Being Thankful

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Romans 1:21; For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

It is interesting that thankfulness is an important part of out spiritual lives. When we are not Romans 1 says a bad thing happens.
Our thinking becomes futile. This means powerless, pointless, worthless.
Futile thinking is being focused on false things not the things that true.
Futile thinking keeps us giving credit to the enemy of our souls.
Futile thinking focuses on what is not right rather than having a thankful heart for what is right.
Consequently, our hearts become foolish and become darkened.
The end result is that God Gives us over to the lusts of their hearts to impurity (1:24), to degrading passions (1:26), a depraved mind (1:28).
Thankfulness is a good thing!

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Ignored, Denied, Insulted

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I love the story in Matthew 15:21-28, of the interaction of Jesus and a Canaanite woman. It is not your normal “Jesus does a miracle” story. Do not get me wrong, all of the miracles of Jesus were great, but this is unusual (if there is a “usual” for Jesus). We normally think of Jesus as kind and compassionate, and eager to minister to the hurting. This story does not work that way.

The woman calls to Jesus to deliver her daughter suffering from demon possession. Jesus’ first response is to ignore her; v.23 “Jesus did not answer a word”. Ever feel that your requests are just plain ignored? Well, here is an example of it happening! She called enough times to aggravate the disciples. They said, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” Next, Jesus declares, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He told her that He would not grant her request because she was not part of the covenant with Israel. So, first Jesus ignored her, then he told her no. Lastly He insulted her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Jesus was the bread and she was the dog. Not the “usual” Jesus.

As unusual as the story is so far, the next part is the amazing part. The woman agrees with Jesus that she is a dog that willingly eats the crumbs that fall from the master’s table! The psychologists would have told her to not lose her self-respect. But Jesus said she had “great faith” (v. 28). I can only imagine her thinking might be. Maybe she realized her daughter’s problem was one of millions in the world, and the world was a small part of the universe, and the universe is small to God. Therefore, a single crumb falling from God’s table would be large in the universe, gigantic compared to the world, overwhelmingly massive to her. Isaiah says that God measures the islands of the earth as if they were “fine dust” (Isaiah 40:15). Crumbs were more than what she needed. She just needed her daughter delivered.

Most of us quit praying when we feel like we have been ignored. We definitely would quit praying if Jesus told us no. Would anyone keep praying for something if were ignored, told no, and insulted on top of that? I think not. But Jesus said this woman had “great faith”. Her petition was granted. Her daughter was healed.

I want to have “great faith”.

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My Apologies for Boring You

I know I am boring. People tell me all of the time. Not with their words of course, but with their body language. The worst part is that they do not try to hide it. We may be walking together, or standing in a group and the bored person is looking around for something or someone better to occupy their time. I feel that I am standing alone, a fixture, taking up space. Wondering if I were to try a conversation, would it fall cold and dead on the floor? If I were to suddenly disappear, would they notice? But, I am sure they would notice because my presence is a fall back for them. If they needed to say something, I would be listening. They would not want to be standing alone. That would be weird.

It happens every day. They are looking for a better thing on their cell phone. When my presence is less important than chasing dots on the screen or seeing another cute doggie picture, I understand my place in the attention hierarchy.

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Work Week

In the US, we have established a 5 day work week. The Bible says that, “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work.” (Ex 23:12 et al.) If my work day is 8 hours, that means I should be working approximately 48 hours each week. Interestingly enough that is almost the average work week for Americans. It seems to me that this is enough to prosper me (meaning meeting my needs plus having some extra to pay off debt, or to put away for savings). In my mind, this is a gauge. If I am working less than this, I am being a bit indulgent. I am not a driven person, but this is a good benchmark for me. If I am working less than 48 hours in a week, I am spending too much time in areas that are not profitable to me. With working 48 hours/week I still have time for devotions, family time, and house maintenance (and a blog once in a while!). But after that, most every other activity I do, I could probably live without. Unfortunately, with my remaining time I tend to do things that are not profitable. So, instead of an hour of TV, how about a brisk walk? Instead of perusing Facebook pages, how about getting into a real book’s pages?
I just think that in a society that focuses on entertainment, the children of the Most High should be different than the children of the world.
But that’s just me.
Blessings.

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Growing In Difficulties

Nobody should stay in abusive situations. We should not allow ourselves to be subjected to abuse.

Interestingly enough, we should not allow ourselves to go to the opposite extreme either.

Coming out of abuse can fling us into a place that we make absolutely sure that we do not get ourselves back into difficult circumstances again. It is VERY easy to reject all circumstances that take on the flavor or smell of abuse. The end result is that we reject some things that are in our lives that are for our good. Difficult people and difficult circumstances help us grow. How do we get in balance? By allowing those borderline cases into our lives!

We have to remember that every difficulty is not from the devil. Some of our frustrations are God’s polishing agent in our lives. Those irritants are there for us to learn to run back to our loving Father to get more help!

A good example is the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:2-3. Jesus, part of the creation trinity, came in body form, and had fasted 40 days. The devil tempted him to make stones into bread. Why shouldn’t He make stones into bread? He could; He changed water into wine. He deserved it; He had gone without food for 40 days. (Think about this, as God, Jesus had probably never felt those kinds of pains before!) But Jesus did not turn the stones into bread, not because it would have been wrong, but because there was greater good in going without! Is it possible that God called irritating or uncomfortable circumstances in our lives because there is greater good to come of it?

How do we know if we are to welcome or reject circumstances that irritate us?

Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus HUMBLED himself and became obedient (this in itself is amazing). This is the “attitude” (v.5) that we should have in our lives. Whether my circumstances are fabulous or frustrating we should have the attitude that we know that, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Philippians 2:9-11 continues, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (NASB)

Jesus went the lowest place, and therefore was exalted above all. When we are humble, God will use even the worst of circumstances in our lives to shine His Glory through.

Be at peace.

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God’s Love Lived Out

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According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, love is …

  1. Patient – longsuffering, puts up with a lot before it suffers
  2. Kind – gentle, affectionate
  3. Not envious – at peace and contentment with others
  4. Does not boast – does not talk of themselves
  5. Not proud – humble, does not need to be heard
  6. Does not dishonor others – to esteem, show respect
  7. Not self-seeking – encourages others’ best interest
  8. Not easily angered – not edgy, but soft with others
  9. Keeps no record of wrongs – no inventory of wrongs done, everyone is a new friend every meeting
  10. Does not delight in evil – wants good, even to bad people
  11. Rejoices with the truth – honest
  12. Always protects – lit. “cover by silence,” or “keep confidential”
  13. Always trusts – believes in the good of others
  14. Always hopes – confidence in others’ future
  15. Always perseveres – continues in spite of set backs
  16. Never fails – victorious

My interpretation of these verses is, a person who lives in love does not get ruffled, but is gentle, and at peace with others’ successes.  The loving are humble, good with being in the background, and highly respecting those around them.  They help other people excel, and are not edgy but soft with others.  They treat others as if they had never done wrong.  They want every ones’ good, and they cover for their weaknesses.  It believes people want to be good, is confident in their future, and never gives up on them.

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Fruit of Compassion

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,  and self-control.”

It is interesting that three out of the nine fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23 are very similar.  The fifth in the list is gentleness (KJV; NIV & NASB, use “kindness”).  The sixth in the list is goodness.  The eighth is meekness (KJV; NIV & NASB use “gentleness”).  These fruit I call fruit of compassion. 

Do we see these characteristics around us, or the opposites? 
The opposite of gentleness or kindness is abrasiveness or rudeness.
The opposite of goodness is meanness or heartless.
The opposite of meekness or gentleness is aggressiveness.

These opposites are what the world offers.  (The fruit of the world are called “the deeds of the flesh” and are listed in Galatians 5:19-21.)  I know some people that are great examples of gentleness, goodness and kindness.  These people are refreshing to be around.  But what about the Church as a whole?  Do the believers in the Church act more gentle, good, and kind, or abrasive, mean, and aggressive?  It seems that most believers act in a way that is opposite of God’s way.

Of course, there will be times when someone will have to correct someone or be firm in establishing boundaries.  For instance, we should not allow someone to abuse us or abuse others.  Allowing that kind of behavior is not being gentle or kind.  That is codependency.  Abuse requires serious emotional and spiritual help.

What I am encouraging is that we allow these fruit of the Spirit to dramatically expand in our lives.  I think we should do something wild and go way over the edge and practice copious amounts of gentleness, goodness and kindness!  It is amusing to think that when we act this way, many will think something is wrong with us!  Unfortunately, it is because these characteristics are rare in our times.  Let’s profusely practice gentleness, kindness, goodness, and compassion and see what God does in us and through us!

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