Jesus

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Dear God,

I wanted to write to you today and thank you for the amazing gift you gave me and all of humanity.  It was so thoughtful of you to think of us!  I really wasn’t expecting something so wonderful and life giving!  

I am of course, writing to thank you for Jesus.  For that little baby you breathed into Mary thousands of years ago.  For that little child who grew to be a powerful yet quiet man.  God clothed in skin who experienced all the hardships, joys, temptations, love, frustrations and miracles you have blessed this world with.  

I’m so sorry, however, that your Son had to also experience the pain of our sin.  When I think of His last days it brings me so much sadness.  Your gift to us was so beautiful and we destroyed it with a vengeance.  And yet you still love us.  So much so you raised up that gift of Jesus for awhile to teach us a few more lessons before He went home to you.

Heavenly Father, we are entering into a season that should be all about the gift of your Son, Jesus.   Help us, through your Holy Spirit, to remember that little baby, that man, who gave so much in order to cleanse us of our sins.  

Today, oh God, I’m so thankful for the salvation your Son brought to those of us who pronounce Him King of our lives.  Your gracious and mercy-filled gift to us is all we ever need.  I know this small note of thankfulness can never repay you for your kindness.  I look forward to seeing you one day so that I can thank you in person.

Your loving servant,

Kris 

I hope you have enjoyed these 30 Days of Thankfulness! I’m taking some time off from the blog to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year! God bless and Merry Christmas!

Holy Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

About 10 years ago the church I attended began a series about the Holy Spirit.  I was fairly new in my walk with God and didn’t realize what a big deal this series was for this church.  As the pastor began his first sermon, he kept taking care to deal with the congregation’s feeling of discomfort.  And I kept wondering what the issue was. So, I finally asked someone.  I learned the Holy Spirit just wasn’t something this denomination talked about, ever.  I’ve also since learned other denominations avoid teaching about Holy Spirit out of a fear of being too “charismatic.”  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19

Oh, we crazy Christians.  How often is our religious life marred by fears of how we will be seen or downright lack of knowledge of biblical truths?  Christians who consider themselves “proper and dignified” because they don’t acknowledge the gifts of the spirit are denying Jesus’ own words.  But to deny the Holy Spirit as an equal part of the majestic trinity is very unbiblical!  Jesus, Himself, told us He would send another in His place to guide us.  If we deny this great gift from God what else are we prepared to deny from Him?  On the flip side I know of a young woman whose church taught that everyone has the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.  That also is denying biblical truths and the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our individual lives.

In the past I’ve described hearing from the Holy Spirit like a tap on the shoulder.  A whisper in my ear which spurs me to either act for God or to stop in my tracks for Him.  To keep my mouth shut when needed and to speak when the spirit puts the right words in my mouth.  I’m so thankful I know the Holy Spirit and love when the spirit weaves throughout my day.  I can’t do this thing called “life” alone; and I don’t want to. 

The Holy Spirit helped breathe life into us during creation.  It was the Holy Spirit that brought so many to Jesus at Pentecost. It speaks to us and guides us in Jesus’ stead. If you don’t know about the Holy Spirit, call on Him in your prayers.  Read what Jesus and the disciples said about Him. I, for one, am so thankful we have this Helper to bring us through our days until Jesus’ return.

Rest

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

After a busy Thanksgiving, taking relatives to the airport, and doing some holiday shopping, my husband, older daughter and I took a day off from all the busyness and played golf.  I suppose you could call what I played “golf” even though it didn’t go so well!  But it was nice to get out with them and enjoy a relaxing, beautiful day.  

For a long time, I struggled with resting.  With just doing something fun that had no goal.  Before kids, my husband and I would spend Saturday running around doing errands.  Come Sunday I would start stressing out about Monday’s workload!  When my kids were younger, we always had sports on the weekends with tournaments lasting from Thursday until Sunday afternoon.  These last couple of years I’ve finally taken to heart the idea of resting.  Resting and enjoying all the blessings that God has gifted us.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

Toiling and striving and anxiously lying awake thinking about how we can toil some more the next day!  It’s not good for our health and it’s not the life God intended for us.  It’s so sad that two major companies in the United States who made the choice to stay closed on Sundays have received so much grief for that decision.  But the leaders of those companies are Christians who take the message and gift of the Sabbath to heart.

I still catch myself feeling guilty for resting.  I have to remind myself that it’s not a luxury.  It’s a requirement by God.  Whether we are rich or poor, with children or not, retired or still working, God wants us to be rested, ready to do His good works when needed.  

I’m so thankful for this gift of rest.  It shows how much God loves us and wants the best for us.  He wants us to be recharged and energized followers of Jesus.  Not burned out, overworked, stressed and therefore unable to see how beautiful this world is He created.  Unable to stop and help someone in need.  So today on this Sabbath day take this gift of rest freely.  Take time for yourself and enjoy.

Tears

But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son.  In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love.  Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello.  When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak.  I stood there sobbing in her arms.

It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla.  I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family.  I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation.  I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters.  And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God.  It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials.  Because those trials produce good fruit in us.  And that fruit becomes something for us to share.

I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried.  What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life.  With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring  us great joys.  I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more.  I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”

I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions.  To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone.  I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off.  I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.

Abundance

When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.  Numbers 11:9

There’s a lot of chaos in the world these days creating havoc in so many lives.  But if we were to breakdown the situation into two basic schools of thought we’d probably arrive at the concepts of scarcity and abundance.  On one side you have people who believe everything in the world is limited.  Limited natural resources, limited finances, limited opportunities, limited food, limited education, and on and on.  On the other you have the concept of abundance.  That we are limited only by our will to seek, create, build, gather, harvest, and more.

God created a world teeming with abundance.  He has always provided and will always provide.  That’s not to say we don’t need to share in that abundance but rather we should live in the mindset of what we are given is 1) from God and 2) enough.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life  does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 1:14

When we think of the gift of abundance from God, we can be swayed by the world into attributing it to “stuff.”  How much stuff, money, food, etc we have.  We will see that unfold today with Black Friday stories of fighting and grasping for more of that “stuff.” But in God’s world abundance is to be shared.  Whether we are blessed by money, talents, love, possessions, and more God is always asking us to give freely and abundantly just like Him.  

The concept of scarcity entered the biblical story when Pharaoh was worried about the drought and famine.  He greedily began gathering up all the grains and animals for himself.  He worried he wouldn’t have enough.  And throughout the Bible we read stories of people, like the prince who approached Jesus to become one of his disciples, who cannot open their treasure stores because of their fears of scarcity.

These conflicting world views are sometimes used to say Jesus is a socialist.  But that twists the message of the Bible.  A government which forcibly takes from one people (who they deem having too much abundance) and gives it to others (who they deem are not able to live abundantly) is acting out of that scarcity mindset.  Jesus always wants our heart.  He is powerful enough to demand it but wants it freely. 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25

When I see young people on the streets screaming for the rich to “pay their fair share” it really saddens me. What is a “fair share?”  Who has determined what someone is “owed?”  Who has determined what is “enough?”  All that comes from a belief there isn’t enough.  But God has created a world of amazing abundance.  There will always be those that have more and those who have less.  The only person we owe anything to is Jesus.  And when we thank Him for His abundant love for us we should be spurred to share in all that He has given us.

The Bible

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

As I’ve progressed in the study of the Bible, I’ve learned that the entire Bible teaches us about one subject – Jesus.  From beginning to end Jesus appears.  He is part of the creation team, the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar, the prophecy of Isaiah, and so much more.  So, when Jesus, after His resurrection, reminds the disciples that His death fulfilled all that the Old Testament taught us we should be spurred to investigate further.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

You can buy a Bible that only includes the New Testament.  But that would be like getting dropped into the middle of a battle not knowing why it started and which side you should be on!  And while there are so many great lessons and the message of salvation in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the full weight of those gifts lies in the cornerstones set in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and more.

It’s believed the first book of the Bible written was Job, around 2000 BC. After that the 10 Commandments and then the Book of the Law were placed in the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC.  The New Testament books were written about 50 AD.   Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, considered the original entire Bible, in 312 AD.  And in 1381, John Wycliffe defied church authority and began translating the Bible into English and distributing handwritten books to laypeople.  With the advent of the printing press in 1455, the Bible began its journey to being one of the most popular books ever printed.

I’m so thankful God took His Word and through man put it in this book we call the Bible.  With it we can learn about His character, His promises and fulfillment of them, His expectations, His plans for us.  My Bible sat for years gathering dust, not respecting its long history and those who died to make it accessible to all.  It seemed unwieldy and confusing.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, teachers and the fellowship of Christians I’ve come to see the beautiful story, the amazing truth of Jesus, Son of God.  The Bible is a living document, one which grows with us as we dig deeper into our faith.

Today on this great day of Thanksgiving in the United States I want to spur you to open your Bible.  To read the history of our broken world.  To read the entire, true story of a God who loves us.  Of a God who never leaves us.  Of a God who promises to deliver us from our sins.  Of a God who sent His son to be sacrificed so that we will be brought home, cleaned and forgiven.

Mercy

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  Mistakes that have hurt my husband, my children, others I love, friends, strangers and even myself.  My sins pile up each day, the cessation of which I seem wholly unable to accomplish.  And I’m not alone.  

We are a fallen, sinful lot, us humans.  If we were to take a moment, right now, to think about last week, how many times did we tell a lie, no matter how small?  How many times did we demand to be first, rather than last?  How many times did we put our pride over another’s need?  How many days have gone by that you haven’t forgiven your mother, sister, friend or even that stranger who cut you off on the road?

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalms 51:1

There have been a number of attempts over the years to try and convince society that original sin is just a myth.  That man is really a naturally good person.  In the 1800s a man by the name of Robert Owen decided “none are or can be bad by nature.”  So, he set out to create a utopian, socialist society in New Harmony, Indiana.  That experiment lasted just three years before it collapsed.  The reason?  Sin is not the result of some outward set of problems or circumstances that cause us to  “go bad.”  No, it’s because we are by nature sinful.  One only need to look at the answers to my questions at the beginning of this post!

Someone was talking to me about the concept of “being true to our authentic self.”  It was in reference to accepting immoral behavior as good and right.  But I have to tell you, my “authentic self” pops through quite enough already and gets me into plenty of trouble.  I’m just incredibly thankful that at the end of each day as I lay my head down to sleep, I can ask for mercy and forgiveness.  And it is given freely.

Innovation & Creativity

…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Exodus 31:3-5

As I sit here writing this installment of 30 Days of Thanksgiving, I am reminded of a day over 30 years ago as I sat in front of a new Macintosh computer.  As a journalism major at San Diego State University, I was fortunate to be able to use the brand new, one of a kind Macintosh-only lab situated in my college.  Today, I use an incredibly fast and powerful laptop.  But back then that little box with a tiny gray screen and it’s smiling Mac face could barely allow me to save a single five page document on a single sided diskette.  Over the next three years I saw that little Macintosh evolve into a computer with an actual hard drive that could store quite a bit more data.  But compared to the mega computer that is now called my Iphone, it paled in comparison.

God’s gift of innovation and creativity has led to amazing advancements over our 1,000s of years.  The tiny spark of fire and the invention of the wheel were legendary, but history will probably record the last 30 years or so as ones where our unique ability to dream and create new solutions to heal, communicate, build, and more has been some of the most influential yet.  While I was tinkering around with that tiny Macintosh my parents were still trying to get used to their new answering machine and microwave oven!  And look at us now! 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

A bird creates a perfect nest for her eggs.  But she won’t ever dream of how to make it better.  Her instinct tells her one way to create that nest – which might not withstand a storm.  With our gift of innovation, we learn why buildings collapse in earthquakes and seek new designs and materials and even the best sites upon which to build.  We are a creating people – in the image of God, the Great Creator.

I am not an inventor but I am the type of person always looking for ways to streamline or how to “do it better.”  From cooks who seek to adjust recipes to be healthier to the farmer who discovers new ways to increase crop yields and the doctor who discovers a pattern in a disease to the scientist who turns an Amazonian plant into a cure, we humans always seem to be seeking the best way, the new way, the different way. 

I thank God today for the innovative and creative spirit He placed in us.  Our lives have all been blessed with each leap we take forward into the future.

Written Word

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 34:28

As a college student, I majored in journalism with a minor in English.  You could surmise I enjoy the written word so much I wanted to make a living at a job that required a lot of writing.  I dreamed of one day writing a novel or even a regular column in a magazine.  And although neither of those has happened (yet!) my eventual career path in public relations saw me using those skills in abundance. 

The degradation of the written and spoken word these days drives people like me a bit batty.  Not only do people rarely speak face to face but they also don’t write much.  Text messaging has broken all the basic rules of the written word with shortcuts such as “lol” and “brb.”  But I suppose it’s just another step in the evolution of God’s gift to us of language and the written word.

Write them (the Commands) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 11:20

There are currently around 6,000 different languages spoken around the world. It’s been estimated that it would have taken at least 100,000 years for a single language to have diversified that much. That would take us back to the middle of the Stone Age according to BBC Science Focus magazine.  But archeologists have found languages written in Mesopotamia dating back to the 8th millennium BC.  God has been at work helping us communicate with each other for a very long time!

When we think about Moses writing the Bible about 1500 years before Jesus’ birth, we should sit in awe at the beauty of it all.  The poetry, symbolism, logic, history and storytelling have guided millions upon millions of believers.  I’ve marveled with my Bible study ladies at the sophistication level of the apostle’s letters to the churches.  Their ability to use the written word to educate, admonish and encourage people for thousands of years must be the envy of any author.

God has always provided what we, as humans, need to survive and thrive in this world.  His gift of language and the written word has catapulted us ahead of all the biological life on Earth.  I thank Him not only for the Bible but for all the poetry, novels, history books, songs, letters, phone calls, conversations and yes, text messages that have been made possible because of His love for us.

Stars

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 1 Corinthians 15:41

I have always been fascinated by the stars.  In fact, for many years I longed to be an astronaut so I could travel beyond our atmosphere and see the stars from a different vantage point.  It’s strange to realize that the average person probably knows little to nothing about the beautiful lights that grace our heavens each and every night.

When we got our current dog, Tucker, I insisted that my husband and I walk him each night.  It’s become a wonderful time for us to recap our day and spend time together.  We have a route that takes us around our block and through a local park.  And as we approach an open space area we stop and marvel at the heavens.  Orion’s belt, the Big Dipper, Venus, Mars, the moon all wink back at us, along with thousands of other beautiful pinpoint lights.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  Matthew 2:10

Of course, this time of year stargazing takes on a special meaning.  It’s a reminder of God’s sign to the world that something amazing, His long-given promise, was about to unfold.  It was a perfect way to announce our Lord’s birth.  A unique bright light from the heavens for all to see.  Some would accept it as a miracle while others still today consider it a threat to all they hold dear.

I thank God for those millions of tiny lights in the sky.  When I turn my face upward I know I’m looking right at God’s wonder, glory and authority.  It’s His way of telling us there’s more to this plan than just the Earth.  The heavens and its stars are endless, just like our Almighty God.