Give Thanks, Every Day

   (My Love, too!)

 

Daily Prayer for November 24

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17, 20, NIV

O Lord God, give us new hearts, teach us a new way on earth, so that through your commandments all people may act in accordance with your Word and may become one. Only you can do this, working through your promised Holy Spirit, and you will do it in order that the earth may become a paradise, a heavenly kingdom pleasing to you. Let your words be written in our hearts, and help us to fulfill your commandments in our daily life. Only by carrying out your commandments may we foolish, sinful people be made perfect, our sins be forgiven, and everything become right and good in your sight. Stay with us, Lord God, our Father. Help us in everything. Let something new, something pleasing to you, soon come into our time. Put your commandments into our hearts, that peace may be restored to the glory of your name. Amen.

 

 Life Changing Books

Finding Gratitude

Johann Christoph Arnold

Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
—Ascribed to Chief Tecumseh

The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart once suggested that if the only prayer we ever said was “thank-you,” it would still suffice. If we take his advice superficially, it might be easy enough to follow. Yet to give thanks to God from the bottom of our hearts for all he gives, and to live every day in a spirit of gratefulness, is work for a lifetime.

What does it mean to be thankful? Henri Nouwen writes:

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank-you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

It is just as important to be thankful for the bad things that happen to us as for the good things. So long as we shrink from every predicament, every situation that frightens us or sets us on edge, we will never know peace. This does not mean we must silently accept everything that comes our way. Jesus himself says we should pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” But because there is so much in life we cannot control, we must learn to look at things that test us not as obstacles, but as opportunities for growth.

French philosopher Simone Weil once wrote, “God continually showers the fullness of his grace on every being in the universe, but we consent to receive it to a greater or lesser extent. In purely spiritual matters, God grants all desires. Those who have less have asked for less.” It is an intriguing thought.

Then again, if we truly mean the words, “Thy will be done,” we will gratefully receive whatever God sees fit to give us. Even the children of Israel were answered with a rod of punishment at times. They did not only receive manna from heaven. As for the good things – family, food, house, friends, love, work – if we are honest, we must admit that we often take them for granted. We treat them as rights, rather than gifts.

Carroll King, a member of my church, notes that it is just when struggles or problems weigh most heavily on a person that gratitude can change his entire outlook on life:

Once when I was in a deep depression, it came to me that if I looked for even just one thing to be thankful for, that would be the first step up. There is always something you can find to be happy about… Freedom from fear and worry is something I have struggled with a lot in my life. But there is peace in laying your troubles in God’s hands, and not only accepting the outcome he deems best for you, but being truly grateful for it – whatever it is.

The following lines from Jesuit priest Alfred Delp reflect the same attitude. They were written in 1944, from the prison where Delp awaited execution for speaking out against Hitler.

Outwardly things have never been worse. This is the first New Year I have ever approached without so much as a crust of bread to my name. I have absolutely nothing I can call my own. The only gesture of goodwill I have encountered is the jailers agreeing to fasten my handcuffs loosely enough for me to slip my left hand out. The handcuffs hang from my right wrist so I am able to write. But I have to keep one ear glued to the door – heaven help me if they should catch me at work!

Undeniably I find myself in the very shadow of the scaffold. Unless I can disprove the accusations on every point I shall most certainly hang.

Yet on the altar of my suffering much has been consumed by fire, and much has been melted and become pliable. It is one of God’s blessings, and one of the signs of his indwelling grace, that I have been so wonderfully helped in keeping my vows. He will, I am confident, extend his blessing to my outward existence as soon as I am ready for the next task with which he wishes to entrust me. From this outward activity and intensified inner light, new passion will be born to give witness for the living God, for I have truly learned to know him in these days of trial and to feel his healing presence. The thought “God alone suffices” is literally and absolutely true.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer shows the same remarkable assurance in a prison letter he wrote to his fiancée, Maria Wedemeyer, on the eve of his execution: “You must not think that I am unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on what happens inside a person. I am grateful every day that I have you, and that makes me happy.”

In my experience, the most common root of ungratefulness is not hardship, but a false understanding of happiness. Both Delp and Bonhoeffer say the presence or absence of hardship need not have anything to do with our state of mind or soul. “God alone suffices.” If only that thought would arouse in us the endless gratitude that it should!

Nothing can satisfy us when selfish expectations make us discontented with our lot; hence the cliché, “The pasture is always greener on the other side of the fence.” So long as our vision is limited by the blinders of our own wants and needs, we will not be able to see those of others, let alone the things we have to be grateful for. My father once wrote to an unhappy friend, “You will always find reasons to grumble. If you want to find peace, you must be willing to give them up. I beg you: stop concentrating on your desire to be loved. It is the opposite of Christianity.”

 

Daily Dig for November 24

Daniel J. Stulac

The gospel declares that God put us here, that God is here, and that God makes our home here, his home here. The gospel places us in the world that God loved in such a way that he gave his only Son on its behalf.…God joins us, down here amongst the malaria-ridden swamps and the dry, overworked hills. God makes our home his home. God declares this planet worth his time and attention.

Source: “A Gospel of the Ground” in Plough Quarterly No. 4: Earth

 

 

 

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      —Dion Todd

Whether you are a new believer who may sometimes be intimidated by the faith of others, or a lifelong believer who may sometimes become impatient with the newly saved, read today‘s message for a blessing. From my book Forty Days of Hope.

The Oak Tree

He said therefore, What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches. Luke 13:18 ESV

As I stared out of the window at the huge oak tree in our yard, I thought of what it looked like thirty years ago, when I first moved here. It was a small scrawny thing then. Now it is a huge tree and you could park several cars in it’s shade. It has limbs bigger than my torso.

It did not happen overnight. This magnificent oak took decades to get where it is now, and it could have easily been crushed or uprooted while it was still small. There was a time when it was small and weak but over time, using what God has provided for it each day, it has now become a mature oak tree.

The faith that is in you starts small, but it grows over time. As you walk with the Lord, talk with the Lord, and rely on His provision, that little seed within you will grow and become unshakable. Don’t try and rush it. You will become disappointed. Take it one day at a time and some day when you look back on where you are now, you will laugh. Faith and oak trees both have to grow over time.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, be with me this day and provide the things that I need to grow. Strengthen my faith and guide my steps with Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus.

Bible Fun Fact: The only time the word “grease” is used in the KJV Bible is in Psalm 119:70.

 

What Jesus Did! ‘It Won’t Be Left Standing!’

Some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls. But Jesus said, “The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” “Teacher,” they asked, “when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to take place?”

Key Thought

In today’s verses and the following verses, Jesus has three powerful messages about standing firm in the troubles of life. The first message has to do with the Temple. Jesus’ point is that no matter how beautiful, the Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed and left in a rubble heap — earthly temples made by hands will not and cannot last. Our finest and most consecrated buildings won’t last forever. Jesus wants us to know that we must invest ourselves in what is lasting and be ready for him when he returns in his glory.

Today’s Prayer

Holy God, give me the wisdom and the courage to invest myself in your Kingdom and things that last. Help me see those areas of my life where my heart is too attached to things that are not lasting. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

Daily Wisdom:

Illustration of James 1:23-25 — Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Passion for Praise: ‘Producing Great Praise to God’

Illustration of 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 MESSAGE — This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

Spiritual Warfare: ‘Christians Have Authority, So USE It’

God’s Power for Our Battles

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heavenand whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18 AMP

— Matthew 18:18 AMP

Lord, I haven’t really understood my authority as a child of God. Help me to realize the power of my position in the spiritual realm and learn to properly exercise that power so people around me can be free from the grip of sin and death on their lives. Help those who hear my powerful words to have faith in Your ability to change their reality and free them forever through an ongoing personal relationship with Your Son Jesus and through obedient response to Your commands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Year with Jesus: ‘My Messages for My Churches’

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

The apostle Paul talked about My church as My body, with Me as its head (Ephesians 5:23Colossians 1:18). His point was that the church is an organism, a living body getting its life-giving direction and coordination from Me. As John recorded in his gospel, I used the image of sheep and a shepherd (John 10:11-16) to make the same point. I AM alive forever and live to bless, lead, protect, empower, and direct the work of My people. What happens to My church, My people, happens to Me. In today’s verses, you will read about seven churches in Asia Minor and about a unique message I sent to each church. Even though these churches were located near to each other, each had its own situation with specific circumstances, problems, and opportunities.

Over the years, My disciples have debated about the meaning of the seven churches. Most Bible students know the number seven represents perfection or completeness. So yes, these seven churches stand for My entire church and her needs. Some have talked about seven different eras and that each of these seven churches represents a different era in church history. Others point to the seven churches as the seven types of churches that are always in existence in the world at any given time.

I want you to realize that these were seven actual congregations that existed at the end of the first century in Asia Minor, each facing very challenging circumstances. My words were first and foremost a message these churches needed to hear for their circumstances in their time. My messages to them were urgent and important. My chosen means of revealing these messages to them through the vision John saw of Me emphasizes that urgency. The commands to these churches were emphatic and pressing. They needed to respond to My messages, or they would cease to be My churches. Now you need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand how you and your congregation should apply these messages.

In The Apocalypse that you call the book of Revelation, I gave John a series of different sights, words, and sounds revealing Who I AM and what I do for My church. While I will identify Myself with a different image to each of these seven churches, the key image that stands over all seven churches and all seven letters is this one:

When I [John] turned around to see what sort of voice this was that was addressing me, I saw seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands, I saw One like the Son of Man…
(Revelation 1:12-13)

I revealed what I meant by seven lampstands with these words:

…the seven lampstands are the seven churches themselves.
(Revelation 1:20)

I AM alive and move among My churches.

I know what My churches do. I know how they are doing with their mission. I know who they are. I know what they need. I know if they are faithful, disloyal, persecuted, bordering on heresy, lukewarm, weak, arrogant, or passionate for Me and the work I have for them to do. You can pick up a commentary or study the Bible and find out how each letter is connected to the life and location of each congregation. So rather than go over that with you, I want you to read these seven letters several times. Ask the Spirit to help you hear My message for you in My letters to these seven churches.

Verses to Live

As you read these seven letters, notice how they are alike. Notice how they are different. Notice how I know everything about each congregation and the circumstances that congregation faces. Notice how I emphasize a different characteristic of My identity to each church and how each characteristic is tied to the message I share with them. Then realize this: I know about you and your church — house church, missional community, congregation, or group of believers with whom you meet. I care about what you do and how you live. The decisions you make and how you live My will before your neighbors matter. So find one or two churches in the verses below that seem to have similar problems to your congregation and similar opportunities. Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply My words of warning, encouragement, and comfort to your situation — both as an individual disciple and also as a part of the congregation.

Letter to Ephesus

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Ephesus.

“These are the words of the One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One Who walks and moves among the golden lampstands:

“I know your deeds, your tireless labor, and your patient endurance. I know you do not tolerate those who do evil. Furthermore, you have diligently tested those who claim to be emissaries, and you have found that they are not true witnesses. You have correctly found them to be false. I know you are patiently enduring and holding firm on behalf of My name. You have not become faint.

“However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love. Do you remember what it was like before you fell? It’s time to rethink and change your ways; go back to how you first acted. However, if you do not return, I will come quickly and personally remove your lampstand from its place. But you do have this to your credit: you despise the deeds of the Nicolaitans and how they concede to evil. I also hate what they do.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. I will allow the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.”

Letter to Smyrna

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Smyrna.

“These are the words of the First and the Last, the One Who was dead and returned to life:

“I know your deeds and the difficult ordeal you are enduring and your poverty, although you are actually rich. I am aware of the offensive accusations preached by those who call themselves ‘Jews.’ But these people are not the Jews they pretend to be; they are actually the congregation of Satan. In the face of suffering, do not fear. Watch; the devil will throw some of you into prison shortly so that you might be tested, and you will endure great affliction for 10 days. Be faithful throughout your life, until the day you die, and I will give you the victor’s wreath of life.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will escape the second death.”

Letter to Pergamum

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Pergamum.

“These are the words of the One with the sharp double-edged sword:

“I know your deeds and where you live. It is where Satan, the adversary, has established his throne. You have stayed true to My name, and you did not deny your trust in Me even in the eventful days of My faithful witness, Antipas. He was killed among you in that place where Satan dwells.

“However, I have a few matters against you: some who live among you hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to set up a stumbling block before the people of Israel. As a result, some among you are eating food prepared for idol worship and committing immoral sexual acts. You have others who are holding firm to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore, change your ways and turn to Me. If you do not, I will quickly come to where you live and will battle them with the sword of My mouth.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. To the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death, I will feed you with hidden manna and give you a white stone. Upon this stone, a new name is engraved. No one knows this name except for its recipient.”

Letter to Thyatira

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Thyatira.

“These are the words of the Son of God, the One Whose eyes blaze like flames of fire and Whose feet gleam like brightly polished bronze:

“I know your deeds, love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your labors greatly increase in quality as you travel along this journey.

“However, I have this against you: you have tolerated that woman Jezebel, who is a self-anointed prophetess and who misleads My followers to commit immoral sexual acts and to eat food prepared for idol worship. I have provided her enough time to turn away from her indecency, but she refuses to turn from these immoral acts. Watch; I will throw her back into her sickbed with those who committed adultery with her, and I will make them a bed of great affliction if they do not abandon her indiscretions and turn to follow Me. I will punish her by striking her children dead. Through this all the churches will know I am the One Who relentlessly explores the mind and heart, and I will deal with each of you as you deserve according to your acts.

“I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, those who have not held to the teachings of Jezebel and who remain ignorant of the real meaning of what is called the deep things of Satan, I will not burden you with anything more. Just keep on task, and keep the faith until I return.

“And as for those who conquer through faithfulness even unto death and continue to labor with Me until the close of the final curtain,

“I will give them authority over the nations.
And they will rule the nations with an iron scepter,
as fragile clay jars are shattered to pieces.

“As I received this authority from My Father, I will bestow the morning star to the victor.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches.”

Letter to Sardis

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Sardis.

“These are the words of the One Who has the seven Spirits of God, the Perfect Spirit, and the One Who holds the seven stars:

“I know the things you do — you’ve claimed a reputation of life, but you are actually dead. Wake up from your death-sleep, and strengthen what remains of the life you have been given that is in danger of death. I have judged your deeds as far from complete in the sight of My God. Therefore, remember what you have received and heard; it’s time to keep these instructions and turn back from your ways. If you do not wake up from this sleep, I will come in judgment. I will creep up on you like a thief — you will have no way of knowing when I will come. But there are a few in Sardis who don’t have the stain of evil works on their clothes. They will walk alongside Me in white, spotless garments because they have been proven worthy.

“The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will be clothed in white garments, and I will certainly not erase that person’s name from the book of life. I will acknowledge this person’s name before My Father and before His heavenly messengers.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches.”

Letter to Philadelphia

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia.

“These are the words of the holy One, the true One, and the One Who possesses the key of David, which opens the possibilities so that no one can shut them. The One Who closes all options so that no one can open:

“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut. I have done this because you have limited strength, yet you have obeyed My word and have not denied My name. Watch, and I will make those of the congregation of Satan — those who call themselves ‘Jews’ but are not because they lie — come before you penitent, falling at your feet. Then they will know how much I have loved you. Because you have obeyed My instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test. I will soon return. Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath.

“As for the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death, I will plant that person as a pillar in the temple of My God, and that person will never have to leave the presence of God. Moreover, I will inscribe this person with the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, New Jerusalem — which descends out of heaven from My God — and My own new name.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches.”

Letter to Laodicea

The One [Jesus the Anointed]:

Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Laodicea.

“These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s creation:

“I know your works. You are neither cold with apathy nor hot with passion. It would be better if you were one or the other, but you are neither. So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. You claim, ‘I am rich, I have accumulated riches, and I need nothing’; but you do not realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. So here is what I suggest you do: buy true gold from Me (gold refined by fire so that you can be truly rich), white garments (to cover you so that you can keep the shame of your nakedness from showing), and eye ointment (to treat your eyes so that you may see clearly).

“Those I love I also correct and discipline. Therefore, be shamelessly committed to Me, and turn back. Now pay attention; I am standing at the door and knocking. If any of you hear My voice and open the door, then I will come in to visit with you and to share a meal at your table, and you will be with Me.

“The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death I will place next to Me on My throne, just as I Myself conquered and took a place of honor with My Father on His throne.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches.”

(Revelation 2:1-29Revelation 3:1-22)

Response in Prayer

Lord Jesus, I know You are alive and move among Your churches. I know that You know all about my heart and the fruit of my life. We need Your help. I need Your help. I want us, your people, to live faithfully and vibrantly for You. I am sorry for our compromises with culture, and I commit to following you wholeheartedly. I want to see our open doors — our opportunities to reach our neighbors and all with whom we interact — so please open my eyes to these opportunities. Most of all, I want the Father to be pleased with us — to recognize our work as reflecting Your work on earth. I want the Holy Spirit to lead us and empower us. Lord Jesus, please find us faithful and use us to bring Your glory and grace to the situation in which we find ourselves. Amen.

 

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to Remember Daily

Thanksgiving - Here's a prayer of Thanksgiving to help you not only reflect on your blessings, but also to remember every day who you are.

Thanksgiving always digs its roots deeply into the soil of my heart. That was especially true on a car trip my husband and I took last year. As I looked out the window, I tried an experiment to see how many things/reasons I could find for being thankful. What started out as a simple experiment for a mile or two grew into an hour-long experience. Finally, I stopped in amazement.

One thing led to another. First, seeing a home made me grateful for my own modest house, for the roof over my head, and for the architect or people who designed it years ago (mine is an old house). Next, I thought about the contractors and workmen who built it, the ones who manufactured needed products involved, the ones who hauled the materials to the company/store, and the trees for wood or stone to finish it. That led me to the gardens now growing in my yard, the fragrance from the flowers each spring, and ultimately to God who created the natural products and beauty  in the first place.

The Thanksgiving Trail Kept Growing

Seeing hospitals stirred up gratitude for the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, and the administrators. Then I thought of the cleaning staff, the cafeteria workers, the volunteers, the medicine, the ones who first “invented” some of the medicines. ER workers, the office personnel, the ambulances, paramedics, and the times they’ve all ministered to me came next. In addition, I remembered the care they gave to dying loved ones, times when God protected me and my loved ones from death or further danger, and His angel protection I’ll never know about this side of heaven.

Next, I thanked God for His love in caring for me and His faithfulness in providing our needs, and His gifts He gave to those in this helping profession. Then that led me to gratefulness for a fairly healthy body, for two arms and legs, eyes and ears, etc.

But each time I identified something, EVERYTHING involved the same process: Telephone poles, airplanes, cars, restaurants, highways–you name it–all led me on a lengthy thanksgiving trail that always led to the One who made it all possible, the One Who created us, gifts us, blesses us, and Who loves us unconditionally.

Thanksgiving Is Not Just a Day

Later, when I wrote the following Prayer of Thanksgiving, I discovered that Thanksgiving is not just a day to reflect on our blessings. In addition, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to remember every day who we are. Ultimately, it’s a time to celebrate who God is, Whose we are, and how richly God supplies our needs. It’s a time to appreciate what an awesome and amazing Provider He is, and how much we really need Him.

Last year on my Facebook profile page, I listed blessings with a picture each day. I included things, reasons, or attributes of God for which I was thankful. Funny thing about offering thanks, because the more you give thanks, the more you’ll give thanks. And the more thankful you’ll become. As you offer thanks at your table this year, take time to celebrate our wonderful Maker and Savior’s love for you.

Three Beans – Three Blessings

At our table every year we each take three beans and place them in a jar, because that reminds us of the mission trips we took to Mexico years ago at Thanksgiving. We ate tortillas and beans, not turkey. Each year we take turns voicing our thanks for certain blessings that particular year. Is that hard to do? Yes! Only three beans? Even our grandchildren agree, because we could go on forever. We keep those beans every year. After 30+ years, the jar is filling up.

If you need help remembering, here is a prayer of thanksgiving you can offer at Thanksgiving or any day:

A Prayer of Thanksgiving to Remember Daily

Lord, I ask you often for many things, but today, I only want to give you thanks. Thank you for being a great Father and God who loves me with all my faults. Thank you that you forgive me completely and teach me faithfully through your Word. Thank you for all the times you picked me up, and for all the times you carried me. Thank you for stationing angels to rescue me from danger and protect me from harm.

Thank you for family and friends, for placing people in my path again and again— those whose encouragement and kindness I will never forget. Thank you for the things I take for granted like clean water, a place to sleep, air conditioning, and food to nourish me. I’m grateful for your protection and your gentle prodding away from danger.

Thank you for answered prayers, for fun surprises, and for happy memories with loved ones and friends. Thank you for faithful servants who help make the world a safer place—like policemen, firemen, lifeguards, pastors, and teachers. Thank you for those who work long hours in low-paying jobs and contribute to my life and welfare through their service. Thank you for always providing for my needs, in big and small ways.

Thank you for children, laughter, and the beauty of nature you created so miraculously. For blessings both unreserved and undeserved, Lord, I offer a grateful heart. For arms to lift in praise to you, for a mouth to speak your praise, for legs to walk new pathways, and for a heart that beats for you, Lord.

For times of healing and amazing grace, for drawing me close and preparing a place for me to live with you one day. Thank you for your salvation offered freely to all through Jesus’ sacrifice—all because of extravagant love.

This Thanksgiving prayer here was first published on crosswalk.com.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Psalm 9:1 NIV).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU!

*If you missed these other “thanks” posts of mine, then I hope you’ll read them: Thank God? Why Should We?,  Eight Unexpected Blessings from Godand Simple Things, Simple Thanks.

It’s Your Turn

What would you include in your thanksgiving prayer this year? I’d love to hear from you anytime. You can always write me through my contact page. Just fill out the basic name and address info, and then it will come to me. Your name or info is not shared with anyone.

 

A note from David Bryant:

Are you in pain today?

If not, you undoubtedly have been or soon will be. Suffering is a regular feature of our physical and spiritual journey through this fallen world. Unavoidable. As hard as we try. Or at least try to mollify it.

This even goes for Christians who are passionately serving Jesus, walking in the power of his Spirit, bringing the blessings of the Kingdom to many other lives. There are no exemptions.

This guest blog post was written by a truly faithful, fruitful Christian leader—one whom the Spirit has turned into a spiritual force in transforming the life of his city—New York City.

For the past three years, David Beidel has spearheaded Jesus Week and Saturate NY Metro in the Big Apple, helping hundreds of churches to work together to reach millions of New Yorkers with the gospel right where they live. This summer, I wrote two blog posts about all that’s been going on. You can read them here and here.

But at the same time, David is also walking through a lot of pain in his life. For him and all of us, such a season often raises this question:

So, where is Jesus in all of this?
In this blog post, David shares with us how the Lord Jesus has challenged his mind and heart as he has walked through this universal enigma we all face—the problem of pain.

I invite you to read it thoughtfully and to look for ways you see the supremacy of Jesus in what he writes.

Can you relate to what he says? What would you say about his conclusions? 

The Privilege of Pain

Are you in pain today?

If not, you undoubtedly have been or soon will be. Suffering is a regular feature of our physical and spiritual journey through this fallen world. Unavoidable. As hard as we try. Or at least try to mollify it.

This even goes for Christians who are passionately serving Jesus, walking in the power of his Spirit, bringing the blessings of the Kingdom to many other lives. There are no exemptions.

This guest blog post was written by a truly faithful, fruitful Christian leader—one whom the Spirit has turned into a spiritual force in transforming the life of his city—New York City.

For the past three years, David Beidel has spearheaded Jesus Week and Saturate NY Metro in the Big Apple, helping hundreds of churches to work together to reach millions of New Yorkers with the gospel right where they live. This summer, I wrote two blog posts about all that’s been going on. You can read them here and here.

But at the same time, David is also walking through a lot of pain in his life. For him and all of us, such a season often raises this question:

So, where is Jesus in all of this?

In this blog post, David Beidel shares with us how the Lord Jesus has challenged his mind and heart as he has walked through this universal enigma we all face—the problem of pain.

I invite you to read it thoughtfully and to look for ways you see the supremacy of Jesus in what he writes.

David Bryant



I was moved to tears as I peered into what is believed to be the prison cell of the Apostle Paul in Philippi, Greece. It is from one of many horrific cave-carved jail cells that Paul wrote some of the most inspiring words ever penned. My mind was flooded with verse after verse that has shaped, transformed, and guided my life.

The experience also had me pondering my disdain for pain and sorrow. In a multitude of ways, I have subconsciously adopted the mantra and mindset popularly labeled “the problem of pain.”

In particular, the Western Church has embraced this attitude towards suffering. We generally consider pain to be aberrant, punitive, and problematic. Some in “prosperity gospel” circles have taken this stance to a heretical extreme, but all of us question the love, power, or even existence of God when we endure great suffering. Yet, how utterly foreign this concept would have been to Paul, who considered it an honor to bear on his body “the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).

How Did the Saints in Scripture Suffer?

I’ve been wondering lately if I/we need to change the mantra and adopt a more biblical approach. The overarching testimony of Scripture attests to the privilege of pain rather than the problem. All of our biblical superheroes gained their status when they overcame enormous opposition and suffering—Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, David, Paul, and all of the Apostles, to name a few.

Job, the quintessential sufferer, experienced great testing because God marked him as “blameless and upright . . . there is none on earth like him” (Job 1:8). As confusing and difficult as this ancient book may be, the narrative of Job’s suffering has kept countless saints from losing their minds and their faith in times of trouble.

Jesus went far beyond the imaginable spectrum of pain. The very word “excruciating” means “from the cross.” Yet the physical horrors of the cross were nothing compared to the moment when Jesus was forsaken by the Father and accursed, when “He who knew no sin became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The inescapable truth is that the greatest pain ever brought about the greatest good ever.

Stuck in Prison

Most of Paul’s letters were written while he was imprisoned. His words to the young Philippian church represent one of the pinnacle expressions of the New Testament: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Paul was stuck in jail after jail for years. All the while, he was bursting with glorious and meaningful dreams! He longed to get to Rome, straighten out young churches, encourage the saints, preach the gospel, and plant new churches everywhere.

We can only imagine some of the conversations Paul had with God while he was imprisoned and incapable of fulfilling his noble plans. Eventually, he had to come to grips with the fact that he had very few options in jail: pray, worship, witness to prisoners and guards, and . . . write letters! He may have wondered why God would limit him so severely by keeping him stuck in prison for so long. He had no idea his letters would be pored over and treasured for centuries by billions of people, impacting all nations for all time.

What Paul did understand and often wrote about was that pain is a privilege reserved for those whom God entrusts with sorrow—those that God welcomes into a deeper and more profound fellowship with Him—in His suffering. Just as we are more likely to share our deepest sorrows with those that we trust, when God allows His beloved ones to walk through long, dark valleys, it should be understood as an honor.

“Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.”

When I was in my teens, a handsome, charismatic, and athletic youth evangelist greatly impacted my friends and me. When he came to speak at our church two years later, things had changed. He had been in a head-on collision with a tractor trailer. It was unimaginable to see him painfully hobbling up the stairs to the pulpit using two crutches to stabilize his partially paralyzed lower body. His opening statement has stayed with me for a lifetime: “Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.”

Pain, sorrow, death, addiction, betrayal, family dissolution, evil—suffering spares no one. As those who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4), we do, however, have divine privileges and priceless jewels available to us as we travel through deep valleys and dark caves. Sadly, the American dream has wormed its way into our Kingdom dreams and blinded us to these treasures. The ramifications of this imbalanced health, wealth, and “happy days gospel” are many:

  • Christians remain in the shallows. Paul challenges us to know “the height, width, length and depth of the love of Christ.” We can’t know the excruciating depths of His passion unless we journey with Him like Simon of Cyrene. We have all experienced moments when we felt our hearts might burst from sorrow. Some medical examinations of the crucifixion have concluded that the flow of blood and water from the wounded side of Christ was indicative of a heart that burst. Imagine the weight of sorrow it took to crush and break the heart of the Almighty. Our personal pain provides a darkened and dim window into the sufferings of our Savior. It’s as if we must multiply our pain times infinity just to scratch the surface of His passion.
  • The honor of pain is stolen and replaced with shame. When Western saints suffer, they often retreat and hide from God and fellow believers. Sometimes years are spent torturously replaying failures and wrestling with bitterness towards God and others. Locked in a poor theology of pain, they are unaware that Jesus weeps with them and longs to draw them nearer to his heart than they have ever dreamed. They are unaware that He is privileging them to fulfill the ultimate purpose of existence: “That I may know Him!”
  • A vital path towards empathy and meaningful ministry is blockaded. There is a mission field directly linked to every personal suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 lays out the path:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

For instance, Paul, Silas, and (2000 years later) Chuck Colson all engaged in powerful prison ministries after they were imprisoned.

  • The Great Commission is avoided. A sure way to encounter pain is to be on mission in our bloodied and broken world. Whether it is the mission field across the seas, across the street, or across the tracks, saints who practice avoiding pain will never practice advancing the kingdom of God.
  • We will not be prepared for the challenging last days. Several prophetic passages warn us of a sharp rise in evil and persecution in the last days: “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). The prophet Daniel explains that the antichrist will be given authority to “wear down the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:25). Paul warns, “In the last days, terrible times will come” (2 Tim 3:1). If the Church continues to tolerate a pain-disdaining theology, we are setting ourselves up to be among the majority of those who fall away in the day of evil.

A Treasure in Dark Places

For many, the day of evil has already come. A terrifying rising tide of death by suicide, addiction, overdose, and mass murder has ravaged our nation. There is no way to calculate the devastating impact this is having on communities and families. Who can imagine the depression, despair, and rage this wave has left in its wake. The massive exodus of millennials from the faith and the uptick in divorce among the evangelical community has left countless Christian families bewildered and broken.

Personally, some of my children have walked away from the Lord. This has brought about years of sorrow for my wife and me. Interestingly, the Lord has consistently promised that He would “bring them home from the land of the enemy.” This begs the question: “Then why? Why would you put us through this?”

Very gently, the Lord has communicated to me that He has entrusted my wife and me with a treasure in dark places. He has entrusted us with the smallest taste of the burden that He ceaselessly bears for billions. As I lead a large evangelistic movement in my city, He has called me to share in His sufferings, passion, and longing for His beloved lost lambs.

I wonder if what the devil has meant for great harm, God will use for the greater good. What if, for instance, the millions of parents who now painfully struggle with our generation of prodigals determine not to follow the enemy’s script? What if they decide not to hide in shame, be angry with God, blame their spouse, crawl in a hole, etc.?

What if we all would follow the Holy Script and choose to:

  • Know Him in this deep suffering
  • Cherish His heart and weep with Him for His children and ours
  • Feel His burden for the lost everywhere and nurture a holy fire to reach them
  • Fulfill the flip side (in italics below) of the warning in Matthew 24:12-14

In the last days, because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.


And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come 
(ESV, emphasis added‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This passage is confusing. It speaks of a great falling away, but then in the same breath, it promises a great gospel awakening. I believe that the saints who choose to know Him in the darkest hours, those who tend the holy flame while the love of most grows cold, will rise from the ashes to shine like the Seraphim—flames of fire—lighting the way to Jesus in the last days.

I believe God has been preparing this army for a long time. He heard every song and prayer we cried out with youthful passion.

I remember singing these words with my youth group: “I would give my final breath to know you in your death and resurrection; Lord, I want to know you more.” The Lord understood our ignorance and naïveté, but He also knew that we were asking for the treasure of treasures—to know His heart and to understand the weight of His glory. What if He has given us the privilege of pain in order to give us the gift of intimacy with Him in the depths of His sorrow for His lost and rebellious children?

Remembering the Ultimate Sacrifice

I am writing this during a very difficult time in my life. I have often said, the worst day in a preacher’s life is when he must live out the admonitions of his best sermon. I confess I am struggling to honor the very words I am writing now, yet I know they are true.

There is an image from warfare that has helped me to draw near to Jesus in seasons of sorrow. Many soldiers throughout history have made the ultimate sacrifice of diving on top of and “cradling” a grenade thrown into the midst of their comrades. Many are bruised and wounded by the explosion, but one valiant soldier is blown to bits.

Jesus cradled our eternal punishment, and he continues to cradle the hand grenades that roll into our lives. It is my prayer that I/we would cherish each opportunity He gives us to remember His excruciating and constant gift of redemption.

None of the parents of millennials were prepared for the cultural challenges and complexities of the 21st century. None of us were ready for the rapid societal dissolution we have experienced and its ramifications in our own families.

Nevertheless, we always have a choice. What if we all choose to know Him in our pain and then, with empathy and compassion, make Him known to our pain-filled world . . . “then the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations.”

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed . . . Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter‬ 4:12-13, 19,‬ ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬).

About the Author

Rev. David Beidel has lived in Staten Island, NY, for most of his life. In 1992, he and his beloved wife, Rebecca, started a church in their home in New Brighton, a crime-ridden community in Staten Island. Twenty-seven years later, New Hope Community Church stands as a beacon of hope among the West Brighton Housing Projects on the North Shore of Staten Island. Recently, Rev. Beidel resigned his position at New Hope and is currently serving as the New York Metro outreach strategist for Every Home for Christ. He is also the founder and president of Urban Hope NYC, which spearheads the Acts 1:8 “Saturate NYMetro” and Jesus Week (JesusWeekUSA.org) initiatives with the goal to see the knowledge of Jesus saturate the NY Metro and cities everywhere as the waters cover the sea. David has authored two books, Samaria: The Great Omission and Saturation: A Strategy for Gospel Immersion, and co-produced two worship CDs: “Saturation” and “Fragrance.” He is the designer of the SaturateNYMetro.app and the GLEW.app (God’s Love EveryWhere).

 

 

Humor…

Politics…

 Tom Stiglich for 11/21/2019

 Momma for 11/24/2019

 Aunty Acid for 11/24/2019

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Image result for Maxine for Thanksgiving

 

 

 

 

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