The Power of Giving Thanks

Here we are once again, at the precipice of the Holiday season, with our tables garnished with turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce.  As we prepare to step across the threshold of a rapidly approaching new year, our feet often traverse the well-beaten path of reflection and self-evaluation.

This year, my wife and I were blessed to visit my home in Birmingham, AL, to spend the Thanksgiving Holidays with my immediate family and friends.  I grew more excited, as the departure time approached, at the thought of seeing all those that I love and cherish.  Gratitude filled my heart as my wife and I packed the car to head south for the Holidays.  In that moment, I discovered the true power and purpose of giving thanks to God in every season of our lives.  Thanksgiving is more than just a day on our calendars reserved for filling our stomachs; rather, it is a lifestyle that releases the power of God in our lives in three profound ways.

 

Thanksgiving Escorts Us into God’s Presence

Psalm 100 is one of many passages illustrating God as our shepherd.  Within God’s sheepfold we have abundant supply and pasture.  We have boldness to enter into the door of the sheepfold (Jesus Christ-John 10:9) to access unlimited supplies of everything we need in God’s holy presence.  No necessity is withheld from us when we approach the Father with thanksgiving and praise.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. (Psalm 100:4, KJV)

The Message Bible further expounds on this idea of entering through the door of the sheepfold via intimate relationship with Christ:

Enter with the password: “Thank you!”  Make yourselves at home, talking praise.  Thank him.  Worship him. (Psalm 100:4, The Message Bible)

When we approach the gates of God’s holy court with gratitude in our hearts wielding the password of “thank you” upon our lips, we unlock the very resources of God’s endless supply.

 

Thanksgiving Releases God’s Peace

This may be contrary to everything you’ve ever heard, but when things seem to be falling apart around you, giving thanks releases the peace of God right in the middle of it all.  When we pray we are instructed to arm ourselves with thanksgiving.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6, KJV)

Thanksgiving is a powerful resource when coupled with the confident knowledge that the Father loves us and wants to care for us.  As we articulate our requests to the Father, they should always be bathed in thanksgiving, knowing that it pleases God to give us our hearts desires when they align with God’s will.  The end result will be the overwhelming peace of God that protects our vital faculties of heart and mind.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, KJV)

 

 Thanksgiving Magnifies God

I am a firm believer in the effects of perspective.  Life can sometimes deliver some serious blows that disorient us causing us to see things that aren’t really there.  Skirmishes with illness, lack, and turmoil leave us with the perception that there is nothing to be grateful for.  These temporary “lights out” experiences can run deep through the core of our being as we struggle to regain some semblance of consciousness.  Things that are normally clear to us turn hazy and blurry, making it difficult to reach our goals.

Enter thanksgiving!!!

Expressing gratefulness to God shifts our perspective, and clears our vision so that we can stay in the fight.  Giving thanks magnifies God and brings into focus the “bigness” of our Father.  God is bigger, stronger and wiser than any enemy we fight, including the most formidable enemy of all…ourselves.  David says it better than I ever could, so I’ll employ a Psalm of his:

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.  This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.  The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. (Psalm 69:30-32, KJV)

Whenever we take our eyes off of what is good in our lives, and focus on the bad and the ugly, our victory hangs in the balance.  Use the power of thanksgiving to shrink your problems and bring them down to size.  You will find without a doubt that they are no match for the matchless King of Glory.

 

During this holiday season, let us resolve to carry the torch of thanksgiving into daily living, thereby bringing light into even the most obscure places of our lives.  May the incense of gratitude unfurl within our hearts each morning, and burn well into the night; yielding the sweet-smelling aroma of peace, power, and proper perspective: thus glorifying God.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!!!


As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

Editor: Jaime Evans

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WARNING: The Withering Process

Recently, I decided to surprise my beautiful wife with a bouquet of flowers, being the romantic husband that I am (smile).  As I walked into the store, I was met with a spectacular array of colored petals of all shapes and sizes.  It took a degree of deliberation to decide which bouquet to choose, and after inquiring about the differences between the blooms, I proudly made my decision.  Of course, when I walked through the door of our home with the bouquet in my grasp, I was rewarded with tears of joy from my Lady. 

A few weeks have gone by and the bouquet I purchased is still on our kitchen table, but it has undergone some serious changes; it’s not the same robust nosegay that provoked tears of joy from my wifey that fine day. Instead, it bears the effects of disconnection.  Jesus warns against choosing to live a life that is separated from Him:

“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned”  (John 15:6, KJV)

 

Since Jesus is our life source, one of the consequences of being disconnected from Him is spiritual withering.  On multiple occasions in scripture, children of God are compared to trees.  Trees must have certain necessities like water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide in order to survive.  When it comes to our spiritual health we are no different.  We are people of power because we are people of prayer.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing…we simply cannot function.  Jesus gives us the formula for abiding in Him in John 15:10

   “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kepy my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (KJV)

 

 A Slow Death

The process of withering is deceptive.  When I brought the bouquet of flowers home for my wife, they were vibrant, fragrant, and bursting with color.  As time passed, the reality of the bouquet’s plight became apparent.  Weeks later as I passed by the bouquet, I noticed that all of the petals were falling off onto the table, and the leaves were now dry and lifeless.  The effects of withering are never immediate, and herein lies the great deception.  There is a dichotomy, here, that I would like to explore.  Although we are drawn to the sheer aestetic beauty of the flowers that we see on display, they have already begun to die a slow death.  If we don’t remain vigilant in prayer, we become suseptible to the following deception:

 Since everything around me looks pretty, that must mean there is still life flowing within me. 

We start trying to manipulate the outward appearance in an effort to maintain the pretty colors of our ministries, marriages, and reputations; because these are the things that people can see.  Many times we are shocked when the spiritual leaders of our day tragically fall.  It may seem like  it happens all at once, but if we were to pull back the covers of their private prayer lives, we may be surprised to find that the withering process began long before the actual fall took place.  There is a sobering quote by J. C. Ryle that sums it up nicely:

“Backsliding generally first begins with neglect of private prayer.”

Lack of prayer and Bible study cuts us off from our source, the True Vine, thus initiating the death process.  Although the process may be slow, it is sure, and in time the signs of our disconnection will begin to show.   

Things are not always what they seem, and if we’re not careful, our lives will wither due to disconnection from God.  The petals may be full of color, and the stems may appear to be strong and vigorous for now, but eventually the flowers die; the life sap that is only supplied by the vine is no longer accessible.  Jesus stated:

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing”  (John 15:5, KJV) 

       

Residual vs. Actual 

One day I asked my wife why did she like to keep flowers around for so long.  Even after they were completely lifeless and shrivelled up, she found pleasure in them somehow.  She told me that it wasn’t the flowers themselves that she only loved, rather it was the memory she had of the day I brought them to her.  This made me think about something pretty interesting.  Many times, we are so in love with the residual memory of what once was, we don’t pay attention to the reality of what actually is.  There may have been a time when you were on fire for God; you prayed and read the Bible everyday.  Now, you may not pray at all, and the Bible is just a nice book of stories that has found a cozy place on your bedroom end table.  In spite of this, there is a part of you that may still feel as if you’re “on fire” for God.  You see yourself in the light of what used to be instead of what actually is.  Don’t be deceived by the residual image of your former prayer life.  Ignite the flames again and reconnect with the Father now. 

When was the last time you and the Father had quality time together? 

Are you producing the robust fruit of the Spirit that only comes from a vital connection to God according to Galatians chapter 5?

Only you can answer yes or no to these questions honestly, and I encourage you to do so. 

Private prayer and Bible study ensures that we stay connected with our life-source who is Jesus Christ.  We must be cognizant of the importance of connecting with Christ daily by reading the Word and private prayer.  The fact is, we are all like sheep prone to straying away from our sheepfold if we don’t guard our hearts as we traverse through this life. 

Here at Wisdom’s Quill, there is never any condemnation or judgement concerning your walk with God.  I am always committed to fostering change, and presenting perspectives that may not have previously entertained.  It’s never too late to reconnect with the Father.  I admonish you to talk to Him now.  He’s always waiting to hear from us, even if it has been awhile, God promised to never turn any of  His children away when we approach Him.  Boldly go to the Father to obtain the grace that He promised. 

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”   (John 6:37, KJV)  

 


 

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

Editor: Jaime Evans

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Zero Visibility

 For we walk by faith, not by sight…[2 Corinthians 5:7]


As I turned the door handle to exit my home, the morning breeze wrapped around my face and kissed my cheeks as I walked to my car.  My senses were a bit more heightened than usual because of the brisk autumn air.  The pep in my step was restored as I enthusiastically took in a deep breath and savored the cool air as it entered my lungs.  The incessant rain had come and gone, and left a dense layer of fog in its wake.  In fact, I had not seen fog that dense since I was a lad.  My drive to work was slow and steady, as I struggled to see.  The fog was so thick, it was like driving through a huge cloud.  I couldn’t see opposing traffic until the headlights of each automobile zoomed past me.   Although I fancy myself an experienced driver, I was a little intimidated, because I was experiencing what meteorologists call zero visibility.

Many times I’ve found my walk with God to be much like driving in fog.  You don’t realize how scary driving can be until you lose visibility.  Our emotions, decisions, and lives are driven by not only what we see around us, but also how we see what is around us.  Examine your present situation.  Are there areas in your life where you are experiencing zero visibility?  You know God is working on your behalf and for your good, because you love Him…but because you can’t see far enough ahead to know how things are going to work out, your journey becomes foggy.

2 Corinthians 5:7 brings to light an important truth for the believer.  We live our lives in a constant state of flux between the visible and the invisible.  When I first read this scripture, I understood it to mean that we don’t live our lives by what we see, but rather by believing and standing on what God has already said in His word.  That’s powerful indeed, but closer examination of this scripture casts light upon a different revelation.  The fact that we walk by faith and not by sight unfurls the truth that sometimes faith is all we have to light our path.  It’s not that we don’t like what we see in front of us at the time, so we choose to walk by faith; that’s not what this scripture implies.  Rather think about it this way, sometimes, we simply just can’t see in front of us, so our faith in God is the only light we have.  When our vision fails, and our visibility is severely handicapped, we can’t stop moving.  Just because I couldn’t see as I was driving through the thick, foggy cloud, doesn’t mean that I could have just stopped in the middle of the road until things got better.  I had to keep moving.  I had to keep driving.  Here’s a word for you:

For where you are right now, it’s more detrimental for you to stop moving, than it is to keep moving with limited visibility.

I may not have been able to see as far as I normally could, but I was able to see just far enough ahead of me to keep my foot on the accelerator.  So, I say this to you…

You may not be able to see as far into your situation as you would like to.  You may not be able to see how your story is going to culminate from where you stand; but KEEP DRIVING.  God always gives you enough light to take the next step:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path…[Psalm 119:105]

Faith in God gives us the power to keep pressing the accelerator.  Keep on driving.

Be encouraged, my friends.  Fog is a good thing.  Why?  I remember asking my mother to explain fog to me when I was a young child.  This is what she told me…

Fog happens when the clouds come down from heaven and kiss the earth below.  It means the rain is over, and soon the sun is  going to shine.

You may be in a foggy season in your life now, and you’re wondering if the sun is going to ever shine again.  I just drove through the fog to tell you that heaven is about to kiss your life.  The fog is lifting, and the sun is about to shine upon you again.

…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning [Psalm 30:5]

Editor: Jaime Evans


Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

 

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

BE

 

 

The Laboratory of Loss

Chemotherapy chairs, councellors, and clean heads were the predominant sights during my tour as a computer software trainer in an oncology center recently.  During that time, I was experiencing my own personal turmoil, due to a series of unexpected storms that rocked the otherwise tranquil seas of my life. 

I’m sure you can relate…

 While in the chemo infusion area of this oncology center, I had the priviledge of observing many patient types as they checked-out of the clinic after their treatments.  I saw the patient who could barely stand, and was visibly weakened immediately after treatment.  I also saw the patient who had been understandably trounced by the trauma of this terrible disease.  For these patients, rendering a smile was a feat of epic proportions.  Then, there were the patients that wore their treatment very well.  To look at them, one would never perceive that they had cancer.  They were happy and upbeat in the face of pain and nausea. 

Perhaps, the most remarkable patient type was embodied in a young lady who came to assist her mom on her treatment days.  She was a vibrant, blond-haired woman with rosy cheeks and a contagious smile.  She possessed a type of piquancy in her personality indicative of burgeoning youthfulness.  She began to express how important it was to her to be there for her mother on treatment days.  Her passion seemed to convey something more than just a loving concern for her mother. 

As we continued to listen to her, she inquired about a particular physician by name.  At that moment, the check-out receptionist informed her that the physician was no longer practicing.  She then revealed that he was her attending physician who treated her when she had cancer.  Turns out, she was a cancer survivor of 12 years.

As my jaw dropped to the floor, I was in awe.  She couldn’t have been more than 30 years old.

Here was this young woman standing before us glowing with health and a full head of hair.  She told us about her bone marrow transplant, and of course her hair loss (but…it grew back).  She wanted to give up because of the pain and the harsh side-effects of her treatment (but…she didn’t).  Now she is strong enough to care for her mother who is going through the same thing she walked through.  As I spent more time in this clinic and met more people, I learned that many of the workers that I saw were volunteers who were cancer survivors. 

You may have recently experienced loss on some level.  It may not be health or hair, but what about hope.  I’m writing this to you.  Please don’t give up.  Keep living.  What you are going through now is just a rung on the ladder of your elevation.  When this is over, you will be strong enough to help someone else who is struggling to live through what you have already overcome.  Someone needs to hear the story of how you survived.  Yes, you lost a lot (but…it grew back).

Sometimes what we perceive as loss really isn’t loss at all.  In most cases, God is pruning our lives of unnecessary, unproductive limbs so that we will be prepared to be more fruitful than ever in our season.  John 15:1-2, elucidates this truth beautifully.  When a tree is pruned of unproductive limbs, it appears to be dead.  All of the signs of visible life are gone.  Loss of limbs, loss of leaves, and loss of fruit all signify the end.  Others who pass by the tree may assume it is dead, then cast judgment and walk away.  The same thing may happen to us during our pruning seasons.  You may appear to be dead right now, but don’t lose hope.  As long as your roots wrap around Christ, you will produce again. 

How do you negotiate the uncertain seas of loss?  What is your valuation of the people and things that are leaving your life?  Are they really beneficial to you?  Are they a gain or are they a drain? 

Loss is only one part of the whole when it comes to God’s holy laboratory.  God is a master chemist.  He knows how to combine all of the elements in your life to produce a result that will both glorify Him and edify you.  The process may be volatile, the reaction may be violent,  but the product is always beautiful. 

As a part of my undergraduate studies, I enrolled in several labs associated with my major course of study.  One of which was Organic Chemistry, which is the study of how carbon behaves in various organic compounds.  Lab was pretty fun because it involved mixing chemicals together, observing their reactions, and then documenting the details of the products.  Some of these reactions were spontaneous and explosive, in some instances.  Fortunately, our labs were fitted with huge fume hoods that were designed to extract toxic fumes from the air that were emitted after certain reactions.  God’s grace is much like the fume hoods in a lab.  It covers us during our times of painful pruning, when our reactions to the pain cause us to melt down and explode.  Sometimes, we may even release toxic words and attitudes into the air.  God’s grace sufficiently covers us, because His grace is sufficient for us. 

In this life, you may have lost some things that were dear to you.  The pruning may have caused loss of leaves, limbs, friends, hair, or even hope; but our Father is the Great Husbandman that ensures our prosperity and productivity.  The pruning is preparation for productivity.

In God’s laboratory, all things work together for our good. 

Remember:  IT WILL GROW BACK!!!

 Editor: Jaime Evans

As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon. 

Keep Learning ♦ Keep Loving ♦ Keep Living

BE

 

 

Wisdom Wednesday: The Grace Problem

I came across an interesting article titled “The Danger of Abusing the Grace of God,” in Charisma Magazine a couple days ago.  In the article, David Ravenhill elucidates some very interesting facts concerning the perversion of God’s grace in our society today.

The theology of grace tends to be problematic for people who struggle with the commitment to doing things God’s way.  On one hand you have the ideology that through the blood of Christ, grace erases all of our sins, and gives us a perpetually clean slate (which is true).  On the other hand, however, you have scriptures like Romans 6:14 which states,

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

So what’s the real deal with grace?  Is it a license to sin, or is God holding us accountable for our actions?  Is it just a “get out of Hell free” card, or is it more than that?

When we fail to understand the purpose and the original intent of God’s grace, it leads to willful disobedience, and then to statements like, “God knows my heart.”

I believe grace is directional, and comes with great responsibility.  For all intents and purposes, God’s grace should lead us in the direction of holiness, not away from it.  It is the room and space to grow into the image of Christ, while daily going through the process of overcoming sin (yes..it is a process).  I believe God’s original intent in provisioning us with His grace was to cover us while we are actively engaged in the sanctification process.  This sanctification process is only perfected within us by living in His presence daily via prayer and Bible meditation.  As long as we are in this world, we will have to deal with sin and spiritual shortcomings.  However, the key to living above sin is our connection to Jesus Christ.  We must take this union seriously if we are to live victoriously.

At what point do we stop making excuses in the name of “grace” and start fighting the “good fight of faith?” (1 Tim. 6:12).

What do you think?  Is it possible to abuse the grace of God?  Have you ever witnessed grace abuse?  If so, how did it change you?

All dialogue welcomed…Let’s talk.

BE