Thankful Hearts

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. – Colossians 3:16 NLT

I wonder how often other folks forget how much they have to be thankful about? It happens to me sometimes. It happened to me at least once today. Probably more than once.

I’m very conscious and aware that I grumbled and complained today. And how ridiculous is that – knowing how blessed I truly am – that I should grumble and complain, foolishly thinking that I deserve for things to go better, or easier, or smoother, or “more like I had planned”.

Several things happened today, and I fell short of expectations and commitments and responsibilities — repeatedly throughout the day. Time after time, the circumstances of the day, the immediate needs, and the focus of my attention — left me way behind on looking the part of a “well put together, reliable person”.

And I felt foolish because of all of it. Hindsight tells us, “If you had planned better… If you had allowed more time… If you had insisted on this/that…” the self incrimination never ends if we let it run free in our minds. And then we grumble both at ourselves and at our circumstances for no good or profitable reason but to simmer in it like a slow cooked roast sunk up to its top in the bitter herbs and seasonings. What a sad lot it is when we forget just how much we have to be thankful for!!!

What a sad lot it is when we forget that God has a purpose in all of it. So will I forget my blessings, forget my grumblings, call it a day, resign myself to have been defeated today by my shortcomings, and go to bed restless?

Or will I consider, confess, and commit to examining, learning, and being changed — even overwhelmed — by the thankfulness that I should have for so much more than those specific shortcomings?

Will I be thankful and grateful and full of love and hope — or a prisoner to something else?

The verse above says “to God with thankful hearts” — what if we believed that way, lived that way — “to God with thankful hearts“?

It reminds me of that passage in Colossians:

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Colossians 3:23 NLT

And what a burdensome command that must be to someone who either doesn’t know or has forgotten how sweet and good the Lord is! I don’t say that with outstretched finger, but with self examining precision in confirming that “He is still working on me”. He is still, by way of the Holy Spirit, of Christ who lives in me, I am being convicted of sin, disciplined in love, and encouraged into obedience and service.

Thankful people can worship wholeheartedly. Gratitude opens our hearts to God’s peace and enables us to put on love. Discontented people constantly calculate what’s wrong with their lot in life. To increase your thankfulness, take an inventory of all you have (including your relationships, memories, abilities, and family, as well as material possessions). Use the inventory for prayers of gratitude. On Sunday, before worship, quit rushing around; instead, take time to reflect on reasons for thanks. Declare Sunday as your “thanks, faith, and hope” day. Celebrate God’s goodness to you, and ask in prayer for all your needs for the week ahead.” – Life Application Study Bible Devotion

So, we must turn away from one way and turn thi the other…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:6‭-‬8 NLT

Lord, help us to not be like the foolish, rebellious generation of Israelites who turned an 11 day journey into 40 years in the wilderness. Stir up that love that comes from knowing and loving you, from realizing your love for us, from recognizing your grace and mercy towards us — so that we might run and not grow faint and fly like on the wings of eagles. Help us Lord. Amen.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Psalms 8:3‭-‬4 NLT

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] Deuteronomy Intro

My daughter and I have been taking a book of the Bible and studying it chapter by chapter, verse by verse, for several years now. About a year and a half ago, we started sharing these studies online as “Mia, Daddy & Friends”. And we’ve really enjoyed the feedback that we’ve gotten from friends, family, and even those who “used to be strangers to us”.

Different times of year and different needs and demands mean that we don’t have a religious schedule that we stick to in turning out these videos — and many times our devotions and studies need to be more situationally specific. Also, we want to be sure that the time and effort involved in setting up and producing these online videos don’t detract from the learning and application in our lives.

We aren’t looking for Internet attention, but are simply sharing our faith openly and transparently with others by virtually opening our doors and welcoming you into our household to see what our Bible study looks like, with all of our fumbles over pronouncing words, asking and answering questions to our best ability, and talking about how it pertains to our faith, or lives, and most importantly to Christ Jesus.

To date, we’ve gone all the way through the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and we are part of the way through the gospel of Luke. However, Mia wanted to start studying a book in the Old Testament as well, and she chose the book of Deuteronomy, because she had heard somewhere “that no one really takes the time to read Deuteronomy”.

So here we are starting this next adventure into Deuteronomy:

Hope you get something from this too, because it sure is a blessing to us.

NOTE: Check out The Bible Project here that has amazing video and study resources that we use in many of our studies:

https://thebibleproject.com

He is still God in the night

Life is easy when everything is going our way, but when we get that call from the emergency room and it’s our loved one…

I pleaded with the Lord through my tears as I drove from Campobello to Pelham to find out what was going on with my mommy. Yes, my mommy. Not just my mom, but MY MOMMY. Yes, I reminded Him of His sweet love for His own dear mother, and I realized how cold and impersonal pain can be when it is “close but not that close”. I realized that my prayers on behalf of others had not been as heartfelt and loving as they could have been, and I repented not as some manipulative deal with the Lord to get my way, but as a very personal and revealing realization about what my faith, my love, even my trust in the Lord comes down to when my back is against the wall. And I was humbled, oh was I humbled.

And the Lord was there the whole time. He had a plan and a purpose, and my mom, dad, and I spent time talking together in that ER room like we haven’t talked in a long time. And those were precious hours, not because they were final hours, because mom will be discharged soon. But because the busy hum of life slowed down long enough to remind us about so many important things.

I had so many pastor friends praying for us tonight and genuinely concerned about what we were going through. They were ready to leave their families to come to the hospital to be with me and mine. And having been on their side of it, having ministered to beloved friends over the past several years when they were in the hospital – I was now on the other side for the first time, and I saw how much comfort and peace came from not being in this “alone”. And they won’t get any awards or great accolades for taking those late night calls, for wetting the floor with their heartfelt prayers on behalf of others, nor do I think any of them would want them. But I’m so grateful for them, and I hope that you too are sowing into and building relationships with folks who won’t run and hide when the wolves come, but who will stand and fight – on their knees, and with arms wide open, and with shoulders to cry on, and hugs to envelope you.

I’m so thankful that my mom’s walking out of that emergency room was not contingent upon me “having enough faith” because when Hambone text me back asking if there was anything I needed as I drove tearfully towards the hospital, I answered truthfully, “I need more faith. Lord, heal my unbelief!” I’m thankful that Christ is suffering and that He is good whether He is giving or taking away. I don’t know why in one case a family faces absence from their loved one and another finds healing. I’m just not smart enough to have it all figured out. But I was praising Him and singing His name as I drove on, so there was some deep seated trust coming from a place that I can’t take credit for myself.

You see, I wasn’t alone in the valley — I never was alone. He has always been with me, since the beginning. I may have not listened to Him at times, and I may have even acted as His enemy and played the role of the Prodigal son worthy of an academy award — but He has always been faithful and true.

Thank you, Lord, for giving my mommy more time to love and serve you by continuing to live and serve others — driven by the same Holy Spirit you have placed, ignited, stirred in me. We are in awe of you, mighty God, Good Father, Holy Holy Holy. Amen.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Sometimes it’s just plain hard…

I have learned to trust the Word of God, and if you know that it is true, let’s look at His promises, His encouragement, His guidance for us in those “hard times”:

James 1:12 ESV

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:6-8 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 8:31 ESV

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:18 ESV

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:28 ESV

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 50:15 ESV

And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

John 16:33 ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 62:2 ESV

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

But some may say to themselves, “I do not know that I can trust the Word of God. How do I know that it is true or false? What if it is just trickery, another way away up by men to control my mind and subject me to their will?”

And if this is you, if you are a doubter — if you are not yet a true believer in the “whole counsel of the Word of God”, I ask you if you have treated and examined it in your heart? Have you read the Bible from beginning to end while praying and asking, “God, if you are real, reveal yourself to me through the words.”

Or is the “foolishness” of wasting precious hours of your life that you know for sure — not with interesting to discover about the eternity that you might be missing out on? I would think that even the most practical and pragmatic man, driven by the scientific method, would want to gather all of the evidence to himself avoiding any bias or preconceived notion. For if I am wrong in serving the Lord, I have wasted time living, serving, encouraging and helping others instead of focusing on myself. But if the atheist is wrong, he has wasted his all of eternity on a fleeting breath in this life.

Is it easy to believe?

Not by my flesh alone it isn’t.

Is it easy to choose to die to your own passions and desires to instead seek the will of God?

If I was solely under the power of my own will, it would be an impossibility.

But He doesn’t say to come, believe, get your heaven ticket, and then go back — or even to “give it your best shot” from here forward.

No He says something quite miraculous.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:13‭-‬15 ESV

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 7:37‭-‬39 ESV

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 3:3‭-‬21 ESV

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:15‭-‬27 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Fire and Rain

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve seen seasons of fire and seasons of rain in your life. Easier times and harder times. Times where you felt dashed against the rocks and times when the wind was full in your sails…

I look around me, and I see people in all kinds of different circumstances of life. For some, there are baby bumps, diapers, teaching little ones to walk and talk. And for others, there is taking care of elderly parents, dealing with death, dealing with sickness and suffering.

And it doesn’t always stay in the “expected order” of death only coming with old age. I even see parents younger than us dealing with the loss of children.

I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1‭-‬8 ESV

Yes, there is fire and there is rain. Sometimes the rain seems to fall down along our cheeks — salty drops flowing seemingly endlessly from our eyes — because the fiery tribal seems so much more than we might even bear.

The song we sang says,

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus,
You’ve got to help me make a stand.
You’ve just got to see me through another day.
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way.

It reminds me of:

In my own life, I can tell you that I’ve seen the Lord at work. I’ve seen Him carry me through obstacles, and I’ve seen Him rain down blessings. And sometimes the true and lasting blessings come down in the tears, in the building of a testimony, in the building of endurance and faith, preparing me so that my trial might help me be there for someone else during theirs. It’s a beautiful thing, this tapestry, this beautiful handiwork of the Lord.

Together In the Tent

Laying here in a tent just outside the gates of Carowinds at “Camp Wilderness” with my daughter as the temperature begins to drop and as she sleeps peacefully wrapped up in her fleece pjs, sleeping bag, and blanket — and I’m amazed at how returning to a simpler way of life has proven to be so enjoyable for the two of us.

We had a blast seeing up the tent together and getting everything squared away. It wasn’t a chore, but wad something fun that we were able to do together, and she was great at it! And this wad much different than the two times wee have captured in the back yard where mommy could bring us anything we wanted. But we still had electricity and running water this time, so she wants to go camping up in the mountains next. Wow! I’m loving this!

And even so, we looked at the little pop up campers near us and realized the set up and tear down time that they save versus a “real tent” like ours — and we were already making grand plans for “some day”. Lol.

I’m just thankful for the bonds that are being strengthened, the memories being built, the foundations being laid in her childhood so that maybe I can be there with her through more than just cold mornings in a tent during her childhood — but maybe also trying times through adolescence and beyond.

And I pray that she sees in my life, not just my words — this dwelling place that we have with the Lord that od’s greater than any house or home built by the hands of men. And I pray that you do as well. And I pray that I never forget. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Give Me Jesus

I love this song. Some songs have a depth of doctrine and teaching in them that will satisfy the most pharisaic of Pharisees, while others express the simple awe of the redeemed whore washing Jesus’s feet with her hair. This song is of the latter kind.

You’ll find in this song that few words are spoken, and that it isn’t a “teaching song” by most men’s standards — but that it is an “awe and wonder” song — which should in fact, teach us about those “weightier matters of the law” by way of the Holy Spirit. One who is not hardened and leavened — one who is fully relying on Christ alone and not resting in any sense of accomplishment, status, or self- righteousness should find that the heart cries out and the spirit speaks in wordless groanings when this praise is lifted in Spirit and in Truth.

In the morning

So let’s take a closer look at its content:

“In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus”

Oh, how beautiful and wonderful the mornings are when we rise with our Jesus close by our side. And how strong our longing can be when we feel that we have risen somehow “far and away” from our precious Lord. But either way, don’t we long for Him even closer, even as the deer panteth for water, don’t we thirst for that precious fount of living water?

Do you long for the Lord with your waking breath? It will be so with your daily life as well, especially in those awakening moments of fiery trial that appear unexpectedly. And so it will be for you on the day of the Lord. Are you ready?

Mark 1:35 ESV

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Psalm 119:147 ESV

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.

Psalm 88:13 ESV

But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you

Psalm 143:8 ESV

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

So, we have addressed the first fruits of our day — our morning — and now we will look onward to our true worship — to the song that we will sing about what truly is first in our life today.

Just Jesus

The lyrics continue:

“You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus”

Yes, the busy distractions of this world offer us many idols to choose from — and will we say “Give me the world and a side order of Jesus!” Or will we say, “Just give me Jesus!” And if we say it, do we mean it? What if health, prosperity, reputation, loved ones, freedom — what if these were taken from us, would we still cry out “JUST give me Jesus!”

The existence of that word JUST cannot be ignored, or one of us — even you, even me — might miss the whole point of this type of praise altogether.

James 4:4
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

Alone

The lyrics continue:

“Oh, when I am alone
Give me Jesus”

And when we have turned away from the world, when our proclaiming the Gospel so boldly, loudly, and seemingly foolishly has left us with “nary a one left behind” and it seems we are alone in our solitude and our silence — isn’t it there in that humbled, surrendered silence that He is truly found?

Psalms 46:10‭ NLT

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

Lord, teach us that a multitude of words and teaching and movement and activity doesn’t always leave us much time for the awe and wonder and faith that pleases you.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28‭-‬29 ESV

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38‭-‬42 ESV

Additional Reading
https://www.esv.org/Matthew+26:6%E2%80%9313;Mark+14:3%E2%80%939;Luke+7:36%E2%80%9350;John+12:1%E2%80%938/#