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November 2009

I Give Thanks for Hymns

Download 01 For the Beauty of the Earth
Song of Friendship  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord;  ~Ephesians 5:19

I had the occasion last week to reorganize my office area.  It isn't the remodel I was dreaming of, but it is much better than it was.  As I was clearing out and cleaning up I wanted some music to charge me up.  Rather than rock or pop, I threw in Greatest Hymns and Greatest Gospel Favorites.  I amazed myself at how energized they made me feel -- physically and spiritually.  I'm one of those people who can hear a song a couple of times and memorize it.  (My daughter seems to have inherited this gift also).  So for me, these hymns and praise songs hid the Gospel message in my heart long before I believed.  The Christmas hymns do the same in unbelievers today, so keep on singing them!

It is such a joy for me to sing unto the Lord.  I am so grateful for music, musicians and composers.  And the stories behind some of our favorite hymns are so compelling.  Bri has been learning about Fanny Crosby in Sunday School.  Although she was blind on earth, she now regards the face of our Lord Jesus every day in heaven.  And through her faith and gifts we can enjoy the blessing of her hymns: Blessed Assurance, To God be the Glory, Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, and so many more.

Hymns can be a source of comfort in hard times, a word from the Lord when you need one, a reminder of God's goodness and promises in times of temptation, and a prayer of praise when your heart is overflowing.  "Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to thee" (Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah).  Music is just one more way for us to express ourselves and our feelings, and I thank and praise God for that blessing and creative gift!

Lord, let us never tire of singing your praises, and spreading Your Word and the Good News of salvation through spiritual songs and hymns!  We ask this in the precious name of Jesus, Amen. 


I Give Thanks for Friends

Wine, Oil & Bread Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a friend...  ~Proverbs 27:9

I had the opportunity to spend some time with my dear friends this weekend.  We haven't had too many get-togethers this year, so this one was especially sweet.  We didn't talk about anything really important, or even try to catch up on news, really.  We just started chatting about this and that until it was time to go.  It was like picking up a conversation that we started months ago.

I am so blessed by my friends and their husbands and families.  I really can't imagine life -- especially Christian life -- without them.  They are the sisters that I never had.  I can count on them for anything, and though we are each so different, we're also so much alike.  It's so good to spend time with them.

And now I have blogging friends, and friends I've reconnected with over the internet.  They are a blessing too!  I look forward to checking in with them every day and reading what they have to say.

God created us to be relational beings who are dependent on one another.  In our modern society, we like to be self-reliant, and be concerned about our individual rights, but as time passes I yearn to live more communally.  Imagine a neighborhood of friends and family sharing a courtyard, and letting the kids play together, preparing meals together, sitting together in the evenings around a fountain or little fire....  I think the early Christians must have lived like that, sharing everything and helping everyone.  Therefore, friends are living reminders of the relationship we should have with God: sharing ourselves and our 'stuff' with Him, depending on Him, going to Him for advice, comfort and encouragement. 

I thank you, God for my wonderful friends, and for all the ways we are able to be a blessing to each other.  Let my relationships with them always point me back to a deeper relationship with you through your Son, Jesus.  Amen

  


I Give Thanks for the Church

30 days

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.  ~Acts 2:46-47

Today I give thanks for the Church -- for the fellowship of believers around the world who shine like stars in this dark and crooked world.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to gather with like-minded people in a common endeavor, and share the work, the support, the encouragement, the teaching and exhortations and everything else that it takes to bring the message of God's love to a broken and hurting world. The church is a family, and that is how it should be -- a place of nurturing, education, discipline and fun fellowship.  As we have been visiting some new churches this year, I began to realize more and more that church isn't so much about what you get out of it, as what you put into it.  And now when I miss church, or just come to visit and not participate, I truly feel that I am missing out.  Get involved with your church, it's how God intended it.

And we are so blessed in this country to be able to go to church openly!  And we have our pick of denominations and buildings.  But for so much of the world, believers risk their freedom and even their lives just meeting together in a basement or darkened room.  Consider this case in Iran and thank God that you can worship openly in fellowship with other believers:

On March 5,2009, Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad and Maryam Rustampoor were arrested by Iranian security forces and labeled "anti-government activists," according to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN). "Their only crime is that they are committed Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus," FCNN added. "They are being unfairly labeled as 'anti government activists' because of the hostility of the government towards practicing Christians."
On Aug. 8, Marzieh and Maryam were summoned to an Iranian court and ordered to deny their faith verbally and in a written statement. Praise God, they stood firm and replied, "We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith." They have been sent back to Evin prison.
Marzieh and Maryam's arrest is the latest incident highlighting increased government intimidation of Christians in Iran. Believers are subjected to surveillance, arrests, imprisonment, and sometimes torture.

(for more information on this and other cases, see
PrisonerAlert.com)
 
Lord, let me never forget what a blessing it is to be a part of the body of believers.  I thank You and praise You for creating us as people in need of relationship with You and with each other, and for establishing the church as the place for just that.  Bless and strengthen the faith of those who are not free to meet together to study your Word.  Amen.

 


30 Days of Thanksgiving

30 days


I'm joining my dear friend, artist and writer Karla Dornacher, to devote this entire month as a time of gratitude and thanksgiving for all the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.  Feel free to join us, on her blog or mine or with links to your own blog, because I can testify that focusing on all that you have to be grateful for will really bless you and change your heart.

Today I am so grateful for my salvation.  I was a bit of a hard case, and I truly do thank all of the many caring Christians who took the time and patience to share their love for Christ with me and the Good News of salvation by grace alone.

For anyone who wishes they were a little more 'intellectual' or more educated, let me tell you that it isn't always a blessing.  Like wealth, it isn't how much you have, it's what you do with it.  For a long time I was just 'too smart' to believe in God.  I was duped by our fine universities and professors into believing that God was dead, or a least irrelevant.  That wouldn't have been such an easy task if there hadn't been a spiritual vacuum a home, so parents be warned: you need to clearly tell your kids what you believe and keep telling them!  If you don't, they'll believe tv or their friends or their teachers.

I did have my moments of brokenness along the way -- times when I wanted to believe, needed to believe, really -- but then my low self-esteem and self-critical nature convinced me that I was not 'good enough' for God and that I would only let Him down just like I had let everyone else down in the past.  No one had explained to me clearly enough that I wasn't 'good enough' for God, but that I NEVER would be!  That's why only the cleansing blood of Jesus was enough to sanctify me and reconcile me to God.  I couldn't 'merit' salvation by being 'good enough' and I couldn't 'earn' salvation by doing good things -- I could only accept the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, and begin to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in transforming me into the image of Christ.

Finally in Law School, while discussing the origin of law, I was forced to come to a conclusion about truth.  It suddenly appeared as black and white as it truly is: either there is an ultimate Truth that comes from a Creator and exists for every human, or there is no truth, and all morality is merely 'relative' and can change over time and place.  At that moment I recognized that there is a Right and Wrong, truths we hold to be self-evident, and that that 'Jiminy Cricket' of a conscience we all have is evidence of a loving Creator who has set rules for His creation.

That was all it took, really.  Once I accepted that there was a God, there really was no question for me that this was the God of Abraham, the God that so many friends had introduced me to years before, the God who sent Jesus to be a ransom for our sin, and a savior to the world.  All those seeds planted years and decades before by people long passed out of my life began to bear fruit.

I am so very grateful to all the people in my life who took me to vacation Bible school, who taught me, who came to pick me up faithfully every Sunday morning, who dragged me to youth group and who kept displaying the light of Christ in their lives while I stood at the door and refused to knock.  I encourage every Christian not to give up on those 'hard cases' in your own life who you fear might never be saved.  Keep sowing the seeds and being a light, and let God do the rest!

Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
~
1 Timothy 4:16