Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reflections for November 25, 2009

"Giving Thanks"

For most people, Thanksgiving through New Years is the busiest time of the year,.This year the shopping, feasting, rushing, ball games, family gatherings, and other activities may be less, because of the economic downturn we are suffering. However, I imagine most of us will still find enough things to do to leave us exhausted when it is over.

If our celebration is dampened by the bad economic news of late, we can choose to wallow in self pity or we can use the situation to lead us to count the blessing we do have. Regardless of our financial situation, we can experience the wonder of God’s bountiful gifts of grace and the wonder of God’s incarnation displayed to us in the birth of the Christ Child. We can appreciate our faith, family and friends. These are the blessings that last.

We can experience these things when we see our world through God eyes. He wants us to see a reason for thanksgiving in every circumstance. His Word admonishes us to, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB). There is a big difference between being thankful for something and being thankful in something. While I may not appreciate a circumstance in my life, I can give thanks for not having to endure it alone. I can know God is always present and He is able to bring good out of the worst of situations.

I can be thankful God does not change whether I am in the middle of a crisis or on a mountaintop. I can take comfort in His word that says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NASB). The stock market may tank, my body may give way to aging, people close to me may break my heart, but Jesus does not change. He is always available to comfort and to see me through.

If your life seems to be filled with more sorrow than joy, more want than plenty, more difficulties than blessings, ask God to show you the things for which you can give thanks. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to help you to develop the attitude reflected by the Apostle Paul when he wrote, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am” (Philippians 4:11 NASB). On the other hand, if your bucket seems to be overflowing with blessings this year, consider that God did not give them to you to hoard. He gave them to you to share. Your sharing, your gift of kindness, may well be the thing that He wishes to use to place a spark of thanksgiving into the life of someone that is having a difficult time. Not only, will you be an instrument of God’s grace; you will experience first hand the truth in the saying that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heart Thoughts by Helen

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him? Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

On a church sign in Lacrosse, Indiana, these words jumped out at me:


Quite the statement! Being a 'would be word-smith', I added these:

• Friends visit...and leave…Jesus doesn't
• Winds blow away...Jesus stays
• Clouds hover...Jesus covers

Autumn qualifies as my favorite time of year. The trees glow magnificently this year. It's been a wet fall. Most of the time football games for our grandsons move on toward their goal even when it rains. We sat out in a torrential downpour last week to watch our eldest, Caleb, play his last game. The clouds grew ominous, the rains poured, the winds blew. Today, however, the sun shines once again reminding me:

The Son Shines… Autumn leaves...Jesus doesn't.

"I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their setting. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?" Psalm 8:3-4 (THE MESSAGE)

Reflections for November 19, 2009

"The Awesomeness of God"

Last year, I read on Fox News Website about a new supercomputer that has been built by IBM for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. It is called Roadrunner. The article explained the speed of this new computer this way: “To put the computer's speed in perspective, it has roughly the computing power of 100,000 of today's most powerful laptops stacked 1.5 miles high, according to IBM. Or, if each of the world's 6 billion people worked on hand-held computers for 24 hours a day, it would take 46 years to do what the Roadrunner computer can do in a single day.” Additional research revealed that it could operate at one petaflop, which means that it can make one thousand trillion calculations per second.

As I read about this new supercomputer, I was amazed at the ingenuity of man. Then I thought about how tiny man is in comparison to God. The words of the Psalmist came to my mind. He wrote, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.” (Psalm 139:4-6 NASB). If man can build a machine like Roadrunner, God should have no trouble knowing everything about His creation. He should have no problem knowing our every thought. He can operate at an infinite number of petaflops.

When I think of the awesomeness of God, I am troubled by the way modern society has attempted to reduce Him down to an entity that we can interact with on an even plane. In so doing, we have lost our sense of reverence. We have ceased to fear Him. When reverence and fear are gone, we find it easy to thumb our nose at Him, whenever His teachings interfere with our desires. While this lax attitude might be expected in the world at large, it should never be seen within the body of Christ. It shouldn’t be but it is.

In many ways the Church, which is the Body of Christ, finds itself in the same shape as Israel thousands of years ago. The Prophet Isaiah admonished them with these words, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isaiah 1:20, 21 NASB). Isaiah had much more to say but this is enough to demonstrate that they had lost their awe for God.

The answer to this dilemma is for the people of God to recognize their failures and to turn from the image of God that they have created in their own minds to the image of God that is clearly spelled out in Scripture. We need to recapture the awe the Psalmist had when he wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3, 4 NASB).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009



The Psalmist cries out to God: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not Thy face far from me.” Psalm 27:8-9

I’m thankful that my eight grandchildren rejected the usual Halloween horror stuff, including scary masks and dark activities. They did enjoy the candy, however, and the cakes, cupcakes and candy corn found in my kitchen and the church activities in which they participated.

Years ago as I drove to work one Halloween morning, the car in front of me caught my attention. In the front seat sat a man and his companion. The man turned frequently, laughing with the person. My impression, at first, led me to believe the partner to be female because of the so called ‘coif’. As I continued to observe the frazzled head, I noticed that it never moved in response to the driver’s attentions. Upon closer observation, my discovery caused me to laugh out loud (to my empty car).

The companion riding shot-gun was a dummy…a Halloween mask and wig propped to give an illusion. The driver received his intended reaction when passing cars did a double take at what they saw. My thirty minute drive to work through rush-hour traffic took on a festive albeit weird turn just observing the reactions that took place.

Halloween brings out masks of all sorts to parade before the public. We may tell ourselves that we don’t participate in ghoulish Halloween fantasies, but each day we practice a little of Halloween by the illusions we present to others when we fail to pull off our masks and reveal our real selves.

I’m not advocating wearing your feelings on your sleeve, but honesty and openness in our relationships would serve us more effectively when appropriately demonstrated with tact and love.

Who do people perceive you to be on a daily basis? Would they watch closely as they pass you by on their way to living life? What would their response be when they found out the truth? Do you think they would laugh out loud (LOL) or be intrigued by your demeanor to ask “Are you for real?”

Hide not Your face far from me, o Lord. Thank You for Your transforming power to change me into Your likeness, not the likeness of the world, no matter how much ‘fun’ it seems to be.

Reflections for November 4, 2009

"The Need For Gratitude"

If things were the answer to happiness, the people of the United States would be among the happiest people in the world. Instead, the opposite appears to be true. As a nation we lead the world in most of the statistics that are not complimentary of a nation. Divorce, addictions of all kinds, incarceration per capita, mental illness, and abuse of prescription drugs are just a few of the unflattering categories that we either lead or are near the top. None of these things reflect a happy image. The obvious question is, “Why in a country that has so much is there so much unhappiness?”

The mental health professionals and sociologist write volume after volume addressing the problem. Apparently, their efforts are not getting us any closer to the answer. At the risk of being simplistic, I would like to submit one important factor that is often ignored. It can be described in three words, lack of gratitude. We have become a nation of people who expect much and appreciate little. Our want list seems to always exceed our thanksgiving list. Oh, we give lip service to gratitude but our actions show that we are not really as grateful for what we have as we are covetous toward the things we see other have and we want. A simple test of our attitude of gratitude would be to time the moments we spend giving God thanks and the time we spend asking God to give us something.

It appears to me that a new word has taken the place of gratitude in our vocabulary. It is often spoken but it is reflected in our attitude toward life. The word is entitlement. This sense of entitlement can be seen in every level of our society. The problem with entitlement is it leaves no room for gratitude. Why be grateful for something that is rightly yours to begin with?

One of the clearest places to see where a sense of entitlement does damage is in the government. Most people I know say that they would like to see the government stop wasting so much of the taxpayers’ money. Every year we hear cries to cut the pork out of the national budget. It rarely happens because the voters at home see money spent on projects that benefit them as entitlements and money spent on things that benefit others as waste.

By now, you probably think I have completely lost sight of the topic of my article but not so. The point is we have little for which to be grateful when we assume we are entitled to everything. If we are not grateful for what we have, our chances are extremely high that we will not be very happy. I am not sure where the following statement originated but it expresses well the problem of unhappiness in America: “There is a secret to happiness and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”

Paul understood this concept when he wrote, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:6-18 NASB) Paul’s point was that we should always look for the things we can be thankful for in whatever situation we find ourselves. I do not know where you are today. It may be a really difficult time for you. Whatever your situation take a moment and go to God and ask Him to show you all that you have to be grateful for. It will help to replace a frown with a smile.