What Comes Next?

witnessing, praise, Psalm 9In the last post, we talked about what constitutes a proper memorial for a Christian.  We know that we have the privilege to remember all that God has done for us and then celebrate, rejoice and give thanksgiving to the Lord for his goodness and provision.  And this should be an ongoing practice for all of us who are born again.  Today’s battles are tomorrow’s victories and the next day’s rejoicing.  But what comes next?  Because I assure you, there is still more to do!

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.  Psalm 9:1 (NASB)

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
Declare among the peoples His deeds.  Psalm 9:11 (NASB)

That I may tell of all Your praises,
That in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in Your salvation.  Psalm 9:14 (NASB)

Notice how David, in Psalm 9, links praise with declaration.  In the three verses above, praising God is always accompanied by telling someone else about what God has done for him.  And so it should be with us!  We should rejoice privately, absolutely, but we also need to be rejoicing publicly and making sure that those around us know how blessed we are to be children of the most high God.

In verse 1 of chapter 9, David says he will “tell of all your wonders”.  In verse 11, he says he will “declare among the peoples His deeds.  And in verse 14 he says “that I may tell of all your praises”.  Clearly, David was so enthusiastic about what God was doing that He had to go and tell someone else.  I wonder, do we have that same level of enthusiasm when it comes to telling others about the goodness of the Lord?  Are we excited about the prospect of encouraging someone else with our stories of God’s victories over our troubles and strife?

I truly believe that one of the greatest tragedies in modern America is the relative silence of so many of God’s children.  We enjoy His blessings and we rest secure in His salvation but never share His goodness with those who need it most.  We see the lost and the hopeless all around us but allow them to continue on their way, never introducing them to the God who makes all things new.  We have been given the keys to the kingdom of God and are assured of every spiritual blessing but so often seem to be more interested in stockpiling and hoarding than dispersing and sharing.  (And by the way, the fastest way to rid yourself of many of God’s blessings is to try to keep them to yourself instead of using them to bless others.  Blessings are always meant to be shared!)

Let me conclude this by saying that God has gifted each one of His children in a unique way.  Some of us are artistic, others are builders and still others can teach or sing.  These gifts are often our best vehicle for sharing the good news with others.  If you are a quiet and shy person like I am then you will be glad to know that you can share your faith with others in more ways than just words alone.  As long as you are committed to sharing your faith and allowing God’s blessings to be channeled through you to others then God will give you opportunities to do what you do best under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

Take heart, God can use even you.  (I know, because if He can use me then He can most certainly use you!)

Overlooked Forgotten And Taken For Granted

remember, blessings, praiseOne of the things that the Lord continues to impress upon me is just how blessed I am.  And this is not unique to me.  We are all blessed, every one of us.  Despite trials, despite trouble and despite our circumstances we remain blessed and loved by our Heavenly Father.

Most of us, the great majority I think, do not even realize how blessed we are.  We have been blessed and so over time we forget that we don’t deserve life or love or material blessings of any kind.  We have these things because God loves us and is a giver of good things, not because we are entitled to them.

Most of us expect to wake up in the morning.  Most of us expect to be able to take our next breath.  Most of us expect to have a roof over our heads, a peaceful existence, clothes in our closets and shoes on our feet.  Yet despite our expectations all of these are gifts and blessings from a loving God that we tend to take for granted.

Just the other day I had a conversation with the Lord about my physical body.  I turned 40 this year and have perhaps been a little more in-tune with my physical shape, my energy level and what effect my age is having on my everyday life.  I realized that, by and large, everything works as it should and most of the time I feel pretty good.

If you stop and think about the massive complexity that is the human body and how many systems we have that are blended together and have to work in order for us to function and if you also call to mind how many folks we know that are physically struggling in some way and that have bodies that don’t work so well then it is no stretch to say that I am very blessed.

My feet can carry me where I want to go.  My legs move and my knees bend.  I can turn and stretch and bend over to pick something up off of the floor or stretch my arms over my head to grab something up high.

I can breathe.  I can taste, see, smell, hear, touch and feel.  I can eat and drink and my body can turn what I eat and drink in to fuel for living and working.

My mind is able to process information and perform rational thought.  I can learn and I can use the gifts that God has given me to write and speak His truth and to teach and encourage others.  All because God will’s it and because He has seen fit to love and provide for me.

And this is just a very small sampling of the many, many ways that God has blessed me.

What about you?  Have you taken stock of your blessings lately?  Have you thanked and praised your Father above for His provision and his awesome love?  Do you have His most precious gift of all, His Son Jesus Christ who died for you?  I hope so.

You’ve been blessed with today.  You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow but if it comes then it will be a blessing too.  What will you do with what God has blessed you with?

Thoughts on Thankfulness

thankful, praise, blessingsThankfulness as a way of living has been my theme for some time now.  Some days I am more successful with this than others.  It’s been easier this month with the Thanksgiving season upon us but that still does not lessen my responsibility to be mindful of my blessings.  As I sat down to write this week I seemed to have a jumble of ideas all centered around thankfulness so I thought I would collect them here.

1. Being thankful is God’s will for me. (1 Thes. 5:18)

2. Thankfulness is like armor.  It protects me from bad attitudes, greed and envy.

3. Thankfulness alleviates depression.  Count your blessings!

4. Pride can destroy thankfulness (when I am proud I feel I deserve more instead of being mindful of what I already have been given)

5. My thankfulness should be expressed often, verbally and by my actions.

6. I should be especially thankful for those that God has put closest to me: my family and my church.

7. Because I am thankful I am compelled to serve the Lord out of love for Him.

8. It is still difficult to be thankful for trials and tribulation but I am starting to understand how God uses those to shape me into a usable vessel for Him.

9. Difficult people are a blessing from the Lord that I should be thankful for.

10. The gift that I am most thankful for is my salvation and the hope that the Lord has given me for eternal life.

I hope that this month has caused you to think about all of the things that you are thankful for.  I hope that you understand how important it is to be thankful at all times and in all things.  I would ask you to stop and think of all the things that God has done for you and the ways that He is working in your life and then give Him praise for it.

 

Good Things Come

blessings, God, lifeGood things come to those who wait.  That’s how the expression goes and I have found it to be true.  But, as a child of God, good things come to us every single day and we need to acknowledge them and then give our thanks for them.  Here are a few of my favorite verses that talk about all the good things that God does for us.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (NASB)  God gives good gifts and He gives them in all kinds of ways.  His giving is constant and never ceases because His goodness never changes.  We, in turn, are to give joyously because God first gave to us.

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (KJV)  This is one of my favorite verses because it reminds me that nothing is too big for God.  The whole world belongs to Him.  All created things are His and we exist in Him and through Him.  We will never lack for the resources we need because our Heavenly Father has them all.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (NASB) Ephesians 1:3 speaks to God having given us all that we need to accomplish His will through His son Jesus Christ.  He’s already blessed us with what we need and He gives generously to all who ask.  Our part is to recognize our need and depend on Him to fulfill it.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NASB)  God was thinking about His children long before we were created.  In fact, he prepared good things in the form of good works and placed them along our life paths so that we would discover them as we walk in Him.  I think of these as pre-ordained presents from God that will be given at certain times and in certain places, just because God is good.

Psalm 104:14-15 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad,so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart. (NASB) These are sometimes referred to as the blessings of life.  We should all be well familiar with them but just because we are familiar with them we tend to take them the most for granted.  Along with the knowledge the we are blessed we need to understand that our life could be over in an instant and that any of these life blessings could end tomorrow.  Don’t take God’s blessings for granted and don’t forget to thank Him for all these good things.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB) This is perhaps the most amazing verse in the Bible that deals with good things coming.  God is so mighty and so powerful that He is able to take any problem or circumstance and cause it to produce a good result for His children.  Don’t misunderstand.  Not all things are good and not all things are positive.  Evil is real and it is terrible.  But God is able.  He always gets the last word and through Him our ultimate victory is assured.  

Brothers and sisters in Christ: good things are coming.  Do you see them and are you ready to receive what God has for you?

 

 

 

 

To Be Unassailably Blessed

unassailable, eternal, blessingsUnassailable is a big word, but I like it.  It means to be impregnable and not able to be doubted, attacked or questioned.  To be unassailable is to be sure, firm and sound.  Whether we realize it or not we spend much of our lives and enormous amounts of energy trying to make ourselves and our families unassailable.  We desperately want security, and rightly so.  Unfortunately, experience has taught me that the human experience is the opposite of unassailable and that very little in this life is secure.

Our wealth can be stolen, taxed and diminished by any number of outside forces.  Our homes, cars and possessions deteriorate with age and with use.  Our loved ones can choose to leave us or be separated from us by circumstance or disease.  And worst of all, our health and with it our very lives fade away and are forgotten.

And yet, to be a child of God is to be unassailably blessed.

God has given us that which is normally impossible on this physical plain.  He has given us something secure, timeless and constant.  He has given us the gift of His presence and His peace as long as we are walking with Him.

Through salvation and the regeneration of our spirit, the Son of God is manifested in us.  We are given the ability to overcome our old sin nature and the habits that once bound us and be made like Jesus.  God’s Word tells us that every spiritual blessing is ours to claim (Ephesians 1:3) and that we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17) and His rightful inheritance as the Son of Almighty God.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time understanding that.  I know who I am.  I know what I deserve.  But God still offers me the same grace, the same love and the same forgiveness that he offers you.  He offers us blessings that can’t be diminished by time or use!

Every time that I become tempted to find security in something material or wordly, God pulls the curtain back and shows me how flimsy it all really is.  He does this not because He is cruel or unkind, but because He knows that there is only once place in all the universe where my security can be found.  All else is false and fading and quite frankly, beneath us.  God wants us to invest our time, energy and hope into things that will last and into those things that store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).  Those things are eternal, unshakable and yes, unassailable.

When Men Ate The Food of Angels

providence, blessings, romans 8:28Psalm 78:25 delights me.  It says “Men ate the bread of Angels”.  Think about that for a moment and what that must have been like.

Psalm chapter 78 is a call for Israel to remember all that God has done for them.  When they wandered in the wilderness after the exodus and were hungry, God fed them.  Verse 25 speaks to that act and does so in a rather extraordinary fashion.

The fact that God fed his hungry children is not surprising.  We know it is in God’s nature to be good and to provide for the needs of his own.  What is surprising to me is how he fed them.  He gave them manna from heaven (the aforementioned angels food) and then, as if that wasn’t enough, caused a great wind to blow quail into the camp which then rained down from the skies right to their feet.

Talk about a spectacle!  Our God is never boring.  He is patient, long-suffering and unchanging and in our finite, temporary minds we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that God can be boring because we just can’t see the big picture.  The way God met the needs of the His people wandering in the wilderness was creative, miraculous and unmistakably Him.  No one could look back at that and guess that anyone or anything else could be responsible for the way that it turned out.

Has there ever been a circumstance or situation in your life where you know that God intervened and provided for you and there is no doubt that it could have been anyone or anything else?  I hope you can answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”.  I know that I can, and I praise the Lord for the way that he cares for me.

If you can’t think of an instance, just wait, your moment will come.  The fact of the matter is that God is busy working on our behalf all the time.  As the saved by grace children of God, Romans 8:28 assures me that this is so.  It says  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Not only is God working for us, He is working for us in all things!  That astounds me and comforts me, and I hope it does the same for you.

You and I may never taste the food of angels (at least in this life) but God’s desire to provide and care for His children in spectacular and creative ways is no different today than it was all those years ago.  Even in circumstances and trials that seem dire, God is still working and still ordering all things towards His purpose and His plan.  If you are in a situation where you are having trouble believing that God is working for you and you just can’t see any good at all, ask Him to reveal His presence to you.  Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your need and to speak directly to your heart and you will see just how much he loves and cares for you.

How My Family Personally Experienced God’s Blessing

praise, thanks, psalms

“That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
And tell of all Your wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:7)

I believe the Bible is very clear in its instructions to us to tell of the wonderful blessings that God bestows on us.  In most cases, we are not to keep the Lord’s work a secret, but we are to proclaim it and be witnesses to the world and encouragement to each other.

If you are like me, you probably find it easier to experience God’s blessing that to tell about it.  I tend to be a quiet person and can be shy about speaking up unless I am strongly prompted.  Using this blog I have been able to write about various personal subjects that would have been very difficult for me to verbalize.  I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to write and to tell about how good God has been to me and my family.

I’ve mentioned my job change several times now, about how it has disrupted my writing schedule and taken up much more of my time than I would have anticipated.  I have not been entirely fair in this and I want to correct that today.  What I have not talked about is how God has used it to bless my family financially and to restore to us what we once committed completely to Him.

It all started late last summer, in August.  I woke up one Saturday morning with one of the strongest, most clear messages from God that I had ever received.  I’ve heard of people who had experienced the Lord in a dream or received a message in a dream and this was not quite like that.  I don’t recall any images at all nor was there an audible component to it.  It was more like a mental stamp that had been placed on my brain or even a branding that left such a clear imprint that I had no doubt as to Who it had come from and what I needed to do.

The Lord was prompting me to give a special offering to our building fund at church.  And not only that, He had given me a very specific number that was to be given and this amount was very nearly all of our cash savings.  My trepidation was not in the giving, because I knew the Lord was going to take care of us.  My trepidation was in how to tell my wife who is far more of a saver than I am.

I should have trusted the Lord and talked to her about it that morning but I found that I couldn’t get the words out at breakfast time or during the clean up afterwards.  By then, it was time for me to get ready to go to work and I prayed that the Lord would give me courage at my next opportunity.

That evening I still was unable to talk to Vicki and I went to bed feeling a little bit apprehensive.  I knew I needed to speak and that God would work it all out.  I resolved to start Sunday morning off by being completely honest and leaving the results up to the Lord.

Vicki was up earlier than I that Sunday and when I entered the kitchen she was busy with breakfast preparations.  As we sat down to eat I told her I needed to talk to her about something and I proceeded to explain to her as best I could what I believed the Lord was asking us to do.  I purposely did not tell her the amount and concluded by asking her to pray throughout the day for a number that would give us confirmation of what the Lord wanted us to do.  She looked a little bit worried but to her credit she agreed to do it and took it on faith that God was speaking and that we should listen.

The very next morning she gave me a number that was exactly the same as the number that the Lord had revealed to me.  There was a new excitement about the way she said it and I knew that the Lord was at work and we were privileged to be involved.  We made some arrangements that week to go by the bank and make sure there would be no complications with writing a much larger check than normal and then set a date to give our offering the following Sunday.

Two weeks later, a man walked into the retail store where I was working and offered me a job.  The starting salary was 50% better than what I was currently making and there was a chance to make commission on any sales that I happened to make.  After prayer and careful consideration I accepted the job and started work on Septermber 23rd.

In discussions with the owner of the business (the same man who had offered me the job) I was told I could probably expect to increase my pay by around five dollars an hour through my commission opportunities if I worked hard.  Using that information I set goals for myself, both weekly and for one year (52 weeks) in terms of total commission.

Despite a slow start in September as I was learning the job, my end of the year total for 2013 exceeded my original 52 week goal by more than 10%.  In other words, I made more in 3 months than I had hoped to make in an entire year.  What’s more, we are now back up to the same level of cash savings that we were when we gave the offering back in August.

God is very good.  Vicki and I have no doubt that He has completely worked all of this out to His glory and to our delight and amazement.  And He continues to work and to bless.  Both of us want to continue to be available for His use and this experience has shown us that when we are obedient He can do great things.

Thank you, Lord, for being so good to us!

5 Ways You Can Bless Someone Else This Christmas

Christmas, Blessing, JesusChristmas, at its heart, is about the love that Christ bore for us when He came to earth on His mission of salvation and deliverance from sin.  We give gifts at Christmas in honor of Jesus as a baby in a manger who was God’s gift to all mankind.  As you seek to love and bless others around you this Christmas, here are five ways that you can do just that.

1. Presents – This is the obvious first answer but that doesn’t mean we should overlook it or take it for granted.  A gift given in thoughtfulness and careful consideration to the receiver is so much more meaningful than handing out pre-paid Visa cards to everyone on your list.  (Not that pre-paid Visas aren’t useful and appreciated!)  It will take more time and more care to pick out the right gift for each person but the amount of love you can show to that person is more than worth the extra effort.

2. Presence – You need to be there.  Wherever your loved ones are gathering and even with the hassle of the crowds, weather and holiday rush, nothing can take your place in terms of showing love to the people you care about this Christmas.  The gift of your time and attendance means a lot and giving your gifts in person whenever possible makes them all the more special.  Enjoy the time that you get to spend with your family and friends this holiday and remember that it  is a blessing that not everyone has.  Don’t take it for granted.

3. Attitude – This is a busy time of year for everyone and it can be very easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.  Christmas is about Jesus and should be a celebration of love and God’s favor towards all men.  Peace on earth and good will towards men should be our motto and our goal this Christmas and that’s impossible to do that when we are stressed out, over tired and just plain cranky.  Remember how very much that God loves you and remember that it’s not about the presents or parties, as nice and as fun as those things can be.  Let love and thankfulness rule your heart and mind and not a bad attitude.

4. Action – Get involved.  Nothing increases holiday spirit like giving of your time to a worthy cause in Jesus’ name.  Whether it be Operation Christmas Child, a special Christmas pageant or signing up to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, there’s nothing more precious or meaningful that you can give than yourself.  You’ve only been given one life and you are not promised another Christmas time on this earth.  Only the Lord knows how many days we’ve each been appointed and we need to be about doing good while we have the time to do it.  I promise you that you will be blessed and enriched by the time you spend giving and working for the Lord.

5. Obedience – Is there something that the Lord has been impressing upon you to do this year and you have yet to say yes?  Are you living each day in accordance with His word to the best of your ability?  Have you run from God in your lifetime and are you running still?  While the first four items on our list are ways that we can love other people, this last one is primarily between you and the Lord.  Giving yourself to Him in humble obedience is absolutely the best thing you can do this Christmas and will be the best thing you’ve done all year.  It will change your life for the better and it will have the added benefit of blessing those you come in contact with on a daily basis.

Remember, Christmas is about love and giving.  Let us resolve to be the kind of givers that God would approve of this Christmas and let us love others the way that Jesus loves us.  Merry Christmas!

New Beginnings – A Blessing and A Challenge

thankful, blessings, giftsSometimes, the Lord blesses us in the most unexpected ways.  Such is the case with my new job.  After having worked in retail for the past five years and in IT for the ten years before that, I now find myself using all of my accumulated knowledge in new ways and in a new place.

I was not looking for a new job.  I had actually decided to continue in retail for at least the next year or so simply because my employer was a good one, my hours were regular and the wage was decent.  Truth be told, I was not especially looking forward to another Christmas in retail;  if you are a retail worker then I sympathize with you because you know what I’m talking about, but I was thankful to be employed and I counted my blessings.

And then one day a man walked in the door and I exchanged greetings and small talk with him because I knew him from when I did IT work those many years ago.  He was a local business owner who had used our firm for various services and we remembered each other.  He browsed around for a while and then as he was about to walk back out the door to leave he surprised me with a question.  He said “Are you looking for any other opportunities?”  That, of course, started the conversation that lead me to accept a position with his company.

Needless to say, the past week has been all about getting acclimated and settled in to my new position.  This brings about a special set of challenges that you normally wouldn’t even consider except when starting a new position at a new place.  For instance, learning the telephone number and address of your establishment so that you can give customers the correct information.  Or, figuring out the most convenient place to buy fuel for your car because your route to and from work has been completely altered.  Most days were fun and interesting but one or two were stressful and headache inducing as I struggled to come to grips with all of the new information that I needed to know.

Through it all I have been very aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit watching over, protecting and sustaining me.  Even amid the stressful days this has been the smoothest new job transition that I’ve ever undertaken.  Things have just gone well this week and I give all the credit and glory to my Heavenly Father who is the author of all good and perfect gifts.  (James 1:17)

I acknowledge and appreciate God’s gifts and how abundantly He has blessed me and I will continue to do that as often as possible.  One of my life’s goals is to cultivate a continuing attitude of thankfulness and to not forget how favored I am.  I am here to do His will and my very life is contingent upon His great grace.  Thank you, Lord, for new beginnings, new challenges and new blessings.

How about you?  Have you had any new beginnings that you are thankful for recently?  I appreciate your comments!