IN THANKSGIVING

 

 …give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18

 

Father, time and space are insufficient to thank you for your presence in our lives.  But you did tell us to give thanks, and in our country we are blessed to have a day set aside to do just that.

THANK YOU for everything that is entailed by being your child: everything that pertains to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) and to eternal life with you forever (I John 5:11).

 THANK YOU for my family who loves and serves you faithfully and that we come together in love, harmony, and mutual support (Psalm 133:1).

 THANK YOU for the community of faith where we can build each other up and encourage one another (I Thessalonians 5:11).

 THANK YOU for our country where we can freely worship and share our faith (Psalm 33:12).

 THANK YOU for always keeping your promises (I Kings 8:57), for always being with us (Matthew 28:20), and for giving us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 THANK YOU for being our constant resource (Philippians 4:19) whatever the need: physical, emotional, material, spiritual.

 THANK YOU that you don’t give up on us and continue to work in us for your purposes (Philippians 1:6, 2:13).

 THANK YOU that no matter what the circumstances, we can still thank you in the circumstances knowing you love us and always purpose good for us (Romans 8:28).

 THANK YOU for all the prayers you have answered, but I especially thank you for prayers you answered according to your good will and not mine (Matthew 6:10).

 THANK YOU, Lord.

 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1).

 

AMEN.

COWS

…since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  Hebrews 12:1  (NIV)

 

Our church has a COW program that manifests itself at the beginning of the fall school semesters.  Let me explain:  The COW – Cloud of Witnesses – sponsors are assigned high school and university students for intercession and encouragement.  I have several myself and find it a great joy to follow up with “my” students to see how God is working in their lives.

I’m not certain that’s what the writer to the Hebrews had in mind when he described that Cloud of Witnesses that is so intensely interested in our lives, but I find it greatly comforting to think that there is a whole grandstand full of people in the heavenlies cheering us on, just as I do with my students.  I know Jesus is occupied in praying for us (Romans 8:34), but I just wonder if that Cloud includes some of our loved ones who have vested interests in our welfare?  I can just imagine that my parents and grandparents are watching with great hope.

Not only are we surrounded by all those godly witnesses, but Jesus assures us he is always with us (Matthew 28:20).  Corrie ten Boom wrote about being alone in a cell in the concentration camp and feeling downcast.  Then she remembered that Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  She reasoned that Jesus was one, the Father was two, and the Holy Spirit was three.  That was enough for her to know that she was in God’s presence.

Isn’t it also true of us?  Surely, at various times of our lives, we will find ourselves alone.  We either shrink into self-pity or we look around to find ourselves in God’s presence.  And, of course, there is that great Cloud of Witnesses that knows the reward of trusting and abiding in Christ no matter what the circumstances.

What a joy to know that at every juncture of our lives, Someone is watching.  Someone is praying for us.  Someone is cheering us on.  And Someone is always there to strengthen us in pressing onward.

 

Father, keep our eyes and hearts fixed on you.  Remind us that we’re never alone, and others have gone before and reached the destination safely.  Thank you for always providing what we need to keep going.  AMEN.

GRACE

But he gives us more grace. James 4:6 (NIV)

Reggie’s mom was his life. She was 16 when he was born, and very soon she was the only parent he knew, teaching him to work hard and to be the best he could be. She told him there was right and wrong, but he could only do what was right. Reggie’s mom was his best friend. When he got a football scholarship for university, his mom was right there—working as a housekeeper in the school. And then she died. Reggie said he just wanted to walk off the edge of the world. He wanted to forget sports, and he was ready to drop out of school and life.

Reggie got a call from a mentor who’d heard the news. He called Reggie in and asked what was going on. The usually upbeat young man who wasn’t afraid of any challenge was quitting school and leaving the future he and his mom had planned together. Why? Reggie grasped for a reason that might satisfy the Big Man and quickly spit out a partial truth. “It’s money,” he said. “I don’t have the money.” “How much do you need?” his friend questioned. Reggie gave a figure that he thought was relatively large, and the man reached into his wallet and handed it over.

Reggie told us in church last week that he knew then that, in the midst of his grief, he had to keep going—no excuses. And he said, “That was grace. That’s what our God does for us. He gives us grace.” Just when we most need it. Reggie went on to become an officer in the military, a key executive in various large non-profits, CEO of large business operations, and a leading business consultant. All because someone extended God’s grace, that undeserved, unearned mercy.

To whom can you extend grace today?

Lord, use us as instruments of your grace just as so many times you’ve used others to touch us. We are grateful; help us to express that to the others who need to experience your redeeming grace. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.