Monday, December 25, 2017

Silent Night

     It's been quiet here on the blog. Usually that is a good sign that real life is CRAZY. That is definitely the case this year. I have had ideas for about five different posts. As you know if you follow me, I have posted zero. I even have photos taken for a post, but yet, nothing. The time just hasn't been right.

    I've been busy with Christmas stuff, preparing and planning, making and baking, running here, there and everywhere. But you haven't seen it (unless, of course, you're my husband). You have just seen....nothing. You haven't heard anything from me, but that doesn't mean I'm not here.

    And that is what I am thinking about tonight. Dwelling on the FOUR HUNDRED YEARS between the Old Testament and the New Testament. You know, the one or two pages between Malachi and Matthew in your Bible? That was lifetimes-generations coming and going. Waiting. Watching. For a while, at least...

    But waiting is hard. And we lose interest quickly. And days slip into weeks, years into decades. We lose track of time and we give up, forget, move on. But that didn't mean He wasn't there...

    That inter-Testament period? It is known as the silent, or dark, period. Pretty bleak. Quiet is nice at first, but after a while it can drive you crazy. You start talking to yourself, you start hearing voices. You wonder if maybe you are losing it, you wonder if you were confused about what you heard. Weren't promises made? A Savior. What was going on? Four hundred years...

    " The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9 NIV

   Quiet days turned into silent nights. Promises seemed unfilled, hope felt empty. Memories were short, and soon, for many, thoughts of the Messiah slipped into the oblivion of forgetfulness...

    Until another silent night soon became a holy night. The most Holy of all Nights. The Silence was broken with the most powerful Word ever spoken.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among US..." John 1:14 
    The emphasis is mine, because I can't get over the beauty of ending that phrase with those two little letters that mean me, and you, and everyone. The Word, a clarion call that prayers were answered, promises fulfilled, not just after four hundred years but for all of eternity. At just the right time...

     We don't ever have to live in that uncertainty again. Hope was born, and the Word doesn't just dwell among us, He dwells in us.

"Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 CSB
     If your night seems silent, I have a hard truth for you: you aren't listening. He is speaking, the silence is broken. He didn't just give us words at Christmas, He gave us THE Word. He spent four hundred years planning, preparing, perfecting. At just the right time, He tore the veil, broke the barrier, and glorious light and sound poured out, from Him to us. Christmas is Him speaking, flooding our ears with the most beautiful Voice ever heard, promising us that this Jesus was indeed, the One:

"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”" Matthew 17:5 NIV
     We don't have to endure the silent treatment anymore, Jesus offered His life to free us to hear. He is speaking, we just have to stop to listen. He is there, He always has been, but now, His plans are apparent, His purpose clear. He fulfills all of His promises, no matter how slow the fulfillment may seem. I encourage you: if it seems like you are suffering through too many silent nights, remember that the Word is already here. We don't have to be wait, He has come.

    That is the beauty of Christmas. The Word that many in those hundreds of dark, quiet years died longing to hear, has come. Just listen: His name is Jesus.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 30

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV
   So, this is the only verse in the plan that isn't in Biblical order, and it pained me a little to do that (it really should have been flip-flopped with yesterday's verse to stay in correct order) but I really, really wanted to end with this one.

   It is so perfect for the holiday season, and I'm sure you've seen it used on Christmas cards, but that isn't the only reason why I chose to place it here. It is just exceptionally fitting verse for the end. So, so short, but really the entire motivation behind this thing we do, with the praying and thanking.

I loved this commentary from Chuck Smith:

"So we're talking about giving to God, but yet, you think of what God has given unto us: that unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ. And what was the motive behind it? "God so loved the world that He gave" (John 3:16).
And so the motive behind our giving must be love. Our love for God. And any other motive is not really valid. Give because you love the Lord. Give what you purpose in your heart. What you can give hilariously, that give unto God and God will bless you abundantly for it. So the rule's really about giving. And I want that those rules should apply here." 
    See, that's the thing: we have to have love to be able to give anything, and especially thanks. And that indescribable gift? Well, that's Love, with a Name above all names: Jesus. I can't not put this Scripture here:

"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:7-12 NIV 
    And this is what I want you to take away if you don't ever read any other words I write: if your thanks is based on something you totally understand and can completely describe, and you can do it simply and shortly, and be done with it, you have it all wrong. True thanksgiving-the kind that is an absolute outpouring of gratitude, a flood of gratefulness, appreciation without limit, isn't something you can write out for 30 days and be done with. It demands, He demands, your life, your soul, your all. He is Love, and He came down and He offered Himself and He can live within you. That kind of thanks... there are not enough words or days to ever express it. Because you can't really describe that kind of Gift. You can't put that type of sacrifice into human expression and really imbue it with the meaning it deserves.

   So here is the thing: indescribable gifts deserve endless thanks. Because you can't describe it doesn't mean you give up-it means you have to try every day for all of eternity. Not for 30 days in November, and certainly not for one Thursday a year. Every. Single. Day. For ALL of your life, with every breath if you truly have the slightest grasp of the weight of it.

   This gift...THIS IS LOVE. I can't write poetry, or music, and my words are stilted and limited and feeble. But I am going to keep trying because this is my offering of thanks. This is my sacrifice of praise. To try to share this indescribable gift until one day, perhaps, when I am finally in His presence and He will give me the opportunity to truly give Him the thanks He deserves.

Today's Reflection:
   Give thanks until your words fail you. This gift, it is indescribable, but we are allowed to offer our praise anyway. That is an awe-inspiring privilege, and one we should practice as long as we draw breath. Pray that the Lord will so fill your heart and mind with the awesomeness of that gift that you can't help but thank Him for it each and every day.

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

   It's almost Christmas! Another way to praise is through song, and I have a free printable devotional for December: your favorite Christmas carols paired with Scripture to celebrate the season. Find "Sing of His Birth" here

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 29

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." Ephesians 1:16 NIV
     He's my person. When I think of him, I smile. When he's gone, I feel like a piece of me is missing. When I think of people I want to be with, he is at the top of the list. We don't get tired of being together, and we've been together for a long time-16 years since we started dating, almost 15 years of marriage.

   And when I think of things I'm thankful for, he's pretty darn near the top of the list. It's pretty much: 1. Salvation 2. Joel.  I have a wonderful family, they're really the best, and they're probably number 4 (my kids would be number 3) but he edges them out. He *knows* me, and he still loves me. Yup.

   So, truly, he is somebody I am thankful for. So thankful for. And because of that, he's in my prayers. All the time. I just want the best for him, because I love him. The Lord has used him to make me a better person, a stronger believer, not so self-focused. And I am so thankful for all of that. And I am thankful for who he is-a wonderful husband, terrific father, good provider, not to mention handsome, smart and funny. At least, I think so, and that's all that counts, right?

   And honestly, I think that the Lord appreciates when we pray for the things we are thankful for, but especially for the people we are thankful for. Over and over, we are reminded of the importance of prayer, and praying for each other. Jesus prayed for us, in the Garden of Gethsemane, right after He prayed for His disciples:

"20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17:20-21 NIV

  He was thankful for us-for those who had followed Him, and those who would. And He prayed for us, remembering us in His darkest hours. How much more so, in times of joy in our lives, should we remember those we are thankful for? Yup, the people we are the most grateful for are the ones we should always be remembering in our prayers.

Today's Reflection:
    Who are you most thankful for? Are you constantly remembering them in your prayers-both thanking God for them, and thanking Him for His work in their lives? Today is a great day to start. And if you're feeling brave, share your prayers with the one you for whom you are thankful. Nothing is quite as wonderful as knowing you're in someone's prayers.

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 28

"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." 2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV

   I love a good deal. Black Friday=totally my jam. I like the thrill of finding just the right thing at a better than right price. And if I find something that is really great? Well, you better believe I am going to tell everyone I know! I don't understand the concept of "full price". I love to share my finds-because I believe that everyone agrees with me.

    I want to share what I have when it comes to fab finds. And I try to put that into practice in other areas of my life, too. Every day is filled with opportunities to share, to give, to pour into others. Our lives are overflowing with opportunities to be generous. 

    And that inspires gratitude in others. When you bring a meal to someone who recently had a tough time, when you send a shoebox to a child overseas, when you put change into the red bucket outside the store, those things elicit feelings of appreciation in others. And whether in big things or small, God recognizes that and provides more opportunities, and means, to be generous. Which brings about more thankfulness! It is a wonderful circle of giving and thanks, or thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. 

  But that is the thing-giving, God giving to us, God giving through us, and our giving to God, all result in gratitude. Those who are blessed by our giving, we are blessed by giving, and God is glorified. It is really wonderful! And everyone involved will give thanks to God.

Today's Reflection:
    How can you be generous today in a way that will result in thanksgiving to God? Whose generosity can you be grateful for? Thank God for providing you with means, no matter how small, to be generous. That could mean with your time, talents, money or words-all these can be given generously and generate praise. 

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 27

"All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV

     The "all this" that Paul is talking about was the preceding verses were he encourages his readers, reminding them of how God's power is at work in their lives. They are walking and talking examples of His goodness, and this exemplification of grace is spreading-exactly what is intended for the Gospel.

  And that is cause for a big ol' gratitude party that is going to have one special guest of honor: God Himself. Because thanksgiving that recognizes the true source of all good things is always going to draw people to Him and bring glory to His name.

   So, straight to the point: how is your thanksgiving overflowing? Maybe every day you thank God for the norms: family, a roof, food. The basics. But is your gratitude really truly spilling out of you from all sides? Can someone spend just a few moments with you before they see your appreciation, even in the smallest of things? Are you practically synonymous with thanks? Is your pleasure over God's grace to you, and to all who receive it, blatantly obvious?

    So much has been done for your benefit-and that isn't just for you, it is for everyone who believes (John 1:12). That grace is continuously reaching more people, and that is a cause for rejoicing.

Today's Reflection:
     Is your thanksgiving truly overflowing? If not, a good place to start is by spending some time on God's grace to you, and how it is spreading to more and more people-salvations are occurring every day! Consider how your spirit of thankfulness can aid in that process and how that glorifies God. 

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 26

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere." 2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV
    I don't think too many of us would put the words "thankful" and "captives" in the same sentence. But Paul isn't like the rest of us. And he loved some good imagery. This idea of a triumphant, commanding leader with a train of all of the spoils of his victories behind him, would have been well understood by his readers. The Romans were busy conquering all the things in that day and age, and they often had these glorious parades showing off all they plundered-both things and people.

   This idea offends our modern sensibilities-we are really not fond of the concept of subjugation or conquering in general. But here, Paul is using it in a positive way-we are joyful captives who have been redeemed and rescued, not slaves cowering in fear and defeat. The country we were taken from is one of death and destruction-we are being led to a land of life and rebuilding.

   And the best part? As we are marching in this parade, we are giving off the incredible, tantalizing, mouth-watering scent of freedom! Everywhere He leads us, others are being enticed by this amazing aroma-and it is making them want to jump in line. We are enveloped in the sweet perfume of His love-and it is practically irresistible.

  The next verse puts it so well.
"For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." 2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV 
    We have the smell of "rescue" all over us, and to those who are going under, that is exactly what they want to catch a whiff of.

How about being thankful that we have been "captivated"? His love not only holds us close to Him, it also covers us with the beautiful aroma of His love! That is definitely something to be thankful for.

Today's Reflection:
   We serve an awesome Leader who is at the head of our joyful, sweet-smelling parade. Are you thankful to be a part of that? How can your thankfulness add to the enticement of the aroma of the knowledge of Him and His love?

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

To Jocelyn, On Your 12th Birthday

Dear Jocelyn,
                 Another year, another birthday letter. It's really starting to feel like you are growing up. It doesn't really have anything to do with your age, although that is one way to mark it. It has more to do with how you talk, and think and act. 

   Moms often say they miss when their kids were little. I don't miss that so much (although you were awfully cute!) as I miss how blissfully unaware you were-carefree and easygoing. The cruddy part of growing up is that those things somewhat have to fade away as we truly mature. We have to take notice of what is going on around us. We have to put thought and care and *work* into doing things that must be done. We can't always expect someone to tell us how to think and act. You are beginning to realize there is a great big world outside our safe little home, and while it many times pleases us with its pleasures and beauties, it can sometimes bite and poke and break. 

     But I think you are going to hold your own. I think you will make it through relatively unscathed. I know we can do this with the Lord's help. I believe in you-I believe in who you are in Christ. It hurts to see things affect you like they never have before-for every tear you have shed this year over the growing recognition of the cruelty of the world, I have cried two: one for the world and one for you. As much as I want to prevent you from seeing and knowing those things, that is not right, nor is it fair. 

   We will figure this out, though. I am muddling through right alongside. You've never been in this stage before, but I've never mothered a child in this stage, either. We have to give each other grace, love, mercy, tenderness. We have to forgive, over and over-both of us. We have to be honest, but not unkind. I want you to know that I am here to protect you, but not insulate you, to give you boundaries but not cages, to teach you, but not do for you, to love you unconditionally, but not free you from responsibility.

    I am excited now, more than ever. You have already surprised me this year with your maturity, thoughtfulness, and responsibility. You are meeting challenges head-on, and rising to the occasion. You are trying new things, and figuring out who God wants you to be.

    This is going to be a good year. The Lord has big things in store for you-not when you are an adult, but this week, this month, this year. He is using you right now, and will continue to do so as long as you stay close to Him. That is my prayer for both of us, to stay close to Him and to each other.

    I love you. I'm thankful God chose for us to be family. Together we will rock this 12 thing!


Friday, November 24, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 25

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57

    Thanksgiving is over, but don't give up yet! A habit of thankfulness is one of the most you can develop. They say if you spend 30 days doing something, it becomes a habit, so you only have a few more days!

   This verse is so short but so perfect. Thanks to God for giving us victory through Christ! I truly can't think of anything that I am more thankful for. Life seems set up to defeat, it is full of things we can't control: other people's attitudes, our health, the weather. It is hard to remember that we don't just have victories: we have *the* victory. All of it. There is nothing that can defeat us.

"31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us?... 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31,37-39

   We win! Nothing can come between us, nothing can rule over us, nothing can take us away. We have total, ultimate victory. I can't think of anything to be more thankful for.

Today's Reflection:
   The verse and devotional are so short today. Can you take that extra time to list all the ways you have been given victory in Christ? Make the list as long as you can, and thank God for each. 

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 24

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" 1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV
     Paul wrote these words to encourage the Corinthians to stay strong in the midst of the enticements of the world. They were participating in things that weren't furthering their ministry, or strengthening their faith. He wanted them to remember that they partook of communion to show that they were part of a community: the body of Christ.

   And that is why I chose this verse to be part of this plan. We are part of that same body. Whether we are taking the Lord's Supper, or simply going to Wednesday night supper, we are (or should be) part. And when we are part of the body that is something to be thankful for-we get to participate in Christ's plan, we are able to work alongside of Him to glorify the Father.

"[I]n fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body." 1 Corinthians 12:18-20 NIV

   We are all here for a reason. We all get to participate. Being part of your local church, and of course, the worldwide body of Christ is a privilege. We give thanks that He saved us, that He made us a part of Himself, and also, we give thanks for all of those who share in that. We give thanks because we are allowed, invited, and encouraged to participate. 

Today's Reflection:
Are you thankful for your place in the body? How can you give and show your gratitude for the church-both near and far? Give thanks today that you, and all other believers, are allowed to participate in Christ's body. Together. 

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 23

"I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus."1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV

    Paul. What a wonderful example of gratitude he is! Always thankful to Christ, and those who served alongside him. This verse is short, and it might slip past you if you are reading it in the midst of a passage. However, don't over look what it really means.

   Paul is thankful for the Corinthians, because of Christ's grace given to them. I really loved how the Phillips translation puts it, grouping it together with verses 5-9.

"I am always thankful to God for what the gift of his grace in Jesus Christ has meant to you—how, as the Christian message has become established among you, he has enriched your whole lives, from the words on your lips to the understanding in your hearts. And you have been eager to receive his gifts during this time of waiting for his final appearance. He will keep you steadfast in the faith to the end, so that when his day comes you need fear no condemnation. God is utterly dependable, and it is he who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord." (PHILLIPS)
     He is being thankful for several things here. First, he is thankful for how God has used the grace of Christ to transform the Corinthians, and second, for how eager the Corinthians were to embrace that transformation.

   Paul is thankful for who they are now-different because of the grace of Christ. Thankful for how much better their lives are because of His grace, His gifts. This verse is so sweet, so full of love. He is telling them how much he appreciates how Christ has changed them.

   He isn't just thankful that Christ saved them, he is glad that Christ has made them new. He is thankful for God's grace that caused them to be someone that he was thankful for.

   Christ changes people. That's the thing about salvation-Christ's sacrifice allows you to be someone to be thankful for, and makes those you love, well, more lovable. He takes thieves and makes them heroes, He takes scoundrels and makes them servants. He makes worthless into wonderful. For you, and anyone who accepts His grace.

   And that is what thanksgiving is really about. We give thanks, today, and every day because Christ changes things. He gave us salvation, and He gives us grace that makes our lives into something worth being thankful for. He is the only reason for celebrating today, or any day.

Today's Reflection:
   Who in your life has been transformed by Christ's grace? Give thanks for who they are because of His gift. As you celebrate today, realize that anyone who has accepted Christ's free gift is changed. For the better. For eternity. And that is worth having a holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 22

"So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me." John 11:41 NIV
      This verse is buried in the middle of one of the best pictures (in my opinion) of Christ's full humanity. Jesus' friend, Lazarus, has died. Verse 35 of this chapter is the famous "Jesus wept." and verse 38 tells us He is "deeply moved". He is about to bring the dead back to life, but He still allowed Himself time to experience what I am certain was a myriad of emotions. This verse and the next directly proceed Jesus calling His friend forth, and they are best read together:

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." John 11:41-42 NIV
   Jesus is sad, He is in the last weeks leading up to His own death. He is dealing with the confused disciples, He is comforting Lazarus' sister. He is in the thick of a very difficult, trying time. He *knows* how everything will end, but that doesn't make it any less painful in the meantime. Yet, He stops to thank His Father for hearing Him.

   I don't know about you, but when I am in the midst of hard times, I am usually begging God to get me out of it, or through it, or around it. I am not really feeling grateful. I am not usually thinking about just thanking God for listening. But Jesus did. He stopped, at the time when everyone had their eyes on Him, holding their breath, and He offered His praise to God, just for being heard.

    You may think that was easy, because He was perfect. But He was also completely human, and He felt all the things we do. It wasn't easy-it was a conscious choice to express thanks. This type of things wasn't anymore automatic for Him than for you and me. He always made the right choice, but He still had to make a choice. And He chose to give thanks, even in the hard times.

Today's Reflection:
   If you are in the midst of a difficult time right now, make the choice to give thanks-just for being heard. We "know" the Lord hears our prayers, but do we truly know?  And if you are on a mountaintop right now, you can still give thanks to the Lord for listening. It isn't less important in the good times. And pray that you will be able to offer praise the next time you are in a valley, simply because He is listening.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 21

"He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan." Luke 17:16 NIV
    You know those challenges where you have to write an entire story in one sentence? This verse kind of reminds me of that. You don't even have to know the context to feel the emotion, but if you do it is so.much.better.

   Jesus had healed a group of ten men, all suffering from leprosy. He had initially instructed them to go show themselves to the priests, and while they were going (in faith) He healed them. Out of ten, only one came back. And he wasn't even Jewish!

    He came back to Jesus right away, because he recognized immediately from where his healing had come. And he threw himself at Jesus' feet-a completely humble posture of service. Absolute recognition of Jesus' authority and position.

When is the last time you threw yourself at His feet in gratitude? 

Christ gave His very own life for yours. 
He healed you of the disease of sin. 
He rescued you from death. 
He promises to always be with you.
He gave you the Holy Spirit.

  Pick one. Pick them all. And throw yourself at His feet. 

Today's Reflection:
    No matter your situation, I promise there is something in your life today for which you can throw yourself at Jesus' feet in gratitude. Look for it until you find it. He is SO good. 

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

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!


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