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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks!

My heart is flooded with thanks this year as the Christmas holiday is right around the corner and Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Quite possibly more than any other year, I am filled with deep and true, heart-felt thanksgiving.  For I have seen the Hand of God move through His people in the most beautiful ways over the past few months, and I have seen the light of the promise of Genesis 50:20 in such great reality.  So many of you have played a part in my miracle story that is still unfolding, and I am daily seeing the miracles of God on display in others' lives. Maybe I'm just more in tune now that I am in the middle of my own "trial"...  I pray that my thoughts do not drift from that awareness of seeing Jesus marvelously and intimately at work in our every day lives.

I challenge you, in the midst of whatever affliction or adversity you face, to KEEP PRAISING GOD AND GIVING THANKS, and declare this in the face of the Enemy (yes, the very real Enemy of our souls),

"You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for GOOD- so that it would come about as it is today, with many people's lives being saved."

That is what Joseph told his brothers after they sold Him into slavery, and years later found him as second in command of all Egypt- the head honcho leader who was saving thousands of lives from famine.

That's the promise for us, when Satan attempts to steal, kill, or destroy our lives, JESUS comes to rescue us over and over to give us LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL!  (John 10:10)

God is about the daily, moment-by-moment business of saving lives, saving souls, and bringing restoration to our hearts, minds, and bodies.  He cares so deeply and intimately about the details of our lives.

I picked up a book recently that I'm eager to dive into, written by Eric Metaxas.  Here's a quote from Miracles that stopped me in my tracks:

"If God could speak the universe into existence, could He not afterward speak into that existence?"

Just listen. The Holy Spirit is speaking to your soul today, and His message for you is one full of life, beauty, restoration, and promise.  He is calling you by name.  When you cry, He is there crying with you. The compassion and mercy of the Father never ceases.  When you rejoice, He is right there taking joy in you, His beloved child.  He is actively working right now in your life.  He wants you to know Him and to allow yourself to be molded by His love and extraordinary purpose.  Maybe the key to unlocking your vision of His presence is to start with a simple prayer of thanks.

That's it- a simple prayer of thanks.  Just a humble offering of gratitude and acknowledgment to the One who has given you everything.  For "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

I challenge you and I challenge myself today, as Paul challenged the Thessalonian church (5:16-18):

"Be joyful always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances.
This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus."

Do not stare at the immediate today, and do not even stare into the future and all it's unknowns. Stare at the glorious faithfulness of God!  Gaze into the love of the Father who is everlasting and who always carries you through!  And meanwhile, give thanks. Give thanks for the big things and every little thing. Don't miss any single opportunity to give thanks.

We train children to say "thank you" and we are delighted when they do so.  How much more is our Heavenly Father delighted when we offer up a simple, "Thanks!" to Him?  And how great is the Enemy's defeat and our triumph when we are not overcome by adversity, but rather we overcome with abundant thanksgiving in every single circumstance?

Here is a Psalm to meditate on before the rush of the travels and turkey and stuffing and football.

"I thank you, LORD, with all my heart;
I sing praise to You...because of Your constant love and faithfulness,
because You have shown that Your Name and Your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to You; with Your strength You strengthened me...
Even though You are so high above, You care for the lowly,
and the proud cannot hide from You.
When I am surrounded by troubles, You keep me safe.
You oppose my angry enemies and save me by Your power.
You will do everything You have promised;
LORD, Your love is eternal. Complete the work that You have begun."
(Psalm 138)


P.S. Here's a little Thanksgiving Video Message!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shake The Dust Off!

We hear it all the time..."Just shake it off!"  But what does this really mean and from where did this little colloquialism come?  Well I heard it with new insight and context recently as my Bible study group was reading Acts chapter 13.  Verses 51-52 read:

"But [the apostles] shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled [throughout their souls] with joy and the Holy Spirit." 

These apostles were mere men, yet full of power from God as they shared the Good News to the ends of the earth. They were speaking boldly of the hope found in Jesus and proclaiming the Word of God to people of all ages and backgrounds. In the midst of this, they were facing severe persecution and ongoing threats.  This was no game for them- this was a daily choice to risk their lives so that others might receive grace and truth. As they were driven out of the region, their response was one of surprise and bravery, strength and grace.  They shook the dust off their feet and walked on. They were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. The lesson in a way is so ordinary and simple, we could easily read on and miss it.  But please, don't miss it. If you catch this, your victory is assured.

Shake the dust off your feet.
Walk on with joy.
Be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The battle is not yours, but the Lord's.

Wait. What about that last line there?  The battle is the Lord's?

Yes. It is.  Why are you fighting, dear friend, when it's not yours to fight?  Your duty is to keep walking on, and shake it off!  The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

We head back to the Old Testament to 2 Chronicles 20:12-18 and read a passage that is just mind blowing- a story about God's chosen people facing a vast enemy much too great for them to ever defeat...stick with me for a moment and travel back to the ancient land of Judah.

"'O our God, will You not judge them?  For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.' Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD.  Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon the midst of the assembly. And he said, 'Listen all of you of Judah...Thus says the LORD to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up...and you will find them at the end of the brook...You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.' Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshipping the Lord..."

What happened next?  They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness. They believed.  God established and prospered His people. Those who could sing, sang praises to the Lord for the beauty of His holiness and His great enduring mercy.  Meanwhile, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies, and their foes were completely destroyed.

So what's the secret to letting God fight and win whatever battle we face?  As we're shaking the dust off our feet, worship is such a key element to victory.  If we focus on God and sing His praise instead of wasting time talking over and over about the trial, the foe, the danger, or the dread...we are filled more and more with the secret weapon of joy in the Holy Spirit.  He is the One who takes care of us and leads us on into victory after victory, promise after promise.

Want one more secret?  I believe joy and enthusiasm are tightly knit cousins.  How do we live enthusiastically in the face of daily challenges and hardships, enemies and change?  The Greek root of this word, enthusiasm, is "En Theos"- to be "in God" or "inspired by God".  Let's look to Jesus for our inspiration, to the Father for our strength, and to the Holy Spirit to fill us with life.  When we are fully present with His presence alive in us, we have enthusiasm that no foe can match. Our joy becomes invincible and our spirits become so alive and filled to overflowing abundance (John 10:10).

I read this little quote the other day, "Rise up and attack the day with enthusiasm!"

Let's do just that- embrace whatever is ahead with matchless joy and unrivaled enthusiasm.

May we also today...