THE POWER OF GIVING THANKS

Something to reflect on as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner:

If you had been a Pilgrim, would you have given thanks?

Consider what they had been through, the men and women who broke bread together on that first Thanksgiving in 1621.

They had uprooted themselves and sailed for America, an endeavor so hazardous that published guides advised travelers to the New World, “First, make thy will.” The crossing was very rough and the Mayflower was blown off course. Instead of reaching Virginia, where Englishmen had settled 13 years earlier, the Pilgrims ended up in the wilds of Massachusetts. By the time they found a place to make their new home – Plymouth, they called it – winter had set in.

The storms were frightful. Shelter was rudimentary. There was little food. Within weeks, nearly all the settlers were sick.

“That which was most sad and lamentable,” Governor William Bradford later recalled, “was that in two or three months’ time, half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases…. There died sometimes two or three of a day.”

When spring came, Indians showed them how to plant corn, but their first crops were dismal. Supplies ran out, but their sponsors in London refused to send more. The first time the Pilgrims sent a shipment of goods to England, it was stolen by pirates.

If you had been there in 1621 – if you had seen half your friends die, if you had suffered through famine, malnutrition, and sickness, if you had endured a year of heartbreak and tragedy – would you have felt grateful?

SOURCE: By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Staff, 11/23/2000



GOD AND YOUR JOB

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.  – James 4:10 NKJV

What does God value in our job performance?

(l) He values humility and servant-hood, not pride and a sense of entitlement that thinks, “You owe me.” “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” If we are secure in our identity as God’s child we can relax and know that, like the loving parent He is, our Heavenly Father will recognize and reward us fairly and generously. Knowing this frees us from having to be recognized by others. Indeed, if being appreciated is your sole reason for working, God will have people overlook you until you get the order of work straight in your mind. You can be appreciated at home, by your friends and your family, but work is just what it sounds like: work!

(2) He values courage and risk-taking. Consider the faith it took for David to leave his home, the humble shepherd’s pallet on the hillsides, and travel to King Saul’s palace. He must have felt just a little out of place, knowing he was underdressed and uninformed about the culture of the royal court. Like a boy from the slums suddenly finding himself in Buckingham Palace, David was instantly out of his comfort zone. Then later, after it’s clear that his new boss is afflicted by an evil spirit and intends to kill him, David coolly maintains his mission because he knows God wants him there. “He will lift you up.” One day David would have his boss’s position, palace and perks, but he had to leave the “how” and the “when ” up to God and serve faithfully. The same goes for you.



STAGES OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH (3)

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.  -1 John 2:13 NAS

What makes you a spiritual adult? Knowing God; it’s that simple! But this raises a question. How can you know —that you know God intimately? It’s like a good marriage: two people fall in love and become so close that each one knows what the other is thinking and feeling without a word being spoken.

But such intimacy is not developed overnight. It’s the product of time spent together—and commitment! Paul speaks about, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit” (ICO 2:9-10 NAS). The mature follower of Christ sees things the human eye can’t see and hears things the most acute ear can’t hear. And they have thoughts they didn’t originate on their own. That’s because God’s indwelling Spirit is helping them to think God’s thoughts. What an advantage!

You’ll know you are spiritually mature when God lets you pick up on thoughts and insights from His Word that go far beyond what someone told you, or what you heard in a sermon. That’s because the Holy Spirit is now free to send His message clearly and directly to you. In other words we will “know the things freely given to us by God” (ICO 2:12 NAS). But that means we have to be close enough to hear God speaking to us. Such intimacy doesn’t just happen. It’s not an afterthought. It must be your number one priority and the consuming passion of your life. Is it?



STAGES OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1)

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven.  – 1 John 2:12 NAS

There are 3 stages to spiritual growth. The first is childhood. The Greek term “little children” refers to toddlers. And if there’s one thing toddlers are good at—it’s tripping and falling. Until they learn to walk they need someone to pick them up, dry their tears, bandage their skinned knees, and reassure them that falling down doesn’t mean they’ll never walk or that they’re not part of the family.

There are 2 things a spiritual toddler needs to understand: first, the difference between their stage of growth, and their standing before God. Don’t get these 2 things mixed up! Trusting in the finished work of Christ is the only thing that gives you right standing with God. From that moment on you are a fully accepted and redeemed child of His. That’s how He sees you. If you forget that you’ll be in trouble, because every time you fall the Devil will make you doubt your salvation.

The forgiveness you receive at the new birth is a judicial act by God, making you a member of His family in good standing. But the forgiveness you receive on a daily basis is a relational act. Suppose you enter some wrong numbers into your calculator. What do you do? You have a little button called “clear entry” which allows you to erase your error and start over. That’s what the blood of Christ does for you. Repentance allows you to override sin by triggering God’s forgiveness so that the flow of His grace continues. And when grace flows, growth follows. The important thing to remember about sin is, “always keep short accounts with God.”



SPIRITUAL DEPTH

That I may… become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.  – Philippians 3: 10 AMP

Storms reveal the depth and resilience of a tree’s root system. When hard times come we need more than just intelligence; we need spiritual depth, the kind Job the patriarch had. When the bottom dropped out of his world, Job said: “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12 NAS). We need the spiritual depth of Paul, who, after praying 3 times for the horrible stake in his flesh to leave (the word translated “thorn” sometimes referred to a pointed instrument, like a spear), and 3 times the Lord said “no.” In response, Paul said, “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2Co 12:9 NJKV). Instead of looking for a way out, or throwing a pity party, Paul declared, “I chose to go through this so that I can have the privilege of experiencing more of Christ’s power working in my life.” What spiritual depth!

Don’t you want what these people had, so that your spiritual life is such that you walk in step with God whether you feel good or not; whether you get a “yes,” “no,” or “wait,” in answer to your prayers; even when you don’t get your own way? Spiritual depth cannot be caught by osmosis, or merely be something on your wish list. It must become your all consuming goal, and the highest priority of your life. Is it?



GOD’S PROTECTIVE HAND IS UPON YOU!

Lord… My life is in your hands. Psalm 31:14-15 CEV

Terry Schafer knew what she wanted to buy her husband for Christmas, but it was more than she could afford. So a generous storeowner agreed to gift-wrap it and let her take it, with the agreement that she make weekly payments. When she thanked him and he replied, “Oh, it’s nothing,” that storekeeper didn’t realize the significance of his kind gesture. On October 4th, patrolman David Schafer was pursuing an armed robber when he was shot in the stomach. When an officer went to tell his wife Terry, she was glad she hadn’t waited for Christmas to give her husband his gift. And she was doubly grateful for the storekeeper who’d agreed to come to terms, otherwise David would be dead. Instead he was hospitalized, not with a gunshot wound but a bruise—because he’d been wearing the new bulletproof vest she’d given him earlier that week.

When the timing of an event is more remarkable than the event itself, some people attribute it to luck, fate, coincidence, or karma. (They’re usually the ones who think birth, death, interruptions and delays are matters of chance, not divine design!). But not David; he wrote: “I come to you, Lord, for protection… Do as you.. .promised.. .Protect me from hidden traps and keep me safe. You are faithful.. . I trust you. , .and claim you as my God. My life is in your hands… you store up blessings for all who honor and trust you. You are their shelter from harmful plots… The Lord protects the faithful” (Ps 31:1-23 CEV). Wherever you go today, remember that God’s protective hand is upon you!



DEVELOPING FRIENDSHIPS

A friend loves at all times.  Proverbs 17:17 NKJV

Dr. John Maxwell writes: “If you want deep, lasting friendship, you cannot always be the strong one. And that can be frightening; especially if you’ve had someone hurt or manipulate you. But you must let a friend see you in your weakness. Some of us have never done this, and we wonder why we’re lonely. We’re going to have to get vulnerable to have a true friend.

“Friends serve each other. When’s the last time you performed an act of servant-hood for a friend to whom you’re devoted? If you can’t remember, you’re probably living with a core of loneliness. A friend is someone you commit to not because of what they can do for you, but just because they’re your friend. And friends listen, even though they’re busy. Listening is an act of love. It says ‘I’m going to put my own agenda on hold and devote myself to knowing and caring for you.’ Friends are not generally looking for someone who can talk very impressively or cleverly or with great wit. Mostly what they’re looking for is a world-class listener. Furthermore, when something goes right, friends celebrate. Do you do that? When’s the last time one of your friends had God bless them and you threw a party?

“If you’re not in this kind of friendship right now, you can’t make it happen, but you can open yourself up to it. You can start pursuing it. You can ask God to guide you. You can take little relational risks. And if you already have friends like this, prize them, protect them, enrich them in every way, and take that friendship as deep as you can.”



THE “200-UNIT LIMIT”

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.  -Isaiah 30: 15

When the stock market plunged an investor asked his broker if he was worried. “Nope, I sleep like a baby!” he replied. Amazed, the client said, “Really, even with all these fluctuations?” The broker said, “Yup, just like a baby! I sleep for an hour, then I wake up and cry all night!”

Our capacity for handling stress is limited. Researcher Dr. Thomas Holmes concludes that experiencing 200+ “life change units” in a year can put you over the edge. For example, losing a spouse equals 100 units, divorce 60, illness 45, unemployment 45; even Christmas gets 12! Maybe you’re reading this and

you ‘ve already exceeded your “200-unit limit.” Emotionally and physically you’re stretched to the breaking point and there’s no relief in sight. Be careful; living in an emotional danger zone makes you a target for the devil who has you in his cross hairs!

Under pressure you succumb to temptation much more easily than when you’re rested, That’s why preventing stress is always better than trying to deal with it when it’s full blown, Isaiah says: “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” And Paul adds: “Don’t worry.. .pray about everything . . . If you do… you will experience God’s peace, which is.. ,more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep…your hearts as you trust in…Jesus” (Php 4:6-7 TLB).

Nobody understands your stress like Jesus. That’s why He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and.. .you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 1 1:28-29 NLT),

So stop pushing so hard. Give your concerns to God. Then allow yourself the same kind of consideration you’d give to a friend who’s on overload.



USING YOUR GIFT FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSES (2)

Your young men shall see visions. – Acts 2:17

Andrés Segovia was born in Southern Spain and began playing guitar as a small child. In those days the guitar was little more than a folk instrument. Serious composers and musicians didn’t respect it. But Segovia saw potential in the guitar for classical music. He began studying the techniques of classical musicians who played the violin and cello. Then he applied those techniques to his playing and developed other methods on his own. He adapted the compositions of masters such as Bach, and learned to play them on his instrument. In 1909, Segovia made his debut—at the age of 16. In 1919, he

toured the world and won over the classical establishment.

Soon, for the first time, composers were writing classical music for the guitar and a whole new kind of music was born. Over the course of nearly 80 years, Segovia completely changed people’s perception of his instrument. But like many big dreams that become realized, his dream made an impact far beyond what he imagined. It could be argued that his efforts opened the door for the guitar, not only to the concert hall but also to the jazz band. That in turn led to the electrically amplified guitar. If you’ve enjoyed the music of the Beatles or Eric Clapton, then thank Andrés Segovia. If it wasn’t for his dream the music of the 20th century may have gone in an entirely different direction.

Big oaks grow from little acorns. When you discover your God-given gift and commit to it, there’s no telling how far you’ll go or what kind of impact you’ll make.



USING YOUR GIFT FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSES (1)

You are a chosen people… to tell… the wonderful acts of God.  Peter 20.9 CEV

Raised amidst arguments and money problems, Rich Stearns decided that education was his ticket out. Scholarships and hard work got him into Cornell University, then earned him an MBA from Wharton. Business came easy to Rich and he eventually became the CEO for Parker Brothers and Lenox China. He had it all: big house, nice family and secure job. So why did he still feel unfulfilled? He knew what his skill was: management. He knew where to use it: big organizations. But why? He considered becoming a missionary but didn’t see how God could use someone whose strengths were budgets and flow charts. In 1998 when World Vision invited him to be their CEO, he declined. It would be career suicide to move his family across the country, take a 75% pay cut and assume the reins of a ministry! But they persisted. When board member Bill Hybels told Rich, “This is a chance to marry your gifts with God’s call.. -to enter the zone in which you were made to live,” Rich prayed, weighed his options, and accepted.

Looking back Rich Stearns says, “This is the fulfillment of who I was created to be… I’ve found my stride.. . I wonder why I waited 23 years.” And World Vision has no regrets either.  During his first 6 years their annual budget doubled, making it the largest relief organization in the world. It’s amazing what happens when you use your gifts “to tell.. .the wonderful acts of God.” So, what are you doing with your gifts?




 

Leave a Reply