Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Thanksgiving Post

What can I say about Thanksgiving that hasn't been said a thousand times on Facebook and Twitter and all over the blogosphere during the last two weeks?

I must confess that I'm cheating today. This post is an edited version of one that I wrote in 2005, when "Tuesdays with Jesus" first began. I admit that I have used it on some other Thanksgiving weeks since then.

I repent.

Many of you have never seen this post, and for those of you who have, I believe that the message is still as sweet for this very holiday week. Psalm 98 was my inspiration, and I would encourage you to stop what you're doing and read those words before you continue. Won't you please?       

How typical is it to write about Thanksgiving this week? It doesn't surprise you, does it? I think that you may find what you are about to read is a little different. Are you up for a challenge?

The Lord asked me to do something this week that is quite out of the ordinary, and I invite you to accept the challenge with me. From today until next Saturday evening, give thanks. "Easy enough", you say. No, I mean ONLY give thanks. Don't ASK God for anything - ONLY give thanks.

Verse 1 of this psalm says, "Sing to the Lord a new song". The "songs" we typically sing are full of  requests and petitions to God. I would guess that your "asking" time outweighs your praising and thanking time, when you go to God in prayer. Let's sing a new song - one of ONLY giving thanks. No whining, no complaining, no begging, no asking - ONLY thanks!

Do you believe that your Heavenly Father knows everything you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8)? Let me assure you that just because you aren't asking for a few days, doesn't mean that God will not be aware of your needs. He's not going to say, "Gee, I haven't heard any requests from Sally and Joe today - I wonder what's going on; I wonder what they need?" How absurd! Your Father knows! Yes, we are told to pray, but I believe that it will be refreshing and pleasing to God's ears to hear nothing but our heartfelt thanks for a few days.

We can thank Him because He has done marvelous things (v.1). His right hand and holy arm have worked salvation for Him (v. 1b). He is righteous (v. 2). He makes His love and faithfulness known to all the ends of the earth (v. 3). He is our King (v. 6). He is the judge who will judge in righteousness and equity (v. 9). He forgives all your sins, heals all your diseases, redeems your life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion, and satisfies your desires with good things (Psalm 103: 1-5).

Thank Him - Praise Him!!

When I'm talking thanks, friend, I'm talking real thanks. Look at the commands of Psalm 98. Verse 4a says, "Shout". To "shout"is to utter a sudden loud cry. "Burst into jubilant song with music". (v. 4b) "Bursting" is like an explosion - "jubilant" is rejoicing in triumph. Explode into triumphant rejoicing over your God!

Sing - shout for joy (v. 6)! When David brought the Ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem, he was leaping and dancing before the Lord to the point that the Bible says his wife despised him. He told her, "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this" (2 Samuel Ch. 6:16,21-22).

The sea, the mountains, the rivers, the whole world, is commanded to sing before the Lord (Psalm 98: vs. 7-9). Jesus said that if the people didn't cry out, "the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40).  

Don't be put to shame by the rocks!

The praise and thanksgiving set forth in God's word is not quiet, reserved, or afraid of what other people think about it.

It is shouting, dancing, joyful music, and exuberant praise to the One who is worthy!

Not only will days of only thanksgiving be pleasing to the Lord, but I believe that it will be beneficial to us as well.

Try something for me. Say your name five times in your head. Now try and think about your address while still thinking your name. Can't do it, can you? We can't think about two things at the same time! While thanking God, we cannot worry. While expressing thanks, we cannot complain. We can't fret. We can't murmur or grumble. We can't work out our own plans to take care of our problems.

There's freedom in the midst of the thanksgiving!

I believe that our joy will increase and overflow as we thank. If we really concentrate on what we have been given, we will become joyful. Our focus will shift from what we don't have, to "every good and perfect gift" that God has given us (James 1:17).

You may be thinking that you don't have much to be thankful for today. Oh, my friend, you do! Start with your spiritual blessings; the Cross, salvation, God's love for you. His faithfulness, His mercy and compassion. The forgiveness of all of your sins. The Blessed Holy Spirit living on the inside of you. If you are reading this right now, I assume that you have been blessed with a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food to nourish your body. I praise God each morning for eyes that see, ears that hear, lips that speak, and a body that moves. Each breath, each heartbeat - a gift from God.

Do you hate doing laundry? Thank God for a husband and children who wear those clothes and that you have the means to buy them. Do you hate house cleaning? Thank Him for providing shelter. Do you hate your job? Please don't!! Thank Him that you have one -- so many do not! You get the point...

You might say, "But Donna, you just don't know what I'm going through right now. It's so hard to be thankful." The Bible tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). All -- not some. Even in bad situations we can thank Him because "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Thank Him because "the testing of your faith is developing perseverance (patience). When perseverance has finished it's work you will be mature, complete, not lacking anything" (James 1: 3-4). Maybe you can't see the end from the beginning today? Thank God for teaching you how to trust Him!!

Today is Sunday. Won't you join me for the next five days on this journey of total thankfulness? It won't be easy, I assure you. We're not used to it. That old, ugly father of lies may even put on a stronger attack. Let me make a few suggestions:

When you have a thought or a  situation that would cause you to worry or fret or complain, just say "Jesus". There is power in that name.

Say, "Jesus" and then begin to thank Him, once again.

If you are in a prayer group this week, dare to be different - tell the others that you're doing nothing this week but thanking Him. Who knows? It may catch on....Hallelujah!

Thank Him for what He WILL do, ahead of time, "calling things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17). Thank Him for that healed marriage. Thank Him for that saved son or daughter. Thank Him for the provision He is sending...right now!

Put your laundry list of requests in your pocket, immerse yourself in the Word, and see all His benefits (Psalm 103:2). Shout for joy even if you don't feel like it. Be undignified! Let "Thank you Jesus!" continually be in your mouth! Then go to worship Him on Sunday morning. Praise, sing, dance, if you're not embarrassed. You will have "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

I believe that God is going to do some mighty things in our lives this week. I really do. Won't you try it with me?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Tell Me a Story

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In The Potter's Hands

"But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. ...can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:4,6

Beautiful pots always start with a chunk of shapeless clay. The first step in making pots is to prepare the clay. It is kneaded back and forth, back and forth, with the heel of the hands of the potter, until it forms a smooth ball. Next it is pulled, stretched, pressed, smoothed, and rolled into the shape of the pot that the potter desires.

I admit that I am a marred piece of clay. My Heavenly Father is the Potter. Just like that clay in the hand of the potter, so am I in the Lord's hands.

If we want to be honest, I think we would admit that we spend a whole lot of time in the kneading hands of the Potter. There seem to be particular seasons in life where the pressure of His shaping hands is felt more than the hand of His blessing. It is so important to God that we become even, pleasing, well-formed, and purposeful, that His infinite love will allow us to be very uncomfortable.

We are kneaded and stretched in many different ways. A difficult work situation. A fight with a spouse. A disobedient child. An aging parent. People talking about us. Feeling offended. Thinking life isn't fair. We may have more month left at the end of the money. But God tells us that He is shaping us as it seems best to Him.

Human clay is not passive, as is the clay of the earthly potter. When we are being kneaded and stretched, we can respond. Therein lies our choice. While God is sovereign in His work, He is responsive to our wills. We can choose to live by our emotions and feelings, giving way to anger, bitterness and resentment. Or, we can choose to respond in love. We can choose to return evil for evil or overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) We can choose to renew our mind with the Word of God and obey it, or we can choose to conform to the patterns of the world. (Romans 12:2) We can choose fear or faith.

I believe the more right choices that we make, the less time we will spend on the potter's wheel. The children of Israel turned an eleven day journey into a 40 year trip, around the same mountain over and over and over again with their grumbling, complaining and disobedience.

Are you pliable in the Potter's hands, or are you hard and cracked? Are you concentrating more on the pressure of His hands, or on the loving touch of them? If a piece of clay is pliable, it is much easier and faster for the potter to mold it into shape. If it is hard and cracked the Potter won't stop -- He will just continue to knead and press until it is just as He wants it to be.

The making of a beautiful pot doesn't stop with the kneading process. The pots are then fired. They are put into a kiln or furnace. These are the real pressures of life. The marriage fails. The child rebels. The job is lost. The eviction notice comes in the mail. They ruin your reputation. The doctor's report says it's cancer. This is where total surrender to the Potter is the only rational choice to make. When it comes to God it is perfectly appropriate to say, "I give! Take it all! Take control of it all! There is nothing left of me." Isn't that just the response He wanted from you all along? Self-sufficiency may impress men but it doesn't impress God. Our feeble strength is no match for the strength He can give. The more helpless we are, the more God can show His power.

Show God that you trust in Him completely. Repent of your sins and thinking you can take care of yourself, or that you can solve your own problems. Stop relying on yourself and men - start relying on God. He knows what He's doing. Isaiah 29:16 says, "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"? Of course not - He knows everything! He is our Creator, and is the only one who can control our lives without destroying them.

Fall limp in the hands of the Potter. Be pliable and moldable no matter what comes. God says in Isaiah 30:15, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."

An assessment of a finished pot should reveal an even thickness of the walls, a pleasing form, well-joined pieces, and it should be made for a designated purpose.

I am making a determined decision to be a pliable piece of clay in my Potter's hands beginning today. I have been on the wheel a lot lately, and God's light has shown on many dark places I still have in my heart. He has made me acutely aware of the ugliness of my sins, great and small, in His sight. But He has also let me know that those lessons learned were the exact reasons that I've been on the wheel. I believe that He is evening me out, and smoothing my rough edges. He is giving me a pleasing form in His sight. He is imparting to me His strength to keep my pieces well-joined so they don't come apart under pressure. And He is daily showing me the designated purpose for my life.

Repent - Rest - Be Quiet - Trust

We will always be marred to some degree until Jesus comes and we are made just like Him. But in the meantime, being moldable and pliable in the Potter's loving hands will cause Him to stand back from His finished product and say, "Ah...You are now a vessel of honor fit for my use."

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

When It Seems Like It's Too Late

"Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days"

Wait! What?

I know that it's happened to you before. You're reading a passage of Scripture, one you've read what seems a million times before, and something just jumps out at you. It jumps right off the inspired, God-breathed page! That's exactly what happened to me yesterday. 

I've read John, Chapter 11, so many times. I've preached on it. I've taught on it. I've memorized many of it's verses. You probably know all about it too. Even non-believers can tell you about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

I almost wish that you had never heard this account before. I wish this was the first time that you've ever laid eyes on it. Perhaps someone is reading this right now, and has no ever-lovin' idea who Lazarus is, and what Jesus did that day in Bethany. Oh, let it be! For those of you familiar, humor me, and pretend for a moment that you're reading it for the first time.

As I began reading this Bible account yesterday, I was on familiar ground. Until my eyes saw verse 5. For some reason I never, ever noticed those words. Until yesterday, I never fathomed how important it was for the Holy Spirit to put them right there, at the exact place they needed to be.

Think about it. There was a man named Lazarus. He had two sisters, Martha and Mary. He was sick. Jesus was told that his friend needed Him.  

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."

I believe that God placed those words right there to speak something so special to us, right before we were about to read the difficult passages that follow. He wanted to be sure that we knew that Jesus LOVED this trio of friends. He LOVED them. God wants you, the reader, to know this for sure, because...

...what follows are troubling words.
So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Two more days!  If you had no idea how the rest of the story goes, here is where you might shout! "Jesus, how could you? Why didn't you drop everything and go?" Two more days! In the meantime, Lazarus dies, has already been buried in the tomb, his corpse stinketh (KJV), Mary and Martha and many other Jews are grieving, and wondering where in the world their friend, Jesus is. He is too late. 

 "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."

When something in your life is dead. D-E-A-D. When it's so dead that it stinks. When it's past the point where you needed the answer NOW.

Jesus loves you.

When, like Martha, you believe that everything will be okay when you arrive in Heaven, but can't believe that there is any goodness left for you in the land of the living. When your situation is so dead, so far gone, when Jesus is so late that you need a miracle, if you even believe in miracles.

 Jesus loves you.

The Holy Spirit included those words in this account because you need to know, today, that just as He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, He loves you! Yes, you! He is no respecter of persons. He has no favorites. He wants to comfort you with those words in whatever situation you're going through. He wants you to be assured of His love, before, perhaps, things only seem to get worse with each passing day.

You may see nothing. It seems that there is no hope for your desperate situation. Be encouraged! Jesus loves you! Love never hurts you. Love never leaves you. Love never betrays you. Love always does what's best. Love is perfect. Love's results are awesome. Jesus is Love. God is Love.

And ... He. Loves. You.

Jesus told the disciples that this would turn out for His glory. (v. 4) In the end, He spoke these amazing words to Martha. "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (v. 40)

Believe what? Believe in His love for you. 

He will not dishonor Himself. He will not be unglorified. He will not be put to shame, or called a liar. He is all about His glory, and sometimes things have to become so out of reach, so difficult, and so impossible, that no man can come to the rescue. No human being or institution or worldly help can be savior.

Then the Savior, the Deliverer, the Redeemer, the Restorer, the Lord God Almighty, can come in and do what ONLY HE CAN DO!

Wherever you're at this day, precious one, plant the truth that Jesus loves you deep down in your heart. Don't just intellectually know it. Let it go from the page, to your mind, to your heart, and to your spirit.         

Jesus loves you.

Tether yourself to that truth. Anchor yourself to His love for you. Then when things go from bad to worse, you will hang on. You will endure well. You will persevere. You will not be moved. You will be steadfast and unshakable. You will be filled with hope, because you will know that you are dearly loved.

When you can't trust His hand, trust His heart.     

 If you would like to listen to a message that I preached based on this account click here: