Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reflections for November 24, 2010

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’s 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.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections for November 12, 2010


Loyalty, dedication and perseverance are three characteristics that people in authority deeply desire in those who work under their direction. If earthy leaders can understand the importance of finding these characteristics in the people who follow them, is it any wonder that our Heavenly Father also expects those who follow Him to demonstrate these same traits?

The Apostle Paul points out the importance of these traits in his letter to the young pastor Timothy. He writes, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” (II Timothy 2:3-6 NASB) In this passage Paul uses the illustration of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer to demonstrate the kind of character that God expects His followers to have.

It is not difficult to understand the importance of loyalty in the life of a soldier. Who would want to go into battle with someone whose loyalty was in question? This is one of the reasons that there is such stringent training before a soldier is sent into combat. Those in charge want to know that the soldier is ready. They want to know that the soldier is prepared to follow the commands given without requesting a public forum for discussion with each command. They know that in combat situations soldiers must be able to count on the soldier next to him/her. If they can not, they lose a large portion of their confidence.

Why is so hard for those who profess to have faith in Christ to understand that He requires this same kind of loyalty from us. After all, we are soldiers in the greatest army of all. It may not be an army equipped with the latest technological weapons but it is the army of the highest authority in the universe. As the old hymn suggests we are Christian soldiers. It is hard to imagine that General Tommy Franks would have been able to conduct the war in Iraq, if his troops had only the level of loyalty that is displayed in the lives of many of the Christians who fill our churches on Sunday.

Unfortunately, many Christians leave loyalty at the door when they depart from the church building on Sunday morning. This leaves them defenseless when they must confront the world in which they live. This leaves them with no choice but to compromise principles instead of standing upon them. If we do not reestablish loyalty to Christ in the lives of His followers, how can we hope to impact our culture with His principles for life?

This would be a great time for you to examine your own level of loyalty to your Supreme Commander. If your loyalty level has been low, renew your commitment to Him and ask Him to give you the strength to engage in the battle and to become victorious through His strength.

Next week we will continue with Paul’s analogies and we will look at the lessons to be learned from the athlete and the farmer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reflections for November 2, 2010

Finishing Strong

One of my favorite characters in Scripture is Caleb. You probably remember he and Joshua were the only two Jewish spies who returned from their mission to the land God had had promised with a report of a land waiting to be taken. The other ten spies could only see the giants in the land, causing them to counsel against crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. The people chose to listen to the ten and refused to cross. As a result an entire generation was left to wander in the desert for forty years. (Read Numbers 13 and 14 for the complete story of the Twelve Spies.)

Of the entire generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to cross into the Promised Land. The first thirteen chapters of the Book of Joshua describe the conquest of the land God had promised. In chapter fourteen we find Caleb, who was eight-five years old, requesting he be given the hill country called Hebron. It is important to note this was the home of the Anakim, who caused the original ten spies to caution the people against entering the land. Listen to the words of Caleb: “I am still as strong today, as I was in the day Moses sent me, as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in” (Joshua 14:11 NASB, bold print added.) (Read Joshua 14 for the complete story of Caleb’s request.)

Since I began making definite plans for my retirement, Caleb has become one of my favorite biblical heroes. He gives new meaning to the expression “finishing strong.” He did not accept the notion that he was old and worn out. He believed God still had work for him to do. He has become a role model for how I want to finish this race called life. He has demonstrated that it is more exciting to burn out than it is to rust out. He inspires me to anticipate the next new thing God has for me to do. He reminds me that we all have a reason for being here. If God was finished with us, He would take us home. He gives me reason to look with excitement at this last season of my life rather than with dread. He gives me the desire to leave a legacy of finishing the race with enthusiasm.

Many of you reading this Reflection are either into the last season of your life or approaching it. How do you want to finish? While we may not be able to do everything we could do years ago, we can still do everything God wants us to do in the years we have left. Our best years may well be in front of us. I encourage you to join me in striving to be able to say as Paul did, when he approached the end of his race: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (II Timothy 4:7 NASB).