Thursday, November 22, 2012

Truly Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day is here again, and as I contemplate the depths of what this means to me, I am indeed reminded of all that I have for which I can and ought to give thanks....

I could list the things we typically hear things, such as family & friends and also the likely housing and provisions, too.  There's also the jokingly, or maybe not so jokingly depending on the individual and his needs/circumstances, luxury or two that could be mentioned.  For the Christian, some of the other obvious things are also our personal salvation from sin and eternal death through Jesus Christ, our church family and the freedom to worship openly (which includes our country & those who have served to preserve our freedoms & rights), and maybe a specific spiritual mentor or two.

Yes, Thanksgiving Day is about all that, but it's also even more than that.  Just as the word thanksgiving infers, it's about our thanks being directed somewhere, to Someone.  That someone is Jehovah-God, the God of Israel who is also the very same God of us New Testament believers in Christ Jesus.  Indeed, one of His names that is based upon His own character is Jehovah-jireh, "the Lord provides."  And He does.  Over and over and over.  He is the Creator of all and the true Lord over all, yet He lowered Himself to take on our humanhood (whom we know as Jesus, fully God yet fully man) to die the cruel death of the cross of crucifixion, be buried, then raise Himself from the dead to offer each and every individual the gift of salvation from eternal condemnation and damnation.  And that is a gift I so dearly cling to.

Oh yes, yes, yes! There truly is a lot to be thankful for, and yet too frequently I am guilty of taking it for granted.  But that's where God's grace comes in.  He forgives, then helps me to change the areas He has opened my eyes to see need changing, and then He assists me to my feet when I stumble & fall and allows me to cling to Him as the process begins anew.  Yes, that's another wonderful thing I can be thankful for, and the same thing can be true for you.  I hope it already is, but if not, He is still offering this gift to you today, and it can be yours if you will just receive it.

So, happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you too will have a wonderfully glorious day counting your blessings and giving credit to Whom it is due.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught,
abounding therein with thanksgiving.

~ Colossians 2:6-7 ~ 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Of Good & Perfect Gifts

Today is Christmas Day, a commemoration of the Salvation that came to earth.  He, who was and is the Creator of the Universe, literally put Himself in the humble form of mankind that we can be saved through Him.  It is for this reason we celebrate, and although we do so in a diversity of ways, most markedly are the traditions of remembering the "Christmas Story" found in Luke 2 and the giving of gifts to loved ones much as the wise men brought their gifts to the foretold King of the Jews.  And this is why I find myself meditating on James 1:17 which says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

We are likely to receive something this day, but may we not forget where everything truly good comes from.  Jehovah is the source of everything good.  It is He who loved us even before He created us, and He created us even knowing that we would sin against Him.  He also knew that because of our sin, we would need a salvation and that He would need to pay that price Himself.  Along with that, He knew we would not love Him until we came to the realization of His love for us.  And it is here that we can see the great mystery: He still loved us enough to created us and then redeem us by His death.  He was buried and then He rose again, so that we too can rise again.  And this salvation is freely offered to all!  All we have to do is receive it, just as we do with the gifts we find under the tree with our name on it.  Of all the good and perfect gifts we are given from Jehovah, this salvation, whose precious name is Jesus, is the greatest of them all.  It's the greatest gift you could ever receive, and your very self is the greatest gift you could ever give when you give it back to the One who made you.  I've shared with you before that it was such a thought that turned my heart to Him, and I hope that you have turned your heart over to Him as well.

So, as we commemorate the birth of Christ today,
It is my prayer that the light of His Word will shine in your hearts,
And the glory of His presence will be very real to you.

May you never forget the Christ in Christmas.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gladly I Will Suffer These Things, Unashamed

It has only been the last few years that I have made "New Year's resolutions" for myself.  It started two years ago when I Resolved to Resolve.  Then last year to Grow Deeper, Richer, Fuller.  Before that I was unimpressed with the concept.  The premise faulty, the promise flippant, the proposition trite.  Maybe not always, but far too often, anyway. Long ago I determined that's not for me.  Then I acquired Jonathan Edwards' resolutions.  I liked what I saw, and what I read.  He was a man who sought to stay true to what he believed, and used his resolutions toward that end.  Not only that, but they were also continuous.  They didn't end at year's end, but were to the end of his life from that day forward.  Which brings me to my last point: They didn't necessarily have to start at the commencing of a new year; they were established the day he finished contemplating them.  And I realized I really liked that.  So far, I've been establishing my own around the beginning of the year, and this year is no exception, or so it seems... But, you know, there's always tomorrow for me to recognize something else needs changing!  The type of tomorrow that actually becomes today, that is.

So that leads me to what I've been thinking in the here and now.  I also like the idea of a clean slate at the new year's arrival, although any day is a good day to start anew technically.  So I've been considering how I'd like to kick-start the new year...  Then Pastor gave a fabulous message this morning.  For some background, our theme for this year, 2011, is Striving Together (part 2, if you will, of last year's theme Choosing God First).  This morning's sermon was based on Philippians 1:27, the context from verses 1-30.  We considered many things, one specifically being the word conversation, this specific Greek word appearing only one other time.  It was all quite fascinating!  Being one to always contemplate how to apply the truths of Scripture in my own life, that was also something I was considering throughout the message as well.

Well, the message hit its mark.  Most of the things I had been considering were rather general things, until the conclusion that is.  Really, it was a connection I had made of what my life needed to better become more like Christ, but it was just the chord that needed to be touched.  Something the Apostle Paul had down pat.

The invitation wasn't long in coming after that, and the invitational hymn was Close to Thee.  It's a beautiful song, a favorite of mine.  Solemn & sincere, and so very, very heartfelt.  There's always something that catches my heart when I sing it, this time it was a line from the second stanza that stood out, the second line to be precise.  Even before that verse, I had wanted to go forward, but I couldn't leave my duties with the sound system to go to the altar.  I knew something else, though, besides the need to take care of these things humbly before my Lord.  My heart could take a moment to pause in prayer, even if I couldn't leave my station.  And when I had finished, then I thought on what the song must have meant to the composer and what it had meant in her own life.

At the same time that all those thoughts were swirling around in my head, I knew exactly what my new resolve would be.  Interestingly enough, one of the verses of Scripture I think of when I consider this topic had become a cherished favorite last year, but I want to fully embrace it starting today.  "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (II Timothy 1:12)  And that leads me to the conclusion, my resolve:

Willingly suffering for Christ.

Oh, sure, in some way or another I've suffered for Him before.  Maybe not to great extents, but suffering in one way or another.  But lately, it hasn't been all that willingly.  Any recent suffering, I've "suffered" through it all right... but not with the right attitude.  Not as Jesus Christ would have me to suffer - willingly and meekly... for Him - and yet, that's the very attitude I should have had all along.

So, lastly, I'd like to close with the special hymn of invitation that continues to touch my heart's chords.

Close to Thee
 Fanny J. Crosby

Thou my everlasting Portion, more than friend or life to me,
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Not for ease or worldly pleasure, nor for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer, only let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
Gladly will I toil and suffer, only let me walk with Thee.

Lead me through the vale of shadows, bear me over life’s fitful sea;
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee, close to Thee,
Then the gate of life eternal may I enter, Lord, with Thee.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Your Heart

You know what it's like to have a song stuck in your head?  Sure you do!  Well, I have a song that's been playing over and over in my mind all morning, but in a good way!  I know, I was surprised that such a thing was possible, but it is!

So about this song - well technically, it's just a line of the chorus, but anyway... When I stop to think about it, after Monday's entry, it's really not a wonder that this song would be special to me today.  I've gone around it enough, so what are the lyrics?  (Have you been dreading that I might truly get to this?)  Actually, the title is part of it:

This Christmas, make it Christmas in your heart.

It's not from a very popular song, at least not anymore, but I heard it a lot when I was younger.  It has such a sweet, simple melody that complements the simple message of the song.  The oh-so-sweet message of the song.  The full lyrics (you can also hear the complete song here, song 3):

Christmas in Your Heart
Ron & Shelly Hamilton

Jesus came to earth and laid aside His princely crown.
Came to His creation, then a room could not be found.
At this special time of year, the call is heard anew.
Will you hear His pleading voice? Let Christ be born in you.

Christmas in your heart, make it Christmas in your heart.
Open wide the door, and let Jesus in your heart.
As the Saviour knocks today, will you coldly turn away?
This Christmas, make it Christmas in your heart.

You may sing the carols that exalt the Baby's name,
But when Jesus calls to you the answer's still the same.
There's no room for Jesus, He is crowded out again.
Will you open wide your heart and let the Saviour in?

Christmas in your heart, make it Christmas in your heart.
Open wide the door, and let Jesus in your heart.
As the Saviour knocks today, will you coldly turn away?
This Christmas, make it Christmas in your heart.
Make it Christmas in your heart!

We celebrate Christmas every year, but is it Christmas where it truly matters?  Is it Christmas in your heart?  That is the heart that we love with, the heart that we sorrow with, the heart that ache with... not the organ we call the heart.

Jesus Christ came to earth for one reason: to offer salvation to a sinful world.  He offers it to all; He offers it to you.  If you have received Him, it really can be Christmas in your heart because you know the true joy of Christmastime.  In fact, every day of the year can be Christmas for you because He is in you.  If you haven't will you make this year the first year you can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in your life, in your heart?

As we commemorate the birth of Christ today,
It is my prayer that the light of His Word will shine in your hearts,
And the glory of His presence will be very real to you.
And may you never forget the Christ in Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Wonderfully Forgiven Birthday

Many of you know some of my favorite programs on my favorite radio station, there's even a few links on the side to help you locate them on the web.  I was thrilled when I heard that WCTS would be airing a new, in-house Bible study.  (It's hard to believe that it's been almost 2 years since they started broadcasting!)  What a joy it was to hear today's study in I John.  Today Rebecca, Sarah, & Crystal delve back into verses 9-12 of chapter 5.

"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."

This delights my soul so much because of a decision I made 20 years ago yesterday, a decision that I would like to tell you about....

Having been born at Christmastime, and with a name that means "Christmas child," it's natural to be thinking about birthdays and presents during the Christmas season.  My parents did a rather good job at not letting my birthday get swallowed up in the midst of all the festivities, too, which couldn't have been easy.  I also had the privilege of growing up in a Christian family and in a church dedicated to preaching God's Word as it ought to.  Of course, this means that from the time I was just a little tot, I knew that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, God's very own Son, on this earth.  I learned early on that He came for one reason, and that was to save His creation from their sins, and that it was available to anyone who would come to Him

So, with my birthday being just one night's sleep away, I'm sure I was thinking of Christmas and birthdays and presents as we were getting ready for church one evening so many years ago.  My train of thought might have even been that I receive presents on my birthday and His birthday, that He deserves so much more... and what could I give Him?  I don't really recall that, but I know I went up to my mom and said that I wanted "to give Jesus a birthday present.  I want to give Him my heart."

All preparations ceased at that point, and in my mom's presence, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and save me from my sins and told Him I loved Him.

... And I still do.  He's done so much for me, and I want the world to know what He can do for them, too.  He showed His love for us those many, many years ago for us when He left heaven's glory and came down to this sin-cursed, imperfect world.  Then He lived a perfect life for us, never once falling to the temptations His human body felt, which is so important because an imperfection can't redeem imperfection.  He went on to show those around Him who He was by the things He said and the miracles He did, never ceasing when people believed not.  Instead, when their unbelief caused them to falsely accuse Him and sentence Him to the capital punishment of the day, He willingly went to the cross for us because our redemption required His blood to be spilled.  The greatest agony He went through was when God the Father had to turn His back upon God His Son because the sin of the world was upon His shoulders.  He died, but three days later He conquered death and hell with His resurrection.  Now, He's seated at the right hand of God, making intercession for those who call upon His name.  Because of His life, because of His death, because of His risen life, we can be saved from sin, from eternal death, from hell if we will humble ourselves, admit we can't do anything to redeem ourselves, and call upon Him.  I have done that, and I'll never regret it.

It thrills my soul to think of all that He has done for me.  As much as it actually hurts to think of all He went through, I'm so thankful He came.  I'm also thankful that this is something I can reflect upon during this special time of year.  And maybe, or rather more than likely, this is why one of my favorite childhood Christmas songs was and still is Happy Birthday, Jesus.

How about you?  Have you also trusted Him to be your Saviour?  If not, why not?  There's no better time than the present, and it's a very special time of year indeed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks For It All

King David obviously loved to praise & worship the Lord in psalm, and we must admit he wrote quite a few.  Among those many Psalms, one theme that occurs again and again is thanksgiving.  Since David, a man after God's own heart, loved to praise in song and singing happens to be a favorite pastime of mine, I'd like to share a few verses of a psalm and then song.

Psalm 136 is a medium-length psalm that has been a favorite of mine for many years, ever since my youth group went over it verse by verse.  It has become special to me over the years because each verse lists the mighty power Jehovah has.  It's a direct reminder of who He is and all He has done, which should remind us of all He still can do.  And I love its uniqueness.  Every verse ends with "for His mercy endureth for ever."  Not only did He do these things, but He did them because His mercy endures forever.  The verses I've chosen to highlight extol a few of Jehovah's wonderful names and describe the creative power that He, our Maker, has.

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalms 136:1-9, 26

The song I'd like to share with you today carries on with the theme of our Maker.  It is one I haven't heard in at least 10 years.  In fact, I'm not even sure if I'm correctly guessing its title.  I hadn't even thought of it for years, but then one day I tried to recall the lyrics.  Since then I've been trying to track it down.  After many months of searches, I was absolutely thrilled to discover it on a tape I didn't even know existed, let alone packed away in the basement below!  I'm still not sure who to credit as the author or composer, but at least now the lyrics are sure.

Thanks to Your Maker

Did you ever say "thanks" to your Maker?
Did you ever say "thanks" for your sight?
There are many who never see flowers,
There are those who know nothing but night.
There are many who never see springtime
Nor the change of the leaves in the fall
So when you see the dawn of morning
To your Maker say "thanks" for it all.

Did you ever say "thanks" while you listen?
There are those who cannot hear a sound.
Never hear children’s voices and laughter,
For the silence is ever so long.
Never hear the whispering wind in the treetops,
Nor the sound of the leaves in the fall;
So when you hear the voice of your loved one,
To your Maker say "thanks" for it all.

What I love about this song is that it thanks the Lord, who is rightly called our Maker, for the things we so easily take for granted.  It doesn't just mention our senses, but also describes what those senses allow us to enjoy.  The song could even be expanded to encompass other pleasures as well!

On this day of thanksgiving, I hope you truly are giving thanks to whom it is due -  the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not, neither grows weary, of whom there is no searching of His understanding (Isaiah 40:28).  Not just today, but every day & always.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Week of Blessings

What an absolutely marvelous week I just had!  As many of you are aware, my favorite radio station had their annual fundraiser, which they call "sharathon."  I love their daily programming - the Biblical preaching, Christ-centered music, & other programs.  Yet, even though they take a short break from most of the programs, I also love their sharathon!

My love for the WCTS Sharathon really began back in 2000 when my family started homeschooling.  It was the first time I'd had the chance to hear it during the day, and it was a delight to hear the conversations of the different radio personalities uninterrupted by anything but music.  Added to that, we were also able to schedule a field trip down to the station during the sharathon.... And now, for the last 3 years, I've had the wonderful opportunity of being down at the station every day of their fundraisings, which has led to volunteering in other ways throughout the year as well!

There is so much to enjoy about volunteering there: working with the WCTS staff, speaking with the guest speakers who come in, hearing from other listeners & taking their comments, and in general just staying busy helping the station.  This year, it was also fun to hear my siblings give the station phone numbers on the air live!  I didn't know about it ahead of time, so it was quite the surprise when I heard their little voices!  (As it turns out, they didn't know ahead of time, either... they had come in to see me, and were asked if they could read the numbers on the sheet of paper in front of them. Next thing they knew, they were on the air!)

Yet, if one was to ask me what was the apex of Sharathon 2010 (and every other sharathon as well), I would say that it is seeing how the Lord meets the needs of a ministry that seeks to please Him each & every moment of the day.  The daily goal was exceeded a few times, and other times it was close. Those times were so exciting!  But it's not really the excitement I'm talking about - it's seeing how God's people are responding to what He has laid on their hearts.  That's one reason that I can confidently say that we know the Lord will provide even though the overall goal wasn't quite met.  People don't need to pledge during sharathon; they can give whenever it's put on their hearts.  Or maybe the Lord has something else entirely in His mind.  I don't know.  However, I do know, and this is my other reason, that when the Lord is for something, nothing can hinder it!  And it's a thrill to watch His plan come together.


O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

~ Romans 11:33-36 ~



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