Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 20

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.”"Matthew 26:26 NIV

      So, yet another verse where Jesus is praying over the food again, right? Not quite. This time the bread had a greater purpose to serve than just filling bellies. This was the Passover bread-the unleavened bread that represented the hurry with which the Israelites left Egypt when the Lord set them free from their oppressors. This was the dinner that represented when the Lord rescued an entire nation. Single-handedly.

    Jesus offered thanks, right before He offered Himself. Again, we don't know exactly what He said. But His actions in this scene are all about giving the disciples a glimpse into what is about to happen:

"Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”" Matthew 26:27-28 NIV

  He was showing them that He was about to give Himself up-on their behalf, to be the Passover sacrifice. Our Passover sacrifice, so that our blood would not have to be spilled, so that the angel of death would go over us, so that we would be freed to enter the Promised Land. And while He was presenting this beautiful object lesson, He was giving thanks. He was about to endure the hardest trial that could ever be imagined, and He was offering gratitude. 

   Just stop and think about that. He was giving thanks before He gave Himself. If He did that, so we can give thanks in all things. 

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2 NIv

  Nobody eagerly signs up to sacrifice-except Christ. He set the example-not only did He sacrifice, He gave thanks while doing it. That isn't the expected, that is what set Him apart. 

Today's Reflection:
   Christ gave thanks, even in the middle of making the single greatest sacrifice ever. In our own lives, we are called to sacrifice-how can we exemplify a spirit of thankfulness while doing so? Can you find a way to thank God for allowing you to sacrifice, and giving you the power to be grateful in the midst of it? 

Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 19

"And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people." Matthew 14:19 NIV

    And, just like that, we're on to the New Testament. And we open with Jesus. Of course. The miracle of the loaves and the fishes is one of a few miracles that appears in each of the four Gospels. And in every account, it simply says Jesus, "gave thanks". His actual words don't appear.

   I'm quite certain Jesus gave thanks for many reasons-because He recognized every thing we need is supplied by God, because it was an opportunity to talk to His Father, because it was an opportunity to show glory. But I also feel it was to set an example. They were all about to sit down to eat, and Jesus was saying grace. He was literally blessing the food.

   It amuses me, in a delighted-in-the-small-things kind of way, that Jesus prayed over the food. He knew everything that would happen, but still He stopped to pray. He provided everything, He had power over everything, but He still gave thanks. What an awesome example, but of course He was! He asked His Father to bless those loaves and fish, He was grateful for the opportunity to eat. In His human body, He needed food and He was grateful for it.

   In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, food is the base of the whole operation. If that need isn't met, many other things stop mattering, like companionship, creativity, or even our personal security. Food is pretty darn important. And Jesus certainly recognized that. He also recognized Who is the source of all of our food.

"I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread". 

Psalm 37:25 NIV

   Ultimately, no matter who is the "bread-winner" in your family, the real Provider is our Father in heaven. The Lord's prayer shows us who to ask for it each day (Matthew 6:9-13). So there is good reason one of the earliest things we teach children about prayer is to thank God for their food. That's something we never outgrow.

Today's Reflection:Truly take time today to thank God for your food, perhaps a step further than a rushed few sentences before you chow down. Some of us struggle with food in different ways, but it still isn't something we can live without. Thank the Lord for providing us with food, and setting an example of giving thanks. 
Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 18

"I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:    You have given me wisdom and power,You have made known to me what we asked of You,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king."Daniel 2:23 NIV
      Okay, so bear with me. This verse really has to be read in context so you *kinda* should go back and read chapter 2 of Daniel from the beginning and end with the verse above. If you absolutely can't do that then a refresher: King Nebuchadnezzer had a strange dream and issued an ultimatum: he told the wise men of his kingdom to interpret the dream or he would cut them to pieces and turn their houses into rubble. So you know, no big deal! Oh, and also, one more tiny detail: the king wasn't going to tell the wise men his dream, either.

   So, Daniel, who is just an absolutely amazing example of a faithful prayer warrior, of course, turns to the Lord. And he summons his friends to pray as well (Who can forget the equally wonderful Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?). So they are all storming the throne and guess what? God does what He does best: is awesome.

    So, of course, Daniel has this supernatural answer and he tells the king all he wants to know. But he doesn't take the credit, instead he offers a beautiful prayer of praise, ending with this verse.

   And we serve the same God. If we ask for wisdom, He so graciously grants it.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5 NIV

   There is a requirement of faith, but we are promised that if we believe, He will answer. He will give to us out of the endless wealth of His wisdom. And that is pretty worthy of thanks and praise.

Today's Reflection:
When is a time that you know the Lord gave you wisdom? Thank Him for that, and also, take the time to thank Him for the times in the future He will answer your prayers for insight and direction, just as He has promised.

Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 17

"The Lord will surely comfort Zion

    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
He will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing."
Isaiah 51:3 NIV
      Thankfulness in this world isn't always just a result of avoiding problems. Yes, it is easier to get the big raise, or the "A" on the final, or the "all clear" at the doctor's office. But, sometimes, what summons the most gratitude is the restoration, the carrying through, the forgiveness.

   Obviously, we should never do things on purpose to require grace or forgiveness (Romans 6:1), we should strive to always live in a manner worthy of Christ, but in this fallen world, it is inevitable that we will fall short. Like Israel, we won't measure up, and we will feel bereft and alone.

     Other times, life will just be hard. Through no fault of our own, we will suffer trials and hardships, things just plain won't go our way. We will wonder what happened.

   And then, sooner or later, if we continue to trust and have faith (or in the case of the fault being our own, recognize and repent of our wrongdoing) we will find that we have been restored. We will remember the promises, and begin to feel joy again.

   In this life, troubles are unavoidable. But we are also promised that is not all there is. God will bring hope and healing, joy out of mourning. And when that begins, when He comforts us and has compassion on us, that is definitely something to be thankful for.

Today's Reflection:
Think back to a time when you know the Lord restored you. Thank the Lord for His gift of joy and gladness, especially after times of sorrow or separation from Him. 

Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 16

"Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever."
Psalm 136:3 NIV
       We often thank God for things, and people, and His marvelous deeds. But how often do you stop to just thank Him for being GOD?

     True love (such as the kind God has for us) isn't based on the things we do. God's love for us is based on who He *is*. And He is pretty awesome. This verse says it more eloquently:

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." Deuteronomy 10:17 NIV  
  He is above all. There is no comparing Him. He is an 11 out of 10. When you think of all the things a god could be, or should be, He blows it out of the water. He is perfect. Literally.  He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He is every good thing. He is truth. He is life. He is love.

     I get a little teary-eyed when I try to wrap my mind around His awesomeness. It floods my soul and I am overwhelmed in the very best of ways. True worship is focusing on the attributes of God, and standing in awe. It really isn't hard to get to that place if you spend just  a few minutes thinking about His holiness and righteousness. We should feel as Isaiah did:

 "And they [the angels]were calling to one another:Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;    the whole earth is full of His glory.”
 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King,the Lord Almighty.”" Isaiah 6:3-5 NIV (emphasis mine)

    Doesn't that just make you want to fall on your knees? We serve the Lord of lords...

Today's Reflection:
Spend some time on your knees (if you can) thanking God for who He is. We serve a God like no other, and He deserves worship like no other. Focus on a trait that is especially meaningful to you, and offer Him your heartfelt worship. 

Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!


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