Th(i)nkful for Truth

What is Truth?

Truth – any statement in accord with fact or reality as known in the mind of God

True – fidelity to an original or standard; if something lines up with Truth it is true.

Sometimes the best way to define something is to say what is the opposite.92E02B33-75E6-4B48-9324-C3B52B40A131  Truth has no elements or shades of unreality.  Something that is true is not a lie.  It has fidelity (loyalty) to the standard. It is true to the original.

A picture of truth is when Jesus claimed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is truth personified.

While Jesus is the living Word of God, the Bible is the written Word of God. John 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Bible is Truth.

  • Psalm 119:160  “You word is true from the beginning: and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
  • John 8:32 – “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
  • John 16:13 – “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. “
  • John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
  • Galatians 2:5 – “We didn’t yield in submission to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “rightly handling the word of truth”

Truth Belt

God’s Truth is described as both a belt and a sword in Ephesians 6:14-18.  It holds the armor together but as a sword it also pierces between the soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Why Be Th(i)nkful for Truth?

If we have no standard, there is nothing to shape our worldview or perspective. There is no objective standard of right and wrong – humanity just makes rules up as we go along.

Without Truth there is also no meaning, value or purpose to our lives except what we subjectively make up to give ourselves and our friends and family some happiness.  Without Truth, everything that happens in life is without design – just a matter of random fate, luck, chance or fortune. But when we acknowledge Truth, everything changes. We have a solid anchor to hold us steady.

The Value of “Speaking Truth into Someone”

snowrope-e1532456704174.jpgWhere I grew up in Norway, snowstorms at times would bring “whiteout” conditions where you couldn’t see a few feet in front of you. If a building near town was 20-50 yards away, a whiteout was dangerous. Some people got lost and their frozen bodies weren’t found until spring. So the town put up a rope fence tying the buildings together.

Truth is like that rope line; without it, you’re on your own and death is likely.  The value of having truth spoken into your life by a friend is immeasurable; it brings you back to the straight line in a swirl of circumstances, emotions, and panicked reactions.  A friend helps realign our perspective – –

“Wait!  Our God is in control.  He has allowed your failure … designed this illness … sent this financial reversal … to accomplish a number of things for His glory and your improvement.  Your pain has nothing to do with Him being angry; He didn’t spare His own Son from pain.  He is not wringing His hands or pacing around His throne.  He is looking at us right now and whispering  ‘perfect.’ You’re not in this alone. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and I am here for you as well. I’m so sorry it hurts, so sorry, but our God is up to something.” 

Changes in perspective bring changes in emotions, changes in our conduct, and at times, changes in the outcome.  Just recently I was going through a mental battle.  Difficulties and different trials were pressing on my thoughts; I was increasingly dominated by sad feelings.  And then, I had a dear friend “speak truth” into my life.  Wow!  What a change.

Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak truth in love to each other in order for us to grow up in Christ.  This means mostly grace seasoned with salt that stings at times (Colossians 4:6) but not the other way around. If you trust a person’s love, there are few things better than sitting back together and “truth-telling” – stating the good things that are true, thankfully gasping at the bad things that didn’t happen, and mulling over our God’s promises and presence that never change.

Thank you God for being Truth, for giving us Truth, and for enabling us to speak the truth in love to one another.

Th(i)nkful for Normal

The Mistake of Ignoring “Normal”

normal walking

Last evening David and I were going for a walk to get our steps in and stretch our legs.  As we briskly moved along, it hit me what a lame person would give to be doing what we were doing. Just walking.

Movements, abilities, and the painless comfort that I don’t even think about would mean so much to another person.  My whole life is full of seeing, doing, touching, tasting, smelling and hearing things that I don’t fully value or appreciate.  Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

Different Makes Me Thankful for Normal

When I lose the ability to do something, I become acutely aware of how much I miss it.  And on the other hand, when I regain a lost ability, or when the pain finally goes away, I am so very thankful.  Getting lost in a city or travelling for a long time in the third world makes me so glad for the normal of home.

When we spend time with our dear friends who are battling cancer, struggling with an ongoing disability, living with disease, or coping with advancing age, we resist feeling guilty that “the lines have fallen to us in pleasant places,” and we become so very thankful for our “normal” life, which is actually an amazing gift of grace on this curse-ravaged earth.

When Different Becomes Normal

But as many of you know, our “normal” can change drastically in a short time to something very different than we ever expected.  Sometimes we learn that this detour is actually our new main road.  We then have the opportunity to discover things to be thankful for in that new normal.  And if the human outlook seems bleak, we who believe in Jesus have a final and ultimate normal to look forward to – standing face to face with our Redeemer, free from pain, full of the love, joy, and shalom that our Creator initially designed to be our “normal.”  What hope!

Being Th(i)nkful for “Normal”

You can turn “normal” into thankfulness.  How?  Get out a piece of paper.man writing on a piece of paper

Write down 10 wonderful things about your “normal” right now? Which of the five senses do you enjoy? What pains don’t you have? What police station, court, morgue, hospital, or funeral homes haven’t you visited lately? What extreme weather conditions are you enduring right where you’re sitting reading this blog post?  How much gunfire and shelling have been happening outside your window? How much food is in your refrigerator and pantry?

Have you ever been at a prayer meeting where the leader asks for praises to begin the service?  Often it gets all quiet.  How neat it would be to have someone say: “I am so thankful that I could hear you make that request.” 🙂 I think of what it must be like for a born deaf person to hear for the first time.  I have inserted this video of a little deaf boy hearing his father’s voice for the first time.  When his eyes show that he is aware of something new, something different, it is like he enters Narnia ~ a whole new world. If you have already been walking around in the Narnia of hearing, you sure have a lot to think thanks about.

Th(i)nkful people spot opportunities to give thanks in the minutia – for seeing rainbows in soap bubbles, hearing a baby’s laugh, smelling freshly mown grass, and touching a rabbit’s ears. A thinkful person imagines what would happen if all of this mundane “normal” stuff was taken away … and expresses that thanks in verbal or written form.

So when I am tempted to complain about doing my normal responsibilities, like shopping, normal 1let me instead be th(i)nkful for my car, for my ability to drive to the shop, push a cart, have the funds, make decisions from often hundreds of choices … and so on. As the familiar meme says, “what if we had tomorrow only what we thanked God for today?”

 

Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

 

Can’t Stop It!

Abounding Water

overflowing 4Whether you imagine Iguazu Falls in South America, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Niagara Falls in New York, or the Laguna hot springs in the Philippines, each gives us a strong image of abounding water that can’t be stopped.  Strong, smooth, steady, and striking in their beauty, the abounding flow cannot be held back and rushes over the edge.

Some synonyms for abounding: very plentiful, abundant, considerable, copious, ample, lavish, profuse, boundless, prolific, inexhaustible, generous, galore.

Abounding Thanksgiving

The Apostle Paul once wrote to new believers in a town called Colossae. He had never met them, but as with so many of his letters, he wanted to straighten out their understanding of Christ and then help them see how that would straighten out the way that they lived life. He told them to focus on the foundation:

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7

Inexhaustible thankfulness, he said, is an integral part of the very foundation of the Christian life. In one sentence, Paul used four metaphors! The rooting of a tree, the construction of a building, the settlement of a colony, and the overflow of a waterfall.

sodaburstThe word translated “abounding” from the Greek unfortunately has no English equivalent.  It means “to super-abound, to be excessive, to go way beyond.”

We’re not talking about something mild, occasional, or comfortable here. Because of the gospel of Christ, we’ve been rescued, ransomed, redeemed, restored, adopted, declared righteous, vested with an inheritance, given a different road, a different Guide, a different purpose, and a different destination.

We need to literally bubble up and burst with thanksgiving, like the bottle of soda you dropped just before the party. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 15:58 where we are told to always abound in the work of the Lord.

Abounding and You?

A person growing in Christ should be abounding in thanksgiving.  This is a basic Christian-life skill.  It’s fundamental.  So what does that look like for me?  Is this something that just happens naturally or do I need to consciously work on thinking thanks in order to abound in thanksgiving?  Duty begins with discipline but can end up as a delight.

There can be no doubt that God desires us to be thankful. How about trying to just think of one thing today that you could express thankfulness for to someone?

Drop.  Trickle.  Flow.  Gush!

Thankfulness and Sexual Sin

Connection Between Sexual Sin and Thanksgiving

Studying what the Bible has to say about thanksgiving over the past couple of years has yielded some fascinating truths.  I knew that being thankful was a good thing and that God was honored by it, but I am learning that thankfulness is, at the same time, a comfort and a powerful weapon.

There are strategic placements of contrast throughout the Scriptures.  Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Using this same replacement principle in another letter, the apostle Paul contrasts sexual sin and thanksgiving.

Watchman Nee once summarized Ephesians as “Sit, Walk, Stand.” In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul is helping believers understanding the contrast between the sinful patterns of the old life and the new walk of faith and love as a regenerate Jesus-follower.  Then, he says something eye-opening.

“Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  Ephesians 5:3-5

Regret

Instead of engaging in sexual sins, obscenity, sexual talk, and sexual humor – wholly improper and out of place for believers – there is to be thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving is the replacement, or can we say cure, for sexual sin.

Sexual sin is rooted in a heart that is discontent with God’s ways and what God has provided and seizes control to get its “deserved” comforts and pleasures. Rebel willfulness ignores the commands of Christ, and even what is healthy in the long run, and runs off into pornography, adulterous relationships, fornication, sexual abuse, and the list goes on.  The 180 degree opposite is a th(i)nkful person, learning to be content, celebrating what God has provided rather than chafing and brooding over what is missing. Dr. John Street writes:

“Giving thanks to God is an integral part of being a Christian – a child of God.  This is particularly true in the life of the believer as it relates to sexuality.  Those who are discontent and unthankful for how God has made them will often be greatly tempted to indulge in sexual deviancy.”  Dr. John Street, The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, p. 305

Learning to Be Content

In life you can almost always boil down your struggles to whether you serve Self or God.  God doesn’t hate our bodies and cravings.  He designed them.  He wants us to enjoy our bodies to the fullest.  He even uses the picture of how we love ourselves in showing how we are to love others because it is a given that we love ourselves.

Thinking thanks about your situations will help you be content.  There is a peace that comes from filling your mind with gratitude.  God is in control.  He knows what is so hard for you right now.  He also has given us His Word to help us.  Rather, let there be thanksgiving, He says, to combat sexual sin and temptation.

“Gratitude is the opposite of every sin we commit.”

Freedom

Breaking free from sexual sin is a huge battle.  The doom may scream at you – “You are a slave! A prisoner! You’ve been in this too far and too long to ever get out!” Regret overcome 2 You need hope and a powerful weapon!  Heath Lambert, author of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, said something in a lecture that grabbed my attention.  He said that “gratitude is the opposite to every sin we commit.”

There is hope.  It could start with thanksgiving.  In I Corinthians 10:13, Paul wrote that with temptation there is also a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.  I strongly believe that one of the great ways of escape is th(i)nkfulness.


Hey, it’s always good to get a little feedback.  I received this note from a person who reads my blog:

Dear Karin, I just want to thank you for your teaching on thinkfulness. We are in a really difficult place right now but God is good and He is ever-present and His hand is at work. The unknown is always so scary though, but as I was journaling this morning I was just considering how powerful thinkfulness is, and how thankful I am to be able to use it in being victorious. So I just wanted to thank you for being willing to share this concept that the Lord put on your heart, it is a huge blessing to me!

3 Benefits of Being Th(i)nkful

1. Being Th(i)nkful Helps Us Process Life

Inspiration 1 IBM Electronice Data Processing Machine by NASA 1957

Here’s a processing tool. This is a picture of an IBM computer lab taken in 1957. The computer does its primary work in a part of the machine we cannot see, a control center that converts data input into information output. The computer is able to process information that has been entered into its memory bank. How far we have come from these huge machines to our I-phones processing info right in our hands.

Th(i)nkful is a processing adjective.  It describes a person who is processing things happening around them, in them, and to them, taking the input and converting it to gratitude.

Th(i)nkful (adj):  choosing to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

We process all the time.  Mostly it happens automatically, the brain repeating the same neural pathway that we have taught it to do over and over again. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to process life differently.  That takes effort; it moves us out of our comfort zone.  It is hardest at first, just like blazing a new trail through the woods or forming any good habit, but with repetition, it becomes easier.

2.  Being Th(i)nkful Breeds Inspiration Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. I have received inspiration from hearing how other people did something.  I have a friend who is always reaching out to her neighbors with brownies, building relationships.  When I hear about her doing that, it inspires me to do likewise.

Taking the mental effort to think thanks about what is going on in my life and expressing that can be very inspiring to others.  They may feel an urge to also be th(i)nkful about their circumstances. An added benefit is that if you write down your expressions of gratitude in a journal, you can inspire even yourself years later as you reread those pages.

3.  Being Th(i)nkful Is Obedience

The Bible is full of exhortations to be thankful.  I Thessalonians 5:18 spells it out starkly:  In all circumstances give thanks. Both Ephesians and Colossians, the Twin Epistles, give specific commands to be thankful.  Colossians has a verse in each of its four chapters dealing with being thankful and in the third chapter there are three verses in a row that urge the reader to be thankful.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                                                                               Colossians 3:15-17

canine-dog-pet-cute-fur-nose-ears-training-sitting-obey-obeying-begging-780x520

Have you ever taken a dog to obedience school?  It is pretty tricky to teach obedience to a dog.  In training, you give them a series of tests to see whether they will overcome, still obey, and do what they’ve learned.  If successful, you will enjoy the company of your canine to an even higher degree. When we learn obedience, just like our four-legged friends, we become a joy to our Father.

If we love the Lord, He says we will obey His commandments from the heart.  The commands of Christ were given by Him as our Creator for our benefit, to keep us from scars and destruction, and to push us toward a flourishing life. And He sends tests to see whether we will still obey, and with the tests He makes His grace downloadable.  Thankfulness in the good times is easy; thankfulness amid the dark wind and waves is altogether different.  We should obey, but in our obedience is also our overcoming.

So….there you have it!  3 blessings that come from being th(i)nkful:

  1. It helps us process life
  2. It serves as an inspiration to others as well as to ourselves
  3. It honors God by simply obeying

 

Inspiration 4

 

 

Th(i)nkful That It Turned Out Differently

Open Hand Principle

My husband David has an message called Keeping an Open Hand.  In it he describes how we are allowed to clutch our hand around two things.clutched hand Those two things are 1) our relationship with God and 2) our commitment to do His will for our lives.

Everything else is to be kept in an open hand.Hand open

When you meditate on that, it exposes how we often clutch things that need to be released.

Expectations, for example, are things we need to hold loosely.  If we let a dream or wish morph into a targeted goal that drives us, pushes aside competing loves, and creates an expectation that is not God’s will, we will struggle terribly if God calls on us to release it and receive what IS His will instead. Best to dream while  keeping a neutral disposition. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Fullness of joy doesn’t come from chasing my dreams; it comes from being in His presence.

Expectations

Have you ever thought back to things that you prayed so fervently for that didn’t happen?  I have. Big White HouseI remember when David was practicing law as a young new lawyer in south-eastern Pennsylvania that I prayed earnestly that we would be able to buy a large white historic house on the outskirts of town.  I even made a name for it and dreamed about how we would raise our family there and use it for hospitality.  It was a great dream, just not the Lord’s will for us.

That white house is just an example.  What about when we pray for success, health, fame, or even the salvation of others? Our desires and requests, although seemingly right, may not be what God wants for us. Maybe He will answer our requests totally differently than what we expect, or at a very different time in our life.

Romans 8:26 and 34 mention that the Spirit and Jesus Christ both make intercession for us. I love envisioning my prayers going through that grid.  I pray earnestly, but I cannot see the full picture. He can. We may not understand why He does things the way He does until glory, but we can trust that He does them well.  He is sovereign and trustworthy for me, His child.

If I turn my dreams into strong expectations I will almost chronically be an unthankful person because God’s choice is so seldom what I would have chosen.  But if I can yield my hopes to Him and leave my dreams at His feet, I will have no problem finding contentment and can even celebrate the path He has chosen for me.

 

Th(i)nkful in Simply Obeying

Zulu ladiesNurturing my relationship with God and earnestly renewing my thoughts so I can discover His good, acceptable and perfect will for my life (Romans 12:2) can bring simple joy and contentment.

These are good truths on which I am reflecting, especially as David and I prepare to move back to South Africa to work among the Zulu.  We are excited to learn the Zulu language and get acclimated to life in Amanzimtoti because God has shown us His will, and that directive trumps all other dreams and wishes.

What about you? How are you expressing your dreams to God?  Is your disposition summed up in “not my will, but Yours be done?”  As with gardening and athletics and most worthwhile things in life, His way is not the easy way, but it is the best.  And often as we grow older and look back, we can be th(i)nkful for unanswered prayers.  Our amazing God, Infinite Mind and Wisdom, has designed bigger and better plans, purposes, and pictures.

P.S. If you’re interested in a copy of David’s Keeping an Open Hand message, just email me.

 

Th(i)nkful and Take 5

Even a Child Can Do It

Take 5 3

Our son Nick and his family seem like a perfect family.  They look like they must always be kind to each other; their children are probably good and kind and share all the time.

Well, if you are human, you realize that is not the case.  They struggle like every family struggles.  There is always an ongoing fight to do what is right.

A while back one of their children developed a real rage problem.  I am the Yaya (what my grandchildren call me), and on one visit even I saw that this was a real difficult puzzle.  Nick and Julia asked us to pray for them to have wisdom and discernment, and so we did earnestly. I am sharing about this with their permission and with the hope that their story could help others.

One particular evening the anger again came to a head.  Take 5 1Nick and Julia had been reading different things to try and find some answers, and they had come up with a plan.  As Nick started to talk to his child he laid down some rules that the child needed to follow when he began to feel great anger.  The idea was to help him get control of these overwhelming feelings he was experiencing.  They called it “Take 5.”

Take 5

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Count from 1 to 10, and then count backward from 10 to 1
  3. Say one thing that you are thankful for
  4. Practice smiling even if you don’t feel like it
  5. Pray to God for help

The first two cause a person to break from the aggravating situation, slow things down, and let off some steam.  But Nick and Julia chose being th(i)nkful as the exercise that tends to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Forcing yourself into a thought-search for positive things tends to eat the stuffings out of anger.

Take 5 has helped tremendously!  Not only has it helped their child control his anger outbursts much better, but also the parents, and grandparents (!) have benefited from this exercise.  It is simple enough for a young child to implement, but effective enough for anyone, young or old. Hearing this little guy pray to God for help is so inspiring. We, too, can pray to God for help and He hears and answers us.

After a season of their child experiencing victory, Nick and Julia happened upon a candy bar that was called Take 5.  🙂  Take5One evening their little guy was allowed to stay up after the others had gone to bed, and just Daddy, Mommy, and the little victor each got to enjoy a Take 5 bar. Hearing about this made my heart smile.

You Choose Th(i)nkfulness

Just like a little child seeking to get control over his or her emotions and choosing one thing that they are thankful for, we as adults can combat both the flurry and fury of negative emotions by choosing to be thankful. It requires a choice.

So, I shared the Take 5 concept with a friend recently and within a day she texted me that she had put it to use. At the end she commented, “Take 5 is not just for 4-year-olds!”

Thanks requires choice.  

Being Th(i)nkful Promotes Healing

Being Th(i)nkful at Midnight

Psalm 119:62 says “At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous judgments.” Often when I am not able to sleep, I get up and go to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, read in my Bible and begin to journal my th(i)nkful lists.

Write it down

It brings healing for my soul.

Writing down how God is doing wondrous things from infinite to infinitesimal builds healing in my broken pieces and hope. He is infinite mind and infinite power and is the sovereign designer and ruler over all of my circumstances.

Thinking Thanks About My Trauma

A car hijacking at gunpoint and being awoken by someone stealing inside our house while we were sleeping were some of the worst traumatic incidents of my life. Many others have gone through much more difficult scenarios.Members Of Support Group Sitting In Chairs Having Meeting

It is interesting to experience this after going through some trauma.  Every time you retell your traumatic story, you get rid of a little more of the sting.  An old Swedish proverb states: “A burden shared is a burden halved; a joy shared is a joy doubled.”

If you’re of a th(i)nkful mindset, you can strengthen other people by sharing 1) the Scripture that came to mind to guide and comfort you in the furnace, 2) the ways in which your trauma could have been worse, and 3) the ways that you’ve become stronger and wiser as a result of the test, and 4) the ways in which your relationships with God and others have become deeper and less self-serving.

Passing Along Th(i)nkful Skills

I had this happen to me recently in Egypt.  A couple had gone through traumatic incidents in South Sudan were they served at an orphanage. Seeking to build relationships, David and I chatted with them about some of the traumatic experiences we had in South Africa. I mentioned my hijacking incident and said that Philippians 4:8 had been an anchor for my thoughts.

Although my hijacking incident did not end in death or severe pain, I had been tempted to think out the “what if’s.”  The words “think on what is true” arrested my panicking thoughts.  I was so thankful for how the truth of God’s Word helped heal me from my trauma.  Focusing on verses concerning God’s sovereignty build my confidence in His meticulous providence – all the details of my life are orchestrated for my Christlikeness and His glory.  There was no alternate ending to my trauma; it was what He planned.  In fact, I am immortal, invincible and indestructible until God is finished with me.  And when His story called “Karin’s life” is finished, there is nothing that will keep me here!

The next day our new friends came up to us and shared how something difficult had happened with some of their friends just the night before, and how they used Philippians 4:8 to encourage and comfort them. God’s Word had ministered not only to me, but sharing how I had been helped by God’s word, had ministered to others. Praise Him!

 

It’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name,
O most High. Psalm 92:1

promoting health 1

We cannot think thanks about our trauma unless we trust that God is sovereign in all our affairs. We see in the scriptures that thinking the way God desires us to, trusting in Him and acknowledging Him in our ways, brings healing to us.  That healing begins in our soul and can minimize physical stress-induced illness as well.

Following Proverbs 3:5-7 brings us to Proverbs 3:8. “It will be healing to your flesh, and refreshment to your bones.”

Trust in the Lord’s sovereign design, purposes and control, and then think thanks, no matter how bitter your grief. Allow grace to help you process your trauma through the grid of th(i)nkfulness. Ultimate physical healing is when we receive our perfect bodies in heaven.

Th(i)nkful is an adjective and used just like thankful.  The difference is to simply highlight that to be truly thankful, you have to choose to think thanks and express it.

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Th(i)nkful (adj) ~ choosing to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks orally or in a written form.

ALMOST ~ AM LOST

On Israel’s Shore – Caesarea Maritima

Herod the Great built Caesarea in about 10 BC.  He did the impossible – conquered an unruly sea and built jetties and an entire port on the Mediterranean Sea, complete with lighthouse, temples, a palace, and a hippodrome for chariot races and gladiator games. This city was home for Rome’s leaders – Pilate, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and II.

About 30 years after Jesus died, this city was the setting for Acts 26:28 where the imprisoned Apostle Paul gave his defense to King Herod Agrippa II and Festus.  Paul skillfully related his testimony, his story of conversion, and gave a reason for his life’s commitment to spreading the gospel.  In response, Agrippa uttered his famous words, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian!”

The Problem With “Almost”

Our guide for our recent study trip to Israel chose that setting to share his own personal testimony.  As we stood cooling off our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean, he described that as a rebellious young man, he decided he was finished with church and God and was leaving home to live his own life.

As a token gesture, he went to his home church to say “good-bye.”  That evening, the sermon was on Acts 26:28.  The speaker emphasized the irony of the word ALMOST.  If you switch the L and the M in that word, you come up with a related concept ~ AM LOST.  Being almost a believer is the same as being totally lost. How very, very sad.

IMG_5978

The result in our guide’s life was that God’s Spirit used that to break his rebellion and catapult him into seeking an intimate life-giving relationship with the Lord.  Eventually he went into ministry and has been training church leaders for 25 years.

We climbed up a small hill from the beach and walked out on to the very stone pavement where Paul spoke these words. How sobering to realize the ongoing living power coming from the Biblical account that took place right where we stood.

And how amazing to think that Paul’s words to “give thanks always for all things” were written during this imprisonment.  I am th(i)nkful for our brother Paul’s faithful testimony during that long test that God sovereignly allowed in his life. How often we become very impatient with how God has written our story.  We chafe and complain because it is hard for us and we don’t see the reason for the difficulties. Ever spend three years in prison for no good reason and wonder what God is doing?

Th(i)nkful For Grace

One of the outstanding lessons for me is that I am so incredibly thankful for “grace” – unmerited help and assistance from God.  That same grace that helped Paul through all he experienced as he was imprisoned and beaten is also fully available to me.  The grace that helped our guide respond to the challenge of Acts 26:28 is freely presented to all who desire to believe. Th(i)nkful that God is so merciful and faithful, quick to forgive, and slow to wrath.

Irony of the Aqueducts

Herod’s masterpiece on the Mediterranean – like so many other things he built in Israel – is in ruins, barely visible, just toppled rocks that beg for imagination.  The Caesarean aqueductsIMG_5834 that used to bring down fresh water from the foothills of Mt. Carmel are now dried and cracked.

But God’s living water, reflected in the life, words, and ministry of Paul, is still flowing steadily for all who would drink. People like our guide are still brought to life by the words of the living water uttered on that stone platform in Caesarea years ago.  And the flow, growing stronger and stronger these days, is reaching into the spiritual deserts of countries and communities that have never heard. Sola Deo Gloria!

Lives Still Transformed

Paul gave a compelling testimony of the saving and transforming power of Jesus Christ. So did our guide in Israel.  Your story is powerful, and no one can argue with it. Our friend Josh Chapmon is a videographer who has a ministry helping Christians record videos of their testimony simply using a smart phone to upload them to the internet. Check out God’s story in the life of Chris Dew!

 

 

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”  And Paul said, “I would to God, that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”

Acts 26:28-29

Th(i)nkful in Gethsemane

Journey to Gethsemane

Jerusalem. David and I were experiencing a dream trip come true.  Someone had provided a way for us to join a small study group to Israel.  All my life I had desired to see the places where Jesus walked and to have my eyes opened to the events of the Bible in an extraordinary manner.  I was full of thinking thanks as we actually walked along the old Jerusalem walls, into the Kidron valley, and up the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees were astounding!

As we entered I realized that it was a lot smaller than I had imagined.  Probably one reason for that was the Church of All Nations that now occupies much of the area where the garden had originally been.  The word Gethsemane means olive press.  Since the Mount of Olives is covered with olive tress, that is a most fitting name.  The garden seemed more cultivated than I expected, probably more than it was when Jesus and His disciples had gone there 2,000 years ago.  IMG_5053A fence enclosed the garden, protecting the ancient olive trees, and beautiful flowers were growing in between the old trees.  I could see walkways, but people were not allowed to enter.

Th(i)nkful for Freddie

Not sure if I was super-exhausted from travel and walking many miles a day, or because I was truly aware of the immensity of what happened on that piece of ground, but I began to cry.  Tears were streaming down my face as I peered over the fence that surrounded the garden.  I was so very th(i)nkful that Jesus “saw it through.”  For my sake, he endured through the arrest and the illegal trial that night, and then the beatings, the mocking, and the agony of the cross the next day.  The overwhelming agony was sadly juxtaposed with the underwhelmed cluelessness of his disciples who were not even able to stay awake and pray with Him.  I don’t expect I would have done any better as I so often yield to the frailty of my flesh.

IMG_5057

A man inside the garden walked up to me.  He noticed my tears and was gentle and kind.  He said that he had been the gardener there for 21 years, and his father for 40 years before him.  His name was Freddie; his father was from Romania and his mother an American Jew. He asked me to wait a minute while he went to get something.  He returned with some small sprigs clipped from the oldest olive tree in the garden!  As we continued to chat with him, we found out that Freddie’s mother was very sick so David asked if he could pray for her, and he did.

Some of the olive trees there were so huge and gnarled.  I had never seen such trees in all my life.  I wondered if in fact some of them could actually have been there 2,000 years ago when Jesus was there?

2000 year old olive tree

Rosemary in Gethsemane

IMG_5454As an epilogue, I wanted to mention that someone once told me that there was a lot of the herb rosemary in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That connected with me.  I love rosemary, and to think that it may have been growing around the area where Jesus prayed brought me joy.  Perhaps he stroked His fingers over the rosemary and smelled it like I love to do. So I was on the lookout for that as I walked around the garden.

Sure enough I found it on the north side.  It was neatly planted in a row, but I am sure that when Jesus was there it grew more wildly.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples. Sit here, while I go over there and pray. And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful , even to death; remain here, and watch with Me. 

Matthew 26:36-38