Praise the Lord, O My Soul

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts .The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.  Praise the Lord, O my soul.  Psalm 103

Today as we end our November month of praise with hearts full of gratitude for God, no passage could adequately express our feelings more than this prayer of praise found in the 103rd Psalm. What beautiful words by David, as he begins and ends with the reminder that our hearts, minds, and souls should praise God and give Him glory for all the benefits and blessings He has so graciously bestowed upon us. May our hearts continue to be filled with thanksgiving and love for Him.

Prayer

Dear God, may we praise you on this Sabbath day and every day for your everlasting love and all your many blessings to us. Thank you for your Word and the peace it can bring to our hearts and souls. Thank you for the gift of family and friends, and for the love and care you always provide.  May we always seek you, love you, and keep your truths and promises in our hearts. Amen

Come to the Father Through the Son

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father,as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6 – 7

Our November month of gratitude is coming to a close and what a blessing it has been. But what a wonderful season is ahead for us as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we prepare our hearts for this special day and time to come, may we be grateful for Him and His gift to the world.

Below is a beautiful story that many of you may have read, but no matter how many times I read it, it puts into perspective what our Christian faith is all about. And that is believing that God, our Father, loves us and desires to give us the best He has to give. And that gift is His Son. For we know that if we have received His Son into our lives, we will truly come to know God for the loving Father He is, and he will always provide us with everthing we need.

As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His son had died. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season had vanished with the death of his son.

On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hands who said, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.”

The soldier mentioned that he was an artist and then gave the old man the package. The paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man hung the portrait over the fireplace, pushing aside paintings worth millions of dollars. His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.

The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces of art for which museums around the world clamored.

The following spring, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the upcoming auction. According to the will of the old man, all the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received the greatest gift.

The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled that day. The auction began with a painting that was not on anyone’s museum list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100”? 

No one spoke. Finally someone said, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s move on to the good stuff.”

The auctioneer responded, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a neighbor of the old man offered $10. “That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”

The auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice… gone.” The gavel fell.

Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can bid on the real treasures!”

The auctioneer looked at the room filled with people and announced that the auction was over. Everyone was stunned. Someone spoke up and said, What do you mean, it’s over?  We didn’t come here for a painting of someone’s son. There are millions of dollars of art here!  What’s going on?”

The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the Father, whoever takes the son. . . gets it all.”

What a gift to know that we have it all! We take the Son.

Prayer

 Our heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to make a way for us to come to you and to know you for the loving God you are. How grateful we are for your love and grace. Amen

Give Thanks for His Unfailing Love

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107: 8 -9

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was a blessed one and that you enjoyed some great food! We had a wonderful time with family at Kelly and Drue’s and were so grateful for the opportunity to all be together. There’s nothing sweeter than sitting around the table together, eating, talking, laughing, and listening to the boys tell us what they are most thankful for. It was amazing how they could put it all into perspective – as they spoke with such clarity about what is truly important.

These times are rare for all of us to be together, and it was such a blessing to just sit, watch my family interact, and take it all in. The boys were so happy to have their Uncle Scott and Aunt Emily with them, and I loved listening to their conversations, as well as all the other different conversations that were going on around me throughout the day. It was your typical Thanksgiving Day – a little football, a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade, and lots of eating, but most of all, I just enjoyed us all being together. There was something so comforting about the normal routine, the laughter, and the sound of those voices that I love to hear.

I love this holiday, not just for the delicious food (cooked by Drue and Kelly, which I was very thankful for) and the special times with family, but for some reason, this day  always brings a nostalgic reminder of how blessed my life has been and how grateful I am for the people God has placed in it – my parents, grandparents, siblings, friends – all those people who have blessed my life in so many ways.  My heart is filled with overwhelming gratitude and love for God and the life He has given me.

When you feel you’ve been given another chance, you never want to take any part of life for granted and always be grateful for each and every day. And on this day, I am so thankful that our family is happy and doing well. God is so good to us and I know how undeserving we are. Yet, there is so much about life we can’t understand.

There have been such tragedies in our community in recent weeks, and my heart has ached for the families of those involved. We can look around our nation and world on any given day and see so many people hurting and in despair. We don’t know why some have to suffer such tremendous pain and sadness, and we certainly don’t understand why some have so much and others, so little. But our God sees and He knows.

We often lose hope when we go through difficult times, but He can take our broken hearts and mend them with His love. He can fill our hearts with strength, peace, hope, and comfort if we will depend on His grace. He longs to satisfy our thirsty souls and fill our hearts and minds with Him – giving us His assurance that we can always hold on to Him.

How grateful I am this Thanksgiving for His unfailing love and all the wonderful deeds He has done and continues to do in my life.  I praise His most holy name.

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Lord, we thank you for the gift of life and family, for the blessings of your presence in our lives, and for times such as these to reflect on your goodness to us. May we never take your love and grace for granted and always give you praise.  Amen

He Is Most Worthy of Praise

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength . . .  For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place .  . .  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16: 8 -12; 25 – 27; 34

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! On this special day, with grateful hearts, we pause to give thanks to God for being the loving God He is and for giving us the blessings of life.

In this beautiful passage recorded in the book of 1 Chronicles, called “David’s Psalm of Thanks” David eloquently reminds us that we are to always be thankful before God – not just on this day, but every day. In gratitude and praise, we are to call upon His name and make known the wonders of His love. We are to share with others the wonderful things he has done in our lives, in our families, in our churches, and in our world. In awe and gratitude for all His goodness to us, we should glorify His name and sing songs of praise for the gift of His Son and His saving grace. We should seek His presence with all our hearts, rejoice in the strength, mercy, and hope He gives, and celebrate His great majesty and everlasting love.

How often we fail to acknowledge Him and give Him praise. How “ungraciously” we often accept His gifts – even taking for granted that they will always be present and will come to us in abundance each and every day. But may we never forget what a great love our Father has for us and how much praise He so richly deserves. May we always be grateful for the blessings He gives.

These words say it all: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 

 Prayer

Our most gracious Lord, thank you for this beautiful Thanksgiving Day and for the opportunity to spend it with those we love. May it be a reminder to lift our hearts to you in praise every day for the gift of life and all its many blessings.  We give you all honor, praise, and glory. Amen.

His Amazing Grace

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!  Isaiah 30: 18

On this 26th day of November, we give God all glory, honor, and praise for the gift of His amazing grace.

How fitting that on this day before we celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends, we give God our gratitude for the most wonderful, most loving, and most selfless gift ever given – the gift of His grace.

How can we even begin to understand the magnitude of such a gift? Grace is God’s undeserved favor upon us, freely given with His unconditional and abiding love. There is nothing we could ever do to earn it or to be worthy of such a gift, for it is His grace that overlooks and forgives our imperfections, our weaknesses, our sin. And it is His grace that gives us the promise of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

By grace we are His. He is a faithful God who “longs to be gracious to us”, and He waits in anticipation for all to come and know Him for the God He is.

Words can’t begin to do justice to such a gift, but this song and the venue in which it is sung can. Enjoy listening to Michael W. Smith singing “Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone“.  It is a powerful reminder of His love for an undeserving world!

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we humbly come before you with a grateful heart, thanking you for the gift of your grace. Amen

The Wonders He Has Done

Many, O Lord, My God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us, no one can account to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40: 5

On this 25th day of November, we give God gratitude and praise for the wonders He has done in our lives and in our world.

I’ve always been intrigued by the “7 Natural Wonders of the World”. Why were there only 7 of God’s magnificent creations chosen when there are so many? Why not 10, 100, or even 1000?  Yet, I’ve always heard that if you see these 7, there is absolutely no way that you can doubt the evidence of God – that you will come away moved to tears at the sight of His power and glory.

I would love to stand before each one of them and gaze at their beauty and uniqueness, and I have no doubt, that I, too, would be in awe of the “work of His hands.” But we certainly don’t have to travel the world to see evidence of God and His wonders all around us each and every day, do we? We see His glory in the beauty of a blue sky, in the light and warmth from the sun, in the rains that fall, and in the moon and stars that appear in the heavens. We see His Hand in the miracle of a newborn baby, in a child’s laughter, and in a mother’s love. We feel His love and grace in our families and friends, and in people all around us.

“Many, O Lord, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us. . .  they would be too many to declare.” Not only has our God given us the wonders of nature, but if we pause and reflect on our lives, we’ll find we have even more reason to praise and honor Him.

This beautiful verse from Psalm 40 reminds us that we’ll never know all the ways God has touched our lives; nor will we ever be able to count the ones we do. For there is no greater gift, than the “wonders” God has done for us – the many, loving thoughts He has had about us, the providential care He has given, the compassion and mercy He has shown, the gracious counsel He has provided, and the saving grace He has bestowed upon us. We are His greatest creation, the one He is most proud of, and the one He cherishes the most. And it’s simply inconceivable for us to know how much He loves us, or to understand all the things He has done for us – things that only our amazing God could do and no one else.

What plans He has for us. We see that our God is so much bigger and greater than we could ever envision Him to be – as we recognize not only what He has done in our lives, but also in the lives of those around us. What blessings He has given and what “work” He has done, and is doing, to make us more of who He would have us be.  How grateful we are, that as we grow in knowledge of Him, we grow in faith and trust, as well. How grateful we are for the “wonders” He has done.

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we give you all honor, glory, and praise for the wonders of your creation and for the wonders you have done in our own lives. May we be found worthy to show others the life they can have in you. Amen

We Live By Faith

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5: 7

On this 24th day of November, we give thanks to God for the gift of faith and trust in Him.

Have you ever experienced happiness and sorrow at the same time? As a believer in Christ, these emotions can often be  intertwined more than we realize. While God gives us many reasons for joy each and every day, we also know that challenges, pain, and sadness can often accompany our blessings. During these times, how grateful we are to know that we can hold on to Him and know that He is with us, carrying us through.

I have felt both emotions for the last few weeks, and it’s a difficult thing to balance. There is so much of God’s goodness around me with family and friends; we celebrated Miles’s birthday with a party on Saturday; our Christmas tree is up in anticipation of Scott and Emily’s arrival for Thanksgiving; and we all are looking forward to our family being together at Kelly and Drue’s. The boys are so excited to know everyone is coming, including Minnie.

I am so grateful for these times and for the joy they bring, but yet in the midst of all the happiness and blessings, there is much sadness. I have been watching my dear sister, Ruth, struggle for months with health issues and the heartache of Alzheimer’s, but this past week was an especially difficult one for her, for her daughter, for her young granddaughter, and for all our extended family. She is much loved, and our hearts have been so burdened by what she is going through, as she lives with the almost constant confusion, the horrible anxiety, the deep sadness, and the ever present pain.

As you well know, situations like these are so hard anytime, but especially during the holidays. Ruth has always loved this time of year with all the preparations and time spent with family. I feel so sad that she can’t be a part of something that has always brought her so much joy. And I suppose in many ways, the rest of us not only feel sorrow, but we also feel guilt and heartache for being able to go on with our lives when she can’t.

But we’re all trying because we know God wants us to embrace life no matter what we face. He wants us to remember that He is with us during the good and the bad, and that His desire is that we trust in Him. It would be so easy to give in to the sadness, the uncertainty, and to become paralyzed by the fear of what is to come, but we are looking to our gracious and loving God for strength, mercy, and assurance. He has never let us down before and we are trusting in His love and grace. We can’t see His hand at work, but we know it is – all in His timing and in His will.

We are walking along side of Him in faith, trusting in His goodness and love. How grateful we are for the wisdom and grace to do so.

Prayer

Dear God, how often we forget that you are always with us no matter what we are going through. Thank you for the assurance to trust in you, for the strength you give, and for loving us through the difficult times.  May we never be too burdened to find joy in you and to appreciate our blessings. Amen

He Will Give Us Rest

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116: 7

On this Sunday morning, the 23rd day of November, we give God our gratitude for the gift of rest and for all the many ways He shows His goodness to us.

Does your body and spirit ever just feel weary, like mine does, from the cares of life? If so, we might need to spend some time with God in rest, and what better day to do so than on this Sabbath day that He set aside for us.

We read in Scripture that even our Creator rested on the seventh day, and that during His ministry on earth, Jesus often slipped away to have quiet time alone with His Father. He needed the physical rest away from the crowds, but He also needed God’s strength, comfort, and assurance to endure what lay before Him. God wants us to follow His example and find peace and rest in Him for this day and for the days to come.

We all have these times when we need Him to refresh our spirits and replenish our souls. On this Sunday morning, it may mean resting in silence while we listen for His still, quiet voice to reassure us, or we might wish to go before Him in worship, feeling His presence and praising His name. Or we might desire to find Him in the quiet rest of a Sunday afternoon as we reflect on His goodness and let His love and presence fill our hearts. Or perhaps we need to spend some time with Him in His Word, and in His stillness, find encouragement and the assurance of His grace. However we choose to find rest in Him, we have His promise that we can always lay our weariness and cares before Him, and that He will refresh our bodies, minds, and souls in His perfect, loving way.

What strength, comfort, and rest we can find in our quiet, still times alone with our God. How grateful we are that in this ever changing world, one constant remains the same, and that is His ever present goodness and love.

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the rest we can find in you and for all the ways you show your love, goodness, and grace to us. We give you all honor, glory, and praise. Amen

A New Heart Filled With His Love

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36: 26

On this 22nd day of November, we are so grateful that God will give us new hearts and new spirits when ours need to be filled with His love, mercy, and compassion for others.

We’ve all heard stories about caring people who have gone out of their way to help someone in great need, and I’m sure, we’ve all wondered what we would do in certain situations. I heard such a story recently, and I couldn’t help but do a little heart and soul searching!

I ran into a friend I had not seen in months, and we began catching up on each other’s lives. She told me about a fall she had a few months ago in a shopping mall on a wet, slippery area and how she injured her leg so badly that it required surgery and took much time to heal.

Thankfully, she is doing fine, but a different lesson – than we might expect – has remained with her. During this incident, she was amazed by how insensitive and uncaring the people around her were after she fell. She said some were literally stepping over her, and no one stopped to ask if she was ok or needed help. Finally a security guard came and told her that an ambulance was on its way, and then he quickly left. She said she made a vow then and there to always help someone in need.

Our world is becoming a different place, isn’t it? Many are concerned with their own lives, they have schedules to keep, and they have little time and no real feelings of compassion, empathy, or love for others they don’t know. They merely want to isolate themselves from the world and take care of their own needs. Their hearts have become hardened because of their own resentment, anger, disappointment, or mistrust of others.

What would we have done? Would we have looked around to see if there was anyone that could possibly help besides us and checked our watches for the time? Would we have considered the situation and wondered what stopping to help would require of us? Or would we have gone running to offer assistance and concern?

In some situations, I think we all have to think carefully and decide what is in our best interest of safety. But in this incident, I think we would have stopped to show our concern and to offer help. But I wonder how many times there have been when I didn’t – because I was too busy or too pre-occupied to even notice that someone was in need.

Hopefully, we haven’t become so cynical and hardened by the world that we don’t care about what others are going through, or we’re not willing to take the time or effort to offer a helping hand. If we have, God wants us to ask Him to change our hearts and to give us a new one. He has lovingly promised to do so, for it is His desire that we “love our neighbors as we do ourselves.” He wants to take our “hearts of stone”, and give us each a more caring one that is always kind and compassionate to others. He wants to give us a new heart and a new spirit filled with His love.

How grateful we can be that God doesn’t care about our past, because it’s not our past that defines who we are. He cares only about the condition of our hearts in the present and who we can become through Him. How grateful we can be that He will take our hearts, our lives, and make us new so that we can show more love, mercy, and compassion to others.

 Prayer

Our most loving God, we give you thanks for giving us hearts and spirits filled with your love and grace for others. May we live our lives in a way that would be pleasing to you.  Amen

He Will Fill Us With Laughter and Joy

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

As we continue our November month of gratitude, on this 21st day we give thanks to God for the gift of laughter and joy.

Happy Birthday to our grandson, Miles! We can’t believe it’s been 8 years since that memorable day! And like all grandparents, our lives changed the first time we saw him and held him in our arms. He captured our hearts and filled a place in our lives that we never knew was missing until he became a part of our world. He has brought more joy to us through the years than we could have ever imagined, as we have watched him grow, change, learn, take on new challenges, and become the loving, big brother and amazing, little guy he is. There have been so many wonderful times of laughter and joy, and what sweet memories we have of our conversations and times together. We are so grateful for the blessing of having him in our lives.

When we think of such a gift, it’s almost incomprehensible to think how much God loves us. He shows us through the blessings He gives us, through the people He places in our lives, through the provisions He gives to meet all our needs, and through the peace, love, and contentment we can find in Him. And He still wants to give us more. Our gracious God desires that we smile, laugh, sing, and shout with joy! And He knows that when we do, we will bless the lives of those around us.

How grateful we are for His wonderful gifts of joy and laughter. He knew there would be times of despair and that we would often become burdened by life, and that we would also need times of humor and laughter to lift our spirits and refresh our minds and bodies. When He created us, He gave us hearts that could be filled with contentment, happiness, and pure joy through a life with Him. He did so out of His deep love for us and His desire that we have lives filled with His goodness.

Solomon expressed it well when he gave us this verse in Proverbs: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And in Ecclesiastes, he reminds us, “Nothing is better for a man under the sun than to enjoy life!”  May we look around us and see God’s goodness and beauty and be reminded of His everlasting love for us. May we remember our many blessings and let laughter and joy fill our hearts.

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you for the wonderful gift of laughter and rejoicing, and for the people who “light” up our lives. Let us never become so burdened by the cares of this world that we fail to find joy in you and in those around us. Amen

Written to Encourage

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15: 4

On this 20th day of November, we are thankful for God’s Holy Word, as it gives us encouragement and hope through its stories of men and women of faith.

When you look back over your life, do you see things that you would change or do differently? I’m sure we all do. We’ve made mistakes. We still do, but we learn from them. Experience truly is the best teacher. We learn from our own past experiences and we learn from those around us. And as we learn, we grow in character, in strength, in perseverance, and if we know God, we grow in faith.

But sometimes this walk of faith is difficult, and we need encouragement and reminders of God’s love and presence with us. He gave us His Word to give us that assurance. When He created us He knew we would face hardships and pain, and that we would need His truths to guide us and His promises to give us strength. He gave us His Holy Bible to teach us about His wisdom, love, and grace.

Reading about and seeing His hand in the lives of such saints as Joseph, David, Daniel, Mary, Ruth, and Rehab gives us comfort and assurance that we can trust in our loving God. And what could give us more encouragement and eternal hope than reading about the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ on the cross. What mercy, love, and compassion our God has for us.

God wants us to know Him, to truly know of His love for us, and what He desires for our lives. He wants us to believe and trust that He will always be with us, just as He was with those great men and women of faith. He wants us to know His promises and “to hide them in our hearts” so they are always near in our time of need.

What a source of encouragement and hope His Word is and has always been. It has instructions and guidance for every aspect of our lives and if we follow them, our lives will be full of meaning, purpose, and goodness. May we breathe His Word into our hearts, be mindful of the ways He has shown His power and glory in the past, and be grateful for the hope and assurance it brings.

Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the loving message of hope and encouragement you give us through Scripture. May we learn from those faithful saints of the past and always trust in you. We give you all honor and praise for all the ways you love us, provide for our needs, and keep us in your care. Amen 

The Blessing of Giving

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

On this 19th of November, we give thanks to God for the blessing of giving to others with a loving heart.  

When we count our blessings, we usually list all the wonderful things that we have received from God, such as our families, friends, homes, food, and health. We give  Him our gratitude for the gifts He gives us of Himself, such as His love, mercy, and grace. But rarely do we give Him praise for the blessing, privilege, and joy of giving to others.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Words spoken by Jesus Himself, and ones we probably heard on many occasions from our own parents. It may have even been one of the first lessons we ever learned, and like every child who loves presents, it may have taken us some time to really appreciate its meaning.

Even as adults, we know we can be selfish beings and think much too much of our own concerns and cares. But we also know the joy of giving. We spend our days caring for others and trying to make their lives happier and better. We enjoy giving gifts to those we love, and we take advantage of opportunities to give to those in need. We give the gift of friendship, laughter, and a shoulder to cry on, and we give  our money, time, and resources. We offer a helping hand, do acts of kindness, and try to encourage others.

It is a blessing to know that we are giving of ourselves. It takes our eyes off of our own problems and concerns, and puts our love and focus on others. It gives our lives purpose and meaning and gives us value and worth. God created us to have a loving and compassionate heart. His desire is that we give as He gives – lovingly, generously, and freely. And when we do, we are showing others a glimpse of Him in us. We are honoring Him and His Word by loving others, by helping the weak and the needy, and by being the individuals He would have us be. By giving and serving others, we are serving Him. We are showing not only His love to those around us, but we are showing our love and obedience to Him.

We each have much to give, and what a blessing it is to give of ourselves and to know that we are being used by God to bless the lives of others. And when we do, not only does He give us joy, but we have His loving promise that He will bless us even more.

With these thoughts in mind as we begin the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season – with all the many things on our list to do – may we remember to be grateful for the privilege and joy of blessing others.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for giving us loving hearts, for the desire to give of ourselves to others, and for the joy we find in sharing your love and grace.   May we bless others with our lives in such a way that they see you in us. Amen

Our Hope is in God

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

On this 18th day of November, we thank God for the gift of eternal hope that we can find in Him.

This past weekend, our little guys ran their “Turkey Trot” at their school, and I was there to cheer them on!  Cole was so nervous and he told his mom that morning that he was going to try to run as fast as he could because he really, really wanted to win!  She encouraged him to just to do his best and to have fun – that was all that really mattered! But he had this hope, this dream to win, to be the best. He had worked really hard at becoming a better runner, and he was determined to give it his all!

And he did! He got off to a great start. He was even ahead for awhile, but then those little legs grew tired, and he came across the line in 6th place. We all waited with dread to see that look of disappointment we knew he would have, but instead, he was so proud! He may not have won, but he crossed the finish line before many of the other 5 year olds did and that was enough! He got a participation ribbon and he came running toward us smiling, and said, ” I didn’t win, but that’s ok! Maybe I will next year!” 

Ah, the gift of hope! It keeps us believing, looking ahead with great expectation of what is to come. Where would we be without it!

What is your hope for today? What are you waiting for? Of all the gifts God has given us, the greatest is the miracle of life. And with life, our God promises there will always be hope. In His Word, we are promised that He wants to give us His best, but sometimes His timing is not ours and it requires patience. We are told to “be strong and take heart and wait on Him.” But we all know how hard it is to do so and trust in Him when our situations aren’t turning out as we had hoped.

Perhaps there is much we can learn from David’s Psalm 39. We read that he is obviously troubled as he meditates on his own weaknesses, the brevity and uncertainty of life, and the dissatisfaction he finds in the world. Then in verse 7, he remembers the hope he can find in God, and he turns his attention to Him. In the midst of his despair, He asks, “But now Lord, what do you have planned for me?  What do I look for?  Show me. My hope is in you.” He knew that when all else fails around us, we have a faithful, loving God to turn to, a God we can trust. He knew he could walk with God by faith, and he goes forward  – not feeling downcast, but looking up to Him.

We, too, have His promise that if we will trust in Him, He will fill us with His assurance and strength. As we look to Him for what lies ahead, He will show us the way, and He will fill our hearts with His eternal hope. The hope that He will always be with us and will keep us in His loving care.

May we hold on to that promise and always be grateful for His gift of love and everlasting hope.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Lord, we give you thanks for the hope we can find in you. Give us strength to always trust in you when we become disappointed with life and feel uncertain about the future. Show us the way with your love and grace.  Amen

He Will Come to Us

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”  Hosea 6: 3

On this 17th day of November, we are so grateful for God’s faithfulness – as He comes to us, not only in the light of the morning sun, in the rains that replenish the earth, but in all the ways He makes His presence known through His love and grace.

Has winter arrived early?  The calendar says not, but the temperatures feel as if it has, especially with snowfalls in areas around us. On days like today, with a cold rain, it reminds us of the long winter months ahead. But before we get too discouraged by such a thought, let’s remind ourselves that it’s our month of gratitude! And we know we have plenty to be grateful for – even if winter isn’t our favorite season!

How thankful we can be for God giving us this day and for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner. And as this verse reminds us,  we can always be grateful for our faithful, loving God who also gives us the sun that warms us and for the rains that replenish the earth and refresh the air!

It was the prophet Hosea who pled with his people, who had turned away from God, with these words, “Oh, that we might know the Lord!  Let us press on to know Him. Let’s return to Him, and acknowledge Him and His greatness. As surely as we can count on the sun rising and setting and the rains falling, we can count on God coming to us.” 

Hosea knew that if his people would repent and turn back to their covenant God, that God would be waiting to receive them with open arms and would once again shower His blessings upon them. He knew that just as God sends storms and darkness our way, He is also faithful to send His light with restoration and hope of a brighter tomorrow.

How we need Him in our lives, and our God is always waiting for us when we call upon His name, even if we have drifted away from Him. He’s always right where we left Him. As certainly as we count on the daylight and rains that fall to sustain life, we can count on our loving God coming to us. May we “press on” to know Him, to truly know Him for the great God He is. May we love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds and always be grateful for His sovereign care.

Prayer

Our most gracious and faithful God, we thank you for coming to us even when we have been unfaithful to you. Thank you for the gift of life and for all that sustains us each and every day. We give you all honor, praise, and glory. Amen.

Our Strength, Our Shield, Our Song

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28: 6 – 7

With the most heartfelt praise on this 16th day of November, we thank God that we can always trust Him to be our strength, our shield, and our song.

There’s an old Beatles song from the 60’s (that a few of us older folks might remember) called “Till There Was You”, with these lines:

“There were bells on a hill. But I never heard them ringing. No, I never heard them at all. Till there was you.”

“There were birds in the sky. But I never saw them winging. No, I never saw them at all. Till there was you.

“There was love all around. But I never heard it singing. No, I never heard it at all. Till there was you.”

How sad that there are many individuals around us who have never had a song in their heart. Nor have they found any real reason for feeling or expressing true joy. These lyrics tell the story of how falling in love made the singer open his eyes to all the beauty – the rhythm of life and its music – that he has missed. How grateful he is for this special person who has come into his life and helped him to see the world differently.

How grateful we are to know our eternal God who can fill our hearts with an even greater love and joy. We never knew what life could be until we truly began to experience His love and grace. When we became His, He gave us the assurance that we can always trust in His presence and His care. He has shown us over and over again that we can place our trust and our lives in His loving hands.

How often we have faced situations that we thought we could never possibly bear alone, and we called upon Him in faith. We experienced His grace as He infused His strength into us and gave us the assurance of His presence and love. And as we have reflected on these times, it has given us more strength and trust in Him, and hopefully in sharing our stories, we have encouraged others to look to Him for the peace and comfort He can give.

In the midst of life with all its troubles and sadness, God gives us “His Song“.  It is a song that allows us to overcome whatever may be going on in our lives. And it is the wonderful truth that He is our strength and that we can trust in Him. God loves His people and He keeps us in His care. We have His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us and that we can always find hope and rest in Him.

Real praise flows out of a grateful heart, and God delights in us when we are so filled with praise for Him, that we break into joyful singing. May we remember more of these times of gratitude and let our hearts “leap for joy” at the thought of His goodness to us.  Let’s share our song with others and let them, too, know the strength, peace, and joy they can find in Him.

Prayer

Dear Lord, we praise your most glorious name for giving us the grace to trust in you. Thank you for always being our strength and our shield in times of  fear and despair, and for putting a song in our hearts. Amen

Rich in Wisdom and Understanding

May they be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2: 2 – 3

On this 15th day of November, with gratitude and praise, we thank God for giving us the understanding, the wisdom, and the knowledge to know Him and His saving grace.

Would you consider yourselves as having great wealth?  As we think about the love of our families and friends, our health, the warmth and safety we enjoy with all that we need, and the beauty of our world around us, I think we all could agree that we have been most blessed. For we know in God’s eyes, wealth is considered much differently than in our own. In this verse, we are promised all the “riches” and “treasures” we would ever need as we grow in knowledge and understanding of who our God is.

The world in its own wisdom can’t possibly know God. We can’t find Him through human reasoning and factual information. In trying to do so, we put God into a box, with a pre-conceived view of who He is. God is much bigger than anything we could ever imagine and much greater than anything we could ever discover on our own. It is only through His grace that we can ever truly know who He is. He created our minds and our hearts in such a way that only He can truly reveal Himself to us.

Our Creator makes Himself known to us through both nature and His Word. For it is in nature that we see His power, His glory, and His great wisdom. It is through Scripture that we learn who God is, and how He wants us to live out our lives – trusting, obeying, and loving Him. Through His Word to us, we learn of His sovereignty and His eternal plan – to save us through His Son, Jesus Christ. And through His Spirit living in our hearts, He guides us to become who He would have us be.

But our deepest knowledge and understanding of God comes from our own personal experiences with Him – when we are aware of His loving presence with us. During these times, we can’t help but be filled with complete awe and wonder at His greatness. But even with all these ways He makes Himself known to us, we realize that in His omnipotence, God will always remain a mystery to us. But, because He is infinitely wise and powerful, we know we can trust Him. We can always have faith that He will work out the things in our lives in a way that is best for us.

How grateful we are to have the grace to know the riches of His wisdom and understanding.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for giving us the wisdom to understand just how much you love and care for us. You give our lives meaning and purpose as we seek to follow you and live lives worthy of your saving grace. Amen

The Gift of Friendship

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27: 9

With grateful hearts on this 14th day of November, we thank God for those friends and loved ones who give us their love, encouragement,and counsel.  

Who are the people you can count on in your life to be there when you really need someone to confide in, to offer understanding, to encourage you, and to give you loving counsel?

This verse from Proverbs tells us that just as a sweet fragrance can bring pleasure to our lives, so can genuine, kind, and loving friendships. We need people in our lives who truly care about our happiness and well-being. Just as there are no boundaries to love, there are no limits on friendships. Age, or any other differences, are of no concern. A bond of friendship may form quickly, or it may take years to grow, but it always begins in the heart, and there it stays.

These friends may be people we have known all our lives, or those we met in school, or at our jobs, at church, or at social functions. They may be our spouse, our parent, our daughter or son, our sibling, a cousin, our boss, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Whoever they are, we are so grateful to call them our friends.

A friend is anyone we know we can count on for their companionship, loyalty, understanding, honesty, and their kind and loving counsel. They love, accept, and respect us for who we are, and they are more than willing to make sacrifices for us. They may mentor us through their words and the way they live their lives without either of us realizing the impact they have. They listen to our problems, know what we need, and help lighten our burdens. They make us laugh and add to our contentment and joy.

We can trust a true friend to always care about what is going on in our lives and to always be there to offer their loving advice. They will be honest and tell us what they think is best for us. Even if we don’t want to hear it or agree with it, we can always know that they have our best interests at heart. Because we do know how much they care, we are more than willing to consider what they are saying and weigh if it is best for us. Sometimes God may even use a friend to lay something on our hearts or to offer some much needed guidance or direction.

Friends are one of the wonderful ways God takes care of us, especially if we are friends together in Christ. We can encourage and lift each other up in faith and offer His godly counsel to each other. Such friends make us stronger because of their encouragement, their prayers, and their love. What a sweet aroma they bring to our lives! May we let them know what they mean to us and show our appreciation to them.

Are we this kind of friend to others? Hopefully, they, too, are able to count on us with the same loving support and encouragement. May we bless their lives and bring joy to their hearts!

Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the gift of friendships and what they bring to our lives. May we be open to their loving counsel and let them bless our lives. May we too be the sweet fragrance of friendship to others and bring them encouragement and joy. Amen 

 

God in His Mercy

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your  wings . . . Psalm 57: 1

As we continue our month of gratitude, on this 13th day of November, we give thanks to God for giving us the wonderful gift of His loving mercy and grace.

Do you ever catch yourself saying some of those old expressions that our parents and grandparents use to say?  It’s been said that it’s “a Southern thing”, but I can’t imagine these sayings being exclusive just to us!  I mean some are priceless, such as “Goodness gracious!”  “Bless their hearts!”  “Well, I reckon,” and  one of the best,I swunny!” (We gotta admit these are a lot better than some “phrases” we hear!)

And one I saw just the other day in a book I was reading, that I had completely forgotten about and am pretty sure I have actually heard once or twice,  “Ain’t nunayall right!” (Did you get that one? Excuse the grammar!) But my all time favorite – that I must have heard my mom say a thousand times – is, “Well, Lord, have mercy!”  (or as some say,“Lorda mercy!” or Lawda mercy!”)

She always said it, as if it was out of disbelief, such as, “Well, Lord, have mercy! It’s gonna rain! I hope we can get those clothes off the line before it does! Or, “Lord, have mercy, look at the size of those potatoes in the garden!”

Maybe that where’s we get the expression! It is pretty amazing and hard to believe that God gives us His tender mercies when we are so unworthy of His blessings, His love, and His grace. We’ve heard it said that “Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is getting what we don’t deserve.”  What compassion He gives us.

How grateful we can be that God loves us, forgives us, accepts us, and has mercy upon us over and over again. No matter who we are or what we have done, even if we don’t deserve it – not that we ever could – we each receive His mercy and grace in abundance.

Our God wants us to come to Him with humble hearts, seeking His forgiveness, and wanting to repent and change our lives for the better. And when we do, we can always find refuge in Him. He always stands ready to give us another chance, and He wants to encourage our spirits and fill our hearts with His love.

And He wants more. He wants us to show the same loving, forgiving, and merciful spirit to others as He shows us. How often we want to hold on to our feelings of anger, hurt, or desire for revenge or justice, but God has a better way of loving others.

Perhaps some of those old sayings have much merit. For “God’s grace is good”, we want Him to “bless hearts” with His love, and we always need more mercy – for ourselves and for others. As this Psalm says, let it be our prayer, “Lord, have mercy on us” and continue to give us “refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

How grateful we are for His mercy, love, and grace.

 Prayer

O God, we thank you for your tender mercy and grace upon our lives. How often we fail you, but yet you continue to forgive us and love us unconditionally. May we have hearts filled with your love and give the same mercy and grace to others that you give to us. Amen

The Promise of New Life

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21: 3 – 4

What a blessing on this 12th day of November to know that we can give thanks to God for the gift of eternal life with Him. 

This week I went to the funeral of a sweet, little 91 year old lady, whose family is very dear to me. It was a beautiful service honoring her life and what she has meant to so many. How we grieve for those we love, but what comfort to know that we have God’s promise that there is new life to come.

I think every memorial service we attend touches us in some way and this one was no different. We mourn the loss of the life that has passed away, but we also look at our own. For in each passing we experience, we come face to face with the reality once again that life is precious, short, and such a gift. Each one makes us realize how much we value and appreciate those around us – especially those we love. We want to hold on to them a little tighter and a little longer, for we know these times will come for all of us.

Such thoughts also bring to mind that life is uncertain and death so unpredictable, for we know both lie in God’s hands and not in our own. It gives us pause to think about our own lives, what is important to us, our own mortality, and our relationship with God.

Death is such a difficult part of life and one we wish could be taken from us. But it is comforting to be reminded that God understands our sadness and grief, and that He will fill our hearts with His love, strength, and the peace we need.

But an even greater blessing is the assurance that someday “we will dwell with Him and our loved ones, and that all the painful things of life will be removed from us – no more death, mourning, grief, or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away and the new will begin.” Because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we have the promise of new life with God by our side – with no fear or dread – just an eternal lifetime of rejoicing with Him. How grateful we are for the gift of life – now and forevermore.

 Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the gift of life and for those special people you have placed in it, but most of all we thank you for the promise of eternal life to come through your Son, Jesus Christ. How grateful we are to have the assurance of your everlasting comfort, peace, and love. Amen

In God We Trust

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?  Psalm 56: 3 – 4

On this day of remembrance, the 11th day of November, we give thanks to God for the brave men and women who have served our country with valor and honor, and for the assurance we can find in Him.

I’ll never forget the first time I visited Arlington National Cemetery. No where else is there a more moving or more visual reminder of the sacrifices that so many have given for our country than in those rows of beautiful, simple, white tombstones that grace the hillsides of Virginia. How often we take for granted the freedom that we have that so many people around the world have never experienced. How grateful we are on this Veteran’s Day for the brave men and women, past and present, who have  served our nation with such honor and courage.

A national holiday seems like such a small way to show our gratitude and respect, not only for those who have given their lives, but for all those who have served to keep our country safe. How often we forget the sacrifices and hardships these individuals and their families had to endure on our behalf. How much they and their loved ones must have had to depend on God’s grace, mercy, and love. How much these brave men and women must have trusted in His presence with them as they served and fought for our country. I am so humbled and grateful for their sacrifice so that we might continue to live the blessed life we do.

May we be reminded that we too can find courage in Him when fear comes our way. When we are afraid, we can always trust in Him. As this verse from Psalm 56 reminds us: With God on our side, “What can mortal man do to us?”  How grateful we are for the assurance of His love and presence.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you for all the men and women who have served our country, and for the many who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. On this day, we celebrate their honor and bravery and the trust we all can find in you. Amen

He Always Knows

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer. 1 Peter 3:12

With the most grateful hearts, on this 10th day of November, we give thanks to God for keeping His eyes upon us and for always hearing our prayers.

Wouldn’t we all like to think that we have someone in our lives who watches over us, who really cares about us, who will celebrate the joys in our lives with us, who will offer us a shoulder to cry on in times of sorrow, and who will give us all the encouraging words we need?

Have you ever thought of that someone as being our most gracious and loving God? He knows and He cares. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He is aware of our heartache and pain, our frustrations and doubts, our disappointments and fears, and He knows the hopes and dreams that fill our hearts. His loving eyes are always upon us, and His ears are always attentive to our prayers. That gives me great comfort today as my heart aches for several loved ones who are going through sad and difficult times.

How grateful I am, that I, and all of us, can go boldly before His throne with confidence that He hears our concerns. We pray because we want to seek His presence, to feel His comfort and grace, and to offer Him our gratitude and praise. The more we go before Him, the more our minds, hearts, and our faith will become strengthened to face the cares of life with the assurance of His love and peace.  We know that He doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way and in the timing we would like, but we know He hears and He answers in the way that is best for us. And His way may be to change our hearts and give us the strength and faith to follow His will.

We’ve probably all heard the expression: “Much prayer, much power; a little prayer, a little power; no prayer, no power.”  In Him, there is power in His Word, in His promises, in His faithfulness, and in His love.  We may not deserve the title of “righteous”, but through faith in Him we are called so. We are His, He loves us, He cares about our lives, and He will always watch over us and hear our prayers.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for your mercy and grace to watch over us and to be attentive to our prayers. Help us to come to you worthy of your love, and may your power always be able to flow through us and give us the strength to fully trust in you. Amen

He Will Rejoice Over You

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3: 17

On this Sabbath Day, the 9th day of November, we give thanks to God for loving us, for taking delight in us, and for rejoicing over us with singing.

What a beautiful verse found tucked within the pages of a little book in the Bible that few of us know much about – Zephaniah, one of the last books of the Old Testament. This one verse tells us so much about the heart of God and His love for us.

Aren’t these the most amazing thoughts – that God takes such joy in us that He wants to rejoice over us with singing? Can you imagine Him leading the angels in song when we have been pleasing to Him by seeking His presence, or by bringing Him  glory and praise in some way? Or picture Him seeing us with anxious or troubled hearts, and then gently reaching down and trying to quiet our souls with His love? What an awesome God we have – One who is always with us, who longs to save us so we can spend eternity with Him, and One who finds joy in our being.

In the same way, we can show our love and appreciation for Him through our music and praising Him with our songs. And what a blessing music can be in our lives as it reminds us of His goodness to us, as it comforts our souls, and lifts our spirits.

God created music and we know He delights in it, for music and  singing are mentioned many times in Scripture – even in terms of filling the corridors of heaven with its sounds. And nothing pleases Him more than us listening to music that lifts Him up and glorifies His name. How grateful we are for a God who fills our lives with His goodness.

Prayer

Dear Lord of love and grace, thank you for covering us with your love, finding delight in our presence with you, calming all our fears, and giving us the gift of music and song. We give you all honor and praise. Amen

Take My Yoke

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 29 – 30

On this 8th day of November, we give thanks to God for helping us carry our burdens and for giving us rest.

Haven’t we all been in that place where the cares of this world can come over us like a tidal wave of despair, and all we want is to get away and be alone with God?  I have had many of those times, but one particular one comes to mind when God made it very clear that He was with me.

It was about 15 years ago, and I had carried Bob to the emergency room with severe chest pains. (It turned out to be a gall bladder attack, but the cardiologist had seen something on his EKG that he wanted to look into further and he ran more tests.)  Finally, we were given the diagnosis  that he had cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and weakened. We were told that he could die suddenly or would need a heart transplant at some point in the future.

We were devastated by the news and when they took him for another test, I felt I just needed to get some air and be alone for a few minutes. I walked to the hospital parking lot, got in my car, and I remember laying my head in my hands on the steering wheel and feeling the most alone I have ever felt. I began to pray and I remember telling God that I didn’t know how to do this alone – I couldn’t – and I needed His strength to carry me through.

Suddenly, I heard a tapping on my window,  and I looked up and saw a woman standing by my car. She asked if I was ok. I rolled down the window, wiped my tears, and told her I was – that we had just received some upsetting news, and I just needed a few moments alone and had been praying.

With emotion in her voice, she told me she had come to do the same. Her  husband had just had a heart attack and they had taken him for a heart catheterization. We hugged and  stood there talking for a few minutes, and it gave both of us some much needed strength. We had no doubt that God had “arranged” our meeting to remind us that we were not alone – that He was with us, and so were many others who cared about our situations.

I have often thought about her kindness through the years and wondered if their lives have turned out as well as ours. Bob has done well with the heart medication and an implanted defibrillator which has saved his life on two occasions. Even our cardiologist has been more than pleased with how well he has done through the years.

When I think of that time in our lives, I always think of this verse and how Jesus offered His “yoke” to help carry my burden. I love the image it presents as we think of the old wooden yokes that were used to harness two animals, such as oxen, to make it easier to carry a heavy load. I picture Him beside of me and we carrying the “burden” together. But I have discovered by giving my concerns to Him, the weight has not only become lighter, but He has carried almost all of the “load” Himself. He has given me the grace to trust in Him as we have walked this journey together. I have been able to let go of the heaviness and fear, and just rest in the assurance of His love and comfort.

How grateful we can be that God is always there to help us through the painful experiences of life and help carry our burdens. What peace and rest can be ours as we give our cares to Him.

Prayer

Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we have doubted your goodness and have tried to shoulder our cares and burdens alone. May we always bring our concerns to you, trusting in your love and grace. Amen

All Things Come From Him

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29: 11 – 13

What a wonderful prayer on this 7th day of November as we give thanks to God for all that we are, all that we have, and all that we ever will be.

All around us are individuals with the most incredible God-given gifts – such talents, abilities, and skills. Some use theirs unassumingly in their jobs or in their communities seeking no recognition or acclaim, while others want to make a difference in the lives of others and they achieve greatness. Some use their talents for their own enjoyment or for that of their family or friends, while others gain great wealth and fame. And many choose to serve God giving Him their best. However we choose to use our gifts, sadly, many never think to offer praise to God for all they are and all they have. They give themselves all the credit for their own hard work, ingenuity, or good fortune.

Since both Scott and Emily work in the music business in Nashville, we often have the chance while we are visiting to enjoy the “Music City” and see some of its notable performers. We had the rare opportunity this week of attending the CMA Music Awards with them. It was a really fun experience to hear and see the different performers and to see many of them so excited and humbled by the honor they received for their achievements this past year. They thanked their families, friends, producers, fans, and others who had helped them along the way. But it was even more heartwarming to see several entertainers humbly and graciously give God praise for their success.

As I watched, I thought about the wealth and fame they have achieved and wondered what their lives are truly like. I wondered if they have time for Him. What a privilege and example they can be for so many people with their lives as they glorify Him with their musical gifts and give Him the praise.

At the end of His reign with all His people assembled before Him, King David spoke this beautiful prayer from 2 Chronicles. What lessons He can teach us as He recognized that all he had accomplished was because of the grace of God and He humbled himself before this great crowd to give Him the glory.

May we always do the same. May we recognize that all that we are, all that we have, and all that we ever will be is because of Him. God deserves our love, honor, and praise. For His power, glory, majesty, and splendor are in each and every creation, including each of us. We each are unique and special in His eyes and through His grace, He gives us strength and life.

Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the talents, abilities and skills you have given us. May we recognize that all we are has come from you. Amen

 

Love That Never Fails

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7

On this 6th day of November, with grateful hearts,  we give thanks to God for the gift of love, for the knowledge of how to love more fully, and for the promise that love will never fail.

Have you ever tried to come up with a definition of love, write a poem about its mystery, or even a song about its heartache and pain? It’s not an easy task and no matter how much we try, we always seem to be lacking. We may have trouble defining love or explaining it, but none of us doubt that it is the greatest gift and blessing we could ever receive.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we find one of the most beautiful and familiar passages in Scripture, and it is one we need to often hear. One of its greatest truths is that love has no limits, no boundaries. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Such endearing love is only possible through the grace of God, for it has its source in God. We can’t begin to express the depth of such love, or even understand it, until we can reconcile in our minds and hearts that this is the infinite love that God has given each of us. And only through Him, can we ever have the power to love in such an unconditional and giving way

Paul describes such a love as more than an emotion. He says it needs to be seen, experienced, and demonstrated. He defines it in terms of action, attitude and behavior , but most of all, he expresses that love requires an unselfish spirit. Our selfishness motivates us to always seek our own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard to another’s happiness. But if we truly love, we must do it God’s way, and His way never fails.

How grateful we are for the people God has placed in our lives to love and to love us. What a privilege and joy to know how to give those we love the best of ourselves. How grateful we are that God loves us so unconditionally, and may we love Him in return for His goodness to us.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, thank you for showing us how to love and appreciate those people in our lives we care about. Help us to love others with the same pure, unselfish, and forgiving love as you give us.  Amen.

You Gave Me Life

You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence, watched over my spirit. Job 10: 12

Today on the 5th day of November, we give thanks to God for the gift of life, for His kindness and mercy, and for His protection over us.

When something really good happens in your life, do you ever just smile and think to yourself, “I know that was God’s gift to me”?  

As we seek His presence and rest in His care, He desires to show us or give us the things that He knows will bring us the most joy. Sadly, sometimes, we don’t even notice or acknowledge that they came from Him, but we can be assured that He gave them out of His abiding love for us.

Last night as we arrived in Nashville to spend a few days with Scott and Emily, I recognized this gift. It was so good to see those faces we have missed, and even Minnie, their little chihuahua, was happy to see us! While we were talking and catching up on news, I quietly thanked God for giving us these special times with family and for His protection on our travel.

Life itself is such a blessing, and life with Him is even sweeter. Not only did He give us life when He created us, but He preserves it in the midst of all the dangers that come our way. He gives us blessings infinitely beyond what we even know or see.You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence, watched over my spirit.”  What beautiful words to describe His grace on us.

How much we take for granted – this gift of life, His favor upon us, His loving kindness and mercy, and His providential care. For it is only through Him that we live, move, and have our being. His grace is upon us daily, hourly, moment by moment, as He gives us air to breathe, nourishment for our bodies, and people in our lives to love who love us.  He gives us the beauty of our world and all the blessings of His love and grace.

Thank you, God, from a grateful heart for all the new discoveries that we can find each day of your favor and loving kindness to us.

Prayer

Dear God, our Creator and Sustainer of life, how can we ever thank you enough for the gift of life, for your kindness and mercy to us, and for keeping us in your loving care? May we always give you praise from a grateful heart. Amen

A Fragrant Offering of Love

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5: 1 – 2

We are 4 days into our month of praise, and on this day, we will give thanks to God for sending His Son with His saving grace, and for teaching us how to live a life of love through Him.

Have you ever given a gift to someone that you truly felt you were giving out of love and sacrifice? Perhaps it took much thought, effort, time, or money. You wanted that special someone to know that they were worth the extra sacrifice you had given, and he/she did! It was a gift that made both of you appreciate the other that much more!

We all know from experience that such a gift doesn’t have to be expensive, or even be something we have bought. Sometimes the simplest ones are best, especially if they are given out of love and sacrifice. God gave us such a gift with His Son and with His desire that we know love through His eyes.

This verse gives such a beautiful and descriptive summary of how God desires that we live our lives. Be imitators of God, walk in love, and be the sweet, smelling aroma of Christ in the lives of others.” 

How could we even begin to be like God? It begins with knowing who He is and striving to love as He loves us. It begins by letting His Spirit fill our hearts with His love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. It means loving others as unconditionally and completely as He loves us.

It’s a tall order, isn’t it? For it isn’t our human nature to be so humble and to put God and others before ourselves in every way. Yet, this verse tells us that we are to be of the same mind as Christ. If we truly desire to show our love to Him and to others, then we must be willing to give something of ourselves.

Jesus gave all of Himself to us – through His life and His death. Paul described it this way: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  They seem like unusual words to use, but Paul knew that God was pleased with the sacrifices such as the fragrant incense that was burned in the early tabernacle. He knew that God had recognized that they were being given out of love, obedience, and faithfulness to Him. Christ did all these and more. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of His love to Him and to us.

What a “fragrant offering” it was, as we remember with what love, forgiveness, and grace it was given on the cross with the promise of eternal life.

We, as dearly loved children of God, are called to be more like Him. We are to live our lives in such a way that we will be the sweet fragrance of Christ in the lives of others, and they will know His love and grace because of us. How grateful we are to know such love.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of your Son on the cross to save us. May we give our hearts to Him and leave the sweet fragrance of His love with all those we come into contact with. Amen

The Gift of Peace

I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints.  Psalms 85: 8 

May this be a time of gratitude and praise on this 3rd day of November as we give thanks to God for giving us the calming assurance of His peace.

Life can sometimes seem much too busy, too hectic, and simply overwhelming, can’t it? Our minds are always spinning and trying to work through all the problems and concerns we have – on top of everything else that we need to do. It seems as if our minds never get a rest and we can’t just stop and enjoy times of quiet peace. How can we get that inner peace, that calming assurance in our souls that all is well?

Can you remember those times when you’ve experienced such peace? What were you doing, and what things do you now do to help calm your spirit when you are most stressed, anxious, or worried?

Some find it in long walks, music, meditation, or reading. Others find it in watching movies, knitting, sewing, painting, playing golf, watching ball games, shopping, or spending time with family or friends. We all need those things that brings us joy and take our  minds off of whatever problems and concerns we may have. We need relief from work, stress, worry. We need times of rest from the cares of this world, time to relax our bodies, and refresh our minds. We all need times of quiet peace. But sadly, most of our times of rest are most likely short-lived as we move from one challenge, one problem, and one anxious concern to another. No matter what we do, we can’t seem to get away from the inner turmoil in our hearts.

But Scripture tells us that God has a much better answer for the anxious souls of His saints. We may not consider ourselves to be saints, but if we have faith in Him, we are graciously given that title. This verse is a reminder that God wants us to go quietly before His presence and just listen to Him – to wait for His still, quiet voice to calm our anxious spirits and to let us know that He is with us. We can have the assurance that He knows, He sees, and He cares what we are going through. And if we rest in His love and grace, our spirits will be soothed with His peace.

The peace He gives is more than a temporary absence from worry. He can fill our hearts with a calm assurance and joy that no matter what comes our way in the future, it will rest with Him. We can trust that He will always give His best to us.

God desires that we know His transforming power of peace. He wants it to fill our hearts and souls so deeply that it will flow from us into others. It is a peace no one but He can give. It is the priceless gift of His grace.

Prayer

Dear God, we thank you for the calm assurance of your peace and presence in our lives. May we rest in you and know that all is well. Amen

The Privilege of Worship

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29: 2

May this be a time of gratitude and praise on this 2nd day of November as we give thanks to God for the opportunities and freedom to worship Him.

What do you think of when you think of worshipping God? Have you had an experience that stands out above all the rest – one in which your heart was truly moved to feel in awe of His greatness?

We often take for granted the privilege of worshipping – whether it is in our church, in the quietness of our own home, or in the beauty of nature. Worship is a conditon of the heart in which we give God “the glory due His name”, and the rightful praise He deserves. How grateful we can be for a God who longs for us to come to Him, and when we do, He draws us closer to Him.

We worship because we want to feel His presence and to be reminded of the love, strength, and hope we can find in Him. We attend worship services to enjoy the fellowship of other believers, to encourage each other, to grow in “spirit and in truth” through His Word, and to praise Him with our music and song. But first and foremost, we worship to honor and glorify God.

Scripture is very clear that true worship is about expressing our heartfelt sense of adoration and gratitude to Him. We do so because He is worthy of our time, reverence, and obedience. It is our desire to give Him praise for His goodness to us, for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and for His mercy and grace. We are to go before our Lord with grateful hearts to“worship Him in the splendor of his holiness”.

Worship is a time for putting aside our own cares and focusing our minds and hearts on His greatness. What a privilege and joy it is to be able to worship Him freely and to give Him “the glory due His name.”

Prayer

Our most gracious Lord, we thank you for the opportunities and the freedom to worship you.  May our hearts be full of gratitude and praise for your love, grace, and goodness to us always. Amen

A Grateful Heart Begins With Praise to Our God

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118: 28 – 29

May this be a time of gratitude and praise for our loving God as we lift our hearts to Him. On this 1st day of November . . . We give thanks for a God we can each call our own and whose love and goodness is everlasting.

Would you describe yourself as having a grateful heart? Do you think about God and His blessings to us frequently? We often think about the things we are grateful for in our lives, such as our families, friends, food, good health, our homes, jobs, and our safety, but do we take time to truly be grateful to God for who He is and what He brings to our lives?

Thanksgiving Day will arrive soon when we take a pause from our busy lives to reflect on our blessings, but we know that our thankfulness goes beyond a single day. True gratitude should be a continuous condition of the heart – an expression of love and wonder for our God who gives us more than we could ever deserve. As a reminder to have and keep such a spirit, let’s devote this month to filling our hearts with praise for Him each and every day.

Having a grateful heart isn’t just something that God commands and desires of us, it is a gift He longs to give us. He knew the pain we are capable of feeling and that if we could focus on our blessings instead of our problems, it would help us deal with the cares of life.

In fact, there have been many research studies that show being thankful actually improves our physical and emotional health. It gives us a more positive attitude about life and keeps us content and happier. Holding on to feelings of thankfulness can even boost our immune system and increase our energy levels. And as we rest in His love for us, it strengthens our relationship with others, and it strengthens our faith in Him. But most of all, it honors and pleases God as we recognize His greatness and give Him the praise He so deserves.

Because of His great love for us, He wants us to live a life filled with hope and joy. He gave us hearts that can be filled with love and gratitude and that leave little space for resentment, anger, hatred, and grief. How thankful we can be for grateful hearts that long to praise and exalt our loving God.

He is “my God” and He is yours. How in awe we are of His greatness, His power, and His glory.

Prayer

Our God, so worthy of praise, we thank you for loving us, caring for us, providing for our needs, and letting us rest in your presence. May our hearts be daily filled with gratitude and love for you. Amen