Tag Archives: Gratitude

Nehemiah 7-9; John 17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, of course. I love the family all around. And I love having a day designated to reflect and remember the previous year and all that God has done for me.

This passage in Nehemiah fits so perfectly with Thanksgiving. It’s all about remembering. It’s all about recounting. And it’s all about repenting.

It takes place right after the great victory of finishing the repairs of the wall. The people are celebrating by reading God’s word and feasting! But then came the time of repenting and mourning over their failures.

In chapter 9, the Levites cry out to God, recounting all that God had done for them from the very beginning.

You made the heavens… You chose Abram…. You kept your promise… You saw our suffering… You heard our cries… You divided the seas… You led us day and night… You came down and spoke… In our hunger, you fed us… In our thirst you gave us water… You gave us the land…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

But God!

You are forgiving… You are compassionate… You gave your Spirit… You did not withhold… You sustained in the desert… We lacked nothing… We prospered… We were victorious… We reveled in your great goodness…

But then…

We rebelled… We became arrogant… we did not obey… we refused to listen…

And a cycle unfolded. In crisis, they cried out to God. In rest and relief, they rebelled. Even so, God was patient with them. And in this moment, they recognize their failure. They recognize their arrogance. And they recognize God’s righteousness as He was faithful to them even as they were unfaithful to Him. And so they repent. And they ask God for deliverance one more time.

Thanksgiving is all about looking back. And as much as I’d like to be able to say that I look back on the year with only joy and gratitude, I have to admit that there are also moments spread throughout the year where I did not act in a way that honored God. I can see times when I gave in to discouragement and failed to believe His promises. I recall moments of failure that followed success.

When I look back, it’s easy to see God’s hand in every situation. But when I was in the moment, I admit I didn’t always choose to see God’s hand in every situation. Far too often I gave in to fear. And I still catch myself doing that, even after seeing God come through for me every time.

So as I look back over the year, I see some great things God has done. But I also can recognize the not-so-great things I’ve done, and it gives me an opportunity not just to be grateful, but to be humbly repentant as I move forward into the new year to come with fresh vision and fresh goals, letting God lead me step by step into the freedom He has for me.

Father, thank you for your great kindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for not believing you. Forgive me for forgetting all the things you’ve done for me. Forgive me for taking you for granted. Help me to live in constant awareness of your love and goodness so that I can experience the freedom you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Filed under Nehemiah, Old Testament

Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 60-63; Colossians 3

How do we live out Colossians 3:23?

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.

First we work from the heart. We put our whole heart into what we are doing. If we are cheating at work we are really cheating God. If we slough off at home it’s really God we are dissing.

Second, don’t be a man pleaser. You are not doing your job for your boss, you are doing it for God, so don’t be looking to that person for your meaning and affirmation. Be looking to God. Yes, of course we want to be pleasing our family and friends, but it’s because we are first seeking to please God and follow His Word.

Third, work and serve without grumbling. God sees your situation and knows what is happening. Remember He has you right where He wants you so what you are going through right now is based on where He has put you. If you are grumbling about your situation you are grumbling about God.

Fourth, work without comparison. Remember Jesus giving Peter a mission for his life and he wanted to know about Jesus’ plans for John. In John 21:22 Jesus basically said it’s none of your business. Judge your progress on where you have come from, not on the other person. Do your best and forget the rest!

Fifth, we should be working to hear the words, “Well done” spoken to us by God our Father. He is the one we are pleasing. Keep those words in your mind. That’s our goal in the end.

Sixth, thank God for every circumstance in which He has you. In those times and situations remember you are God’s ambassador and work and live to please Him and thank you for the journey He has you on.

Father God, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in all that we do. Help us to keep our focus on you and work in a way that shows You and others that we long to hear those precious words, “Well done!”

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Exodus 22-24; Luke 23; Psalm 12, 14

14 “Each year you must celebrate three festivals in my honor. 15 First, celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, just as I commanded you. Celebrate this festival annually at the appointed time in early spring, in the month of Abib, for that is the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. No one may appear before me without an offering.16 “Second, celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest.

“Finally, celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest[i at the end of the harvest season, when you have harvested all the crops from your fields. 17 At these three times each year, every man in Israel must appear before the Sovereign, the Lord. (Exodus 23:14-17, NLT)

A deliverance. A planting. A harvest. These are the three festivals for the Lord’s honor.

When I first started reading the scriptures today, I hoped that I could gain insight to a specific circumstance in my life. While the reading didn’t necessarily address it, I was reminded: God is just. And I trust in that. As I read about the festivals in His honor, I think of it symbolically today.

God delivered me from the captivity of sin and oppression. He has planted me in this place to sow what I will. And at the end of a life or a time, there will be a harvest.

19 “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19a, NLT)

These festivals were held yearly in the Old Testament–and I wonder if I looked closely at how I spend my time, what would I notice of sowing and harvest in a year? Would it honor God? Did I take what He has given me and use it wisely, intentionally? Have I given Him the honor and best of the harvest?

Lord, I’m so grateful for all that you have done for me. In this time of healing and discovering, I trust in you. I want to take my eyes of my broken heart and focus on purpose–a kingdom purpose. Help me to steward well what you have entrusted me. Help me to honor you and keep you as the focus of my heart, my words and my actions. Thank you for your Word that speaks to me of your presence and promises. Thank you for being trustworthy and just. Thank you for loving me just as much on the days I’m a shortsighted mess as you do on the days I’m bringing my best.

Courtney (66books365)


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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Old Testament

Numbers 19-21; Colossians 4

She was a mom of three. She devoted herself to home tasks, which later left her feeling helpless after his trespass and abandonment. The home, a prison. Her children, shackles. Outside her window, a perceived freedom of women climbing corporate ladders–she faced having the electricity shut off; broke and broken. It was too much. She felt hopeless.

***

Another woman was recovering during a time that felt like a life sentence. The nurses were wardens and the rules were constricting, restricting punishments. She felt all freedoms had been stripped away. Every day was punctuated by offense, oppression, complaint. The days ticked past. She praised the Lord for what he’d done in the past, but she was unable to praise him in the present for the meal, the care, the provision. She felt trapped, like she was in prison.

***

I was tasked with duties without warning. A lifelong obligation. A tethering, and sometimes too heavy–the bombardment of negativity, of opposition, of uncertainty. I fought against my own complaint, but sometimes, and sometimes often, I still complained. I fought against bitterness, and when I felt its squeeze, I cried out–oh, not this heart, Lord.  I remembered Paul. I thought of his chains.

Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18b, NLT)

If he could find understanding and purpose in the worst of circumstances, could I find them in mine?

If I let him, could God use my circumstance to speak the Gospel? Could he use this circumstance to demonstrate his glory and goodness and sovereignty? What the enemy uses to break and beat down, could my God use to build upon and make new? Where an enemy declares an end, could God pronounce a beginning?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6, NLT)

Nothing is a surprise to my God, however it may surprise me. These things he knew before time. Tasks prepared in advance. Yes. Don’t let me miss it–that sometimes ministry is in the middle of mess and misery. For Paul, he was literally a prisoner in a prison, but for others, it’s circumstance that feels hopeless, punitive, imprisoning, endless.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” (Colossians 4:17, NLT)

Archippus, did you? Did you carry out the ministry the Lord gave you?

Lord Jesus, you have been with me every step of this journey, and you know how hard it’s been. You know how desperately I begged to quit from the pressure. And whether the job was heaped upon, handed over, appointed–you knew. And you intend(ed) it for my good and your glory. May it be so. Fixing my eyes on you, author and perfecter of faith. You can bring beauty from ashes.

May God’s grace be with you.

Courtney (66books365)

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