Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Nehemiah 10-12; John 18; Psalm 1

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. (John 18:4, NLT)

These were not friends arriving for a tea or a wayward group looking for directions. The “them” in this passage is a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards accompanied by Judas to arrest Jesus. Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. And everything in me stirs to his acceptance and strength and courage. He walks into his purpose (and he always has).

His character can speak for him.

19 Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”

22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” (John 18:19-23, NLT, emphasis added)

He is smacked by a guard for the offense of truth.

33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.

34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:33-38a, NLT, emphasis added)

The reading in Nehemiah tells of people who recommit themselves to following the Law of God–and I appreciate their telling of what they will do and how it will look.

In John 18, I think long on Jesus, His purpose, His kingdom and truth.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

I attended a choir performance this week. I sat in the section just behind the choir reserved seats. After their special performance, they returned to these seats, and when the rest of the congregation joined in song, I had what felt like a rich privilege to be close to the choir–their voices strong, melodious, ringing out so that my own voice rose to meet theirs, without reserve. It was beautiful, meaningful, joyful worship.

The Lord shows me how to worship too–honoring truth and standing for values even in the midst of accusation, condemnation, aggression. It doesn’t seem as lovely as a song, but my God sees with Kingdom eyes. He sees fruit in seasons of heartache. He watches over the path of the godly.

Lord God, I’m thankful for your character, your example and your sacrifice. I’m thankful for your guidance, your promises and the truth. Thank you for seeing worship in the lovely and unlovely. I keep my eyes on you and look to your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

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

Nahum 1-3; 1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may life peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Timothy has an interesting challenge for us when it comes to godly living: rather than doing what the pagans do (and if we’re honest, what comes naturally), he urges us to offer thanksgiving and prayers for those in our lives – particularly the authorities in our lives.

The result, he says, pleases God.

How does it please God?

Because when we pray for and give thanks for our authorities, it causes us to live at peace with those people in our lives, and to set an example of holiness and godliness. An example that points to Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

This example stands in stark contrast to what we see in the culture around us, where people frequently and openly disrespect and disparage those in authority, whether it’s their boss, a cop, or even the president.

God doesn’t want me to blend in with the culture around me. He doesn’t want me to join in with negativity. He wants to me offer thanks for the authority, whether good or bad. He wants me to pray for my authority, whether easy or hard. He wants me to choose peace with my authority, to choose love with my authority, and to choose holiness in my interactions with my authority.

When I put God in control of my relationships, it pleases Him because it allows Him to work behind the scenes in a person’s life, for the purpose of the gospel.

God wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of the truth. Shouldn’t I want the same? And if I do want the same, how do my interactions with others reflect this? How do my prayers reflect it? How does my attitude reflect it?

Our primary purpose in life is to know God and make Him known. When I seek peace and pursue it by praying for and being thankful for the people God has placed in my life, I’m able to make God known in the most vibrant and significant way possible.

But when I gossip, when I complain, when I become negative and resentful about the people in my life who annoy me, frustrate me, or inconvenience me,  I make myself known. And that’s not a good thing. That means God has to deal with me before He can deal with them.

When I choose a humble and godly attitude, I show my trust in God to provide for, encourage, protect, and lead me, even as He uses the people in my life to do so.

Father, thank you for your patience with me. Forgive me for choosing negativity and selfishness over gratitude and humility. Help me to see people as you see them, and help me to make my priority making Your name great and making You known. By Your grace, I will choose gratitude. By Your grace, I will pray for those you’ve placed in my life. By Your grace, I will choose peace. Help me to be set apart in my behavior towards others. Help me to point to You in all that I say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

 

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Filed under 1 Timothy, New Testament

Numbers 3-5; Hebrews 12

It is March. I am entering a third month of six where I purposed to make changes in my life after a (last) year that took a physical and emotional toll. While some big things were accomplished (yay!) in February, I noticed the smaller, daily goals weren’t always met. Why was that? I was too tired. I was too busy. I just didn’t care. I thought for a long time about perseverance and endurance and following through.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

I knew I needed to be mindful of the things and thoughts that were tripping me up. I looked up scriptures for direction and encouragement, keyword: training. I found a verse that surprised me. In my pursuit of the practical, visible things, I had nearly neglected to consider the spiritual, eternal ones.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:2a, NLT)

Oh, if I look to the wrong reward, how far off will I be from the true mark? Lord, I seek your kingdom.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:14-15, NLT)

It is March, and I press on, my grip renewed.

11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. (Hebrews 12:11-13, NLT)

Thank you, Father.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:28-19, NLT)

I praise your name.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Hebrews, New Testament, Uncategorized

Zechariah 12-14, Psalm 94, 2 John

It was so funny to hear the refrain spoken by my granddaughter this week on the glossing over of Thanksgiving to usher in Christmas at the stores. It seems that every generation is disappointed in the commercialism at this time of year. Even Sally on Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving (1973) says, “I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.” Black Friday has turned into a month of advertisement and pre-sales to draw money out of your pocket and to turn your mind away from being grateful for what you have today to ‘how I can I get more for less’, tomorrow. Nothing new. Soon we will bemoan the loss of money ‘that we didn’t have to spend’ but that was compulsively handed over for Christmas presents this year.

How do we reign in these runaway holiday routines and reposts? Do we even want to? Isn’t the answer just as traditional as the traditions? That is, we can learn to live the continual theme in Messiah’s kingdom – thanksgiving. Zechariah 14:16 says that the Feast of Tabernacles is the only feast that will continue in the new kingdom. This is a feast that is celebrated at the fall harvest and is a time of worship and thanksgiving to God.

So what have we to be thankful for? Again, little Sally voices my own tired suspicion: “What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us at school” [or in my case – in the kitchen, decorating the house, shopping for food, clothes, gifts, gifts, gifts]. Okay, now I sound like the Grinch.

It’s just that I’m looking for reasons in place of the next few weeks of blithering excuses for overextending my already tight budget and overtaxing my already exhausted 50++ year old body to the brink of collapse. How can I please others and at the same time focus on what draws me closer to God and Christ? As I’m turning blue from forgetting to breathe, I hear the answer in gentle words of encouragement: 2 John 3 “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Instead of the shock and awe approach of bombarding family with the latest and greatest contraptions and inventions on the media’s top ten list, I can commit myself to resting in God’s truth and communicating His love.

First truth – “The Lord knows the thoughts of man…” (Psalm 94:11)

Second truth – “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord.” (Psalm 94:12)

Third truth – “Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:18b-19).

When I packed away the fading brilliance of autumn, I paused to look at a cute door decoration. The country girl perched on a fence, pumpkins at her feet, had the most cheerful face. Her blushing cheeks, her shiny black button eyes, and her wistful smile beckoned me to take the harvest welcome basket of garden delights from her chubby hand. All I could think was to say, “Thank you for this moment of peace and the years of fond memories you have given.” Perhaps communicating God’s love in this same simple way is the reason to continue the theme of thanksgiving each season and each of the rest of our days.

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Filed under 2 John, 66 Books, Psalms, Uncategorized, Zechariah

2 Chronicles 29-31; 1 Corinthians 8

2015 is the year our family went gluten-free. A child’s Celiac diagnosis was an overnight household and lifestyle transformation. I spent a large part of this summer reading up on the disease, discovering new ways of cooking, and brainstorming new approaches to meals.

***

A good friend’s suggestion of a book study called Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst seemed very unappealing since a brief description revealed it had to do with food and weight. But I checked it out from the library, and skimming over it turned to reading it, which turned to loving it.

***

I went to share a chicken salad recipe with another friend, who mentioned she was starting a (nutrition-focused) healthy eating plan. Suddenly, before I even understood what I was saying, I was ready to join her.

***

My Bible reading today was about a rededication of a temple to the Lord and ridding it of idols. It was about worshiping the Lord with thanksgiving and remembrance, with celebration and sacrifices. And, yeah, it was about food.

***

Lord, I’m learning about abundant life through you. All the things that were temporary pleasures or distractions are nothing compared to the joy I have in you. Thank you, God, for caring for me to show me and correct me and guide me to newness–and freedom.

Courtney (66books365)

(I did not receive compensation of any sort for reading or mentioning Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.)

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Ezekiel 38-39; 1 Peter 4

In the subhead title of Restoration for God’s People, I think long on restoration. It is a sweet reminder of a Father who won’t leave me behind and will not turn His face from me. This is comfort I need.

28 Then my people will know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them away to exile and brought them home again. I will leave none of my people behind. 29 And I will never again turn my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit upon the people of Israel. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” Ezekiel 39:28-29, NLT, emphasis mine.

When I go through the process of preparing home and table for guests, I’m assaulted by a critical voice–and the thing about the thoughts that makes them so hard: it’s my voice, and the things I think about have happened–so it’s not a stretch to wonder if the worst will come again.

“Why do I do this?” I’ve asked. It’s a multilevel question.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:8-10, NLT.

Help me, Lord.

19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

It’s such a simple statement: keep on doing what is right and trust (your) life to God–he will never fail you.

Lord, take my anxious thoughts. From greeting to goodbye, you already know what this day holds–and whatever that might be, I can trust you. I hold onto these verses: that you won’t leave me behind; that you won’t turn your face from me; that you won’t fail me. You give me hope when things feel hopeless. You show me nothing is impossible for you. I’m thankful for these scriptures, for your love for me, for your encouragement to keep on being who you’ve made me to be. Thank you for loving me every day as much as the last–you show me what love is.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year