Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Many pastors announced from the pulpit yesterday that Wednesday night service would be cancelled due to the holiday – Thanksgiving and for everyone to enjoy time with their family. My heart sank just a bit. I enjoy being with my church family, sharing life with them, entering the Presence of God together, but it is also a relief that I can set aside that night to begin to prepare the meal for Thursday and get ready to gather as a family eating and watching football. Playing some games, and a Christmas Wreath that I am pretty pumped about creating. For me this is going to be a great time of food and fellowship. I am truly thankful. But service in my home and my life is not cancelled.
I have every reason to continue to shout for joy to the Lord. I can worship Him with gladness. I know that the Lord is God and that He is always good. He made me. I belong to Him. I am His People and He provides for me as His Sheep. I will enter His Gates with Thanksgiving. I will come to His Courts with praise. I will give Him thanks and praise His Name. For the Lord is good and His Love endures forever even when mine gets a little frazzled and frayed around the edges. He is faithful. I am making this choice on Monday knowing full well that the enemy will challenge me before Friday. Thanksgiving is a mindset not a moment. Those who choose to be thankful and announce their joy to the world will have a good time because they have invited Jesus into their heart and home not just the building that they call church. What will you decide today? Is service cancelled for you? Or will it continue to resonant through your home and family this week?
I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
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; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I looked up the word “thanksgiving” in the dictionary. More precisely, Dictionary.com which I use frequently when I want to see what man thinks a word means compared to the literal Biblical translation. Blew my mind! When I find positive references to God, I am amazed. According to this reference, the word “thanksgiving” means grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favors specifically to God. Stop it…specifically to God. Undeniably God. He is the One to acknowledge for the good things in our life. Everything good we know comes from Him and is freely given to us even when we are not in a right relationship with the Lord, He still strives to make mercy hit the mark and change our hard heart to receive all that He has for us.
Last night during our youth service, the kids were challenged to change the atmosphere of their life. Lots of complaining and griping, the youth pastor did not tiptoe around the truth but leveled the mandate that if your life is not lining up with the Word, Way and Will of God that you are empowered and equipped to change that even if your parents are not on board. I have never seen so many shocked teenagers in my life. It took some time but they finally understood this message and were set free in the knowledge that in Christ we are not limited by our environment but that in all things we are more than conquerors because Jesus lives in us.
I understand the struggle of those kids in the holidays. No parent is perfect. Each situation is different. All people are individuals with varying personalities and when placed in one house even under the best of circumstances – food, football, fellowship and more food – it is not always enjoyable. I am going to challenge all the moms, dads, siblings to change the atmosphere as we did last night. For many years now, I have spent the holidays between my family and the hospital staff who cared for our son during his fight. When I saw them a couple months ago, we were all sad that we couldn’t plan and strategize our black Friday deals together but glad he had won the fight. I have had the privilege of celebrating the holidays in the Hope Lodge, the American Cancer Society’s refuge for people undergoing treatment away from home. Yes, it was a privilege. Why? It changed my perspective completely. For my whole adult life, I dreaded the holidays. I went through the motions of just trying to get it over with. Lists, menus, and schedules for our children just wanting it over with. Why? When I was a kid, I split the holidays between my mom and dad’s homes with different people and attitudes. I would eat multiple meals. It left a mark. I am not sure why as my parents did their best under the circumstances but I always felt so torn. So when I began having children, I decided that we would not visit on Christmas. They could enjoy their gifts and stay in pajamas all day if they wanted to. It was still not enough to rid me of this curse.
The Bible says in Romans 8:28 that the Lord works all things for our good who love Him. This would be no exception. I began baking for the caregivers in the Lodge as our patients rested and healed. We did puzzles together and talked. No one was running around like a chicken with their head cutoff just enjoying one another. I was in no position to do everything I normally did though I tried and somehow Thanksgiving and Christmas got by. I looked at last year’s picture taken during the holidays of my five now six kids goofing around together. I have all that I need to be glad. God is good! Service is not cancelled for us. Jesus lives in us. He has made His Presence known to our family and I intend to celebrate right on through. Is it because of what the Lord has done for us? Yes. But not as one might think…it was not in the outcome but the journey that He filled us with His Joy, Peace and Love so now it is leaking out of us.
Psalm 42:4-5 (NIV)
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
The calendar is telling the story of the days that are coming. Depression and anxiety are rampant during the holiday season. The green light doesn’t mean “go” but RUSH as fast as you can and do as many things as possible even if it kills you. Forget the budget because there will never be enough. You will be forced to spend your time with people you don’t necessary like but love will require it. I am crawling up on a table in the midst of this chaos and yelling, “STOP!” Just because church is closed and the lights turned off doesn’t mean that our light cannot and should not stay on. We have it all wrong. The church is just a building like a gas burning lamp. Each match brings a flame that turns the fuel into fire. You took your part with you now it’s time to fan that flame into a fire that will carry you through until we meet together again.
Corporate worship will only be as good as an individual’s relationship and revelation of Jesus Christ. You are the one who invites Him and He comes. You are the One who requests entrance to His Presence and the door opens. It is no secret recipe but an answer to the call, “Whosoever will let them come.” Jesus is knocking. He wants to come and share a meal with us. He is the reason that we have anything at all to be thankful for. To find joy and peace during this madness that man has made of the holidays is to remember that Jesus is the reason for this season. He is responsible for every good thing in my life. He is the One who woke me up this morning, turned my mourning into dancing, and exchanged my sorrow for joy. He is the One who decided that I was worth dying for, following, never forsaking and He gave me a future beyond this life that is far greater than any day I endure here even the good ones.
1 Peter 2:1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Psalm 107:1 (NIV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Why does a baby cry when it’s hungry? It cannot feed itself. It does not know and understand that its need will soon be met and they will be satisfied so they scream at the top of their lungs wanting an immediate response to their discomfort. Know that the Lord is good. As we shout our joy to the Lord in praise and bring thanksgiving into His Courts it is unfounded and meaningless if we do not know, understand and accept that He is good. His Love for us endures forever. He does not act maliciously or forget us callously but works diligently to respond to us. But if we never get past the “baby phase” in our spiritual life, we will never understand the Source of Joy within us. The wellspring that overflows from in knowing that God is good. Martha was task minded and would have to learn to sit and bask at the Savior’s feet. Now I am not so sure Mary didn’t have to learn how to serve a little more but truly it is easier to learn to work for the Lord than forgetting everything that needs to be done and sit in His Presence. Work is something we are taught from a young age. We must earn it. Right? But to come to the realization that there is nothing Jesus needs us to do but what He wants us to do is spend time with Him.
Genesis 9:12-17 (NIV)
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
It was two weeks from the time our son was diagnosed with cancer the first time and when his initial treatment began, I cannot even recall those days they are erased from my memory. Taking leave from my job, I kissed my husband and children goodbye to make the two hour journey to be with him for the duration. As praise and worship music reminded me of God’s Faithfulness, Goodness and Love – I began to sing through me tears. I was on the road about 30 minutes when the craziest thing happened. Rainbows. Not one, but I lost count during the drive. They were everywhere. I haven’t thought about that until now. I wish I had counted now wondering if one represented the twists and turn in the road of the journey. Who knows? But one thing was clear the Lord was intent on letting me know that He was with us and His Covenant intact.
Too many times we look at our life and circumstances to determine the Goodness of God when faith is based on confidence in hope we cannot see. If we can see it or master it or create it, we don’t need faith to conquer it. All the doing in our life is not nearly as important as our undoing in the Hands of the Father as He makes our life what He created it to be which will always be far better than we could think to ask for. This is the basis of our faith. He is good. His Love endures forever. He is faithful to His Covenant because He is the Lord and it pleases Him. We have every reason to rejoice in the fact that these attributes are working for us even when the world is against us.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
The Lord brought me back to these verses again today. I am the Church that Jesus is coming back for – me, myself and I. If no one else decides to love Him, follow Him, or serve Him but me, He would still come get me. He loves me that much. He loves you exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have, do or don’t do, feel or not. What matters is who loves you? We are given the privilege of His Presence. Every day all day. Everywhere and anyplace we can step in. You have probably been asked to bring your best dish or favorite recipe to contribute to dinner on Thursday. But what are you bringing to His Presence today? Thanksgiving. Praise. Joy. Love. What? When we learn to live in the Presence of God outside of church – we become His Church. We bring to the table more than our human potential could muster and release God’s Power – His Love – wherever we go. Our salvation and secure future is enough to do this every day. The fact the God – the One True God, His Son – Jesus and the Holy Spirit choose to reside in us, work through us, and to love us is more than I can stand at any given moment. My life is totally worth living just because He lives. I am worth dying for – Jesus proved it. Now it is up to me to keep the show on the road. Service is not cancelled for this girl. I will praise Jesus every day and enter His Courts with thanksgiving right through the world’s holiday madness. I will share the joy that I have found in His Love. I will extend grace in the midst of chaos. I will give love even if the other person is unlovable. It is the least I can do to respond to His Unfailing Love and Faithfulness.
Psalm 146:1-2 (NIV)
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.