Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Different Kind of Thankfulness

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, we are all hearing about the need to be thankful--both from the secular and Christian world. As Christians, we know that God is serious about thankfulness. Understanding what we have been given leads to contentedness and praise to Him. In fact, the Bible doesn't skimp on the mandates to be thankful. Here are just a few verses which call Christians to gratefulness ALWAYS!

I Chronicles 16:8 "Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done."

I Chronicles 16:34 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endres forever."

Psalm 30:12 "that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lrd my God, I will give you thanks forever.'

Psalm 35:18 "I will give You thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you."

Psalm 100:4 "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name."

Psalm 118:21 "I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation."

Pslam 118: 28 "You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You."

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

Colossians 1:12 "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."

I Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Hebrews 12:28 "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,"

Clearly, thankfulness is an important matter to God. If Christians truly understand their sinfulness and the gift that God has graciously given them through Jesus, the only natural reaction is inexpressible thankfulness and awe--all the time!

In knowing this, how should our Thanksgiving holiday differ from the world's? Circumstances shouldn't matter. Though the ecomomy is far from reliable, politics look bleak, sinful morality is invading law, many are suffering from illnesses ranging from the flu to cancer, and it is more and more common to suffer persecution for Christ, Christians should face such times with a joy that cannot be explained by the world. God is sovereign, His promises are certain, and this world is fleeting! What hope this creates and what a rock on which to stand for those who follow Christ.

While the secular world might struggle to find a list of items for which to give thanks, Christians have an ever-steady gaze on eternity, grasping all the more firmly their faith in Christ when the tempest of trials roars around them.

Take time this season to see if your thankfulness is more than a list or a prayer, but an all-consuming attitude of your heart. It should overflow in your speech and action throughout the year, enabling you to be an effective ambassador for Christ.

Repent of any discontent attitudes you have expressed lately and make an action plan to foster true, Biblical thankfulness in your heart. If we were honest, our list of thanks is long. Every good and perfect gift in our lives is from above. Somehow, if trials are too severe to recognize temperal blessings, we still have an anchor of hope. We have a Savior! We have a future! We have a holy God who allows us to come to Him through Christ! Thank God today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy birthday, Ryan!

This week is Ryan's birthday! In celebration, Ryan, Carter and I will be going to Disneyland on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and staying at the Grand Californian for two nights. Due to pregnancy nausea, we didn't get a real vacation this summer, so, now that the nausea is better, we are doing a couple of little get aways before the baby comes.

I have written before about what a blessing my husband is to me and our family, but I have to say it again. He is an amazing spiritual leader and hard worker. What a great example he is to myself and our kids.

In celebration of his birthday, here are a few Ryan facts you may or may not know. Enjoy!

--Ryan's favorite foods are steak (really seasoned), Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper, popcorn, chips and salsa and chocolate.

--Ryan has lived in California, Ohio, Michigan, Washington DC and the Dominican Republic.
--Ryan loves geography and knows a lot of trivia about it.

--Ryan became a Christian at Jr. High camp in Ohio.

--Ryan likes to read and listen to his i-Pod before he goes to sleep each night.

--Ryan loves going to the movies.

--Ryan speaks Spanish fairly fluently (he wrote a proposal paper completely in Spanish while living in the Dominican Republic). He'll deny this, saying he hasn't used his Spanish in years, but he'd pick it back up.

--Ryan majored in business and got his master's in international relations.

--Ryan loves to travel internationally. (Though any kind of trip is fun to him).

--Ryan never naps.
--Ryan loves mountains--anything about them: camping, backpacking, hiking, etc.

--Ryan was a happy, but crazy/active kid who talked a lot. (Remind you of anyone?)

--Ryan had a fooseball table in his dining room when Chiara met him.

--Ryan hates spiders.

--Ryan was a high school valedictorian, graduated the top of his class from Michigan State and attended Johns Hopkins International School of business. (Can you spell S-M-A-R-T?)

--Ryan loves soccer and still tries to play it at lunch from time to time at work.

--Ryan fainted during a high school choir performance.

--Ryan likes to tell jokes and be funny.

--Before working at Taco Bell, Ryan wanted to be an international business consultant who could help poor companies get started in poor Latin American countries.

--Ryan would love to go to Africa, Australia, and a place with giant waterfalls in South America (sorry, honey, I forgot the name).

--Ryan snuck into ancient ruins in Guatemala and spent the night. He went to a "temple" to change his clothes, only to look up and see he was in a room with hundreds of bats.

--Ryan used to run track and cross country in college.

--Ryan got lost running in Washington DC on a high school missions trip and had to get help from firefighters.

--Ryan is the love of Chiara's life.

--Ryan makes everyone smile.

--Ryan is special, and I wish him a VERY happy birthday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Sin of Passivity

James 4:16b "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

This post might be more of a personal confession, but I think the thoughts and points will resonate strongly with most of you.

Yesterday's election, and the months leading up to it, woke me up to the state of society around me and exposed the ugly sin of spiritual passivity in my life. One of my spiritual goals is always to be better at boldness and sharing the gospel. I wish I had the desire to proclaim Christ and truth more clearly, proficiently and often, but I let the cares of this world and the comforts of this life lull me into a state of lazy attempts to bring others to church or to show love in how I live my life ("They will see the difference in my own life," I say. "They will see Christ shining through my example.")

My comfort induced spiritual coma was rudely awakened by the issues brought before us all in the election. Suddenly, as I mentioned in my last post, I was confronted with Christians who were ignoring parts of scripture (such as I was to be a bold witness for Christ!) to better conform to the modern society around them. Ignorance was stripped away when I realized how little the truths of God mattered to both secular society and "Christians."

Certainly, it would be easy to point a finger at others and accuse them of false teaching, twisting Jesus' commands and words without context. However, I find the Holy Spirit pointing a finger at me and reminding me that years of Christian passivity and "tolerance" has allowed Satan to better spread lies and ignorance in our society.

I don't think I was the only person who was suddenly shocked to find that Christians were arguing with me about the rights of gay marriage and abortion. I wasn't the only one discouraged at the number of people voting in favor of murder or sexual sin. "Of course people understand what God commands," I supposed.

Scripture tells us to share the truth with others--not just live a life that appears attractive to others. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 is clear in what we need to do at ALL times. "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afllictions, do the work of an evangeslist, fulfill your ministry."

Notice the verse says to Preach the word--not just the gospel (which is the foundation, of course) but the WHOLE Bible. Not only do we need to share the Good News with the lost, we need to correct Christians who are errant in obeying and understanding God's scripture. The verse also states in season and out of season. What does this mean? This means we must preach the word both when it is popular and suitable to do so and when it is not well-received or convenient for us. We shouldn't just get active in speaking truth during an election--we need to have ZEAL for God's truth all the time.

I am ashamed that I was caught so off guard in my passivity and lack of awareness at where people stood on eternal truths. I assumed most people in society were not truly saved, but I had no grasp as to the extent of false teachings in churches and the lives of Christians across America. We too quickly abandon the unpopular exercise of amonishment in favor of love, tolerance, and encouragement (which each have a positive place behind the exercise of TRUTH).

I don't think I'm the only one feeling convicted of falling short in this area. We know God is in control of our country and our society, but we also know that He allows us to see the repurcussions of our sin, such as when we are not bold and obedient for Him. Perhaps, though He works all things out for His glory and the believers' good, we are truly reaping what we sow--or, as I am mourning in repentance today, what we fail to sow.

James 4:4 "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."