Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I’m looking forward to it!  I love what it means, the gathering of family and friends and of course the opportunity to eat!  Today I wanted to share some verses of thanksgiving, verses that speak to what we have to be thankful for, and even verses to challenge us and keep us humble.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2

“”These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.””  John 16:33

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have, for the very gift of life, and for the gift of God in our lives.  Things could have gone so much differently for us, we could not have a God who’s so involved in and invested in our lives.  We could have fewer blessings and promises that we can depend on.  We could not be able to see the workings of God in big and little ways in our lives and the world.  We could be less individual and more similar.  We could all face significant challenges and threats on our lives.  And most of all we could be without hope in the future and in a permanent home in Heaven some day with God.  And those are just a few of the things we can think about this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table.

The Pilgrims created Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the most simple of things: being alive.  They were thankful to have found friends in the Native Americans and in their own ability to survive and work on thriving in a new world.  They weren’t celebrating billion dollar successes, curing serious diseases or finally helping world peace happen.  No, the were just thankful to be alive.  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the big and little things in your life.  Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as being alive.

An Encouragement for Freedom

This month we’re talking about families, and I know as well as you do that family can be some of the most challenging, constricting, limiting, frustrating experiences! So today I want to share 7 encouraging verses to reflect on this week. check out the passages, talk them over with your family, share them with friends and spend some time working with God on releasing yourself from all that entangles you and discover the freedom God wants for you.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1

What verses encourage you?

Strength to Overcome

Thanksgiving brings up a lot of things for people: the rush to Christmas, the crush of family, the pressure of parties and seasons greetings.  One of the challenges of the season we’re entering is the challenge of being sincere in our expression of emotions.  I’m sure that you’ve uttered “if I hear another Christmas song I’m gonna scream!” or some similar sentiment about the number of cheerful “elves” who have wished you a happy holidays.  For some this season is just a chance to watch football, party and eat a lot, and most of us do have some holiday spirit if we try enough.  But for some of us, the holidays are truly magical.  They’re a gift of joy, thankfulness, peace and togetherness, something we can’t always celebrate or recognize throughout the rest of the year.  It’s an opportunity for us to slow down a little and appreciate all we have.  It’s a celebration of all we’ve done in the year ending and all we hope is coming in the new year.  It’s a chance to celebrate the things we’ve faced and overcome in this year and in our lives.  Jeremiah 1:19 says:

“People will fight against you, but they will not defeat you, because I am with you.”

One of the reasons I write my Personal Victories newsletter each week is because we don’t always take the time to celebrate our lives and the things we work through each day.  We don’t always make the time to thank God for the victories He helps us have and the challenges we’ve defeated.  We don’t always recognize that God is that little bit of strength that helps us get through that day, that the little miracle of a parking space, perfect gift, coincidental meeting with a friend, or special bonus at work.  Yet throughout the Bible God claimed that He would indeed give us the strength we needed to get through those times.

As we think about Thanksgiving next week, I encourage you to take time each day to stop and recognize the moments that God helped you through.  Maybe you’ve been chalking it up to luck lately, but it’s more than that.  They’re the moments God sends a little blessing your way.  What are you thankful for today?

A Future Filled with Hope

This month our topic is hope, and what a better discussion to start it off than Jeremiah 29:10-14:

“After Babylonia has been the strongest nation for seventy years, I will be kind and bring you back to Jerusalem, just as I have promised. I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship. Then I will gather you from all the nations where I scattered you, and you will return to Jerusalem.”

I know it’s a really familiar passage (although maybe not in this translation), and that you’ve heard it thousands of times and it doesn’t seem that big or interesting anymore. But it’s also one of the most enduring statements of hope and encouragement in the Bible.  You probably could recite it, right?  Which means that not only have you heard it before, you remember it.

That’s one of the keys to hope: in order for it to actually matter and fulfill its purpose, it has to stick with you (like peanut butter or mashed potatoes).  The best kind of hope of course is hope placed in God, because He won’t let you down.  Maybe He won’t finish things exactly as you asked Him to, but He will finish them in a way that shows His care for you, his precious child.

If you’ve focused too long on the situation you’re in and not on the hope you have in God, it’s time to change that.  You can’t move forward in life if you’re stuck in reverse.  Look to and start planning a future that you actually want, and start walking towards it today.

The Heart of Happiness

In our lives much of our happiness is tied to other people, and especially the words they use in our presence.  As much as we try to deny it, we thrive or whither based on what other people say about us.  The wounds the words of others create in us can take a long time to heal.

While you may not believe that thinking positive would really have an impact on your life, it’s true, the words you hear and think do have an impact on your life.  If you think and speak positively about life you’re more likely to have friends, more likely to get the job, more likely to have better self-esteem, and have a more fulfilling life.  Granted, no one’s life is positive all the time, nor will thinking or speaking positively keep all the challenges and heartaches out of your life.

Jeremiah 15:16 says: “Your words came to me, and I ate them up. They made me very happy.”

The words Jeremiah is speaking about were words God spoke to him, but the words in the Bible can encourage each of us too.  Everyone needs a source of renewal, a way to deal with the negative and re-center ourselves and our minds.  It’s one reason we’re encouraged to read the Bible and other spiritual books, because they’re a source of encouragement and strength as we deal with the challenges and choices that we face each day.

This week I encourage you to remember that your words have power.  What words have you said lately to someone that made them happy or brought them encouragement?

Crossroad Thoughts

One of the verses I am inspired by every time I read it is Jeremiah 6:16.  It reads “This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.””

I feel like we’re at a crossroads in our lives.  We’ve seen the tragedy in Japan and also recently in New Zealand, as well as Haiti last year.   We’re seeing dramatic actions around the world in Sudan, Egypt, Lyibia, and even some in Wisconsin, USA.  But even more than that, we’re still struggling as a world to rebuild the economy and our lives from the past few years of challenges.  It’s scary to think about these things getting worse or impacting more people, but they will if we don’t choose the right way.

Jeremiah shares in this verse that we should ask the ancient paths for advice.  This is key for us today.  It reminds us that we have to be talking with others about what is going on, not by complaining, but talking about real action steps that can be taken to make progress and improvements.  Don’t just assume you have to get a new job when you’re laid off, or that nothing can be done to make changes around the world.  How we have lived our lives in the past century has led us to believe these things. But the truth is, there are more options available to you and me today than there ever were.  Start a business and contribute to groups doing the right things around the planet both in nature and with people.

So today I want to encourage you to do three things.  One, stop.  Don’t just keep going down a road, stop and check out the crossroads that are around you before you continue on.  Second, ask.  Talk to people!  Find out what the options are in and around your life.   Ask for encouragement and support your friends and family in their respective journeys.  Finally, walk in it.  Don’t just stop, don’t just talk, take action.  Check out a couple path options with people, see how it feels and then decide what you should be relentlessly pursuing.

These are just a couple of thoughts for you on Jeremiah 6:16 (you can read others here).  I would love to hear what crossroads you are at in life and what options you are considering pursuing (I’ll help you with the action steps if you wish 🙂 ).  Share your thoughts below.

Verses of Hope

Today I’m sharing some Biblical encouragement. Share your favorite verses below!

Philippians 4:13 “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Lamentations 3:26 “So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.”

Habakkuk 2:3 “This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.”

Psalm 62:1-2 “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Share your hopeful verses below!