September 21, 2017

Giving Thanks In EVERYthing

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Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
In everything give thanks
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As our sisters have already reminded us this week—IN everything give thanks (not FOR everything)!

Y’know…there is a certain man whose dedication and commitment to God IN every situation and circumstance is recorded in the Old Testament.  I’ll give you a hint or two, ok?

  1. His friends tried to DISsuade him from giving thanks IN everything….
  2. His wife clearly told him the situation was so bad that he should just ‘curse God and die’….

Oh, I am SURE you recognize this man; yes?  Of course, it was righteous Job.  If ever there were someone who perceivably had nothing left for which to give thanks, it was Job.

Job was abundantly blessed by God: he had houses, and flocks, and herds of animals, and servants, and a great big family. One dreadful day, his 10 children were killed in a house collapse, his sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys were stolen away, and all his servants (save the three who escaped and brought him the terrible news) were captured.  He could have complained to God bitterly. But he said,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.
Job 1:21

In all that Job went through, his attitude never wavered.  He knew that God is sovereign, that all that he had (or didn’t have) was in God’s hand.  And, like righteous Job, we too, should have this unwavering attitude of giving thanks to Almighty God IN all situations and circumstances.  Paul also reminded the 1st century Christians ( and us!) to do the same.

At all times and for everything giving thanks
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
Ephesians 5:20

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:17

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father,
Who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James 1:17

Truly, we should rejoice always  ♥  pray without ceasing  ♥  give thanks in everything!

Every day, throughout each day, let’s speak and sing out our gratitude and thankfulness to our heavenly Father!  May our prayer be as David’s…

To the end that my tongue and my heart
and everything glorious within me
may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 30:12

 

Away in a Manger

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If you were to ask me what my favorite Christmas carol/song would be, my first instinct would be to say “Away in a Manger”, by Mahalia Jackson.  (THAT version – it MUST be Mahalia!)  When I was in middle school my family moved to Nashville from Ohio, where we had literally lived around the corner from my grandparents.  Each year at Christmas break we would travel back to Ohio to spend two weeks with my grandparents and extended family.  I loved those times, we had too many people in too small of a house, but it was always a time of laughter, movies, cards, a TON of food and music – LOTS of music. One particular compilation album my grandparents owned included “Away in a Manger” by Mahalia Jackson.  I had never heard anyone sing like her!  What I didn’t realize then was that she had been an incredible gospel singer – and when she sang about Jesus, sisters, you were having worship! She sang “Away in a Manger” like she was singing in the presence of God.  Even at a young age, that song affected me at such a spiritual and emotional level that it still brings me to tears and worship – every time I hear it.

Fast forward to me as a college student, and the compilation album has been lost.  This track of Mahalia’s is nowhere to be found. No record, no tape (this shows you how old I am…), no CD of hers had it available, and I couldn’t find it on iTunes. I searched for this song for YEARS, sisters, no exaggeration.  Then one year, my closest friend at the time gave me a Christmas gift. “It’s not much,” she said, “but it was all I could get for you.”  I opened it to find….. a CD with the Christmas music of Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole – with “Away in a Manger” included.  SHE FOUND IT!! It was the one thing that mattered the most to me and she presented it to me in her true humble fashion. The best gift I had ever been given.  Well, by a person….

The best gift I have ever been given is the gift of Jesus.  And He, in turn, gives the best gifts!  James 1:17 says; “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ as our Lord (Acts 2:38).  Romans 12:6-8 tells us that we are all given gifts in order to strengthen the body of Christ.   We are also given grace (thank You, Lord!): “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Perhaps you are like me. You have searched for years for the thing that would make you happy, but have never found it.  It is Jesus. Just like that song ushered (and still ushers) me into the Presence of God.  That Savior, born away in a manger, brings us boldly into the Presence of a God that loves you and wants to shower you with gifts – gifts that no one (but He!) could ever give you. Won’t you receive His gifts today?

I LOVE THIS SONG!!!  I hope you enjoy it, too. When she sings: “I love thee, Lord Jesus! I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray,” it brings me to tears every time.  “I DO love You, Lord Jesus. Thank you for loving me!  Stay close.”

 

Merry Christmas!  May God bless you abundantly with His good and perfect gifts!

Away in a Manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down hHs sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes; I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray; bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 – Recycling the Pain (pgs 241-267)

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Galatians 6:1-2
My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand.” (CEV)
At the beginning of this study in January, I had many comments on apprehensions, anxieties, and generalized worries about getting back in to the memories & experiences of the past. As the study progressed, I’ve been able to see transformations in our participants. Some have had small “AHA” moments on how the past has shaped today. Others have had eye-opening revelations. Where ever this study has taken you, God has blessed your life.
We are heading in to our final week of Life’s Healing Choices, but this is not the final week of our journey. John Baker tells us, in the Celebrate Recover Participant Guide 4, “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Instead of the focus remaining on healing your personal hurts, it’s time to consider how others can benefit from our experiences. Baker references “recycling the pain.”
Recycle — to adapt or convert something to a new use
When we faced the events that shaped our attitudes, addictions, thoughts or behaviors, we never would have imagined that good would come out of it. Romans 8:28 states: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)
God truly does have an amazing plan for His children. He does not sit around looking for ways to hurt us, complicate our lives, or bring us pain. This comes from our choices in life. But He does promise to use ALL things for His good purpose. So when I consider the experiences of my past, I need to look to ways my experiences can help others. What did I learn from these events that can be passed on to another, give hope and encouragement?
We’re reminded that God “does His best work through weak people”

2 Cor 12:7 -10 tells us, “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (The Message)
If you had asked me in 2001 what good would ever come from the chaos around me, I would have thrown up my hands and said “Nothing!” I never could have imagined that God would restore my heart and soul to the point of remarriage, blending families, and step-parenting. And, I certainly wouldn’t have ever guessed He would use me in a ministry position like Girlfriends Coffee Hour! But in the midst of everything, I didn’t blame God or accuse Him of doing things to me. I knew He didn’t want me to experience pain, but He promised to use whatever I did experience for the positive.
As a parent, I see the same type of things with my kids. I don’t sit around thinking of ways to inflict pain or hardship in their lives (though they may think otherwise with the household rules!), but I do know that their teenage minds will make decisions that sometimes bring painful consequences. My goal as mom is to help them learn from the experience, give suggestions to overcome, and help them move forward. There is a purpose behind all that we experience, whether we want to admit it or not.

God does the same for us through His Word, our interactions with fellow believers, and in daily prayers with Him. Baker shares that , “people are not helped by our strengths; they’re helped when we’re honest about our weaknesses … the proof that you are truly recovering is when you begin to focus outside yourself, when you stop being absorbed with your needs, your hurts, your problems. Recovery is evident when you being to say, ‘How can I help others?”” pg.242
This week we’ll look more closely at the following questions:

  • Why does God allow pain?
  • How can we use our pain to help others?

A few verses to ponder this week:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 -1 2 NLT
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (The Message)

James 1:22 NLT
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

 

Your Reading Assignment this Week

Monday – Chapter 8 Sharing the Choice – Laurie
Tuesday – Why does God Allow Pain? – Leslie
Wednesday – How to Use our Pain – Kim
Thursday – Make the Choice – Amy
Friday – Recap of the week – Laurie

Let’s Pray:

Lord, we thank You because You are ever-present in our lives. No matter what we experience, You are there with us to give us strength, courage, comfort through each and every step. Even as we look to heal from our past experience, we can hold hope in Your promise to work ALL things for good in those who live according to Your will. As our Heavenly Father, You desire the best for Your children. Continue to guide us as we continue to learn more about trusting You. Amen.

Power Verses for Chapter 8
Matthew 10:8
Matthew 6:24
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Deuteronomy 4:9
James 2:17
Ephesians 4:1
2 Corinthians 3:18
Hebrews 10:24
Romans 12: 9, 13
Galatians 6:1
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@girlfriendscoffeehour.com