Saying ‘Thank You’

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High. Psalm 50:14

Have you ever noticed how few people ever say ‘thank you’? We are, by nature, selfish and entitled. Because we believe we deserve better, saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t occur to us as often as it should. I can also be offended when I think another’s ‘thank you’ isn’t grand enough for what I gave them. Because they didn’t go into enough detail, or because it took them too long to send an acknowledgement, I call them ungrateful. While it may be true in some cases, my propensity to hold a grudge should be checked against my own sin of entitlement.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve’s offense against God wasn’t necessarily pride but ingratitude. They had access to every single tree created except one but they felt that even that one should be theirs.

If I’m going to measure a ‘thank you’ against the weight of the gift that was given to me, then I’m guilty of not expressing a proper ‘thank you’ to God. The level of my acknowledgement is far beneath what it should be. I casually thank Him for forgiving me when I fail to realize what would happen to me if He hadn’t. I forget to thank Him for my health until I languish for a time under a chronic illness. (I’m still recovering from 13 months of Long Covid.). God owes me nothing and yet He gives me everything. I pray that my thanks won’t be just a whisper under my breath but an audible, hearty Halleluiah.  Perhaps my thanksgiving will be contagious and I will help create an environment of gratitude where everyone considers taking part.

So Father, deepen my gratitude for the privilege of being your child. I vow to finish this race well. Like a bride who stands at an altar, I vow to love you all my life. I vow make you my treasure above all other people, and all other things. Amen


Lifting Up What Is Almost Dead

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.  Isaiah 54;11

Hagar knew what it was to face death.  She experienced an isolation in the wilderness that offered no comfort. She held her nearly dead child in her arms.  Voice weak, completely dehydrated, and half starved.  No water or provision of food was in sight.  She smelled death but refused to succumb to what seemed to be the inevitable.  She poured out her complaint to the God of Israel.  Hagar said, “Let me not look on the death of my child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Genesis 21:16-18

Where did Hagar learn to do this?  From the very ones who forced her out of their presence.  Abraham and Sarah.  Oh, the irony.

I’ve cupped my hands around things that appeared to be dying.  Dreams, health, ministries, faith.  From all appearances, many would have said that hoping was foolish.  Death was staring me in the face.  All options were obscure at best.

Hagar, the least likely ministry leader, shows each of us the way to glory.  She prayed, listened, cast her hopes on God, and then obeyed.  She lifted up her boy to the God who breathes life into dead souls.  She could not know that a thousand years later, Ezekiel would watch God breathe over a whole valley of corpses and bring them to their feet.  By the breath of His mouth, He would transform skeletons into warriors.

Has God been true to His promise? Did he make Ishmael the father of a great nation?  Yes.  Many Palestinians have, and will, trust Christ.  When they embrace their Lord, how passionate they are!

Will God hear me when I take what is weak, infirmed, perhaps even dead, and lift it toward heaven?  Yes. Hagar was told to lift Ishmael up and hold him fast with her hand.  Instead of laying him down in defeat, she embraced him in heartfelt prayer.  And oh, what an outcome.

You long to breathe over all things expired.  Amen

Reflection:  Hopeless talk infects an atmosphere of faith.  What have you recently declared hopeless?  Pick it up.  Cup your hands around it.  Lift it up to feel the breath of a life-giving God.

Up Against a Wall

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of His people. Psalm 33:10

Walls keep enemies on the outside but they can also keep someone who wishes to be free on the inside. Walls are their prison.

The Word of God has a lot to say about keeping our boundary lines secure in order to stay spiritually safe. But scriptures also reveal that God builds a wall in order to thwart the freedom and success of a wayward child. Though that is comforting when we want our loved one to be protected, it is also difficult to watch the struggle. We understand what is wrong but they don’t understand what God is trying to tell them.

The person in captivity lives discouraged because God’s wall obstructs every attempt to move forward. None of their plans come together. What has worked for others just doesn’t work for them. They apply for jobs but never hear back. They save money to fund their dreams but unexpected expenses keep draining their resources. What seems to add up on paper never becomes a reality. Unexpected medical expenses and car repairs (and other flukes) eat into their profits. The result? They are confined inside the wall that Gob built.

And here’s where it affects us. We tell them, “You just need to pray about your future. Only God can fix all of this.” But God is not a cosmic genie – there to facilitate a prosperity that is all about them and not about Him. Telling them to pray and ask for what’s on their wish list doesn’t address the fact that they want everything but God. Until they desire Him and the life He wants for them, the walls won’t come down.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that they did pray, and God in His mercy gave them what they asked for. Would that inspire them to give their lives to Christ? I doubt it. Their new idol would glitter and the joy of success would further shield them from their true spiritual needs.

When we watch someone we love get hemmed in by God, is there anything we can do? Three things.

1.) Bathed with a lot of prayer, there needs to be a conversation with the one who is stuck. They need to know that God is thwarting their path out of love and mercy. He is waiting to bless them, first with Himself, then with spiritual success.

2.) We need to stop trying to help them succeed. We are getting in the way of what God is trying to do.

3.) Ask God to quickly bring them to a place of submission. Ask Him to open their heart to sense His wooing. We are called to fight the fight in prayer by restricting the enemy from deceiving them and releasing them to desire Christ.

Lord, they are in a battle and don’t even know it. I see it so I am putting on my armor to get engaged. I will be Your prophet and your intercessor. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

Last night, this quote from John Piper was sent to me. It struck me so deeply that I actually dreamt about it.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped it would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. John Piper/Desiring God Ministries

Life is a series of losses to be grieved. On the other side, God waits to be embraced and that is the most difficult thing of all. Satan wants me to believe that I’m forced to embrace the One who withheld my dreams. The very idea of intimacy with God, in that case, is distasteful. Who wants to be a friend with the person who has hurt you the most!

I have to look at the broader picture and take myself off center stage. Every chosen man and woman in Christian history was favored, but then afflicted. The ones who triumphed and experienced some unforgettable mountaintops along the way did so by trusting in the character of God. In spite of suffering, they partnered with a God who loved them and called them.

While Piper’s quote is short, each part penetrates and challenges.

I weep deeply over my disappointments. Tears are not the end of my journey but they are a part of it. It takes courage to admit that my hope has been spent. Think of the times you may have commented to someone, ‘You must be broken hearted!’ Rarely does someone admit it. The hurt is minimized because down deep, we suspect we can’t survive coming to such a conclusion.  Instead, we give our pat answers. ‘It’s just a bump in the road.’ ‘I’m a little sad but I’ll get over it.’ For me to know true joy, I have to embrace the unvarnished truth. Otherwise, unspent grief spills out in depression and/or anger. Most spend their lives trying to numb out pain.

I grieve the losses. Nothing is as intimidating. I believe that if I start crying, the tears will have no end. It’s an illusion. While much of grieving is solitary, I remain in a small community to keep my perspective. I surround myself with those who will encourage grief and not condemn. They speak Jesus’ words over me and give me whatever time is needed to emerge from the ashes. This is one reason not to make shallow people your best friends. Continue reading “When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be”

When Jesus Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit. “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. “These things you have done and I kept silence.  Psalm 50:19-21

Nothing stirs up our flesh like family rivalry.  The personality and gifts of one child can be celebrated more than the uniqueness of another child.  Or, a mother favors one while the father favors another.  From birth, affections and privileges can be divided.  It would appear that harmony among children is often doomed from the start.

Siblings can spend their lives at odds.  The tension is never resolved.  Family inheritances only add to further alienate relationships.  Even in old age, the stuff of youth is rehearsed.  A bystander in their thirties marvels that brothers and sisters in their seventies are still arguing.  Not until they get much older will they understand that childhood offenses seem like yesterday.   A brother or sister can be despised all the way to their deathbed because of something that was done or said during their teen years.  Because our past replays vividly on the jumbo screen of our heart, the wounds stay fresh.

Love, respect, favor, and wealth?  How can life-long prejudices dissolve?  Someone new must arrive on the scene to offer something that is greater in value than what we lost.  Someone has ~ and His name is Jesus.  Healing for severely fractured families is possible but only as they come together to love and worship Jesus.  As each one’s appetite is transformed by beholding the beauty and glory of Christ, the stuff that comprised their arguments seems miniscule.  Every family member comes to realize that what they had been fighting over is a trinket compared to the gifts Jesus freely offers.  And, He is no respecter of persons.

Perhaps I have a life-long angst regarding other members of my family.  All I have to do is think about that person and my insides are churning.  Being loved by Jesus and becoming emotionally engaged with my spiritual birthright melts away resentment.  What I seek, I already have in Christ.  It may be hope deferred but it is real and it is mine.  If it doesn’t seem like enough to my heart, I must ask God to open my heart to incomparable gift of Him!  Is He not powerful enough to transform my affections?

Open my spiritual eyes to see the value of You and everything You long to give.  Help me re-orient my soul so that my hands are clutching You instead of things that perish. In Jesus name, Amen

Journal Question:  What memory from childhood still haunts you?  What is so unfair that the hurt it generates eats away at your flesh like a cancer?  What are you trying to extract from another family member that you could abandon today for what Jesus offers?  Today can be the day you turn a page in your history.  How badly do you want freedom?

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When God Makes Our Enemies Fear Us

For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.  Psalm 18:29

How does God protect us if we are His child? He nudges us to take a different route, buy a different house, even make a different friend. He’ll send angels to stand guard to keep us from harm. What’s little known is how God directly warns our enemies to stay away from us. He shuts the ‘mouth of the lions’ and puts a watch on their tongue. Certainly not all the time though. He didn’t even do this every single time for Jesus. Like Him, we will be hated and are called to carry a cross. But God has a destiny for each of us, a purpose for which we were born. He will take us safely through all He has ordained for us to do and protect us when His purposes are threatened.

Some examples ~ God came to Laban in his own Aramean tongue and told him what to say to Jacob. He came to the heathen King Abimelech to keep him from touching Sarah, Abraham’s wife. He also spoke to Balaam to prevent him from cursing the children of Israel.  God shut the mouths of Jesus enemies after one of his public sermons. Though they wanted to kill him, he walked right through the group and disappeared.

I can know that spiritual enemies are on God’s leash. No one will prevail over God’s child if it is outside of His will. He will intervene somehow even if it means speaking directly to our enemy. Have you ever encountered a dark person who seemed afraid of you? Perhaps you were confused about it. In these post-Christian days where society is rapidly deteriorating, we should be savvy enough to realize that this will become commonplace. The more oppressed the person, the more sparks will be generated when a child of God is in the same room.

A closing thought however. The safest child of God is an obedient one. I shouldn’t expect God’s protection if I’ve taken a self-willed detour. God made it clear from the beginning. ‘Obey me and you’ll be blessed. Disobey me and you’ll be led into captivity.’ God does protect but I can only count on God having my back if I am walking in Jesus’ footsteps.

It’s humbling to think about all the times you restrained my enemies yet I accused you of being absent from my life. Again, I’m sorry. How I praise You for being a present and active Father. Amen