Giving Thanks — November 11

Giving Thanks — November 11

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
1 Peter 2 16-17 (NIV)

While I acknowledge a reader base that is spread out around the world, I do live in a country that has set aside today to honor our veterans so it is only right that the theme of today’s post is a big “Thank You!” to those who have served their country. 

I am grateful for the various levels of freedom I have and pray that I would not take those freedoms for granted nor use them to mistreat others.  While my real and lasting freedom comes through the sacrifice of Jesus and His willingness to seek and save that which was lost, I have many day to day freedoms that have been obtained and protected by people, including those who have served in the United States military. 

Over the years, many men and women have sacrificed much, some their very lives, to secure and maintain freedoms that do not exist in many other parts of the world.  Whether serving by choice or by draft; whether in time of active war, conflict, or peace; whether front lines or support staff; I am thankful for each one that has extended the lifespan and value of the freedoms to be found in this country.  While I fear that many have begun to turn their freedom into a “cover-up for evil”, their doing so doesn’t diminish my thankfulness that I can use that same freedom for doing good.

So, on this Veterans Day 2019, I pause to say thank you to all who have served your fellow Americans as a member of the U.S. military.  I pray that this nation’s gratitude would increase and flow beyond a single day of recognition.  As one who can only imagine in broad terms the scope of what many veterans have experienced in detail, it seems that a simple thank you isn’t nearly enough.  I pray that we as individuals, and we as a nation, would rise up and say with our actions as well as our words, “thank you for serving.”  I pray that those who have experienced the horrors of war, regardless of what fancy name the politicians may have chosen to give it, would receive the true thanks of a nation — a thanks that is expressed by helping them through the turmoil that remains in their mind.

As I say thank you to those who have served in this nation’s military, I pray for the day when wars will cease and all who are in Christ will find peace and rest in Him throughout eternity.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 10

Giving Thanks — November 10

“I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among throngs of people I will praise you.
Psalm 35:18 (NIV)

Who knows just how thankful you are?  Are you sure?  How do they know?  Do others know how thankful you are for God?  Why?

As I continue a series on giving thanks, today I am reminded to give thanks among the gatherings of people I am part of.  I suppose there are a few things required in order for that to happen.  One, I must be present in the great assembly before I can give God thanks within it.  Two, I must have something to be thankful for.  And, three, I must be willing to express my thanks when given the opportunity.

While I’m pretty confident David had a specific assembly in mind when he wrote the above Psalm, I would propose that any assembly with God at the center of it is a great assembly.  I am thankful for the opportunities I have to gather with fellow believers to praise God.  Whether it is in a meeting with 2 or 3 people, a small church gathering of 25 to 30 people, a mid-sized church gathering of 150 people, or a conference center with 8,000 or more people offering praise to God, each one becomes a great assembly as God is being praised.  Yet in the midst of all these opportunities, I am also thankful that these are simply preparation for the true Great Assembly when I will gather with God’s children before His throne for eternity.

This month I am trying to write a post each day about giving thanks.  These posts serve as reminders for me, and perhaps for you, that there is indeed plenty to be thankful for wherever and whenever I gather with others.  Over the years I have found it is possible to give thanks and praise God in the great assembly while in the midst of heartache, joy, grief, disagreement, wonder, discouragement, satisfaction, sorrow, contentment, and so many other things.  When I focus on God in the midst of all the emotions of life, I discover that He is present and understands all I am going through.  It is when my eyes remain fixed upon Him that I remember He is working for my good whether my circumstances are of my liking or not.

It is that reminder that gives me cause to give thanks to God whether I feel like it or not.  And it is in the doing so that I discover my own mental and emotional attitude is changed into one that can’t help but to praise God in the midst of all circumstances.  Choosing to be thankful isn’t always easy, but it has proven to always be a transforming decision in my life.  So, whether the assembly that I find myself a part of is large or small, believers or unbelievers, happy or sad, I choose to find fitting ways to give thanks and offer praise to God.  It is my prayer that you also would be one who chooses to give thanks and praise to God among whomever the people are who surround you.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 9

Giving Thanks — November 9

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

Today I am thankful for a peace that is found in Christ.  As I think about the complexities of life, I would have to conclude that peace is not a natural product of living in this world.  In fact, Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world, so to expect otherwise would be rather misguided.  Thankfully, that is not all He said — He went on to tell us to “take heart, for I have overcome the world!”  The peace that I am thankful for is found not in the absence of conflict, but rather in the midst of it. It is a peace that comes by choice, not by circumstance lining up correctly.  This peace for which I am thankful is the result of a decision to “let the peace of Christ rule” in my heart, in my mind, in the very depths of my being.

While this type of peace is indeed something to be thankful for, being thankful is one of the keys to finding such peace.  Just as living life in a body that is at war with itself is a very difficult thing (and I’ve lived many years in that condition), a body of believers that is not at peace with one another is a painful thing to endure and a poor witness for others to see.  Since the body of Christ is made up of people, and people live with differing opinions, likes, and desires, the peace that we are called to can only come when we choose to first let the peace of Christ rule in us as an individual.

When the peace of Christ rules in me, then I have the freedom to be thankful for the people around me.  In combination with God’s peace, thankfulness leads to a greater peace with one another.  Years ago, when I would lead a fifth and sixth grade camp week each year, I would tell my team that the first step in conflict resolution among the campers was to have them pray for each other.  While we can mouth the words with little to no impact on our attitude, to genuinely pray with thanksgiving for a person we are in conflict with will assuredly change our attitude toward them.  A time of prayer may not change our view, or theirs, but it will begin to shift our focus away from the differences we have and toward the One who made peace with Himself possible even while we were still living as enemies of God.

I pray that you and I would choose to be thankful as we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.  I pray that the thankfulness and peace we have with Christ would overflow into a unity of the body that He calls us to.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 8

Giving Thanks — November 8

“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!

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 7

Giving Thanks — November 7

“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.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 6

Giving Thanks — November 6

“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.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 5

Giving Thanks — November 5

“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.”

In prayer,
Tom