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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Thankful Journal






The Strongs Concordance entry for the word "THANKFUL" in the Bible
has several definitions worth meditating on as one studies God’s word and its many exhortations to us to be thankful.
·      Thankful in one sense in the bible means literally to hold out the hand;
·      Thankful can also mean to (physically) throw something like a stone or an arrow
·      Thankful also means to revere or worship with extended hands;
·      Another meaning is to praise and give thanks.
Thankfulness is giving to God something of ourselves; hence, the sense of throwing a stone or arrow-aiming our specific praises at the One who has given us so much, rather then just being vague in our praise and worship.
In this sense we are telling God why we are thankful. Each stone we cast, each arrow is a gift of praise from our lips to our God who has given us such wonderful things to enjoy.
These stones, these arrows of praise are aimed directly to God Most High.
If our thoughts are wandering in worship these stones or arrows of praise and thanksgiving we are casting up to our God are not going to Him at all.
Our lips are out of sync with our heart and thoughts.
Jesus says quoting Isaiah, "This people draw near to Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me." Matthew 15:8
God desires that we be purposeful in our praise, worship, and thanksgiving.
“And when you make an offering of praise to the Lord, make it in a way which is pleasing to Him.” Leviticus 22:29
 St. Paul in Ephesians 5:10 admonishes us to, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.”
It is not only important to thank God but also to tell Him why we are thankful every day. Rehearsing our blessings from God focuses our minds on positive things and gets our minds off our needs. One of the best ways to begin this practice is to start a “Thankful Journal.”
A Thankful Journal helps us to record the specific ways God has blessed us each day and gives us opportunities to express our gratitude to Him for those blessings. We can LET these expressions be our arrows, our pebbles that we cast up to God.
Gratitude will bless us in many ways. Ephesians 5:20 admonishes us to “give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gratitude awakens humility in the soul. A grateful heart is a humble heart.
Another benefit of keeping a Thankful Journal is that whenever we feel discouraged we can read over the times when God has blessed us or has come through for us, rehearsing the victories in our life. It will remind us that He is ever faithful to keep His word and that He will come through for us again no matter what the present circumstances are. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” Psalm 103:2
"And be ye thankful." A heart of gratitude toward God is a heart that loves God.
There is a passage in 2 Timothy that makes me shudder every time I read it.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Ingratitude is a defining hallmark of people living in the last days. It goes about wearing the face of dissatisfaction in the person who practices it. People will be dissatisfied with what they have and always craving after what they think is better.  They may be dissatisfied with their body, their gender, talents, mental abilities, health, social status, their house, job, their spouse, their kids, parents, education…The list is endless of things people can find fault with in their lives! People who are habitually negative and critical, though they achieve the things they imagine will satisfy them, will still find something to complain about no matter what quality of life they attain. For ingratitude is a soul sickness and one who practices it will never be satisfied with whatever they achieve or are given.
St. Paul warns us, “Be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you. So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.” ~Hebrews 13:5-6
 My earnest prayer day and night is that the sin of ingratitude will not define me. But the sad fact is, when we focus on our needs and wants and never take time to reflect on the blessings God has already given us, Paul accurately portrays what we can become apart taking the time and effort to thank God daily. For how easily we can descend into the muck of the flesh without hearkening to the Holy Spirit within us.
Gratitude helps us to focus on the positive and transforms our attitude the more we practice it into a heart of humility. God draws close to the humble, but the proud He knows afar off. To know God better, we must begin to thank Him!
To become more like Christ, we must practice the habit of thanking God in all things even as Christ Himself did. In the Upper Room at the Last Supper on the eve of His crucifixion our Lord gave thanks to His Heavenly Father as He broke the bread that symbolized His body that He would give for the life of the world. Though His heart was troubled and His betrayer was in the room, still our Lord gave thanks to God.
Likewise, even when our circumstances are not ideal, even when we are going through terrible trials may we be like our Lord Jesus who still gave thanks and praise to God. The bible says that Jesus even sang a hymn after the Last Supper. (Matthew 26:26-30)

Keeping a Thanksgiving Journal will help us to focus on our blessings rather than our needs; it will help us to set aside a special time for giving thanks to God daily, and will teach us to make gratitude a habit. Thanksgiving will indeed renew our minds into the image of our Creator as we practice it daily, drawing us ever closer to His heart of love.

Lord, we love You! Thank You for giving us Yourself! Help us today to give thanks to You and praise Your name. For You, Oh LORD are good. Your unfailing love continues forever, and Your faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100:4-5)

“The Thankful Journal” Copyright © 2012 Suzanne Davis Harden All Rights Reserved. Unto The Least of These



Friday, November 9, 2012

THE RESCUE

"Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah" John Martin 1854
 
  “Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD earlier. He looked off toward Sodom, Gomorrah, and the entire plain, and he saw smoke rising from the land like smoke from a furnace. And so it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham and brought Lot out from the midst of the destruction when He overthrew the cities where Lot lived.” Genesis 19:27-29 (ISV)

      In Genesis 18-19, the Bible tells us the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. These were cities where every type of sin was practiced. God, disguised as an angel along with two other angels, came to visit Abraham one day and told him that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so grievous that He had personally come down to see for Himself the whole magnitude of its wickedness, and if it was as bad as its outcry He would destroy it. (Genesis 18:20-21) 


As I meditate on this story I see a powerful metaphor. For there is a sense in which God wants to rescue each of us from our own personal Sodom and Gomorrah. 
Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family lived there. St. Peter says of Lot that he was, “a righteous man who was greatly distressed by the immoral conduct of lawless people—for as long as that righteous man lived among them, day after day he was being tortured in his righteous soul by what he saw and heard in their lawless actions.” (2 Peter 2:7-8)
Peter goes on to say that since God rescued Lot from such a destruction “then the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials…” (2 Peter 2:9)

Though St. Peter calls Lot righteous, Lot was still a sinner. God calls all of us sinners. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)
For what it’s worth, sin is sin. It is all ugly to our holy God. And it cost the life of His precious Son. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each of us, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
But the beautiful message of the cross is that, “But God commends His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:8

When St. Peter calls Lot righteous, he means that Lot was not immoral like the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah.
God condemned Sodom and Gomorrah because it was totally depraved. He promised Abraham that if He could find 10 righteous persons there He would not destroy the cities, but He could not even find 10! (Genesis 18:32)
These cities are synonymous for one type of sin, but God would not have destroyed the cities for one type of sin. You don’t have the exterminators bomb your house for cockroaches if just one room is infested, but only if the whole house is infested then you must have the entire house bombed to get rid of the roaches to make the house livable again.
So it was with Sodom, God would not have totally destroyed it for just one type of sin. The whole place was riddled with every sort of sin imaginable and unwilling to believe in God or to repent.

We may not like to think it, but we are all lost in our own personal Sodom and Gomorrah until we ask Christ into our hearts. Even if we are very religious people and don’t seem immoral at all like the people of those ancient cities. Not everyone there was depraved. Peter called Lot righteous! Yet apart from Christ the bible says all our righteousness is like “filthy rags.”
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a filthy rag; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our iniquities sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

The bible says we are all sinners because of Adam’s and Eve’s (the first man & woman’s) sin. We sin because they broke God’s law, and so do we. We have a conscience to tell us when we are doing something wrong, a built in moral compass or inner guide from our Creator. Yet, we can squelch that compass.
We can also think we are just fine by keeping a set of religious rules and think they will make us holy enough for heaven.

God did not leave us without guidelines. He gave the Law through the Jewish people. Then He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He says in His word:
“Behold, all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekial 18:4
And, “Under the Law almost everything is cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of the blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22 (ISV)
Jesus Christ Crucified (Source:Photobucket)
Our God knew we could never be good enough to save ourselves. So He prepared for Himself a body that could bleed, became a living sacrifice through His Son Jesus Christ for the sins of those He had created, suffered and died for all humankind, and said that everyone who believed on Him and accepted Him into their hearts would be saved from everlasting death and given eternal life. (John 3:16)

Sodom & Gomorrah can be seen as a type of the sin and death that every sinner is rescued out of by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lot and his family were not immoral according to the scriptures before their rescue.
According to the story, God sent the two angels into the city to warn Lot and his family and to rescue them.
The people of the city were so depraved that they did not recognize the angels as divine beings. Spiritually blind, the angels had to physically blind the townsmen to protect themselves and Lot from their wickedness.
If we are deeply rooted in sin we too will not recognize God or His messengers when He comes to us to warn us.
In the days of Noah when God destroyed the world and preserved Noah and his family alive the bible records that “God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.  Genesis 6:5” MSG
This is the way it was with the people in Sodom. They could not think good thoughts. Not even toward God’s angels sent to help them. 
The bible records that Lot tried to persuade his sons in law to join them in escaping God’s wrath; he warned them that the towns would be destroyed. But they thought he was joking  (Genesis 19:14)
Those these young men were "good people," they were swept away in the destruction of the cities because of their unbelief.
For some reason Lot and his family kept tarrying and so finally the angels grabbed them by the hand and pulled them away from the city!
Today, if we hear God’s voice, we must not hesitate to leave the land of sin that God is calling us out of. He is calling us to come to His Son, to salvation, away from the certain destruction and death of the sinful life that we are in. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts…” Hebrews 3:8
Our lives may not even seem sinful. Lot’s certainly didn’t. We can be such “Nice people.” It does not matter. We are sinners nevertheless.  Our superficial “goodness" is merely a deception, for apart from Christ, we are headed for certain destruction.

FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!
God’s instructions through the angels were to “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the plain.” (Genesis 19:17)
God wanted them to run to the hills. But Lot begged to be allowed to go to the nearest town.
Our God is merciful and compassionate. He meets us where we are. He will never test us beyond what we can endure.
“As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

For He knows our frame;

He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

It is God’s will that we repent and run as far as we can get from the sin that binds us. But God also knows our hearts. We must not judge each other for our imperfections and weaknesses. We each are answerable only to God. He is dealing with each one of us on an individual basis and rescuing us according to His way and time. As long as we have taken that first step of confessing our sins and inviting Jesus into our hearts, He will lead us by the hand out of the burning town to that first town away from the destruction, and step by step toward His likeness. It is a journey, a process. None of us will become perfect overnight. Not till we get to heaven will we all become fully like our Lord. We are all still sinners saved only by the grace of God. The righteousness we have been given is a gift, a beautiful robe that matches Christ’s own. We do nothing to earn it. Christ's blood paid for it. We have been forgiven our sins and given the power now to follow our Lord and say no to sin, but it is always one baby step, one choice to follow after the Holy Spirit at a time. 

Camille Corot "Escape From Sodom" 1857
Lot’s Wife
Once God pulls you out of the land of sin, do not look back! Keep going with Him. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Your faith.
If God gives you a vision keep focusing steadily on that vision: never lose sight of it.
Instead of focusing on the vision that God had given to her of her new life in a new place with her family, instead of being thankful to be alive, Lot’s wife chose to linger behind her husband and daughters. She continued to listen to the voices of fear and doubt in her mind: What would Lot do, they would have to start all over. She kept looking at the past: her old friends, her wonderful home, Lot’s great job. The future was unknown.
But God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

In refusing to trust God, somehow Mrs. Lot’s stony heart of unbelief petrified her whole being until she became paralyzed and could not move forward.
Immobilized by unbelief, she became a pillar of salt, frozen for all time in the desert. 

Her family, horrified by her fate, had to leave her behind along with everything else. Mrs. Lot's death was to ultimately have a devastating impact on her family.
Unbelief will rob you of all your dreams, decimate your relationship with God and ultimately destroy your life; it could very well destroy the lives of those you love and even have a negative impact on millions of lives for hundreds of generations into the future.
Such was the fate of Mrs. Lot. Her lack of faith not only robbed her of her life, the void she left by her death destroyed her family's morality. Lot, paralyzed by fear, could not stay in the small town he'd begged for refuge in. He ran for the hills and isolated himself in a cave with his two daughters. By the end of the story he had descended into alcoholism and incest. The children born to him from his daughters were the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites who became nations that were enemies of Israel whose idol worship involved human sacrifice. 

Our choices affect other lives for good or for evil. Our willingness to trust God and obey Him will bless not only ourselves but all those around us. If we allow Christ to save us, we must choose to keep walking with Him and not turn back to sin.  For as you can see from the story of Lot and his daughters, Sodom and Gomorrah is not just a physical place, it is a place of the heart. God can rescue us out of there but it is up to us to stay out.
We must not isolate ourselves from others. If we do, we will go no farther in our walk with Christ. If we stop growing in Christ, we shrivel up spiritually and die. Jesus says, we must abide in Him for apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Jesus Knocking (Photobucket)
There is no hope for Sodom and Gomorrah. One must flee it if one is to live. Jesus Christ offers the only hope for eternal life.
He comes to us to rescue us out of our own personal places of sin and destruction to give us this wonderful gift of life. He is knocking on the door of every person’s heart.

Today if you hear His voice, open the door and let Him rescue you from your burning town.

Dear Lord Jesus, I would like you to come into my heart today and rescue me from the  personal Sodom and Gomorrah where I so blindly abide. I would like to trade my filthy rags of righteousness for Your beautiful robe you give to all who trust in You for salvation. Take me by the hand now and deliver me even as the angels delivered Lot and his family. You are my Deliverer from all Destruction. Thank you Lord Jesus. I love You! Amen.

“The Rescue” Copyright 2012 Suzanne Davis Harden All Rights Reserved
Unto The Least of These