It was supposed to be observed down through the years so that they could instill gratitude in their children and trust in the Lord.

Today, as you gather with family and friends, take a few moments to remember what the Lord has done for you. Give thanks to the one who gives us so many bountiful blessings, not the least of which is salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!

His steadfast love endures forever.

 

Day 24: History

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

I apologize for the lateness of this post. I did not have internet yesterday and was unable to get my post up. You’ll be getting TWO posts today: yesterday’s and today’s!


 

coloseum

One of the greatest failures of our current public school system is the adequate teaching of history. I don’t recall learning much history in elementary school. We learned about the gold rush of California, the Spanish missions, the Mayflower and Christopher Columbus. I remember vaguely learning about Ancient Mesopotamia in sixth grade. In High School we learned about the industrial revolution, Napoleon, the french revolution, the kings and queens of England, Russian Czars and more. It seems to me that in every single year of school we learned about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement of the 1960s—-not that it was unimportant, but it seemed as though it was the only bit of history that mattered to the school system.

I remember being on a walk with my dad during our study of France and he asked me, “Did they teach you about the June rebellion of 1832?”

“No…” I replied, a little uncomfortably.

He continued to pepper me with questions and I had few to no answers. I realized then how woefully ignorant I was about history. In eleventh grade I took AP US History. It was a joke. My teacher, while passionate about history, didn’t have a clue how to teach it. I learned as much as I could outside of class, but I was grossly underprepared for the exam. I failed the AP exam, which meant I had to take American History in college.

So, around my junior year at Cal Poly, I took a U.S. History course. Once again, I was let down. The professor was teaching a more modified history of the United States and focused more on social injustice than anything else. Oddly enough, I was reading one of the books and it sounded a great deal like the republican talking points of the present… but it was written in the 1960s. I told my dad about it. He chuckled and said the guy was a democrat in the 1960s, but our country had veered so much to the left that the conservatives were now where the liberals used to be and the liberals were now where the socialists used to be. I scraped an A in the class, but my piecemeal knowledge of history frustrated me greatly.

The curriculum we currently use for our kids starts incorporating history at the kindergarten level. My daughter, a first grader, is learning about Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and in the next semester will be covering Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I have learned a ton just by reading the books to her. We have an enormous canvas map hanging in our living room and my 4 year old can already point out the Himalayas, the Andes the Equator and China. I love that they have such a better feel at such a young age for geography and history than I did at that point in my life. I am looking forward to continuing to teach them about World History and Bible History. I get to learn right along side them. The curriculum also uses historical fiction books to bring each period to life.

I was fascinated to learn about Alexander the Great and the spread of the Greek language all the way to India. When Jesus died and the apostles began teaching the gospel and writing letters, the manuscripts were predominantly written in Koine Greek. This language was used not only in Rome, but in other parts of the world as well, allowing the gospel to spread more easily.

History is so vital to all people of the world. It angers me how often people try to distort it or erase it. ISIS has destroyed or defaced many Ancient Mesopotamian sites. The former Iranian president was a holocaust denier. There’s been a push to rewrite United States History. We are foolish to try to alter history and even more foolish if we fail to learn from it.

I am thankful that General Eisenhower told his troops to take tons of pictures of the German Concentration camps so that people wouldn’t forget the atrocities that man was capable of.

I am grateful that someone had the foresight to keep Manzanar in place on US Highway 395, so we would remember that we interned the Japanese during World War II.

The National Archives in Washington D.C. hold many of the original founding documents of our country. I am thankful for such a place that keeps our history alive.

I am thankful for biographies because not only do they document the life of an individual person, but they touch on the historical atmosphere swirling around that person and how they impacted it.

I am not a history buff, but I am grateful for history and all the men and women who documented the past. History tells us where we’ve been and gives us insight on human nature, the cycles of nations and the hand of God.