Thanksgiving week

1 Chronicles 16:8,9 – “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.”

It is the week of Thanksgiving. I agree with the statement that we should be thankful more often than once a year. I try very hard to live a life of thankfulness. As you can see here, I wear a bracelet to remind me to be grateful and thankful.

What does it mean to give thanks? 

I think that being thankful can take many forms. 

Prayer – Reaching out to God in prayer just to tell Him how appreciative you are for Him being active in your life.                    Songs – Singing praises to God with a heart in a position of humbleness and gratitude.                                                         Conversation – Have you ever taken the opportunity to turn the spotlight off yourself and turn it on God? Giving Him the glory for an achievement in your life is a great way to show thankfulness. All too often, we are so focused on ourself that we take away the opportunity to praise Him and give Him glory.                                                                                                                                      Giving –  I think that when we take the time to give to someone else out of the abundance that we have, we are, in a way, giving thanks. When we give with the heart of humbleness and the desire to help someone else along, we are telling God thank you for supplying my needs and giving me the opportunity to help someone else.

Just like anything else, all of these acts of thankfulness can be corrupted by our heart-itude. If our heart is focused on ourself, if our motive is promoting self, then each act is torn to pieces in front of the throne of Christ. Our acts of thankfulness becomes acts of pride and selfishness, neither of which is honoring or glorifying to God. 

So, as you enter this week of busyness – planning, traveling, buying, cooking, cleaning, preparing and all the other craziness that I know goes on at my house – check your heart. Make sure that you determine in your spirit that you will choose to plan, travel, buy, cook, clean and prepare with thankfulness in your heart because all of these actions require prayer, singing (to keep from going crazy), talking with others and giving of yourself and what you have out of your abundance. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. Make sure THAT is your primary priority.

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2 Kings 5 – Day 3

2 Kings 5:15,16 – “And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused.”

Here we begin this final day with Naaman coming back to Elisha to offer him gifts for telling him how to be healed. Naaman acknowledged God as his Healer, but he wanted to give Elisha some of his treasures as a thank you. Elisha, however, refused. 

The problem is found after verse 16. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, had overheard this generous offer and was none too happy when Elisha refused. So after Naaman had left, Gehazi ran after him and made up a story about travelers needing money and clothing (vs. 21,22). Naaman was all too happy to assist Elisha with his “problem” (vs. 23). But when Gehazi came back to where Elisha lived, he hid the treasures and then denied that he had left (vs. 24,25). Elisha knew what he had done and bestowed upon Gehazi the very thing that Naaman had come to have taken away – leprosy (vs. 26,27).

What’s the lesson here – 

1) When we are following after God, we should not expect a reward. When God tells us to do something, we should not expect recognition, compensation for our work or any other form of reward. When we do, it shows a problem in our heart-attude. Yep, just made that word up. It means the attitude of our heart, the reason that we do something. Elisha did not help this wealthy and recognized man because he thought he would get some kind of reward. No, Elisha helped Naaman because God told him to. And when offered a compensation for his efforts, Elisha politely declined. God should receive the glory. Additional money and fine clothes would only draw attention to Elisha and people would ask how he came into this wealth. He would have to answer honestly and then Elisha would be put on a pedestal. Elisha knew that was not what God wanted. Pride, as we learned earlier, has the potential to destroy anyone who sips from that cup. When God tells you to do something, just do it without expecting anything. 

2) Greed will come back to bite you in the rear. Gehazi thought he could pull the wool over Elisha’s eyes. I guess he forgot who Elisha was in contact with – the Almighty God. But Gehazi couldn’t stand the thought of all those nice clothes and all that money heading back to where it came from without him getting just a sliver of it. So to get a portion, he lied. Dishonesty is one thing that really lights my fire. If there is one thing that I have taught my children over and over again is that telling me the truth the first time will get you in a lot less trouble than me finding out you lied to me. I am honest with others. I expect the same from other people. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel the same way and our world is full of people who refuse the truth. Our world is also filled with greedy people. There are people just like Gehazi out in the world that will say and do anything just to get something without having to lift a finger for it. They sacrifice intergrity and honesty just to gain an easy buck. Not the kind of person I want in my life.

So on this last day of 2 Kings 5, remember this – following God doesn’t mean you need recognition from others AND integrity and honesty are way more important than wealth. Both of these are challenging lessons. We all like to be recognized and a little extra in our wallet is a good feeling. But once again, how did we get it? God will recognize our deeds one day. That’s the only One whose acknowledgement really matters. And trusting that God gives us what we need when we need it helps to keep the greed away. 

Happy Friday.

2 Kings 5 – Day 2

2 Kings 5:2-4 – “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.”

My daughter had the opportunity to go to a birthday party this weekend at a very crowded shopping establishment for a scavenger hunt. My son had participated in one at this same place last year, in the daytime, and he had to interact with all kinds of people he didn’t know. So, when I found out that this scavenger hunt was taking place on a Saturday night, my mommy alarms went off. There are too many crazies out there and my daughter is young and pretty – the perfect candidate for human trafficking. Nope, not happening if I can keep it from happening.

So, what does this have to do with today’s lesson?

The Syrians had gone over to Israel and brought back some people, particularly a young girl. This girl was taken from her family and brought back to Syria and was now serving Naaman’s wife. I’m guessing that she was treated fairly well, just based on the information given here. But still, she was taken. My heart goes out to her parents.

But this young girl was extraordinary. When she saw the need of Naaman and his condition, she didn’t hesitate to speak up and offer a solution. She was there serving in his house. She was no longer under her parents’ roof and following their rules and yet, she did the right thing. God knew her heart. He knew that she was the right person for the job. He knew what could happen in Naaman’s life if he just listened to this young girl. 

The circumstances were rare. I’m sure that a slave speaking up to her master in regards to her master’s husband’s condition was rare. Slaves were just that, slaves. Their thoughts and opinions rarely mattered. However, God had prepared the way – both in the life of Naaman and his household and in the young girl’s life.

You see, her parents had to have raised her to love and respect God. She had listened to the stories and maybe even experienced some of the wonders that Elisha had performed. She knew that Elisha was a man of God. She knew that if her master would go to him that he would ask God to heal him. The only way she could have known this was if she had been taught or had personal experience of it. God had been working in her short life.

So, despite the sad circumstances and the tragedy of losing a child, God was able to use this situation for good and for His honor and glory. 

There are times when we have to turn it over to God. We can’t worry about it. We can’t really try and do anything about it. We just have to trust that God has a plan in all of it. 

But He also gave us mommy alarms to keep our little bundles of joy from potentially harmful situations. We have to listen to those as well.

Today, you have read a portion of God’s word. You have seen how God worked in a terrible situation by providing Naaman with the opportunity to reach out to Him. God is always working in our life. He is constantly creating ways to show Himself to you and to bring you closer to Him. Use whatever circumstances you find your self in today to draw closer to Him. He will use you in ways you can’t even dream if you will just be ready and willing to serve. 

2 Kings 5 – Day 1

2 Kings 5:1,9-14  – “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it ? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

Last night, our lesson for the evening service touched on this chapter in 2 Kings. As I was reading it this morning, several things jumped out at me. I’m going to take a few days on this chapter and pick a few things out each day to talk about. Enjoy!

Let’s start out by me re-telling this story in the Melissa version – So Naaman was this mighty man of valor, super impressive dude, that somehow or another contracted this nasty disease known as leprosy. People didn’t want to be around someone with this disease. It was particularly hard on this dude – he was known as “mighty man of valour”! So, he hears about a prophet in Israel (we will cover that another day) and decides to go and see if this man can heal him. Well, Elisha, the prophet, doesn’t go and see this guy, but rather sends his servant to tell this uber important guy to go dip in the Jordan river seven times. Now, the Jordan river is nothing special. Most of the time it looks rather yucky. But this is the river in the land God had chosen to give the children of Israel, that made it special. This man who really thought something of himself considered it demeaning that 1) Elisha didn’t even have the wherewithal to come and speak with him and 2) he wanted him to dip in this yucky river. What?! At least, that was the thought until Naaman’s servant knocked him off his high horse by asking him this, “If that man had told you to do something fantastic, you would have done it. Why won’t you do something simple like go and dip in this river?” 

Pride. Pride is what almost kept Naaman from receiving his healing. He thought so much of himself and his position that he didn’t want to lower himself to dipping in this simple river. God did this on purpose. By doing something fantastic and difficult, Naaman would have perceived in his pride that he had done something worthy of praise. God wanted Naaman to see His hand at work in healing him. 

Oftentimes, God works in the small things. He works in the simple things. He works in people’s lives in such a way that His accomplishments are fantastically simple. It took a lot for Naaman to go down and dip in the Jordan. He had to put his pride away. He had to put his trust in Someone besides himself. He had to believe. All these were very simple things yet their effects are profound. 

Pride can be a major hinderance in our opportunities to see God at work. Pride can keep us from taking that leap of faith that may heal our hearts and open our life to new things. Pride can seperate us from loved ones, tear apart families and alienate us from friends. 

This week, let God show you where pride is hindering your life and growth in Him. Let God weed out those problems and allow Him to plant a new spirit within you – one that is growing ever closer to Him each and every day. 

Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

It’s finally Friday. Hallelujah! I got to do one of my most favorite activities of the week this morning – turn off the alarm for tomorrow. Now, I know that may sound trivial and small, but we haven’t had the opportunity to sleep-in in quite a while. I’m just hoping the sun cooperates and hides itself behind a cloud for a little while in the morning. 

We work and go all week. We are constantly moving and shaking. We need a time of rest. We need those moments to just breathe. We need those times to just sit and not really do a whole lot.

My kids are in desperate need of one of those weekends. They have been swamped by homework and projects and sports that they are about spent. I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their whining. But I don’t criticize them for it; I do the same thing.

In these verses in Matthew, Jesus reminds us that we have a place of rest. Now, does that mean we should just sit around when we accept Jesus as our Savior? No, but it does mean that our problems and challenges should not be what is weighing us down. Those things should be the very things that we are turning over to Him. We need to “yoke” ourself to Him. 

What does “yoke” mean? Well, you know the pictures you see of people plowing a field with an oxen of some sort and they have this double “u” looking thing draped over their necks? That “u” thing is a yoke. It brings two animals together to accomplish a common goal. One can’t do it effectively enough on their own. So two are brought in to ease the burden and complete the task. God wants us to “yoke” up with Him. He wants us to allow Him to share in the burden and get the task done. The sooner it’s done, the sooner you can rest. 

God knows that we need rest. He knows the pace we are trying to keep. He knows the obstacles we face in completing our to-do list. You know, I think that we have those obstacles in our path from time to time just to remind us to FROG – Fully Rely Upon God. When we do this, we find rest. We find rest for our soul. We find rest for our mind. We find rest for our body. 

So this weekend as you run and do and see how much you can get done in the span of 2 short days, rest. Rest in the Lord. Fully rely upon Him to give you what you need when you need it. Allow Him to guide your to-do list and find rest. 

Training

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

My son is preparing to make a presentation to the church tonight in regards to his trip to Haiti. While preparing for it, we came across the concept of a local, New Testament church sending out missionaries. It was a great opportunity to explain to him the why behind this concept. We were training him on how to properly go about being a missionary, which is what he will be doing in Haiti.

It made me stop and think about children and how we teach them and why they leave. 

I have been going to church my whole life, literally before I was even born. I have been at church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any other night in between that my family could get to. My parents taught me commitment by bringing me to church every time the door was opened. My parents made sure that I had my Sunday school lesson prepared on Saturday night (back in those days you prepared the lesson the night before). My extended family, both by the blood of man and the blood of Christ, made certain that I understood the concepts in the Bible and why I should believe them. I wasn’t spoon fed God’s word. I didn’t memorize it just to make someone else happy. No, I was trained up in it. I was trained to see how much God loves me. I was trained to use His Word, the Bible, to learn how to live my life. I was trained to be committed to Him because that shows obedience in my life. 

Some may call me a trained animal, and that’s okay. I would rather be a trained individual for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than an individual who thinks that I don’t need His training and spend my eternity in Hell. No, training is good. Training is what gets me closer to my Savior. I’m good with that.

Now then, let’s get real. 

Are we just allowing our children to memorize concepts in the Bible or are we training them in it? There is a difference, you know. I “learned” a lot in my 3 years of Spanish class. I memorized words and phrases and could decently write in Spanish. But can I do that today? Nope. I can ask where the bathroom is but when they tell me how to get there, I have no idea. I have departed from my knowledge of Spanish. As wonderful as my teacher was, I never developed a passion or saw the necessity for it in my life. I was more concerned about getting a good grade and keeping my average up rather than seeing the importance of being trained in another language. 

How often do we, as teachers and parents, allow our children to learn just enough to keep us happy and make us look like we are doing a fair job in raising our children yet all the while we are failing to train them on how to rely upon the Lord? It hurts to think that this is going on, but when I see young people go off on their own, too often they leave God just where they found Him, at church. And that makes me sad. I don’t blame anyone. I don’t point fingers. I have 3 pointing back at me. 

I bring this up because we, as followers of Christ, have a problem. 

I have the opportunity right now to train my children. I will never get this opportunity again. I have the opportunity to train them to rely upon God. I have the opportunity to train them in commitment and respect and love for God. I have the opportunity to train them to absorb God’s word and apply it to their every day life. When my children leave my house, I want God to be so real to them and be such a part of their life that leaving Him at church would make them feel naked. 

I don’t know that I expect anything profound from this blog today. I was just thinking about this last night as my husband sat at the dinner table with my son and was explaining missions work to him in a way that he could understand and appreciate. My son had heard it before, but when you live it, you learn it better. It really was special, watching my husband train my son. I am truly, truly blessed.

Listening for the What

Philippians 4:19 – “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

We have been a shoebox packing church these last few weeks. It all started when we had a youth rally and invited other churches in the area to bring items that we could collectively use to pack shoeboxes for children in foreign countries (or possibly our own country). It is called Operation Christmas Child. It was a great time and a huge blessing. We were able to pack 100 shoeboxes on that day. 100! That’s a lot for a group of little congregations! 

However, the cost for shipping each box is $9. That’s $900! How in the world could we possibly gather that much money?! We shouldn’t have even let that thought cross our mind. We asked the people to give and did they ever! We were able to gather enough money to ship those boxes, plus some!

That brings us to yesterday. 

My son is going on a mission trip to Haiti in January. His school is collecting a little bit different type of shoebox for that trip. We took our youth group (and young adults 😉 yesterday and filled shoeboxes for this cause as well. We invaded the local Dollar Tree after a pizza lunch and packed until our boxes overflowed. It was so much fun! And the super thing about it is that my son may have the opportunity to hand out some of the very boxes that we packed. Some little child will be able to play and appreciate what we chose to pack into that plain brown box. Those boxes cost $7 to ship. And you know what, that is covered already – before we even packed the boxes.

My point is this – God is ready to supply all we need and more each and every time we choose to serve Him with our words, thoughts and actions. All He is asking us to do is go. Go and do. Go and try. Just Go! We don’t need to worry about the why or the how. We just need to listen for the what that He wants us to do.