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. 


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!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 15

"At midnight I rise to give You thanks
    for Your righteous laws.
Psalm 119:62 NIV
      Let's just jump right into this one: I literally do not know anyone (so far as they have told me) that sets their alarm to get up in the middle of the night to pray. Nobody. However, I don't think that the only application of this verse is a literal one-though doing that probably would have fairly dramatic effects on your spiritual life. I'll be honest, though, I haven't tried it.
    But anyway, we all find ourselves in situations where we aren't sleeping. I don't suffer from insomnia, but on occasion I definitely find myself querying my clock and doing the mental arithmetic, "If I fall asleep now, 7 hours. Now, 6 and a half. Now 5 hours, 15 minutes..." I'm sure you've been there.
   And I realized something: that is a really terrific time to pray, and particularly, to be thankful. Thinking of all the ways the Lord has provided for me, all the things He has done, and just how wonderful He is, is very soothing. It reminds me of the song from "White Christmas"  (Sorry, you'll have to imagine Bing singing!).
"So if you're worried and you can't sleep
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings..."
Sounds pretty good, right? And if you find yourself drifting off, you can always be thankful for this promise:
"In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety."
Psalm 4:8 NIV
   My mom always told me if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night for no particular reason, it is the Lord prompting you to pray. I can't think about anything better to talk to God about than all the things you are grateful for...can you?
Today's Reflection:
   Before you go to bed tonight, list some of your favorite blessings to the Lord. Perhaps you could consider making a short prayer of gratitude part of your bedtime routine. And if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, definitely think about using that time to thank the Lord. It definitely beats checking the clock!
Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 14

"I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation." Psalm 118:21 NIV
   I am pretty good at asking for what I need. I am a firm believer in presenting my requests to God. (Philippians 4:6). I try not to be demanding, or whiny, but I do try to remember to not worry, and instead pray. So, I don't present a huge list of "wants" to God every day, but I try to ask Him, because I know that He can provide all my needs (Philippians 4:19) and He is the source of every good gift (James 1:17).

   And guess what? He certainly does provide for my needs. He really gives me most of my wants, too. Not always, but often. He very, very often says, "Yes."

   But sometimes I am like a kid. I get what I want, I mutter, "thanks" under my breath, and five minutes later I'm asking for something else. Probably not exactly the response He wants. Instead, I think it would be really beneficial if I said, "thank you" in the moment, and then, like a good recipient, wrote a thank-you note a few weeks later. And maybe, after that, I could bring up it up in my  conversation with Him every now and then.

    God answers all our prayers. They aren't all "yes", nor should they be. However, when He is so gracious as to grant our requests, I think it stands to reason that we can give Him more than a cursory amount of gratitude. Or at least try...

Today's Reflection:
   What is something you were grateful for as soon as you received it, but now that it is a few weeks, months, or even years later you have kind of forgotten about? Tell the Lord today that you are still so thankful for that answered prayer, that "yes" He so generously gave.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 13

"Open the gates of righteousness for me;
I will enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord."
Psalm 118:19 NIV

     There is really a never-ending list of things to for which to thank the Lord. Salvation is certainly at the top of the list. But have you ever considered thanking God for making you righteous through Christ? 

    Faith in Christ allows Him to save us from our sins, but more than that, it puts us in right standing with God. I love how these verses state it:

"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,  so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 NIV

    We weren't worthy. We were the lowly, the despised. But through Christ we now are holy, righteous, redeemed. We can truly boast in the Lord, and enter into the gates of righteous-now open wide for us through Christ. That is most definitely something to be thankful for. 

Today's Reflection:
What does it really mean to you that you are made righteous through Christ? You can now be used to bring glory and honor to Christ. How can you express your gratitude that Christ has made you righteous? 

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 12

"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love    and His wonderful deeds for mankind," Psalm 107:8 NIV
     It is hard sometimes to think about God's love for the world in light of all of the tragedies that seem to abound at every turn. Lately it seems like there are only reports of devastation and sadness: shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, illness. Where is the love in that?

   I don't have all the answers-I don't even pretend to have most of them. But this I know: God does love us.

"For God so loved the world He sent His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 NIV 
    I think what we forget is that the Lord knows everything, but His intention was never to allow these atrocities to fill the world. He created a world full of good, and our sinful nature ruins that every day. However, He is powerful enough that He always overcomes evil with good, and I think that is the thing to be thankful in all this. That we serve a God mighty enough to make every dark thing light (Psalm 139:11-12) is the thing to take hold of, the thing to cling to.

   His mighty deed often is that we are not consumed (Lamentations 3:22), in the midst of all this. His unfailing love ensures that no matter what we pass through, we will emerge victorious.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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 8:31-39 NIV

That sounds pretty amazingly wondrous to me. That sounds like never-stopping, never-ceasing, unfailing love to me. That sounds like something to be grateful for.

Today's Reflection:
   From our limited human perspective we can't always see where God is in the midst of tragedy. Today, thank Him for not being stopped by that. Thank Him for performing wondrous deeds and continuing to love us through all kinds of situations and heartaches, and for enabling us to be more than conquerors through faith in Christ. 

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Thankfulness:From Hand to Heart Day 11

"Save us, Lord our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to Your holy name
    and glory in Your praise."
Psalm 106:47 NIV

     A big component of faith is the future. We have faith that the Lord will be consistent, recognizing that He has kept His promises in the past, and will continue to keep them, that He is aware of what is ahead of us and He is already there. 

     In this psalm the Israelites are recalling the wonders the Lord had performed for them. They list the many miracles the Lord performed when He delivered them from the Egyptians, and continue on remembering His deliverance and forgiveness up until the present day. 

   Then, they look towards the future. This verse tells of such secure faith that they are already planning the praise and gratitude that will result from the freedom He will grant them, the salvation He will give. They were giving thanks for things that hadn't happened yet! They were in accord with Hebrews 11, hundreds of years before it was written:

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 NIV
    Truly, it takes great faith to thank God for the things He hasn't done yet. But because He always keeps His promises, we can! 

Today's Reflection:
What are you assured will happen in the future that you can thank God for? He has made so many wonderful promises to us about our future, there are many choices. If you need some inspiration, look to some of these verses: 
Romans 8:28
James 1:12
1 Corinthians 10:13
Matthew 28:20
Luke 21:19
Luke 11:10

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 10

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving    and His courts with praise;    give thanks to Him and praise His name." Psalm 100:4 NIV
     His gates...His courts... I pondered what exactly that meant as I studied the passage today. I have always heard it used as a reference to church, and sometimes, heaven, but is that all? I turned to my old friend, Matthew Henry to get his perspective. As always, he did not disappoint. Here's what He had to say:

"A strong invitation to worship God; not that God needs us, or any thing we have or can do, but it is his will that we should serve the Lord, should devote ourselves to his service and employ ourselves in it; and that we should not only serve him in all instances of obedience to his law, but that we should come before his presence in the ordinances which he has appointed and in which he has promised to manifest himself (v. 2), that we should enter into his gates and into his courts (v. 4), that we should attend upon him among his servants, and keep there where he keeps court. In all acts of religious worship, whether in secret or in our families, we come into God's presence, and serve him; but it is in public worship especially that we enter into his gates and into his courts. The people were not permitted to enter into the holy place; there the priests only went in to minister. But let the people be thankful for their place in the courts of God's house, to which they were admitted and where they gave their attendance."-Matthew Henry  (emphasis mine)
  We, of course, are no longer compelled to worship in the temple, and there are no longer the Old Testament distinctions on who can go where in the churches that have taken the temple's place. Best of all, we ARE allowed into the Holy Place because Hebrews 10:19-22a says:

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings."(emphasis mine)

   So where does that leave us, entering His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise? Well, I think it is the next step after what we discussed yesterday. First, we have to be glad for how God made us, then we have to be thankful for where God placed us. The temple had different areas, not everyone was allowed into the same area, however they could all be grateful for their place in the courts! To be clear: I fully believe that we all have the same unfettered access to God through Christ. 

     What I am saying is in some ways we can view this psalm as call to be grateful no matter our place in life. Whether I am live in a teeny tiny shack in the valley, or a gorgeous, enormous mansion on the hilltop, it is still a call for me to express my gratitude. If I am a stay-at-home mom struggling to keep the laundry in check, or a CEO of a major corporation bringing home major checks, I still need to offer praise. If I am where I want to be, or nowhere close. If I am surrounded by friends and family or completely alone. There are no exceptions, no clauses that say: offer praise, except...or give thanksgiving if.. I am to enter His gates with thanksgiving because of where *He* is, not because of where I am. The point is this: I am still allowed in. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, I can stand in the presence of a holy, mighty God. I can offer Him praise and thanksgiving. He placed me where I am for a reason, He put me here for a purpose, and while I may not fully realize it in its entirety, I can know this with confidence: a part of that is to offer Him praise and thanksgiving.

Today's Reflection:
   No matter where you are in the "courts" in life, consider this: through Jesus, you are past the gates, you have access to the throne. How can you thank God today for where He has you in life right now? Are you thankful that You can offer Him praise no matter where you are? 

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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