Being Thankful for What We Do NOT Have

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Rejoice always;
praying without ceasing;
in everything give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of thankfulness. Often when I thank God for all the blessings in my life, I have also thanked Him for what He has not given me or allowed in my life. Have you ever prayed like this?

Okaaay, I can hear most of you saying. The rest are thinking, wait … what? are you serious?

Yes, I am very serious. I thank God for things I don’t have, that He has not allowed in my life. I’m not just talking about more serious illnesses than those I live with every day or cataclysmic events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. I’m referring to things like more money, maybe more (and more stylish) clothes or a bigger house. How about straight hair instead of the naturally curly mop I was born with? Or writing talent so spectacular that publishers come after me instead of the other way around?

It seems to me that the more we want, well… the more we want, like some vicious cycle. Contentment with what we have now is admittedly difficult because human nature always yearns for more. And yet, I’m wondering if allowing ourselves to feel this kind of contentment will result in that inner peace that is so illusive.

And isn’t that something to be utterly thankful for?

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Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance. —Jude 1:2

Peace. Mercy. Love. These are what can be ours in abundance. And from personal experience, reminding myself that I have these things usually leads to my feeling happy and contented with what I have in the here and now.

Beloved, how about you? Have you learned to be thankful for certain things you do not have?

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I Wonder – Followup

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Last week I was looking back at some of my first posts, back in 2011. My second post was titled “I Wonder…” When I read it again, I was struck by how much has happened and yet stayed the same since then. Hmm… isn’t that considered a paradox?

This is what I wrote then.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the deeper meaning of life. I mean, what if this is all there is?

I read this earlier today:

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see! Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and Master, He will “surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).”

Now, I have to start by saying that I do try to see God in everything, but I’m not really sure about that “calm and color everything I see” stuff. When I live with yet another migraine (and this current one has lasted almost all week), hear about helpless hurting children, view photos depicting yet another flood or earthquake, read about another tax hike-pay cut-employee cutback-home foreclosure, or simply stand by the side of a close friend struggling just to make ends meet, I ask myself again: what is life really all about? Are we simply here to suffer through life’s challenges and then die? Or is there something more?

We all have a yearning to know the reasons behind our circumstances—that desire to justify the bad things that happen to us. If we seek to do what is right, help others who are in need, and are very careful to not hurt anyone or anything, why must we still suffer?

I don’t have the answers, although I know Who does. Stay tuned…

Fast forward 4 years to where I now am physically.

Every day is a new adventure in pain. I still live with several chronic pain illnesses: Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and chronic migraines. CFIDS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Some people with FMS or CFS/CFIDS/ME get better over time. Others get worse, and I’m in this group. Add to this that my migraines now assault me daily. We live at a 5500 foot elevation, and my doctor told me once that she believes my body never has adjusted to living in a high elevation area, even though we’ve been here for almost eleven years.

Every prescription medication I’ve tried for any of these illnesses has either not worked for me or caused huge side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic or massage only work as long as it takes to administer the therapy. Several years ago I used to work out several times a week, until I realized that exercising through my pain was causing even worse migraines.

Does this get me down? My feelings try to make me feel frustrated and helpless about all of this. But read on to find out the one Reason I can grab hold of those feelings before they take over.

This leads to what’s going on now with me spiritually.

I am more convinced than ever that God is with me every single day. My true hope is in Jesus Christ and this is what carries me through each day. On days like today when I’m going through yet another FMS/CFS flare and everything I do causes even more pain, migraines and nausea, I struggle with all of this.

Not the why of it, because I know everything in my life is part of God’s plan for me. It’s the persistence … the everydayness of it … that is wearying. 

These days, my life is a very delicate balance. I need to weigh everything. If I want to do something as simple as the laundry, I need to allow for rest time before as well as afterward. And most times there is payback after the activity even if I have rested well beforehand. It is very frustrating.

In spite of all that, there persists in me a joyful hope that never fails to uplift my heart. I know without a doubt that God is always with me throughout all of it. And if anyone can truly understand my pain, it is Jesus. He not only understands it, He holds me close in His arms and comforts me when I am in pain and feel discouraged. He is my God of hope. He helps me cling to that hope, which turns my frustration and weariness into joy and peace.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Beloved, please remember that if we completely place our trust in God, He will fill us with hope, joy and peace. The more we trust in Him, the more He supplies all the hope, joy and peace we need every single day.

Hope in God is saying “no” to fear or discouragement, and by so doing, saying “yes” to something that will satisfy much more down the line. Wait on God, believing that what God has planned is so much better that what we grab for ourselves! —Joni Eareckson Tada

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Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 2

The other day I shared Part 1 of John MacArthur’s Characteristics of Peacemakers devotional series from his Grace to You site. This is Part 2. 

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Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 2

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Continuing from yesterday, let’s look at two more characteristics of peacemakers.

First, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. Once you see your duty as a peacemaker in the world, you’ll be looking for ways to build bridges between people and God and then to build them between persons.

By definition, a bridge can’t be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. And once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. In any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have the responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base. Both must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand.

Often the first step in the process is to confront others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace (Matt. 18:15–17). Such confrontation usually causes turmoil, yet the way of righteousness is the only way to peace. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace.

Finally, a peacemaker finds a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened. But we are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

When you hunger and thirst for holiness in your own life, you’ll have a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others. That’s a true peacemaker.

Ask Yourself

If the desire for peacemaking is missing from your heart, it points to a deeper problem—that your love for others is not what it should be. Would you say this might be true of you? What are the usual symptoms of a heart that’s grown at least somewhat cold toward others?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,www.moodypublishers.com.

 

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Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 1

John MacArthur’s Grace to You site is one of my favorites. There is such a wealth of good Biblical information there that I’ve often lost track of time as I read one great sermon after another. This was last Friday’s daily Bible reading, which I subscribe to via email. 

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Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 1

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

The apostle tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15), that He “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace.

Today and tomorrow we’re going to look at four things that characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who has made peace with God. Before we came to Christ, God was at war with us. Whatever we may have thought consciously about God, our hearts were against Him. But “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). God reconciled us to Himself through the work of Christ on the cross. Our battle with God ended and our peace with Him began. And because we have been given God’s peace, we are called to share God’s peace with others (Eph. 6:15).

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel to the rest of the world. Once freed from the shackles of sin, a Christian doesn’t look down on his fellow sinners; he or she realizes they are beggars who have been fed and are now called to help feed others. Our purpose is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To lead a sinner to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a believer can perform. That’s your ministry as an ambassador of Christ.

Ask Yourself

Have you ever thought about this before—that you are “called” to the ministry of peacemaking? How does that change your responsibilities as you go through the day? How does it affect the obligation you feel when others continue in stirring up discord and disharmony?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,www.moodypublishers.com.

 

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Beautiful Feet

Today I’d like to share with you one of my devotionals that was published in A Cup of Comfort Devotional: Daily Reminders of God’s Love and Grace.

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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet
of those who bring good news of peace and salvation,
the news that the God of Israel reigns.
—Isaiah 57:7

 Have you ever awaited the sound of familiar footsteps? You’re so used to their footfall that you know who they are by the sound of their walk.

That’s the way I feel about my husband. Rick suffered terrible injuries in an auto accident many years ago and still walks with what he calls a wobble. One of his feet strikes the ground harder than the other. The distinctive sound tells me he’s on his way down the hall, shopping aisle, or sidewalk and enables me to sense his presence minutes before his actual appearance.

How beautiful are his footsteps to me! His feet and legs had to learn how to walk again, but he persevered in his physical therapy and is walking proof that God performs miracles!

We’re never alone in our pain and frustration because God is always with us, ready to surround us with His comforting presence.

Rest in the comfort that God’s
plans are better than your own.

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A Cup of Comfort Devotional: Daily Reminders of God’s Love and Grace, by James S. Bell and Stephen R. Clark. Copyright © 2004 Abrams Media, an F+W Publications Company, Avon, MA. A Cup of Comfort is a trademark of F+W Publications, Inc.

 

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Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

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Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

A Song of Ascents, of David.

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord
An ordinance for Israel—
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there thrones were set for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

—Psalm 122

 

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Mercy, Peace and Love

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Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,

To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: 

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

—Jude 1:1-2

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Hidden with Christ

 

HIDDEN WITH CHRIST

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Since, then, you have been raised in Christ, set
your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at
the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things. For you died, and your life
is now hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

 

What does it really mean to be hidden with Christ? 

The word “hidden” means covered, concealed … in other words, safe. It means that this very day, I am safe in Christ’s arms as one of His very own children.

This is a tremendous comfort, especially when life throws us curve balls. So often we plan something only to find we don’t have the energy to accomplish that plan. Or perhaps our pain is so bad that we can only lie in bed and brood about how our illness interferes with the stuff of life. That’s how we start believing we’re not much good to our loved ones or anyone else.

Well, I’m here to tell you that God uses everything and everyone to His advantage, even those of us feeling yucky and unproductive.

My Mom was a good example. For 11 long years, she suffered with congestive heart failure with its associated complications. One time in the midst of another terrible bout of pneumonia, we were told she only had about two months to live. But God apparently had more for her to do here on earth because she lived quite a few years after that!

My mother raised up a family of five girls. She was always cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry or a host of other household tasks. After she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she had to learn to learn to pace herself to get through each day.

A great deal of her time was spent in her recliner and what did she do to keep busy? She prayed! Mom was in constant communication with her Savior, and found such complete comfort and strength in Him. She learned what it means to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” She focused on the eternal rather than the temporary, and God continued to use her in spite of her limited physical abilities.

So take heart, Beloved. You are much more important to God than your particular set of circumstances. God can use you in your present situation to show His love to those around you!

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The Lord Bless You

Beloved, on this Thankful Thursday, I hope this Scripture passage encourages and comforts you as much as it does me.

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I love what J. Vernon McGee had to say about it. Here is an excerpt from his Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee commentaries:

Here we find the Trinity in the Old Testament. God the Father is the source of all blessing. The Lord Jesus is the One who makes His face to shine upon us. The Holy Spirit lifts up His countenance upon us and gives us peace. This is the only way we can come to God and experience the peace of God. He is the One who makes these things real to our hearts.

The triune God gives them this blessing. The census has been taken, and they all know their pedigree. The standards have been raised; so they all know where they belong. They are to follow their standard, and they are to camp in their assigned place in the camp with their own tribe and their own family. The camp has been cleansed. Now the Lord blesses them. It is the only way God  can bless.

What a wonderful blessing there is here. God the Father keeps us; the Son makes His face to shine upon us—He is the light of the world; God the Holy Spirit gives us peace. What a glorious chapter this is! (1)

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The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.'”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
—Numbers 6:22-27

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(1) McGee, J. Vernon. Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1981.

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