The God Without … A Thanksgiving Message

This is my annual Thanksgiving message thanks to Grace Thru FaithMay you all enjoy a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day!

The God Without …
A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.   For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US.  It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

After the harvest Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week-long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first-born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).

After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God.   This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.

My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.

Read the rest here.

Pity Us

Photo credit: FreeBibleImages.org

One of them, when he saw he was healed,
came back, praising God in a loud voice.
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—
and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Has no one returned to give praise to God
except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him,
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
─Luke 17:15-19

Pity Us

By Pat Knight

Had you lived when Jesus walked the earth, you may have required the restorative powers of the Great Physician, willing to comply to whatever Jesus requested to be healed of an incurable disease. With only a few minimally educated physicians and no medicines or hospitals available, debilitated people were desperate. Unless Jesus pronounced them cured, all hope of recovery was lost. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases of the day. According to Jewish law, once the disease was suspected, it must be confirmed by the priest. The person was then shuttled off to a colony outside of town, where all lepers lived in seclusion from the rest of society, an early form of quarantine. Because the disease was considered contagious, whenever lepers approached from a distance, they were required to shout “unclean” so contact with them could be avoided.

While traveling toward Jerusalem, Jesus met ten lepers who “stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And, as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him. ‘Rise and go: your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:13-19).

It was the one Samaritan who turned around amid his trip to the temple priest to thank and praise Jesus for his instant healing. Samaritans were considered half-breeds and despised by Jews, who normally refused to affiliate with them, but living conditions within the leper colonies necessitated relaxation of typical social segregation. The healed Samaritan was ecstatically grateful, demonstrating vocally in a loud voice and physically by throwing himself at his Master’s feet, a display of humility, unworthiness, and worship. As a result, Jesus granted the Samaritan the spiritual healing of salvation in addition to his physical healing.

The quintessential question arises: why did the nine lepers not return to offer gratitude and praise to the Great Physician? They were recipients of a divine miracle, visible immediately as their skin cleared to a perfectly robust condition. Was it their intent to rush to be checked by the priest? If so, they could easily have returned later to the site where Jesus was ministering, announcing the priest’s decision of complete healing to all of the people gathered there. Though we could offer plausible excuses, the behavior of the nine was inexcusable. Rather, through the ages they have served as the epitome of selfishness.

Before we rush to judge the nine lepers, let us consider how we may have reacted. Or, evaluate how we currently respond to similar gifts from our Lord Jesus. Is it our habit to thank God for medications to treat our illnesses, or for complete reversal of symptoms following surgery? Though physicians now have more knowledge, research, and technology at their disposal than at any other era in history, they are still incapable of curing disease.

Physicians treat; God alone heals.

The Lord is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, truth and righteousness, mercy and grace, and the conqueror of sin and sickness. He delights in confounding physicians with miraculous healings they cannot explain scientifically.

Though the Samaritan leper knew the least of the ten about Jesus and Jewish law, he unabashedly threw himself at the Healer’s feet. Jesus viewed the intent of his heart and discovered his desire to know the Master Healer and to repent in gratitude. What does Jesus see inside our hearts? Our motives are of utmost importance to God; an attitude of gratitude pleases Him.

Only when we are focused on God, when our hearts yearn to obey, love, and serve, will our lives overflow with thanksgiving in response to Christ’s atonement for our sin. For such an incredible gift, the psalmist vowed to praise God. “‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High’” (Psalm 7:17). Praise is a predictable result of deliverance, as demonstrated by the healed leper. How many times in our lives have we been rescued from health, financial, employment woes or social conflicts? How often do we praise God for His overwhelming protection and provision? “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NLT). No item or occasion is excluded from praise and thanksgiving.

 Adoration praises our Lord for who He is. Thanksgiving worships God for what He does. Praise exalts His character and His actions. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). To pray without ceasing is to recognize God’s constant presence in our lives and our dependence on Him; to acknowledge His supremacy and authority. He peers into our hearts to ascertain our intents, expressed by continuous submission and obedience to Him, revealing personal praise and thanksgiving that permeate all of our thoughts and actions.

When we view a gorgeous sunset, perfect rose petals, ferocious ocean turf, or snow-capped mountain ranges, do our hearts spontaneously erupt with praise for our Creator’s magnificent design and visual gifts for our enjoyment? Or, are we guilty of neutrality toward the commonplace—a ho-hum, I’ve-seen-it-all-before complacency? We are commanded to worship the One, true God and Creator of our universe, superior in character and accomplishments. “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:2, 6). We are commanded to worship the Lord in the splendor of His majesty.

On Palm Sunday, when Jesus inaugurated Passion Week by triumphantly entering Jerusalem, His followers publicly announced His royalty by spreading clothing and palm branches on His path, rejoicing and praising their Messiah and King with loud voices for His mighty works. “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9).

Jewish religious leaders were incensed by the public worship afforded Jesus. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples! ‘I tell you,’ He {Jesus} replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40). His religious opponents were livid that Jesus accepted public praise and refused to silence the large crowd. Jesus recognized the progression of events that must occur leading to His crucifixion. This was His time to be honored, praised, and glorified as Messiah and King of the Jews. He graciously accepted the reverence from those who worshipped Him then, just as He does from us today.

Humankind and inanimate objects are compelled to shout acclamations to the Messiah. If human praise is suppressed, then all creation will exclaim Jesus’ exaltations. Tangible objects stand as a testament to God’s creative powers, written in the sky and the earth’s landscape, motivating glory and praise simply by demonstrating the purpose for which each item was designed. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of a human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore, gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart.
─John Piper

As we reflect on the euphoric thanksgiving reaction of the healed Samaritan leper and the ungratefulness of the remaining nine men cured of leprosy, let us assess our own responses to the love and grace God lavishes upon us. Believers live thankfully. Pity the unbeliever who has no source of help or healing or the privilege of bowing at Jesus’ feet in worship.

Waiting Looks Like Worship

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Waiting Looks Like Worship

Lost in a sea of dirty dishes, the aftermath of a dinner mostly liked by my children, I heard the familiar ding of my phone with a text, a welcome distraction from the casserole dish I was scrubbing. Expecting it to be a reminder for my son’s next baseball practice, I was delighted when instead I saw the name of a college student I had been a high school youth leader for.

“What does it mean to trust the Lord?” she asked. “I mean, what does that really look like?” I smiled, remembering all too well the ending months of my college career, unattached, and unsure what life held for me after graduation. Waiting for God to give direction, I had those thoughts as well.

But the funny thing is, I’m still having those thoughts. Only now the question marks aren’t “Who I’m going to marry?” or “Where am I going to live?” Those answers have come. Now I’m waiting on God to heal in ways I never saw coming. Waiting on God to move in the lives of my unsaved friends. Waiting on God to bring revival. Waiting on God to provide. Waiting on God to direct. Waiting on God to open or close the doors of a future ministry.

And I’m still asking, “What does it mean to trust the Lord?” I mean, what does that really look like?

We’re All Waiting for Something

In the years since college, I’ve realized waiting is just a part of life. But more importantly, it’s part of the Christian life. Hebrews 11 says the saints who have gone before us—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and others—though counted as faithful, are still waiting. They’re waiting for the promise of God, the kingdom of heaven, “the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

They were waiting for the coming of Christ, while we are waiting for the return of Christ. For “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). One day we’ll be free of our sinful bodies. One day there will be no more pain and suffering. One day Christ Himself will wipe away the last of our tears (Rev. 21:4).

But in the meantime we wait, because it’s in the waiting that faith grows. It’s in the waiting that we learn to trust, to wait with patience and perseverance and not give up on the God who doesn’t give up on us. Romans 5:4 says, “endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” In other words, waiting makes space for hope to grow. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

The Battle Is in the Waiting

Oh, but it’s a battle, isn’t it, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the long enduring wait for healing or reconciliation or direction? Amid waves of uncertainty, waiting just might be the hardest thing we ever do. 

Read the rest here.

Power Tool

Power Tool

By Pat Knight

If you were asked to identify the most precious, on-going blessings in your life, would prayer be the preeminent item on your list? Prayer is a spiritual gift that underpins all others. The ability to communicate with the Creator of the entire universe is an unprecedented privilege.

When Jesus lived on earth, people swarmed around Him constantly to listen to His astonishing messages and to observe miracles. To relax and refresh, Jesus spent time conversing with His heavenly Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus required the renewal and serenity inherent in prayer, how much more we need a sovereign boost of energy. Jesus teaches us the mental and physical benefits of relaxing as we seek the peace our Lord offers.

Conversation requires talking and listening. Such is the posture of prayer. Listening is an active art. To listen well, we must concentrate to eliminate distractions. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is in heaven. And, there your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, 18). The emphasis is talking to God in private.

I am going into my closet to talk with you, God. Quite possibly that closet may be only as far as behind my eyelids, while scrubbing in the shower, or when driving distances alone in the vehicle. God is pleased when we choose a quiet, undisturbed place where we give Him our undivided attention. He desires to fellowship with us, to accept our praise and adoration, and to hear our needs and concerns. No matter is too small or too large to present to our Lord.

The Greek word for a closet probably indicates the storeroom, for it was the only room in ancient houses that had a door that could be closed, providing privacy. We are instructed to pray as Jesus did. Seek a quiet area where interruptions do not compromise our effort. Distractions easily dissuade us from focusing on God alone. Our human minds easily wander and soon we lose sight of our intent. Satan loves to confuse our prayer efforts; to minimize our devotion and worship of our Lord, the supreme listener.

Though audible, public prayer is appropriate, Jesus mainly instructed His disciples in silent, secret prayer, a one-on-one private conversation between only God and the Christian. In our technological world, there is precious little individual privacy still existing. But, our Lord always keeps our confidence. We can share with Him details of our lives, including emotions we would never dream of divulging to another human.

Beyond secrecy and silence, Jesus commands steadfastness. He requires loyalty, dependability, and unswerving devotion.

Prayer is a power tool entrusted to believers for the benefit of all.

Let us be responsible with the tools with which Jesus equips us, to boldly request God’s miraculous interventions. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). The most fantastic scenario our minds are able to contrive cannot equate to the splendiferous answers our Lord provides. Recall the marvelous answers He has furnished in the past and trust Him for the magnificent provisions He will provide to sustain you in the future.

Though God encourages us to request needs for ourselves and others, He is not a magician who jumps to do our bidding, giving us everything we want from a shopping list we present to Him. God’s priority is first of all a close relationship with Him predicated on the forgiveness of sins provided by His Son on the cross of Calvary. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice there was a wide chasm, an impasse between the Creator and the creature. When Jesus atoned for our sins, lavishing us with His redeeming grace, the abyss was closed forever, permitting communication with God the Father and God the Son.

At its most basic form, prayer is talking with God. We often complicate God’s commands with self-made rules when our heavenly Father wants us to follow the guideline established by Jesus. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Although we are encouraged to pray with boldness and confidence, we are to extend reverence and awe when speaking to God.

Our Lord already knows the thoughts of our minds, but He desires that we personally express them to Him. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8b). Intercessory prayer is our privilege of presenting the needs of others to Jesus. We are commanded to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The willingness to help others with a selfless attitude is the hallmark of a Christian.

Christ is the conduit through whom our intercessions are made known to the Father. Prayer was conceived by God, made acceptable by the sacrifice of the pure Son of God, and is expressed for us by the Holy Spirit. All three personalities of the Deity participate in the important mechanism of prayer. The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Word; the Son of God opens the pathway to prayer; God accepts our prayers in Christ’s behalf.

Prayer is a privilege; prayer is powerful; prayer is a problem-solver. The results of prayer are phenomenal! We converse with God in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word.

In the deepest of our being where our thoughts emerge, be open and frank, expressing doubts and worries. Dare to share dreams and aspirations. If our respectful minds form the words, then those thoughts are acceptable to God. It has been said that prayer is more an attitude of life than an action of the lips. Prayer is a healthy habit to develop. Soon, habits repeated transform to an integral part of one’s life.

We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). With the power tool of prayer in hand and praise in our hearts, let us prioritize walking the pathways of continual prayer. We will then be the beneficiaries of one of the most precious interactive gifts available anywhere on earth!

Faithful is He who calls you

During my recent blog break, I spent a lot of time in the Word and in prayer. I started this blog in 2011 and the Lord has enabled me to continue, with similar breaks along the way. I have tried and discarded different blogging schedules, finally settling on my current twice-weekly one because it works best for me.

I’ve written before about the various health issues I live with, which often take over my life. 2019 started with 24/7 migraines which were amazingly worse than I could remember. A friend told us about a chiropractic method we had never heard of before, a more holistic approach to treating pain through specific spinal adjustments which are more gentle than the traditional adjustments I have tried in the past.

I’ve been into this now for almost three months and am extremely happy with the results. I still have migraines with fluctuating barometric pressure, but these migraines are ocular in nature rather than extremely painful. Now the only way I can tell I’m having a migraine is that my vision gets a little blurry and I have some nausea. I am also experiencing benefits in how my body processes/perceives daily pain by learning new breathing techniques and other gentle exercises to keep my body in better alignment.

So that’s my current health state, which I am constantly praising our Lord for as a huge answer to prayer! I am still going to keep my twice-weekly blogging schedule though because I am sure that the more my health issues get resolved, the more I will be able to do here at home. I am also looking forward to being able to do some traveling again, including going riding more often with Rick just for the sheer joy of it.

While thinking about my most recent blog break, it reminded me of a year-long hiatus from writing that I took about 15 years ago. I had no idea how that year would involve a huge amount of trust in Jesus, and in the process, He taught me much about how faithful and trustworthy He is. Here’s my story about that time.

Faithful is He who calls you
and He also will bring it to pass.
—1 Thessalonians 5:24

I’ve written many times about leaning on the Lord with faith and trust. Today I’d like to focus on how faith plays such a huge part in trusting and believing in the Lord’s timing.

By the way, “faith” (a noun) and “believe” (a verb) are both translated from the same Greek word. If you claim to have faith in God, then believing in Him is to put that faith into action. In other words, our faith leads to believing that what God says is true and more important than what we see or feel with our frail and easily persuaded human minds. God worked in my heart in a mighty way to show me how a believing faith can help me through everything in my life.

I don’t know about you but just when I feel comfortable with the way my life is going, that’s when I know God will start to shake things up a bit. I like to say He is moving me from one comfort zone to the next.

One of the examples of this in my life happened about 15 years ago. After several years of writing, my well of imagination seemed to have run dry. I had unexpectedly lost my desire to write.

Those who know me best suggested that I was probably experiencing writer’s block, but I learned that God simply had other plans for me. In the midst of my quiet times with Him, I felt Him telling me to stop everything writing-related for a time and focus on Him as I rested my exhausted body and mind.

As difficult as it was to understand this, I knew God was asking me to put into action what I believe to be true:

God is more than worthy of my faith and trust.

My writing hiatus came to an abrupt end about a year later when a writing assignment dropped into my inbox that I knew had to be from the Lord. I had sent my resume to a publisher the previous year and then forgotten about it. Now, this same publisher offered me an assignment that was tailor-made for my style of writing.

But there was a problem: not only was the deadline a mere three weeks away, but I needed to research and write while battling severe daily migraines.

The migraine issue was not a new thing, but I just cannot think clearly when in the midst of one of these nausea-creating, light- and sound-bothering, hair-hurting migraines hits me. And it was happening on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I struggled through this assignment day after day, sometimes praying through my tears. And—day after day—God provided me with the ideas I needed plus the necessary strength to get this enormous amount of writing done in such a short period of time.

The finished book was a compilation of prayers written by several authors, including me. By the grace of God and by believing that He would faithfully help me complete this assignment on time, I met my deadline of composing 31 prayer devotionals.

You read that right: 31 devotionals in 3 weeks!

In great pain, I toiled through the writing of every single one of those devotionals but God was faithful in giving me the sufficient amount of strength I needed exactly when I needed it most. From time to time I’ve shared some of the devotionals here that I contributed to that book titled, Anytime Prayers for Everyday People, and I’ll continue that every so often.

Beloved, are you facing something in your life that seems too much for you to handle? Maybe—like I did—you think there is nothing you can contribute because of your circumstances or illness or limited energy.

If you take away anything from what I went through, it should be this:

When God wants us to do something for Him, He does not expect us to do it on our own. He just wants us to have faith and believe that He will walk with us through it.

Remember, He is the Great Enabler and will always grant us exactly the amount of strength and stamina we need to finish whatever He calls us to do!

Thankful for God’s Goodness

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His goodness . . .

The LORD is good to all,
and His mercies are over all His works.

—Psalm145:9 NASB

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
—James 1:18 NLT 

How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
—Psalm 31:19

In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by
giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became
his choice possession.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I used to think of myself as a good person. I felt great about that, but now I know that the goodness in my soul is little more than a faint reflection of the goodness I see in You everyday. You are good in every way—without exception. I am good only as I keep my heart tuned in and submitted to You.

That’s easy to say, but not always so easy to do. I mean to be listening every minute, letting You oversee my motives, my actions, my words. But somehow the not-so-good part of me keeps getting through.

Lord, I know I’ll never be as good as You are—not in this life. But I know that You, Lord, can help me to be a much better person than I am right now. Work with me. Keep me on my toes. Let Your goodness flow through me to everyone I know.

You are so excellent, Lord. It’s an honor to be Your child, an honor to be able to learn from You and draw from Your utter perfection. Thank You, Lord, for Your goodness.

Amen.

The Lord’s goodness surrounds us at every moment.
I walk through it almost with difficulty,
as through thick grass and flowers.

—R. W. Barbour


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]