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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

Scripture: Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV)

Observation: In a ringing climax to the book, Habakkuk announces that though all the natural means of sustenance should fail, he will rejoice in God anyway, even as Paul did while awaiting a decision in a Roman jail cell (Phil. 4:4). Evidently, this is due to a continuous trust in God, regardless of external circumstances, an attitude which Habakkuk needs right now as he contemplates Babylon’s impending judgment upon Judah. Likewise, our relationship with the Lord should not be dependent on what is happening in our lives at any given moment. [Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]

Application: We find the response of Job to all his problems admirable. How could anyone loose all his/her possessions, all his/her children, and ultimately his/her health and yet not get angry or complain? Would we blame anyone for feeling despondent in such situation? Would we be shocked if they expressed their disdain, their frustration, their hopelessness? In fact, I think we would be more surprised if they didn’t!
The opposite of Job would be someone who is not able to accept their circumstances and lives in a world of denial. Studies have shown that people facing terminal disease go through several stages, with the first one being denial. The initial shock of receiving such unexpected news leads people to deny that it is really happening. “Surely the reports are wrong.” “There must be a mistake.” “This cannot possibly be happening to me.”
Habakkuk is not going through denial about what he’s going through. What he’s doing is recognizing all that is happening to him but not allowing it to shake his faith in God. He is able to maintain that positive attitude because he has seen how God has blessed him in the past. He chooses to focus on the good things and not simply give up by looking only at all the bad things.
Everyone of us will face challenging circumstances in our life at some point or another. It may be the loss of a job, losing money in a promising investment, the tragic and early death of a child or another loved one, a terminal disease diagnosed with no symptoms present or with no previous family genetic connection. It would be normal for us to have a time of denial, but we cannot remain there. When we put it all into perspective – the fact that God promises us eternal life, a family reunion from which we’ll never part, and that He will take care of us, His children, we can then share the positive, grateful attitude of Job and of Habakkuk.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, thank You for all you have done for us in the past. When things don’t go well and the pain we experience seems unbearable please remind us of all those blessings so we lift our heads up and have the positive attitude which will help us get out of the pit of despair.

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Praise God for His Will

Scripture: (1 Chr 17:16-27 NKJV)  Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? {17} “And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O LORD God. {18} “What more can David say to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant. {19} “O LORD, for Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. {20} “O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. {21} “And who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people; to make for Yourself a name by great and awesome deeds, by driving out nations from before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt? {22} “For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God. {23} “And now, O LORD, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, let it be established forever, and do as You have said. {24} “So let it be established, that Your name may be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. {25} “For You, O my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build him a house. Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray before You. {26} “And now, LORD, You are God, and have promised this goodness to Your servant. {27} “Now You have been pleased to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You have blessed it, O LORD, and it shall be blessed forever.”

Observation: David wanted to build God’s temple and told so to Nathan the prophet who encouraged him to do so.  That night God told Nathan to tell David not to build Him the temple he intended to.  David’s response is our Scripture for today, in the form of a prayer of praise.

Application: I think David’s response was exemplary.  He could have become angry or bitter that God wouldn’t want him to build the temple for His honor and glory.  He could have argued with God that he had won so many battles for God and for Israel so he should be allowed to build this great monument to God.  He could have become bitter and resentful, he could have rebelled, he could have become a stumbling block to the building of the temple, he could have acted like a bad looser or a politician after being voted out of office, or he could have reacted in many other negative ways.
What I love about this story, and why God said of David he was a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), is David’s positive, indeed joyful, reaction, which is our text for today.  The way I feel is that if we truly believe in God’s will for our lives, and that His will is always best, then if we don’t get what we thought we might, what is offered to us, or even what we hoped we would, instead of becoming bitter or resentful we should praise God and thank Him.  Don’t be sour grapes because the job you wanted was given to somebody else, because someone made a higher bid on a house you had made an offer to buy, because somebody else is now dating the person you were hoping to date, or because the person you were dating left you to marry somebody else.  Praise God it worked out that way!  That means that what God has in store for you is better than what you wanted or though you might get.  It may not appear to be so at first, but it is God’s best for you, without a doubt.

Prayer: Father, today we echo David’s words of praise for Your will in our lives.

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Scripture: (1 Sam 17:45-47 NKJV)  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. {46} “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. {47} “Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

Observation: Goliath, the Philistine giant, taunted the Israelites and their God.  David, who had come to bring some food for his brothers accepted Goliath’s challenge.  Both sides of the battle field were drawn and watched as the two contenders came face to face: on the one side Goliath, a large man with great experience in battle; on the other, young shepherd David.  Goliath, presumptuous and arrogant, threatened David, and being self-confident, he took his helmet off.  David, whose faith was child-like, relied not on the king’s armor by on God’s power to defeat this giant.  David used what he was skilled at and what was at hand – a sling and five smooth stones, but all he needed was one which found it’s target on the head of the giant who fell down and was decapitated by David.

Application: We not have to battle a Goliath, but during these times of economic uncertainties, high unemployment, etc., just surviving seems like we’re fighting an invincible giant.  I have some suggestions that could help you, if you apply them to your personal and family finances:
1. Transfer Ownership of Everything to God.
All things that we have  belong to God; we are the stewards!  Nothing really belonged to us. Our house, cars, clothing, children, and jobs were all gifts from a loving father and we were simply stewards of those gifts.  A steward knows that his responsibility is to care for the possessions of the owner. He never sees them as his own. God gives to us not so we can possess, keep, and hoard them, but so that we can be vessels and pipelines of His blessing to others. When we are trustworthy, it makes it possible for Him to bless us even more. His ownership has a single goal: to use all of His resources to be a blessing to His children.
2. Tithe and Give Offerings Joyously.
You don’t have to understand all about how tithing works; you just need to know that it does. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. God “prefers” our giving and tithing to be accompanied by which characteristic?
3. Work Hard.
God intended us to learn this important value of character. According to God’s plan for the family, we are to earn our bread by the toil and sweat of our brow. Work is satisfying, molds character, and develops gratitude, appreciation, and value.
4. Make a Realistic Budget and Keep Accurate Records.
The culprit in family finance problems is not the big-ticket items. It is the steady drip, drip, drip of spending on little purchases that no one tracks. You hit the ATM machine all weekend and end up broke on Monday with no idea where the money went. The absence of an accurate record of spending keeps couples from making good financial decisions.
5. Get out from under the Bondage of Debt.
Your attitude toward money will make a huge difference in the success or failure of your family. A familiar phrase from wedding ceremonies, ‘”Til death us do part,” has tragically become, “Til debt us do part!”  If you have credit card bills which have built up to thousands of dollars, and you no longer even have the disposable items that created the debt, that is the bondage debt about which we speak. If the item for which you went into debt does not provide collateral that is worth more than the indebtedness held against it, you have a problem in the making. To get out of debt, follow these principles:
• Pay Your Bills.
• Get Help.
• Change Your Lifestyle.

May you be victorious as you battle the economic giant that threaten to consume us and our family.

Prayer: Father, everything there is belongs to You and yet You give us so much of it for our benefit.  May we never forget to return joyfully the small portion You require of us, and help us to give generously so that others may come to know You.

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Scripture: (Judg 9:4-6 NKJV)  So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men; and they followed him. {5} Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself. {6} And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem.

Observation: In previous chapters we learned of the Gideon and how he tested God with a fleece, how he destroyed Baals altar, and how he defeated the Midianites.  But not all of Gideon’s experiences were positive.  Toward the end of the last chapter we read he built an ephod in his town of Ophrah and people came there to worship and prostituted themselves and became a snare to Gideon’s family.  Gideon had many wives so he also had many children, seventy of them.  Abimelech emerged as the leader among Gideon’s children and did it by winning the support of the people of Shechem who paid him to become their king after which he killed all but one of his seventy brothers.

Application: Stories like this make me cringe to thin of how one person could deal with his brothers in that  cruel way, and all for the sake of power and money.  And yet, I personally know of two families where a brother has dealt in similar ways (except for killing them) with his siblings by robbing them of what rightly belongs to his siblings, by taking advantage of them, and by enriching himself at their expense.  When it comes to money, some people will do anything they have to even if that means taking it from their own family members.  What is the point of selling your soul for money while your siblings or those closest to you suffer?  If the funds God gives us are not used to help others, then our selfishness will destroy something that is much more important and worth a lot more and that is our family relationships.

Prayer: Father, help us to never place material things over our family or any other person.

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Scripture: (Judg 7:20 NKJV)  Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers; they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing; and they cried, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”

Observation: Gideon’s large army had been pruned down to a very small number, particularly when compared with the army of the Midianites.  Then, they surrounded the Midianites and at the right moment they broke the pitchers, blew the trumpets, and lifted the torches at the same time as they shouted, “The sword of the Lord…”  To the half-asleep Midianite army, the noise, sights, the lights must have seemed like millions, and that caused great panic and confusion which led to their great defeat.  While on my last visit to Israel, several years ago, I remember our guide telling us that during the war with Syria over the Golan Heights, one lone Israeli tank operator did a very heroic feat.  He would drive up to the ridge and fire against the Syrians, then drive down, move to another location, drive up the ridge, fire, and repeated the same action from several locations.  Down below, on the Syrian side, they could see tanks going up and down and firing upon them and they though it was an entire combat unit, and those actions slowed down just enough for the Israeli army to come to the Golan Heights to defend that strategic site.  I imagine something similar took place during the battle when Gideon led the Israelites against the Midianites. . . who knows, maybe the Israeli tank soldier remembered this battle and knew that even a few can win a battle over the most.  Then again, it was God fighting on the side of Gideon and his army, not just the military tactics they employed.

Application: Today we’re enjoying family togetherness as our younger daughter, who studies at Andrews University in Michigan, is home for spring break.  Our older daughter, who lives nearby, is joinging us, and the four of us plan to spend the day together.  Those opportunities don’t come by too often nowadays, so we praise and than God for it.  As I think of the battle of Gideon’s army, I can’t help but think of the battles we as parents have to fight for our children.  The enemies of our children are great and many and at times we are overwhelmed and shaken to think of these seemly insurmountable foes.  But maybe that’s why this story is here, to remind us as parents that we may be small and seemly powerless, but if we blow the trumpet and lift up the torch (God’s word), victory will be ours and our children’s.  I would like to liken blowing the trumpet to our living testimony, and lifting the torch to studying the Bible – I suppose if you want to take the analogy further, you could say that breaking the pitchers is eliminating those negative influences that threaten to enslave us and our children.  But we do know and must be fully convinced of is that the Battle is the Lord and we need to commit ourselves and our children to Him if we’re to gain the final victory.
I know the following passages are not directly related to what I just concluded, but they are very inspiring nonetheless.
“The leader whom God chose to overthrow the Midianites occupied no prominent position in Israel. He was not a ruler, a priest, or a Levite. He thought himself the least in his father’s house. But God saw in him a man of courage and integrity. He was distrustful of himself and willing to follow the guidance of the Lord. God does not always choose for His work men of the greatest talents, but He selects those whom He can best use. “Before honor is humility.” Proverbs 15:33. The Lord can work most effectually through those who are most sensible of their own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their ignorance with His wisdom.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. This is why, in choosing the instruments for His work, the Lord passes by those whom the world honors as great, talented, and brilliant. They are too often proud and self-sufficient. They feel competent to act without counsel from God.”  {Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 553}
“The Lord is willing to do great things for us. We shall not gain the victory through numbers, but through the full surrender of the soul to Jesus. We are to go forward in His strength, trusting in the mighty God of Israel. There is a lesson for us in the story of Gideon’s army. . . . The Lord is just as willing to work through human efforts now, and to accomplish great things through weak instrumentalities.  {Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage, p. 127}

Prayer: Father, give the courage to go through this conflict and win the final battle against your foe.  But also give us the victory with and for our children that we together may enjoy the rewards of eternal life together.

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Scripture: (Josh 18:4-6 NKJV)  “Pick out from among you three men for each tribe, and I will send them; they shall rise and go through the land, survey it according to their inheritance, and come back to me. {5} “And they shall divide it into seven parts. Judah shall remain in their territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall remain in their territory on the north. {6} “You shall therefore survey the land in seven parts and bring the survey here to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

Observation: As Joshua nears the end of his life, he wants to ensure that the land is conquered and settled properly, so he send men from every tribe to survey the land and then to divide it among the remaining tribes yet to be settled.

Application: Joshua was a very conscientious leader and wanted to make sure everything was done properly before his death.  I think as Christians we must be careful with all our accounting, that we do things rightly, justly, and correctly.  I’m thinking of at least a few areas:
1. Tithes and offerings.  As much as we need to do things legally in this world, so much more with God.  The tithe is ten percent of all our income and it belongs to God.  In addition to the tithe, God expects us to be generous and give an additional amount of offerings.
2. Taxes.  As much as we may dislike paying taxes, it is those funds that for the most part take care of the expenses of our country, state, city, or community where we live.  We benefit from the taxes we pay and what others pay as well.  We must be careful that taxes are paid properly and that we do everything legally.
3.  Make sure the accounting of our funds is done carefully.  We should make sure to reconcile the checking and savings accounts every month to make we have what we believe we do and not overdraw our accounts.
4. Budgeting is important to control our expenditures and save for future needs of the household.
We may not be accountants of hold a masters in business administration (MBA); however, simple accounting of our funds can save us a lot of headaches and will help us be faithful with the means God provides us for our sustenance.

Prayer: Father, help us to be faithful in our accounting of Your gifts and to remember You first of all as we manage these funds.

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Scripture: “So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—12then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 13You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. 14You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15(for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.  (Deuteronomy 6:10-15 NKJV)

 

Observation: God knows the temptation the Israelites would have, going into the land He was giving them, to simply move in and forget He had given it to them.  Moses challenges to keep their heart true to the Giver and not just simply take the gift, and the Giver, for granted.

 

Application: As an immigrant, I can identify with the Israelites.  I grew up in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, on the northwest corner of South America.  We grew up in a middle class family, all of us six children studied and graduated from high school, a privilege not everyone in the country enjoys even today.  One of my brothers went on to college and to a successful career in radio and television broadcasting and as a journalist and book critic.  Another one of my brothers was a police officer for many years and has been in the Air Force for many more.

     When we left Bogotá to come to the United States, Bogotá’s population was about 2 ½ million people, more than most if not all cities in Mid-America.  Our first home was in Takoma Park, Maryland, at that time the site of the General Conference, and just miles from Washington D.C.  For me, living in that area was almost surreal, like living a dream.  With my mother and younger brother, we would visit the monuments and museums, we would ride the bus whenever it would take us up and down the streets of that beautiful city, and all along we were in awe of its cleanliness and gorgeous architecture.  I remember one Sunday ne notices a crowd gathered in front of a church, so we came close to see what was happening, and there, coming out of the church, was the president of the United States, Gerald Ford.  Unbelievable!  These three newcomers to the US, and here we got to see in person, though briefly and from quite a distance, the president of this great nation.  On another occasion, while I was working at the Capital Hilton Hotel, just three blocks from the White House, I was asked to open and close the curtain for a program presented by the Gridiron Club.  While I did it, up on the stage, barely 3 feet away from me, there stood Mrs. Ford, wife of the president of the United States, and her husband, the president, was just on the other side of the room.  Mrs. Henry Kissinger, and a lot of other politicians and powerful people were also there. . . I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! 🙂

     Little by little we got ourselves situated, got an apartment, bought furniture and clothes, attended college, got married, and continued life like everybody else.  We became part of the people, part of the culture, part of the nation, citizens of this country, contributing to its economy and well being, voting, exercising our rights, enjoying our privileges, respecting its laws.

     Today’s Bible reading reminds me that all we have and all we are is God’s gift to us.  As immigrants, we have been given a great gift, the privilege of coming to this country.  Personally, I’m grateful because here I received my faith, my family, and my education.  Here we have been able to live and succeed, work and rest, travel and see many wonderful things.  And yet I must pause to remember that the homes where we have lived have been built and lived in by others, the jobs I have had were pioneered by others, the education I have has been provided by others.  That’s what God wants us to remember.  To have the heart of an immigrant and be grateful for all we have and are because we have benefitted from the work of those who came before us, and because God has been the One to provide it all for us.  May we never forget His generosity and turn away from Him Who gives us all.

 

Prayer: father, at this moment we pause to thank You for all You have given us.  Help us to always be thankful for all Your generosity.

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