“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.“
Psalm 31:19-20 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for the storehouses of God from which He lavishes good gifts upon His children. I grew up on a farm where not only did the livestock live through the winter by eating what we had stored up for them during harvest, we lived through the winter by eating the things which were stored up for us during harvest. I am thankful for a God who has not only stored up His goodness for those who fear Him, He is generous in giving from what has been stored. God teaches us that there are times when we ought to store up for future use, but most importantly we should be focused on storing up treasures in heaven.
I am thankful that God not only gives us instruction, but He sets the example for how to live according to those instructions. I am thankful that God teaches me to store up and to share, just as He has stored up and shares. When Jesus told the story of the rich farmer tearing down his barns to build bigger ones, it does not appear that the condemnation of this man was about the storing of the harvest as much as it was about the mans attitude of selfishness. I know when I go to God, I don’t want to survive on what I deserve or have earned — in fact, I have no hope of surviving in God’s presence without a generous sharing of His goodness.
I am thankful that in Jesus, God has given an example of great generosity even when possessions are few by the world’s standard. I am thankful for many people who have been generous to me in their goodness and love. They represent Jesus well when they give of themselves. I am thankful that God’s goodness and love reside within me so that I can be generous with others. I am thankful that the One who supplies the seed for every good thing within me is able to increase that seed for a bountiful harvest.
I pray that you and I would recognize the goodness of God as He showers it upon us. I pray that we would learn to store up treasure in heaven as we share God’s goodness with others. I pray that we would grow in our generosity as we consider the true source of every good and perfect gift that we have ever received.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love.“
Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for the freedoms I enjoy in Christ. While our culture works tirelessly to convince each of us that freedom is all about doing whatever we want regardless of how it impacts others, God says that true freedom is all about being able to serve others according to their need. I am thankful that Christ continually frees me from the pride and selfishness that would keep me from serving others. I am thankful for the freedom to say no when an expected action would cause harm to someone’s faith. I am thankful for the confidence I have in Christ which gives me freedom from having to prove myself to others. I am thankful for the freedom I have to ask God for wisdom, knowing He will supply it without finding fault.
It seems that the Christian culture has an ever-increasing lust for the world’s definition of freedom. We do whatever we want, whatever we like, and whatever we enjoy with little to no thought about whether it is bringing glory to God or simply indulging our sinful nature. Many are quickly dismissing the old standards of purity, integrity, and righteousness as being out-dated and no longer “in touch” with the culture. And I’m not talking about standards created by our parents or grandparents; no, I’m talking about the standards found in God’s Word. It is in this context that I am thankful to have the freedom to hold fast to what God says whether anyone else finds it fashionable or not. I am thankful for godly examples of people who live with integrity in the midst of a broken world.
I pray that you and I would fully value the freedom we have in Christ. I pray that we would use that freedom to love people just as Christ loves us. I pray that we would be honest with ourselves when we examine our motives and how we use our freedom. I pray for a spirit of conviction when we project our sinful desires onto others in order to justify using our freedoms to indulge our own desires. I pray that we would ask God to open our eyes each day to specific ways we can use our freedom to serve others.
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.“
2 Peter 3:13 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a place to call home — several such places, in fact; including one that exceeds all others and will never fade or crumble. I suppose some would find it a rather odd song to be singing in church, but this morning I found myself singing, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” To be fair, it was six-thirty in the morning and I was alone with God as I cleaned bathrooms, floor, and doors to get the building ready for our worship gathering. Yet, there I was, worshiping God with a Christmas song that acknowledges a longing to be home.
I am thankful for the home I grew up in with my parents and my brothers and sister. It is the place where I first learned about God, about love, and about learning to get along even in the midst of conflict. I am thankful for the home I have with my family today. It is a home that has existed in three different locations over the years; but regardless of the house it has been in, it is a home established by the power of God for His glory. I am thankful for the church gatherings I have called home. From The Country Church as a child to Pleasant View Bible Church in my early teenage years, to the Etna Green Church of Christ as a young adult and now at the Deer Run Church of Christ as a not so young adult, these church homes have each taught be something about living for Christ. I am thankful because each one of these homes have had a part in teaching me that there is a better home yet to come.
So, as I sang “I’ll be home for Christmas“, my mind couldn’t help but think of the various homes I have longed for over the years. And as I thought of the homes I have been a part of here on earth, my deeper longing turned toward the home that is yet to come. And then I realized that it is God’s desire that I live as a resident of His home even as I find myself not home yet. When I travel to represent the prayer ministry, I still live as much as possible as I would if I was at home. I am living as one who is traveling through this life with an awareness of an eternal home. As such, I ought to live each day as a resident of that home even as I long for the day I will fully enter that home and find rest.
I pray that you and I would be thankful for the things we can learn from the homes we experience here on earth. I pray that our inner longing for a home to belong to would be satisfied here on earth even as we understand a greater fulfillment is yet to come. I pray that we would not dismiss the lessons God has taught us even in homes that were less than ideal. I pray that we would not just long for a home of righteousness, but that we would be actively involved in sharing the good news of that home with others.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD‘s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”
Isaiah 55:12-13 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a God who causes good things to grow. In the verse just prior to the ones posted above, God says that His words will go out and not return to Him void. I am thankful that when God’s Word is shared into the lives of people it has the power to grow good things that bring honor to God. I am thankful for God’s promise that creation itself will rejoice when I return to God. I am thankful that the wastelands of life we create for ourselves can be redeemed and restored by the power of God in us and through us.
I am thankful that in all of the areas of life where thorn bushes and briers tend to grow naturally, God can bring about the growth of things which are good and beneficial. Without intervention, weeds and unproductive plants have a tendency to multiply quickly and choke out that which is good. In fact, Jesus tells a parable where the cares of this world are the weeds of life that choke out growth after the seed of God’s Word had been planted. I am thankful that when they are entrusted to God, the cares of this world are not big enough to overcome His power.
I pray that you and I would eagerly accept God’s Word into our life and allow it to grow good things. I pray that we would join with the mountains, the hills, and the trees of the field in praising God. I pray that we would involved in making known the name of the Lord as He produces good fruit in our life. I pray that we would live as those who overcome through the power of Christ in us so that the cares of this world would not stand a chance in their quest to take over our life.
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.“
Ephesians 5:19-20 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for music — not just for the existence of music, but for all those throughout time who have written “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” that continue to speak praise and truth even today. I am thankful that most days I start work in an empty building where I can “sing and make music in [my] heart to the Lord” and not worry about frightening people if some of that music leaks out. I am thankful to be part of a church congregation that seeks to embrace variety in the musical generations and styles that we worship God with.
Because I enjoy music from such a variety of styles and ages, it is difficult for me to come up with what I would call a favorite song. I suppose I could consider as favorites the ones I find myself singing most often during my early morning work, but I’m not sure if they are really favorites or simply the ones that have been most deeply ingrained in my mind. When I sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”, it is a wonderful reminder of how walking in the presence of Jesus each day ought to change how I see things. It is also the hymn that was being sung when I first walked down the aisle of a church, way back in fourth grade, to tell God I wanted Jesus to be who my life was about. And then there are the songs, “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art”. These two hymns brought me great peace as an early teenager doing farm chores in the early morning darkness before school. I would sing them at the top of my lungs as I entered the dark barn to feed livestock, confident that my form of singing would frighten anything that could have possible harmed me. And then there is my constant go-to — “It Is Well With My Soul”. Whether having “peace like a river attending my way” or “sorrow like sea billows roll”, it has always been a great comfort to know it can be well with my soul. But more importantly, it is such a joy to be able to sing the last verse of that hymn and be reminded within my spirit that when “the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul!”
I pray that you and I would learn to “sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord.” I pray that as we do that, it would spill out of our hearts and into the way we speak with one another. I pray that the music you allow to settle into your spirit would be of a nature that encourages and uplifts you. I pray that each of us can be thankful for all who worship God in spirit and in truth.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?“
Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)
As I continue a series of posts on giving thanks, today I am thankful for a God who sees value in me — enough value that in Jesus He has provided what I truly need. Life on this earth is temporary, so the needs that we have while we live this life will never be as vital to our well-being as our need for Jesus. I am thankful that God can see me at my worst and still considers me more valuable than the birds of the air. I am thankful that God reminds me that there are things that should be more important to me than food and clothing.
I am also thankful for God’s provision. I have not always had what I wanted, and have not even always had what I thought I needed, but God has always provided Himself whether I was in a time of plenty or a time of want. I am thankful that He provides reminders in the midst of creation, and often right outside my office window, of His presence and great love. I am thankful that I can see so much variety in the way God has clothed creation and given each part of the wildlife kingdom unique and fitting ways to gather food needed to survive. I am thankful that God has provided me with gifts and abilities that when used allows Him to provide for me, my family, and others; and He also provides for me through His gifting in others when I can’t go it alone.
I pray that you and I would continually learn a greater trust in God as we grow in our understanding of just how valuable we are to Him. I pray that we would see how He has provided for us in ways that are beyond what we can fully comprehend. I pray that we would know the fullness of His provision even when we lack things we think we need. I pray that we would not only experience the provision of God, but would be involved as His instruments in sharing His provisions with others.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.“
Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a God who is my refuge and strength. When I read from the book of James, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.”, the above passage from Psalms always comes to my mind. I’m pretty good at finding myself in trouble, often of my own doing, and I would guess I’m not alone in that. Prayer is an incredible privilege of joining in conversation with God in such a way that fear begins to melt away. When it feels like my feet have been knocked out from under me and it is impossible to stand, God is still there as a foundation to stand upon. When everything familiar has disappeared and the landmarks of life have vanished, God is still standing strong in His love as He beckons me to come home. When the waters of life are tossing me to and fro, God lifts my head above the waters and holds me to Himself. And when the things I thought were solid begin to shake and crumble, God stands firm as the rock of my salvation.
As I reflect back on so many conversations from the missions conference, nearly all of the stories shared with me of God working through the prayers offered in faith began the same way. They began with both a need and a series of attempts by people to resolve that need in their own strength. While it would be great if we would learn to go to God first in our time of need, as the stories unfolded it appeared that we often need to reach a point of desperation before we turn to God. I am thankful that God waits patiently, even as He longs for us to turn to Him much earlier in the process. Even when prayer is used as our last resort after trying everything else, God is still faithful in hearing us and being the ever-present help in our time of need. I am thankful that God’s faithfulness leads me to growth as I continually learn to trust Him earlier in the process and admit much more readily that I can’t do it and I need Him.
I pray that you and I would know God as our refuge and strength in times of trouble . . . and in times that we’re unaware of trouble. I pray that we would allow God to use our repeated attempts to do life on our own to teach us just how much we need Him in everything. I pray that we would continually learn to call out to God as our first course of action rather than waiting until we’ve exhausted ourselves in trying to do life on our own.