Giving Thanks — November 13

Giving Thanks — November 13

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 108:5 (NIV)

As I adjust to some winter-like weather, the day begins with an abundance of sunshine.  Whenever I have opportunity to travel, whether it is representing the prayer ministry or with my family, I am thankful for the glory God has spread out over the earth.  I am learning to slow down and pay attention to the glory of God.  I am thankful for the gift of photography which has caused me to not just notice a beautiful sunset, but to spend time enjoying it as I take it all in and try to capture some of its essence to share with others.

I am thankful that God is exalted by His very nature and that He has exalted the name of His Son, Jesus, to the highest place so that all people can call upon Him and be saved.  I am thankful that God also has called all of mankind, including me, to exalt and lift up His glory as we represent Jesus wherever we go.  The more I look for and notice the glory of God throughout creation, the less satisfied I am with just observing it.  No, I see it and I want to take in its fullness, to seek out the hidden and unseen parts of it, to dwell within its very presence.  While the sunrises, sunsets, crisp snowfalls, and other glimpses of God’s glory come and go, they serve as reminders of that sacred calling to join in proclaiming His majesty.

There is something about seeing the work of God that prompts me to point it out to others.  Whether the majesty of a sunset or the simple beauty of a cow and calf grazing along a mountain stream, I am thankful that God allows me to see His glory within it and to point others to Him through it.  As I prepare to represent Impact Prayer Ministry over the next few days, I am reminded of an article I wrote some years ago that I titled, “Tell Your Story and Give God the Credit”.  There are parts of my story that I don’t like and parts that are still painful to remember, let alone tell; but it is when I tell the story with the truth of God working in the midst of all the details, I find the story is much less about me and so much more about Him.  When He is exalted not just throughout creation, but throughout my life’s story, His glory is spread over all the earth.

I pray that you and I would be mindful of the glory of God He continues to reveal to us.  I pray that we would be humbled by the calling of God to share in that glory as we lift Him up to the highest place in our life.

In prayer,
Tom  

Giving Thanks — November 12

Giving Thanks — November 12

“The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.
Psalm 104:19 (NIV)

The weather did a little adjusting of my schedule to start the day, but it was a thankful day nonetheless.  As one who enjoys the unique beauty of each season, at least once I get used to it, I am thankful for the overnight snow.  While it added an element of extra work and difficulty to my day, the crisp beauty that came with it was worth it.  I am thankful for the variety that God has designed in nature. 

As I was driving tonight, at least two things caught my eye.  One, an incredible sunset that led me off the main road in search of a suitable vantage point to photograph it.  While the area I was driving in had too many trees to get the photo I was looking for, I eventually found a spot to enjoy the afterglow and photograph the sky after the sun had dropped below the horizon.  Two, after rejoining the main road I began to notice a light rising over the horizon in my rear view mirror.  Just as the sun had earlier, this light led me to a detour so I could photograph the moon in its early evening splendor.

While there are times the sun and moon are hidden from view by clouds, I am thankful that my inability to see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  The moon waxes and wanes on a schedule set by God.  Its journey across the sky accomplishes the very purpose for which it was created.  I am thankful that “the moon marks off the seasons and the sun knows when to go down” because it teaches me of a God who has called each piece of creation into being with a purpose.  I am thankful that a purposeful God chose to create you and chose to create me.  Even when an individual’s purpose is hidden from view by the clouds of this world, our inability to see that purpose in no way diminishes it.  I am thankful for a God who continually reveals not only Himself, but also His purpose for me. 

I pray that you and I would thank God for the way He has designed creation.  I pray that we would be thankful for one another as we view ourselves and each other as individuals created by God on purpose and with purpose.

In prayer,
Tom  

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