A prayer of thanksgiving

This morning I took my dog for a walk.  She has put on some weight over the winter and needs the exercise!  As I headed out I began to pray.  While this is nothing new, I often pray while I walk, I decided this morning, I would only offer prayers of thanksgiving.  You see we’ve been studying the book of Colossians and we’ve had an emphasis on thanksgiving.  I wanted to try applying some of what we’d been learning about thankfulness. To only pray prayers of thanksgiving  took a little discipline, as I was tempted to make requests as well, but it was a blessed time.  I thought a brief version of that prayer might encourage you…

Father,

     Thank You for my two good legs (I begin with the obvious, usually physical), thank You for the beautiful sun shining, thank You for the awesome path in my neighborhood to walk on.  I am not thankful for this wind, so I confess that sin to You, I know I should be thankful for it, please make me thankful (oops a request!).

     Thank You for the runner on the path, because human interaction is good.  How awful it would be to be all alone.  Thank You for my eye sight which allows me to see this beautiful creation.  Thank You for the beautiful black and red bird.  Thank You for all you have made.

     I now move to pray about the tasks I have today…being thankful for how I will accomplish them and the reasons behind why they must be done…

     Thank You for my in laws, who are coming today and how they love us and desire to be with us. Thank You for my car that will take me to my errands.  Thank You for my family and the opportunity we have to have a photo taken.  Thank You for the photographer.  Thank You for Nathan’s Court of Honor this weekend.  Thank You for all the things he has learned over the years as a boy scout.

     My thoughts now begin to lean to spiritual matters…

     Thank You for the ladies in the class (I thank Him for all of the ladies by name and the things I see Him doing in their lives).

      Thank You for our Bible study teacher, Kristie and how she brings us Your Word, and how she loves us.  Thank You for the teaching I have received lately on thankfulness (now I focus on what He has done in my life).  Thank You for my salvation.  Thank you for the work You’ve done in my heart.  Thank You for the areas where I still struggle, because they remind me that I need a Savior.   Thank You for the little victories in the areas that I struggle…

     As I round the corner to my house I see the white house belonging to Bob and Karen Atkins.  Thank You Lord for Bob and Karen, and how they minister to our church and to me personally. 

     As I approach my house…Thank You for this wind!  I am now hot and sweaty and this wind cools me off!!

     I am now ready for the day…

What Do I Do When I Don’t Feel Close to God?

Recently, I was asked to share what I do when I do not feel close to God.   In the hope that you may be encouraged (as I was as I formed my answer), here is how I responded.

When I find myself not feeling close to God…

First, I remind myself that this is a frailty common to man, and while it should not be treated lightly, it is not unexpected.   God will work this, too, for my good!

Next, I thank God for making me aware of this lack of closeness and causing me to care about it (because I know there are many who are not close to Him and do not even realize it or care much).   As I pray, I recall former times when there was a sweet intimacy and I ask Him to work in my heart, pulling me away from whatever is currently usurping or disturbing my affections, and again moving my heart toward Him.

I read works written by people who know/knew God well.  I find many Puritan works especially helpful, such as those by John Bunyan, John Flavel and Jeremiah Burroughs.

I spend time meditating on the greatness of God–          

  • His sovereignty
  • His power
  • His love for His people
  • Etc.

I tell someone close to me, such as my husband, how I am feeling and ask him to pray for me (sometimes I will ask a few others as well).

I review all I’ve learned from the psalmists who felt far away from God.  I read and reread psalms such as Psalm 73, 77 and 88 and review the notes I made when I first studied and wrote lessons on these psalms.

Finally, I wait on God.  Intimacy with God is not just something I can wish into being or produce on my own . . . as with everything else, it is a gift from God.  I know He is faithful and will bring me into greater intimacy with Himself in His own timing.  So, as I thankfully and expectantly wait,  I do the things I know to do which foster intimacy (Bible reading and study, prayer, meditation, confession, talking about God with others, etc.) and I constantly remind myself that even though I do not feel close to God, He is close . . . and my lack of feeling does nothing to diminish the reality of His care and love for me.

 

Taking Inventory

Happy New Year. 2010 WOW! I am looking forward to this coming year. In my house this is a significant year, because our oldest child is graduating High School. Very exciting! With the start of the new year, I always enjoy looking back at the last year. I enjoy watching the “year in review” on the news shows and reading the “best of” lists in the paper. I find it interesting to be reminded of the significant stories of the year. As I look at them or hear them on the news, some of them I remember and sometimes it’s, “oh wow, I didn’t remember that”. While reviewing the history of the world around me, I also like to look back and take inventory of my own life.

In my family life 2009 was spent keeping up with two teenagers. Keeping up with them physically, by driving them places and attending their events and keeping up with them mentally and spiritually as they grow and face life’s challenges. Parenting teenagers requires much strength!

In my spiritual life I look back on 2009 and ask, What did I learn? Where did I grow? Where did I struggle? Upon reflection, I notice that I learned some new things, like what Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians about how to disciple people you love, and how God is our comfort. I’d like to write more on that sometime. Last year I was reminded of some truths, like, what you watch and listen to has a direct impact on your thoughts and therefore your actions. This is a truth I have to constantly be reminded of. I don’t know why it doesn’t sink in more thoroughly, but I do know that when I see my weakness, I am humbled and reminded of God’s mercy.

So, I’ve learned something new, been reminded of truths I already know, and I continued to wade through difficult theology that takes time to learn. One thing I am trying to understand is the idea that it is God’s power in me that allows me to become Holy. It is not just me doing things (although there are things I must do). I am still learning what it means that it is God who does it. I am purposing this year to study more and learn more from scripture on this subject. It is clear in God’s word that it is He who works in us, but how this happens in my life on a day to day basis is not clear to me. I’ll let you know what I learn!

I encourage you too to take inventory of the past year. You too hopefully learned something new and continued to grow in old and new areas.

To God be the Glory!!

New!

With the coming of the new year, I am reminded of the good gift of newness.  New books, new places, new-fallen snow, new clothes, new ideas…there is an anticipation, an unspoiled-ness about “new.”  

As we celebrate the new year, let us remember that God is the Master at making new things:

  • He created all things.  He continues to create even today. (We’re looking forward to some good friends’ new babies in 2010!)  
  • His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:22-23)  
  • He gives new spiritual life to His people (”Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom. 6:4; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17)

God’s people look forward to a new heaven and a new earth. He will be with us, and will make all things new. (Rev. 21)  As we anticipate the time when He returns (see Adina’s post below) and makes ALL things new, we rejoice in the new things He has already given.  May you and yours see His abundant blessings this new year.

"Shnow" and the Lord's Return

Elijah has been very excited for snow.  He thinks that because snow comes down out of heaven, and so will Jesus when He comes, that when it snows for the first time (that he can remember) Jesus will be coming back!

snow

It snowed for the first time the other day.  Sadly, Jesus did not come that day.  But Elijah said to me in the car yesterday, “I’m ready for Jesus to come back,” (in a very excited tone).  We talked about what “being ready” means, and I was reminded by this conversation with my 4-year-old that Jesus is ON HIS WAY!!  

My heart is desperate for the return of Christ, BUT even more desperate for more to be called to serve Christ, especially (for me) our children, some of our dear friends who are hearing the gospel and getting Bibles for the first time in their life these past few weeks, and family members who we have prayed would repent and believe the Gospel.  May our hearts be drawn to plead even more fervently for hearts to bow in submission to the God who made us and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ who came in humility to save our souls!  Jesus is returning!  Father, make us eager, make us ready!

Meditations on the Preciousness of Christ

When we speak of something as being “precious” we usually mean that it is very dear to our heart, and thus, greatly loved or treasured.  It is something that has great value to us…something which we are careful not to waste, ignore or treat carelessly.

“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious…”

- 1 Peter 2:7

For each of us, the Christmas season is a good time to pause and ask:Is Christ precious to me?  How do I know?  What evidence do I have that He istruly precious to my heart?   Do I ever regard or treat Him as less than precious?In the book entitled The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow provides many wonderful meditations on the preciousness of Christ.   I would like to share a few of his thoughts with you over the month of December.  It is my hope that these meditations will result in a more passionate love for Christ, in an increased joy as we celebrate His birth, and in a greater anticipation of His next advent!

Meditation #1 on the preciousness of Christ:

But to whom is Christ precious?  This is a most important question.  He is not so to all.  It is a privileged class, a peculiar people, a little flock,few and scattered, hidden and unknown, who feel the Saviour’s preciousness.  Only to the believer is Christ precious…

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #2 on the preciousness of Christ:

How precious, then, is our Lord Jesus as ‘bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.’  Think of His perfect humanity–

a humanity free from sin, and therefore capable of dying for the ungodly,–

a humanity laden with sorrow, and therefore capable of sympathizing with the afflicted.

 Precious to our hearts as God–precious as Man–

precious as both united in one–

inconceivably and eternally precious is He,

whose name is ‘Wonderful,’ to His believing saints.

-Octavius Winslow

May your heart be moved by gratitude and love as you ponder meditation #3 on the preciousness of Christ:

“In the hour of adversity, of trial, of sorrow, oh, how precious is Christ in the experience of the believer!

It would seem, beloved, as though we had never really known Him until then. Certainly, we never knew from experience that there was so much that was human, tender, and compassionate in His heart until sorrow touched our own…

Precious humanity!  that bears each burden, that is touched with each infirmity, that soothes each sorrow, and that succors each temptation of His people.”

-Octavius Winslow

Meditation #4 on the preciousness of Christ:

 “Who, then, is the Lord Jesus Christ?  In common parlance, men term Him, ‘our Saviour.’  But do the great body pause and reflect who Christ really is?  Do they regard Him and the CREATOR of this world–of all worlds?  of their being–of all beings?  Do they consider that ‘all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made?’
But what a grand and glorious truth is this to the believing soul–the absolute deity of the Saviour–the essential Godhead of Christ!
...
Precious in His Deity–
Precious as ‘God over all, blessed for evermore.’
-Octavius Winslow

Not Quite Done with Thanksgiving

Although it is well past Thanksgiving Day, my heart is convicted of the need to meditate more on thankfulness.  Too often I find myself focused on the immediacy of life: the work, the need, the hardship, the disappointment, the busyness…and not focused on the accompanying blessings: the love, the care, the strength, the faithfulness, the comfort, the presence, and the provision of God (whether from Him directly, through providence, or though the ways He moves the hearts of His people).Today, God brought Psalm 23 to my remembrance. 

Whether or not your thoughts are still on Thanksgiving, may your heart be blessed by the way Issac Watts has poetically expressed the message of this well-loved psalm.  I highly recommend reading it aloud–and then choosing one thought to meditate on with thankfulness!

 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wand’ring spirit back
When I forsake his ways;
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath,
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days:
O may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.

The Necessity of Trials

As I have lately been studying, meditating, and teaching on spiritual comfort, questions regarding the reasons for trials and troubles (whether big or small) have repeatedly surfaced.   As I have searched out answers, one question has occupied my thoughts more than others:

How much does our sinful pride necessitate trials and troubles in our pursuit of Christ-likeness?

In other words, how successful would we be in putting pride and self to death if we did not have trials and troubles to attack our pride, humble us, and drive us to God for help and comfort?Thomas Charles (a preacher in North Wales in the 1770’s) writes:

The cross, which we must expect to meet daily in the way, will hurt nothing but sin and self:  and surely we would not wish to spare them.  I hope it is our happiness to think, that God is against them, and has determined their destruction in his own way.  Blessed be the Lord, there is a world where righteousness only dwelleth, and where sin and self shall no more trouble us for ever!

I don’t know about you, but I do not often meditate on the necessity of trials in life.  But it does make sense.  If trials were not needful for His people, God would surely not cause or allow them.  He does nothing without reason and He does nothing that is not for the good of those who love Him.  So although they can be grievous and heart-rending, sometimes to the extreme, I am thankful for trials, not only because they do indeed “hurt” sin and self, but also because they drive us to God, who is the God of all comfort, and there is no better place to be than utterly and totally dependent upon Him! (2 Corinthians 1)

Looking for a Church

Our family recently experienced our sixth geographic move in 11 years of marriage.  This has given us a wide range of opportunities for church hunting, 33 opportunities to be exact! We don’t think this makes us experts in the field, that’s for sure, but since it is part of our days right now, I thought it might be interesting to share what “church shopping” has evolved into for our family.  Prayer and internet research start the process; Jeremy utilizes a few sites including www.9marks.org and www.founders.org.

If possible, Jeremy also likes to listen to sermons and read about a church’s beliefs before we attend a worship service.  Next, we start making visits using two simple non-negotiables: Biblical preaching/teaching (1 Timothy 4:2 &1 Corinthians 9:16)  and love from the Church (John 34:13-14).  Of course, these two are not exhaustive, but if a church does not meet this criteria, then usually a second visit will not be warranted.  

Children’s activities fall into the “preferences” category along with music style, congregation size, location, cultural mix and other “negotiables.”  If during our visiting we find more than one church that meets our two top criteria, then we pray for further for discernment and allow ourselves to consider “preferences” in our final decision.  We ask God to lead us to the church He wants us to minister our gifts in and be ministered to in.  We believe that unless HE directs our path or “builds a house” for us, all our methods or ideas are in vain.  So I can truly say that it has been by the grace of God that we have been able to be parts of some amazing churches in our lifetime, NOT a method we have developed.  

Praising God for the blessing of the Body of Christ, and praying that we would “. . like newborn babes, long for the the pure milk of the Word, that by it (we) may grow in respect to salvation. . .” (1 Peter 2:2)