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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday's In Other Words: Thanks Living for Thanksgiving

Deborah at Chocolate & Coffee is hosting today's "In Other Words" writing challenge. Stop by her place and check us out. For more information about IOW visit Loni at Writing Canvas.

Whatever happens, give thanks,
because it is God's will in Christ Jesus that you do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (God's Word)
I have chosen to go back to the original passage that this Scripture is found in because I believe we find several keys to "thanks living." (NOTE: This is a long post, my speciality :o). Please hang on with me until the end.)
Shall we take a look?
Key 1: Be Happy In Your Faith.
"Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (AMP)
In the Greek the word chairo is translated "rejoice" in verse 16. It is defined in Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionary as "a primary verb; to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impersonal especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well :- farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.—Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary"
Vine's demonstrates all the occasion for which one is commended to rejoice in it's definition:
"to rejoice," is most frequently so translated. As to this verb, the following are grounds and occasions for "rejoicing," on the part of believers:
1. in the Lord, (Phil. 3:1; Phil. 4:4)
2. His incarnation, (Luke 1:14)
3. His power, (Luke 13:17)
4. His presence with the Father, (John 14:28)
5. His presence with them, (John 16:22; John 20:20)
6. His ultimate triumph, (John 8:56)
7. hearing the gospel, (Acts 13:48)
8. their salvation, (Acts 8:39)
9. receiving the Lord, (Luke 19:6)
10. their enrollment in Heaven, (Luke 10:20)
11. their liberty in Christ, (Acts 15:31)
12. their hope, (Rom. 12:12) (cp. Rom. 5:2; Rev. 19:7)
13. their prospect of reward, (Matt. 5:12)
14. the obedience and godly conduct of fellow believers, (Rom. 16:19, RV, "I rejoice" (AV, "I am glad") 2 Cor. 7:7, 9; 2 Cor. 13:9; Col. 2:5; 1 Thess. 3:9; 2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:3)
15. the proclamation of Christ, (Phil. 1:18)
16. the gospel harvest, (John 4:36)
17. suffering with Christ, (Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:13)
18. suffering in the cause of the gospel, 2 Cor. 13:9 (1st part); Phil. 2:17 (1st part); (Col. 1:24)
19. in persecutions, trials and afflictions, (Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:23; 2 Cor. 6:10)
20. the manifestation of grace, (Acts 11:23)
21. meeting with fellow believers, (1 Cor. 16:17, RV, "I rejoice;" Phil. 2:28)
22. receiving tokens of love and fellowship, (Phil. 4:10; the "rejoicing" of others, Rom. 12:15; 2 Cor. 7:13)
23. learning of the well-being of others, (2 Cor. 7:16.)
(Emphasis and enumeration added)
So my question becomes: Do I live happy in my faith in every one of these circumstances. The Bible gives us twenty-three specific instances where we are to be happy in our faith, rejoicing and glad-hearted. I'm good with that list until I get to 17, 18 and 19. I can be thankful for those circumstances, but happy and glad-hearted about them. Not so much. And then the passage gives us the trump card: In the amplified the word is translated "continually" but in the Greek the literal translation is "every when." Which is translated in the KJV: "evermore." Are you Happy and Glad-hearted in your faith always, continually and evermore? As for me, I'm going to have to work on that. Our faith will sustain us - we must realize this to be Thanks Livers.
17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];
Persevering Prayer. Like the praise and prayer that went up when Paul and Silas were in the prison and the earth shook, the walls broke and the doors clanged open free. Like the prayer that Nehemiah prayed even as he spoke his heart before the king. HMMM!
Persevering, prevailing, powerfully unceasing prayer. That is what I think of in this case. Our prayers will give us endurance when we believe by faith we have what we ask for. As I read this and consider how it applies to Thanks Living, I think of Justin's last year of life. I had prayed... prayed... and prayed... even asking God if I was praying for the wrong things. I was given Philippians 1:6 by a friend for Justin and instructed to pray that God would continue and complete the good work that He began in Justin at Salvation - so I did. Night and day, in tears and with the laying on of hands... If you can imagine a way to pray it I did. I prayed it in groups, wrote it into prayer requests, I prayed. But, when fall of 2004 gave way to winter and winter to spring, the roller coaster ride of emotional and behavioral highs and lows went into overdrive.
The entire process of watching my oldest child self-destruct up close and personal was not only devestating, it was defeating. But I held on, I prayed harder - if that is possible. I went face down, on my knees and any which way that the Bible indicates to pray. For heaven's sake I would have prayed to the North, South, East and West if I thought it would help God hear my prayers. I was more than desperate - I needed a lifeline for me and my son.
Beth Moore's "Living Beyond Yourself" was on my plate that spring as life spun continually out of control. I was hanging on by a thread. In the lesson one night was a representational response to prayer: the instruction was to write our most ardent prayer request, the one we take continually before the Lord, on an index card. I didn't even have to think: "JUSTIN." That was all I wrote.
The next part, thank Him for the answer by faith in advance. ... O...kay. I lifted my index card to heaven and thanked God for hearing those prayers I had offered for my son, and acting on them providing the answers in His perfect time. The conclusion: Each time I felt the burden to pray for that request, thank God for the coming answer instead. And I did...
After we had him arrested, I thanked God all the more.
When he ran away, I thanked God all the more.
When the police were at our house, I thanked God all the more.
Sitting outside the justice's chamber while my son sat a bench away in handcuffs I thanked God all the more.
I thanked God and thanked God and thanked Him for my son, his life, the future He promised Justin.
I thanked Him for the answer and believed by faith I had what I asked for - and then the accident happened.
And in the midst of the almost hour long drive to the hospital not knowing how my son was doing, whether or not he would live or die... I began to pray and praise God all at the same time. I thanked Him my son was still alive and asked only that he remain alive until I get to the hospital. I thanked God for successful surgery, and for the surgeons who operated on him that first night. I thanked Him for getting my son on the helicopter and taking him to the #2 trauma center in North Texas. I thanked Him.
On the day my son died I thanked God for having mercy and making it sure. I thanked God for the life of my son and the 17 precious years I had with him. I thanked God. And, somehow on that day when I could not thank God for the financial blessing of an insurance check - I asked, "How is Justin dying a part of you blessing us? God, I don't understand." Philippians 1:6 began to roll around in my head, dusting off the corners of my memory and resurrecting that faith that prayed it all those months before. I heard in my spirit that day, "It is not the money, but that Justin is now Complete. He was made perfect the day he came home to heaven." And I praised Him through tears and through anguish I praised Him for every detail of my grief until today I can count myself blessed for the privilege of suffering in this way, for knowing the heart of God through agony and for seeing His hand in spite of the pain. Thanks living...
Key 3: Thank God In EVERYTHING No Matter What The Circumstances May Be.
18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].
Before my son's last few years of life, before that deep relationship with God was built... I don't think I knew what it meant to be thankful. I was grateful for things that benefited me and despised experiences that did not.
When Justin's life went beyond my ability to control, manage and define it... I had to depend utterly and solely on God for the well-being of my child. Then I became grateful for the smallest victories and even for the lessons learned in the most agonizing defeats. The war was fought long and hard and in unconventional ways. It hurt, spiritually I felt like our entire family must have bled out (spiritually) a few times, but somehow God sustained us and even now the good outweighs the bad in those volatile and turbulent years.
Cultivating Gratitude in the smaller battle made my heart able to rejoice, to be not just grateful but truly THANKFUL (not just going through the motions of thanksgiving but really meaning it from your heart in any and every circumstance), even in spite of the circumstance, and being gracious even as I walked out the death of my child - my worst confessed fear.
Key 4: Walk In The Spirit Every Day.
19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit;
Galatians 5 strikes me always as the Holy Spirit chapter and towards the end of that book you read about life in the flesh versus life in the Spirit. Quenching the Spirit involves any one or all the matters our flesh, (really our soulish behavior demonstrates). This is behavior driven by our pre-salvation will and desires, our unchecked emotions and our intellectual minds.
Living by the Spirit is a conscious choice to stay vitally connected to the Lord at all times. It means not letting sin go unchecked, but being intentional in confession. Naming sins rather than blanket confessing them, and then appropriating the forgiveness God has already settled our accounts with. Confession is one of the most freeing things in our Christian walk, because it reopens the door between us and God and allows the Spirit to flow unhindered into our hearts, our souls and our minds. The Spirit of God is the only way God administeres the Freedom that Christ came to deliver to us as His children. We must seek to walk in the Spirit everyday.
Key 5: It Doesn't Depend On Me.
20 Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning].
Despising things we don't understand is a huge way to quench the Spirit. Knowing that the gifts and call of the Lord do not rest upon my understanding of them frees me from judgments and calloused behavior toward Christians of different denominations. It also gives me understanding of limitations and the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the call of God. I am not advocating here the gifts of prophecy and "utterances" (speaking gifts) - I recognize that we each must come to our own understanding of the administration of the giftings in the New Testament and the call of God upon our individual lives.
My personal preferences and opinions matter little when weighed against the infallibility of God's Word. Even if I do not cognitively agree with or prefer the teacher who is speaking on a matter of Scripture, I can be like the Bereans and examine everything against what I know to be true, God's Written Word - the Holy Bible - and ask the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom in discerning whether what I am engaging is of Him or of something else.
It is our responsibility not to base our assessment of God's calling, giftings and Scripture circumspectly on the teachings of other men, no matter how credentialled or scholarly - we must test it all which brings me to Key 6.
Key 6: We Must Prove ALL Things Against God's Standard - His Word. Holding Fast only to what His Standard says is GOOD.
21 But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~ Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
These three Scriptures indicate a personal relationship that involves more than submitting yourself to the teachers of the Word you subscribe to. It indicates a personal relationship born of meting out the Word of God for yourself. Comparing what you are taught with what is true and discarding anything that does not resonate with the Word of God itself, regardless of whether the one teaching has authority and credentials. It doesn't mean tearing down another's ministry, but it does mean not staking your sole response to God and His Word on the teaching and reliability of human interpretation. We must be groomed for godliness and that comes from God's Word, taught, caught and applied.
Key 7: Avoid Willful Sin And Flee Temptation.
22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.
We are to be innocent of evil and experts in what is good. How can we know that ourselves if we never ever open God's Word and discern from it what His Will is? There are more than ten standards of "Hebrew Law." All of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy overview and outline the extent and the consequence of God's Law. But, what of the Law of Grace, and atonement. How do we avoid the sin of pride and piety that so plagued the Pharisees in Jesus' day. By exercising mercy toward others who are caught in sin - love the sinner, hate the sin and applying any judgment or measure of justice we deem necessary to absolve sin toward ourselves... then CONFESS IT to God in humility and ask Him to make you contrite and repentent over your sin.
""Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." ~ Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)
Galatians 6:1 says it this way: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load. " ~ Galatians 6:1-5 (NKJV)
And for good measure, here is the word I love: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" ~ Micah 6:8 (AMP)
Key 8: Be Set Apart, Sanctified by God Himself.
23 And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).
Santification has its work in setting us apart when we submit ourselves fully to God through Salvation, Confession, Repentence, Discipleship or Instruction, Ministry and Relationship or Fellowship with both God and His People. He finds us blameless when we surrender ourselves and allow ourselves to be cloaked in the righteousness of Christ for in and of ourselves there is none righteous, no not one. Only Christ who gave Himself to be righteousness for us and in turn made us His righteousness before God. His righteousness preserves us blameless before the Lord. Be sanctified, set apart for the purposes of God through and through.
Key 9: Trust God To Finish The Work In You. (See Also Philippians 1:6)
24 Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you].
He alone is faithful and trustworthy to finish all that He has called us to, all He has gifted us for and anything and everything in between. It doesn't depend on you - It all depends on Him.
In conclusion I would like to reaffirm Romans 12:1-3:
Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you. 2 Don't become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect. 3 Because of the kindness that God has shown me, I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should. Instead, your thoughts should lead you to use good judgment based on what God has given each of you as believers. (God's Word)


jennyhope said...

I couldn't read the post all the way because something is scrolling over it. hmmm? ;)
happy thanksgiving!

Esthermay said...

I honestly don’t know very many chairo-filled individuals. Wonder why? Maybe because enumerations 1 – 23 are nearly impossible to accomplish in the flesh. It takes surrender and consecrations to pursue these and come out thankful!

Once surrendered, it is the endurance – powered by prayer – that carry us. Perfect – You must be like me: Index Card Freak! . . . but in all seriousness – only GOD is blessed in your sharing this personal and tender story. Thank you.

And as I’ve come back to the remaining Keys (you see, your work just cannot be read and digested in one sitting – and I had to pee . . . )
. . . these are natural outcomes of the surrender and prayer. It doesn’t take much effort at all to know things DO NOT DEPEND ON ME – To ALWAYS be thankful or to WALK in the SPIRIT . . . The Avoiding sin, etc. …These are part of the fruit that comes with a life lived totally in HIS Care and Feeding.

It does all come down to that last paragraph - offer yourselves, a living sacrifice. How many of us can say that?

Wonderful Message Here – it’s a sermon text. And I’ve outlined and typed many. You are a gifted teacher!


luvmy4sons said...

You are such the bibilical scholar. Amaazing. I was touched by your story of your I don't think I knew all that before. To see God...and remember that He is always the middle of such pain and loss. Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

Ava Semerau said...

There's a story that Abe Lincoln was once asked how long a man's legs needed to be and he responded long enough to touch the ground, which is my way of saying that, yeah, your post this week was long, but it needed to be! Thanks for sharing the obvious passion you have for Christ and thanks giving and lifting me up in the process.


Denise said...

I am blown away! Your transparency impacting. Your depth of insight is provoking. I will back again to read this - there is much good fruit to be gleaned. Blessings to you!

Denise said...

This is really powerful, bless you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you - Thank you - for sharing so openly. I know your heart as our 16 year old son died almost 4 years ago. I cannot say I thanked God then - I plead why so often - and I can say with thankfulness I am so thankful for the 16 years we were blessed with him and I can say thank you for the lives that have been saved because of his death and I can say thank you because I know without a doubt I will see him again and we will behold our Savior together.

And thank you - again - for sharing. Very powerful.

Susan said...

Hey Michelle,

All I can say is W-O-W...

What an incredible word, (post). God continues to use you and your testimony in such a powerful way.

Thanks for taking time to share this with us.

I have a long way to go, but I'm on the right path.

Blessings to you my friend. I'm so grateful for YOU!!!