“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.
“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.“
Psalm 97:1 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a God who reigns with an intent to bring gladness to mankind. It is comforting to know that God’s rule is from everlasting to everlasting regardless of who may think they happen to be the real authority. I am thankful for a God who reigns with mercy, grace, and love. Yes, there will be a day of final judgment; but now is a time when “the Lord is patient, not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.” I am thankful for the Lord’s patience as He reigns and I am thankful that He gives cause for all peoples to rejoice,
It seems that with each passing year our culture becomes more and more angry. I believe one of the reasons for this is that we think we are in charge and tend to become very upset when we don’t get our way. Our society, and even the Christian culture in America, has succumbed to mob rule — whoever gathers the greatest number of people, and becomes the loudest in their demands, gets to have their way in everything. We are a nation of spoiled children who have learned that holding our breath, throwing a tantrum, and/or screaming bloody murder will eventually wear mom or dad down to the point that they will give us whatever we want. In fact, our culture reminds me a lot of the scene on Mount Carmel where the prophets of Baal thought that their theatrics would somehow get the attention of their god. When it didn’t work, they became louder and more bizarre in their actions in a vain attempt to prove their superiority to Elijah and his God.
I am thankful that I can go to a God who reigns and I can boldly lay out everything that is within me with a confidence He will work in ways that brings gladness and rejoicing. I am thankful that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.” I am thankful that I have a relationship with the One who has all authority and power — even over those who think they are in charge.
I pray that you and I would believe in the One who reigns with such conviction that He is the one we go to when seeking justice, help, and understanding. I pray that we would always look to God and His Word as the authority we are most accountable to. I pray that we would truly believe, and pray as if, there is nothing more powerful in bringing about right and needed changes than praying to the One who reigns over all. I pray that God reigning in and over our lives would result not just in gladness and joy for us, but in rejoicing by all who get to see God in us. And I pray that we would not give in to the temptation to join the “mob of the day” in an attempt to get what we want.
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.“
John 9 4 (NIV)
As I get back in the routine of a “normal” week, I am thankful for the work God has given me that brings glory to Him. Yesterday was kind of a dreary day — it was a long day of driving with all of it under an overcast sky and most of it in rainy conditions. Definitely not weather that tends to uplift my spirit, so I was thankful to find several encouraging messages when I got home from people who wanted to thank me for sharing prayer-based resources at ICOM. The recurring theme in each of them was to praise God for His work in the midst of our conversations and interaction. That is the part I found most encouraging because it served to remind me who I am working for and who will complete the work He began in me.
I find it interesting that the above verse comes in the middle of the response given by Jesus to the disciples who were asking about the cause of a man born blind. Jesus made it clear that the blindness was not a result of sin by this man or his parents, but rather an opportunity for the glory of God to be displayed. It also seems clear to me that the opportunity to do the work of God is not something that should be put off as not only could it be a time-sensitive opportunity, but if we don’t do the work now there may not be a tomorrow to do it in.
As I pray this week about purpose, I am thankful for a God who gives purpose to the work I do. I am thankful that He doesn’t limit the type of work that has purpose to specific “noble” callings, but gives purpose and value to all work that is done in a faithfulness to Him that brings Him glory. I am thankful for reminders of the good work He does through people like you and I. I am thankful for the good work of people who make it possible for me to share at conferences. Their work has as much purpose and value as mine — perhaps even more.
I pray that you and I would grow in both our thankfulness and our awareness of the opportunities to do the work of God. I pray that we would do good works for the purpose of bringing glory to our Father in heaven. I pray that we would make the most of every opportunity as we live with an awareness that those opportunities may cease to exist at any time.
“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!“
Psalm 47:1-2 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a glimpse of the nations praising God. As I finish up some time at the International Conference on Missions, it has been a fun few days worshiping God together and talking with people from all around the world. I am thankful for those who have responded to God’s calling to take the good news of Jesus to the far off lands and to the nearby neighborhoods. I am thankful to be given a small part in encouraging and equipping others through the prayer ministry.
As has become a typical experience for me at these conventions, I once again had a number of the convention center workers ask if it was okay for them to take some of the prayer-based devotional books that I was giving away. I am thankful God has given me eyes that often notice the forgotten people. I often pray that God would make me even more observant so that I would see each person I encounter as a person. I am thankful that God has given me something to share that can help encourage people who want to seek after God’s heart.
While there are those ministries that seem to be highlighted every year at the conference, I am thankful for the many more who faithfully do the work God has called them to while receiving little to no recognition. They do it because of God’s faithfulness to them and in obedience to His calling. I am thankful for young people I talked with who want to live with an awareness of God’s presence in whatever career path they may follow. I am thankful for the great diversity in God’s gifting to people so that His light and love can be spread into the diverse areas of darkness in this world.
I pray that you and I would daily realize we are not alone when we praise and worship God. I pray that we would live with open eyes and obedient minds as we walk faithfully with our Lord.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.“
Psalm 127:1 (NIV)
Today I am thankful for a God that takes notice and works for my good. It can be very easy to think I have to build my life and a fruitful ministry on my own. In fact, many voices in today’s Christian culture shout quite loudly about the secrets to church and ministry growth that can be found in self-promotion and catering to a specific group that can best further your growth goals. It is in that world in which I often feel invisible that I am thankful for a God who watches over my work and provides direction that will honor Him and bear much fruit.
I am thankful today for conversations I will have that will be an encouragement to me and to those with whom I speak. I am thankful that while I struggle to understand what the next step for the prayer ministry is, God continues to remind me that it is in His hands and His timing. I am thankful for what God has been building and for the fruit that already exists. I am thankful for the tears of those who are so overwhelmed with the goodness of God as He uses me to provide a spoken word and a printed resource that meets them exactly where they are. I am thankful for those who look for me at conventions so that they can be encouraged, and that they can encourage me. I am thankful for those God has touched through my writings in such a way that they can’t help but share.
As the sun rose over the city this morning, my room is facing in such a way that I didn’t have a view of the sunrise. However, it wasn’t long before the glow of color spread around the buildings and filled the sky in all directions so that I could at least get a glimpse of what God was doing. We may not always have a front row seat when it comes to observing the work of God, but His work is so incredible that it can’t be hidden from those who are looking for it.
I pray that you and I would always look to God as the One to build our house, establish our work, and watch over our city. I pray that we would reject the wisdom of man that gives preferential treatment to any group, and instead we would build our life and work on the wisdom of God who cares equally for each person. I pray that our work would not be done in vain as we look to God as the source and director for all we do.
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.“
James 1:16-17 (NIV)
As I write this morning, I am thankful for the good gifts of God. As I walked to lunch yesterday, I passed several little flower gardens that had been planted in the concrete and asphalt jungle of the downtown city. To see a flowering kale doing its thing as it was tucked into a small patch of soil surrounded by sidewalk was a beautiful thing. While it took someone’s effort to put it there, for me it was a “good and perfect gift” from God. When quoting the above passage, it seems the leading verse that tells us not to be deceived often gets left off. I am thankful that I can see the gifts of God regardless of the source or who He used to deliver the gift.
As I am spending a few days specifically talking with people about the prayer ministry and the devotional books I have written, I am very deliberate in giving God the credit for the gifts He has given me to share. I am thankful that God’s gifts are not trickery or some sleight of hand, but He is constant in His intention and ability to do what is good and right. I am thankful that the good gifts God has given others have been used to instruct and equip me for a more faithful walk with Christ. I am thankful for the truth of God’s Word that guides me in right paths so I need not live as one who is deceived. I am thankful for pleasant surprises that only God could orchestrate.
I pray that you and I would live in such a way that we are not deceived. I pray that we would not only notice the good and perfect gifts which come from God, but that we would freely give Him the credit and glory for them. I pray that we would also be thankful for the people God may choose to use to deliver His good and perfect gifts. I pray that our paying attention to even the seemingly little things that come from God would lead us to be even more thankful each day.
May God be praised abundantly, both now and forevermore, for His very good and perfect gifts with the greatest of them being the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.