Tuesday, November 20, 2007

With thanksgiving...

I made an interesting discovery last week. When I think of things I’m thankful for, I think of the things of earth first. Relationships. Things I own. Comforts I enjoy. Here and now stuff.

It’s only upon further reflection that I get to the things of heaven. That struck me as odd – almost wrong. I know that we should be thankful for the physical blessings God gives us. It would most definitely be wrong to be ungrateful for food and shelter and sunshine and rain. But are those the most important things, the things I should think of first when counting blessings?

I’m not sure what to think. I have more questions than I have answers. And the questions I have are a bit unsettling. Try these on for size.

Does my tendency to rejoice first in the material say something about the quality of my relationship with God?

Would I thank God less if I had fewer worldly possessions?

Am I so earthly-minded that I’m of no heavenly good?

I don’t have any answers. I know that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I know I have salvation and that I can’t earn God’s mercy by right thinking or right acting or right talking. Salvation is by faith in Jesus. That’s true for me. It’s true for you. Everyone who believes is saved.

So I’m not talking about salvation here, I’m just wondering out loud if I’m a little off-kilter. Going with the flow is so easy. Thinking like the world thinks. Forgetting God.

I don’t want to drift. I can’t conform to the world and be joy-filled. Only in seeking God’s good, perfect and pleasing will can I find peace.

Thinking about this thankfulness issue this week, my mind turned to Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

“Do not be anxious about anything.” How many of you are obeying that command? Are you dealing with fears and worries properly? Are you remembering to take them to God and ask for his help in resisting the devil’s schemes?

Peter tells you to do just what Paul is saying here. Hear God speaking to you. “Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV)

Peter and Paul are together on this. God gave them both the same message.

Why? So that every believer would not be anxious. So that every believer would go to God with their fears. When we are fearful, God wants us to pray. We’re to pray about whatever is troubling us.

Notice that Paul says, “…in everything…present your requests to God.” And do it “with thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving is, if we get it right, God-focused. It remembers God’s goodness in the past. It trusts God’s goodness now. It trusts even when it looks like God’s walked away, even when fear threatens to undo us. Remember, this thanksgiving is accompanying prayers offered from an otherwise anxious heart.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

What difficulty are you facing right now? Don’t worry about it. Take it to God. Make your requests known to him. Give thanks to him.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Are you ready?

Watch video...

This video (hope you watched it) brings back a lot of memories for me. It reminds me of end-times films I watched as a kid. I can still see the flickering images on the church’s rickety three-legged Da-Lite screen. I can hear the whirring and clacking of the run down Eiki projector. My heart still races when I bring to mind the story of a condemned Christian holding onto his faith as he stepped up to the guillotine.

I wondered then, I wonder now, could I be so brave? My emotions get all mixed up when I chew on this dilemma for any length of time. Fear. Passion. Sorrow. Joy.

I know in my head that God would give the strength I’d need to face a martyr’s end. My heart just lags a bit behind, reluctant to embrace the thought of my demise.

Violent death. Painful torture. Cruelty.

Would I fair as well as I want to when faced with these now seemingly awful fates?

I prayed about that this week, talked with my Father in heaven. Almost immediately, my eyes just closed, Jesus’ words came to mind.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5, NIV)

Those words brought me back to reality. What’s best is not what’s here. What’s best is what’s to come. And so I chose again to follow the one who “after the killing of the body” – to state it more positively” – has the power to” deliver me safe into heaven. That’s who I’ll fear. That’s who I’ll follow – to the death if need be.