“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.“ 2 Corinthians 9:12 (NIV)
As I prepare to share prayer-based resources at the International Conference on Missions next week, I am thankful for the ministry partners that make Impact Prayer Ministry possible. God’s calling, gifting, and equipping is important, but life and ministry isn’t done in a vacuum. While I am the face people see wherever the prayer ministry display is set up, it is actually the ministry partners I have which supply the needs that are being met by the resources being provided. I am thankful for the Deer Run Church of Christ, the North Wayne Mennonite Church, and numerous individuals who financially partner with Impact Prayer Ministry in a way that results in many expressions of thanks to God by those receiving encouragement from the prayer-based resources.
Some of my favorite “expressions of thanks to God” at these conferences have come from convention center workers who probably didn’t expect much to be thankful for when they arrived at work to start their shift. Very few of them will take a devotional book they are looking at the first time it is offered. I suspect part of it is their training and instruction from their employer that the convention displays are not for them. But when I watch their face light up at a kind and simple greeting, I think part of their hesitation is that they are so used to being unseen. I have had workers take a couple books for themselves, then come back throughout the conference with different coworkers who are all thanking God that I would share with them.
But it is not just the financial partners which result in praise and thanksgiving being offered to God. Whether setting up a display at a convention or teaching a prayer seminar for a church or group, people often ask the same question; “How can you do what you are doing?”. The answer they receive is always the same. One, I have a God who has equipped me for this work. Two, I have a family that supports and encourages me in this work. Three, I have a church that believes in what God is doing in and through the prayer ministry. Four, I have people who willingly give financially so that others can be encouraged to pray. And last, but not least, I am surrounded by people who make sure my day to day work gets done when the prayer ministry takes me away from home. All of that is possible because I serve a God who “supplies all my needs according to His riches in glory.” Because He is the supplier of all five of those reasons for how I can do what I am doing, He is the One who gets and deserves all of the praise and thanksgiving for anything I accomplish!
It is my prayer that the works of service you and I do would always be done in such a way that they result in many overflowing expressions of thanksgiving to God! To God be the glory, both now and forevermore!
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.“ 1 Timothy 1:12 (NIV)
As I continue this series of posts, I am thankful for a God who has called, empowered, and equipped me to live in service to Him. In a world, and even a Christian culture, that thinks they hold the keys to who is considered qualified, I thank God that He qualifies all who respond to His calling regardless of what others may say. That doesn’t mean I’m qualified for everything, but I am qualified for the service He wants to do through me.
I am thankful that God considers me faithful even when I stumble because He knows my heart’s desire to be faithful. When I consider the work that I’m aware of that God has done through me, the best of it has been things that I didn’t think much of but I did them because I knew He had set them before me. Throughout my entire life, but particularly in the past five years with the writing ministry, I can clearly see how God has continually blessed a faithfulness in the seemingly small things with an expansion into more — more responsibility, more writing, more books, more effectiveness, and more obedience.
I am thankful that God sees me as a collection of possibilities because He sees what He has created. Even when the world sees nothing because they are focused on the holes left by what is missing, God views me as His beloved child as He looks at all that is present by His design. I suppose one of the lessons out of this is to be careful how we judge and view others. Our words based on what we think is missing in another person can easily harm and damage that person who may very well be exactly as God has created and intended them to be. I am thankful that even when those harmful words are hurled at us, God does not believe them and instead calls us to reject the lies and listen more intently to Him.
As I thank God for considering me faithful and calling me into His service, I pray that you and I would also thank God for one another and for the works of service He has called each of us to.
“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.“ Acts 10:2 (NIV)
A series on giving thanks would not be complete or right without acknowledging and expressing thanks for my family. While God has indeed blessed me with a great family, I think more importantly He has blessed each of us with the tools to continually grow in relationship with Him and with one another. I suppose if I could define what I wanted my reputation and that of my family to be, I think the above verse describing Cornelius and his family would be it. I am thankful that my wife and I each have parents that brought us up that way and lived out the example seen in Cornelius.
We can only live under a borrowed reputation for a limited amount of time, so I am thankful we found value in the heritage we grew up in and have worked to make it our own. While the foundation of that heritage was by itself a blessing, I believe the greater blessing was in the lessons learned through instruction and observation that have prepared us to respond in godly ways when faced with difficult times. We did not request those difficult times, nor are we requesting additional difficulty, but each one has put a choice in front of us as to how we would respond to the difficulty and to each other. I am thankful that by a combination of God’s grace and our individual commitments to Him, we eventually come out stronger as individuals and as a family.
While I don’t care for trials or errors, I am thankful that through many things, including the old “trial and error” method, we have learned how to not only get along most of the time, but to actually enjoy life together. I am thankful for a daughter who can be both a challenge and an inspiration — but mostly the inspiration part even through the challenges. She teaches me much and blesses so many with her ability to just be herself.
I pray that you and I would continually grow in our thankfulness for our family. My experience has shown that the more we choose to be thankful for the people in our life, the more we find to be thankful for.
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.“ 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)
Most Christians know the above verses. How well we practice them may be a different story, but we know them — or at least we think we do. We are often reminded, and rightfully so, that we need to pray for our leaders. Here in the United States and in other places where people have a voice in choosing their leaders, we need to be in prayer for the selection process even before our political leaders are elected. But what about giving thanks for everyone . . . including those in authority that we may or may not have voted for?
So on this election day that I have no one to vote for (municipal elections only in Indiana and I’m a country boy 🙂 ), I am thankful for a process that, while flawed, allows me to live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and holiness. Yes, I hear the rumblings and I don’t care for the political maneuvering that has been going on for decades (though it is really not a new thing at all). But I think that if Paul can write to people living under the rule of the Roman empire and urge them to pray and be thankful for those in authority, surely God would want you and I to live the same way in this day and age.
I am thankful that no matter who is in charge politically in my city, county, state, and nation, God’s authority will always have the final say. I am thankful that God has the power and authority to use both good and wicked leaders to accomplish the strengthening of His people. I am thankful for those who persevere in their faith under severe persecution as they remind me that my faithfulness should not be dependent on the powers of this world.
If you are able to vote today, spend time in prayer and God’s Word seeking His help and guidance in your decision and then be thankful for both the process and the leaders selected. If you’re not somewhere that voting is taking place, spend time in prayer and God’s Word seeking His help to be more thankful “for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.“ Colossians 1:12-13 (NIV)
After photographing them every chance I get over a period of many years now, I never get tired of seeing a brand new sunrise or sunset. In fact, I get rather disappointed when I have the availability of time at the beginning or end of a day and the clouds keep me from seeing the sun coming or going in its usual splendor. I find darkness and dimly lit days, or rooms, depressing. I suppose that is part of the reason I am so thankful that I serve a God who has called me into His glorious light.
In Jesus Christ, we are rescued from the power and authority of the darkness of this world so that we may share in the kingdom of light with those who, through faith, have already obtained that inheritance. One of the problems of light, though, is that it exposes the things that can be hidden by darkness. Things which often show us to be less than what others want or expect. Yet I am thankful it is not those things either hidden by darkness or exposed by light that determines my eternal destination. No, it is God who qualifies me through the blood of His Son, Jesus, to walk in His light both now and forevermore.
It is my prayer that I would never forget who has brought me into this kingdom of light and His desire for all to dwell within it. I pray that my thankfulness to God for His work in qualifying me for this kingdom would extend to being thankful to Him for qualifying you also. May each one of us not only know that we have been qualified by God for His kingdom, but may we also answer that call by stepping out of whatever darkness that we have become comfortable in. And give thanks to God for those who have lived, and currently live, as examples of faithfulness within the kingdom of light.
This will serve as the November 3 post in the series I am writing this month on giving thanks. This is the audio from the November 3, 2019 sermon, “How To Give THANKS”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: Psalm 100, 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Anyhow, this version of “How To Give THANKS” is based around a “made-for-the-movies” stereotypical family thanksgiving day. Here are six things I think we can learn about giving thanks from a traditional Thanksgiving Day gathering:
We give thanks to God, and to others, when we give:
Hebrews 5:11-14 — I know, you probably have the same reaction that the congregation did this morning — “What? Did he say what I thought I heard? He didn’t just say turkey, did he?”. Yep, I said turkey! When you think of Thanksgiving, for most people, the first thing that comes to mind is turkey. It is the traditional main course, the very center and substance to the meal which surrounds it. When I say, “give turkey”, that is what I mean — give thanks with substance and meat at its very heart. Don’t settle for simply mouthing the words thank you when you can give thanks with turkey — with real depth and meaning behind it. This is a thanks that settles in and satisfies the deepest reaches of a person’s being.
Psalm 126:2-3 –Without a good sense of humor, Thanksgiving and other family gatherings can fall apart quite quickly. We give thanks when we don’t take our self too seriously. God says that a cheerful, or merry, heart is good medicine! I believe that there are boundaries that need to be kept when it comes to humor but laughter is not only good for the spirit, it is good for the body. This is not only true of an individual but it applies to a family, or a church family, as well. Don’t take every situation more seriously than it ought to be taken. True joy can shine through brightly when you give thanks with humor.
2 Peter 1:2, John 10:10 — Does anything symbolize the American Thanksgiving Day gathering any more than a table overflowing with every variety of food imaginable — a table of Abundance? Jesus said He came to not only give us life, but to give us life abundantly! Do you give thanks with abundance, or just enough to get by? When we want to celebrate or to remember great things, we would likely never ask how little can I do and still look good. No, we would examine our resources of every kind to determine how abundantly can I celebrate to make my joy known to all. When we want to express deep-felt thankfulness it ought to be the same way — not what do I have to do but how much can I do. Your generosity overflows when you give thanks with abundance.
1 John 3:18-20 — Ahhh . . . turkey, plenty of good humor, an abundance of food . . . I’m tired. What good Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without a Nap? We give thanks when we give Naps! When we allow a person to relax and rest we communicate that we value both them and their time. If every interaction with a person has you walking away knowing that they expect something from you it is not likely that you will feel a true appreciation regardless of any words of thanks. Resting is a God-given concept and gift that we typically don’t use enough ourself and seldom think to give to others. The sabbath concept, a day of rest, is connected by God to the fact that on the seventh day He rested from His work of creation. We, and those around us, are more tolerable when we give thanks with naps.
Ephesians 4:31-32 — What family gathering is complete without that cousin that’s . . . well, he’s just different. Regardless of his different looks, different political views, different lifestyle, different pie preference, or different whatever, he is part of the family so we give Kindness. Extending kindness doesn’t mean that we agree or approve of everything about him — we may pray and work desperately to influence positive change in his life. It does mean, however, that we acknowledge his value as a person and do our best to include him in the family celebration of the Thanksgiving Day gathering. We all sin and find our self in need of God’s greatest kindness — the undeserved gift of forgiveness and salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus! It is this example that we must follow when we give thanks with kindness.
Proverbs 16:24 — Finally, the part that no one really needs but no Thanksgiving Day gathering is complete without — Sweets! Take away the pie, the ice cream, the cookies, the fudge, the chocolate, the candies, and the other desserts and what do you have? You have one very unhappy and disappointed family! Sweets are those over-and-above extras in life that shout “thank you” in ways that little else can. When we really want to give thanks, we adopt an “and then some” attitude. We do what is expected and required . . . and then some. We walk the extra mile. We take the extra time. We give the extra attention. With our actions we say loudly, “you’re worth it!”. Just as dessert completes the Thanksgiving Day gathering, our expressions of gratitude are completed when we give thanks with sweets.
So, how are you at giving THANKS? I pray that as you gather with others this Thanksgiving day, and any other day, you would give “Turkey”, give Humor, give Abundance, give Naps, give Kindness, and give Sweets!
“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.“ Proverbs 25:25 (NIV)
As I continue contemplating yesterday’s thought of being thankful for the indescribable gift of God that we have been given through His Son, Jesus, I am also thankful for the refreshing that comes from the good news found in God’s Word. There has been no greater distance traveled in the sharing of good news to mankind than the journey Jesus made from heaven to earth. As ambassadors of God’s kingdom, we have the privilege and responsibility to share that good news with others so they too would be refreshed.
As I thought about the above verse from Proverbs, I began to recall times when cold water has been most refreshing to me. There were the summer days as a youth stacking hay in the uppermost parts of the barn, the garden work under the blazing sun, the early adult years working on a commercial roofing crew where the only thing hotter than the air temperature was the hot tar being used to lay the fiberglass roofing felt, and summer days when the outside work just had to be done regardless of the difficulty. In all of those times, and so many more, there is a forgotten part that takes place just before the refreshing — the shock!
Sometimes the truth of God’s Word is such a shock to the way we’ve been living life that we’re not so sure we want the refreshing it offers — or if it even has the ability to refresh at all. I am thankful that life has taught me the momentary shock of a tall glass of ice cold water is worth the eventual refreshing that it brings. I am more thankful that God’s Word brings a lasting refreshment to my life that is so powerful the shock of conviction and needed change melts away quickly as the love of God transforms my heart, mind, and soul.
I pray that you and I would be thankful each day for the good news of the transforming power of Jesus that comes from a land so far away yet so very close.