Monday, November 24, 2008

With Thanksgiving

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

The apostle Paul, while being held prisoner for preaching the gospel, gave the early Christians a charge which powerfully applies to our lives today. Don’t be anxious, but instead pray about everything. Then did you notice he added “with thanksgiving?” Now hold on! I can easily be filled with thanksgiving when I’m praying for those I love and when I’m experiencing less stress in my life. But Paul is saying in the midst of anxiety give your cares to God and while you are at it – thank Him! What can we thank Him for in the middle of our stress? We can begin by thanking Him for His love for us and His presence in our lives. We can continue to thank Him for His Son Jesus. We can thank Him for His help and comfort in time of need. We can thank Him for His power to redeem and bring something good out of any situation.

Let’s practice what Paul preaches this week. As we prepare for a festive week of Thanksgiving, worry and anxiety may try to creep in at times. Questions swirl in our heads. How will I keep the kids occupied? How will I get all the shopping and baking done? How will I be kind and loving to everyone? How will I get the house clean? Let’s take each of our personal worries to the Lord and then let’s go the extra mile and thank Him.

Paul tells us that a peace that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. It’s amazing when we take our minds off of our worries and turn our focus on that which we can be thankful, a peace fills our heart. Paul went on to say, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Each morning as you wake up this week, lay there in bed for just a moment (if you can) and give your cares to God, thanking Him for His help and blessings. Then each night as you tuck the kids in bed, pray with your kids and help them learn this daily practice of thanking God as you give Him your worries. May you overflow this week with the thoughts of thankfulness as you recognize God’s care in your life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

the Power of Thanksgiving

It’s hard to imagine the challenges the pilgrims faced before the first Thanksgiving. They suffered great affliction and faced starvation through the severe winter, only to see God’s hand of provision through the kindness and help of their Native Americans friends. Thankfulness to God overflowed from their hearts as they celebrated together and reflected on God’s goodness to them. Perhaps you have heard the story of the five kernels of corn which the pilgrims placed at their Thanksgiving table as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness. The five kernels reflected the daily rations the pilgrims had to eat the previous terrible winter. They set aside a day to give God thanks for seeing them through. Now we celebrate as well.

What has God brought you through this last year? Take a moment to reflect on the many ways He carried you through the difficult times. Thank Him for His care and comfort during the challenges and don’t forget to thank Him for the glorious and glad times as well. It is good to give thanks continually. It blesses God and us! Our faith is strengthened and our joy increased as we reflect on God’s goodness, faithfulness, love and mercy.

You may want to read the following declarations to your kids this week. Place five kernels of corn at each place setting of your Thanksgiving table to reflect on and share at least five things you are thankful for from the past year.

Psalm 100
1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

On October 3, 1789 George Washington issued the following National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States…that we then may all unite unto him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country pervious to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed…
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue, and the increase in science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone know to be best.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gratitude is a Choice

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

November is the perfect month to reignite an attitude of gratitude. God wants us to be thankful people and live with continually grateful hearts. It changes the way we think and act when we choose to be less grumbly and more grateful. Teach your kids this week that gratitude is a choice. The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. This month I want to encourage you to start a Thanksgiving Journal with your kids. Every evening before they go to bed, ask them to tell you one thing they are thankful for. If they are older allow them to write it in the journal with different colored markers. Help them think of one new and different thing each day, so they are not saying the same thing over and over again. Younger kids may want to draw a picture of what they are thankful for. This journal is to help both our kids and us to get in the habit of daily giving thanks to God. Even if you don’t have kids, I want to encourage you to do the journal for yourself personally each night before you go to bed. The more we give thanks, the less focus we will have on what is fearful or frustrating in our lives. Look carefully and be creative in thinking about the things for which you are grateful.

I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Sounds like a good passage to memorize, don’t you think?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Really Do it!

Talk is cheap. It’s easy to say we are going to pray about something, but it is another thing to actually do it. I want to urge each of you to get down on our knees today and seek God’s help for our nation. Let us humbly seek God’s guidance and ask Him for protection. Pray for God’s mercy and for hearts to turn to God in repentance.

In this great country we are afforded the privilege to vote for the candidates we feel will best serve our country. This week I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to teach your children about the principles of freedom and the right to vote. We also have the important call from God to pray. Pray for our nation. Pray about your vote. We must take our right to vote seriously, and we must prayerfully cast our ballot.

Wisely and prayerfully vote on Tuesday. Bring your kids with you if you can so that they may learn by your example that as citizens of the United States we have the blessed honor to cast our vote. Thank the Lord for the freedom we are given in this great nation. Pray for His mercy. You may want to read Daniel’s prayer for his nation found in Daniel 9. Here is a portion of the prayer. Notice Daniel’s humility and repentance.

"Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you…all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."