CHRISTMAS QUIZ

Use it with your Christmas family. I put together a Thanksgiving quiz. Great discussion. Trying now with Christmas. I’ll send answers if you want (pa@harvestcommunities.org).

  1. How many miles did Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem a) 50  b) 80  c) 120.  Any idea what route they took? Did Mary ride on a donkey?
  2. What time of year did they travel?  a) Winter  b) Spring  c) summer  d) We don’t know.
  3. What significance do you see in shepherds visiting the newly arrived child? How were shepherds regarded in that day?
  4. Zechariah was a priest. Priests married in Judaism. Was Elizabeth also from a priestly family?
  5. How many angels are identified by name in the Bible?              
  6. Was the baby born to Mary God? Did he give up His Godhood to come to earth?
  7. What do you know about Augustus Caesar? Did Julius Caesar come after or before?  Is the word “caesar” a name or a title?
  8. What was Zechariah doing when the angel Gabriel showed up?
  9. Why do you think Zechariah asked for proof to substantiate the angel’s words?
  10. What did friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth assume at the birth of John and why?
  11. Why do you think Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months after her pregnancy began?
  12. How was the timing of Mary providential in seeing Elizabeth when she did?
  13. Which song has been sung the most down through the centuries–Happy Birthday, Silent Night, or Mary’s song? What is Mary’s song?
  14. How was the announcement to Mary similar to the announcement to Zechariah?
  15. What are swaddling cloths?
  16. What does a manger look like?
  17. Why did Joseph speak about divorcing Mary when they were not married yet?
  18. When was Jesus circumcised? Why then? Where? How far did they have to go from Bethlehem to get Jesus circumcised?
  19. So when did the three kings show up? Were they kings? Why did they give such strange gifts? Were there three?
  20. Who was excited at the birth of John? Who was excited at the birth of Jesus?
  21. What two people gave lengthy prophecies regarding the two births? What was the content of their prophecies? Whose prophecy was first? By how many months?
  22. When do you think Joseph found out about Mary carrying a child? Why?

A MOST REMARKABLE ENCOUNTER!

Two visits by one angel, five month apart. Two people, an old man and a young woman, both devout. Two angelic proclamations about two sons. Good news, miraculous, unbelievable—a child past child-bearing years and a baby without a husband. Never happened before or since. Two opposite responses to the incredible news.

Two sons destined for greatness, one the greatest of the Old Covenant and the other the greatest of the New Covenant, both named by heaven, bypassing traditional names: John (“the Lord is gracious”) and Jesus (“the Lord saves”). Two regions, Judea and Galilee. The priest needed to live near the temple at Jerusalem. Galilee would light up in thirty years like never before: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus was born in the south and ministered in the north.

Two women, one barren, one a virgin. For the first, the news would lift the shame she felt her whole adult life. For the second, the shame would commence when she began carrying a child.

Two impossible pregnancies facilitated by the moving of the Holy Spirit on their bodies, both including prophetic words by the mothers when the sons met in Judea—still in the womb. Both sons would change history, the one serving the other as a forerunner, yet knowing Jesus came before.

During Mary’s angelic visitation, she found out her relative was miraculous carrying a child. She told Joseph she was going to pay her a visit. She needed strength from a motherly figure who would understand. Mary could be stoned for what appeared like adultery. God’s miracles can masquerade behind mistakes. They also hide behind impossibilities. Both women were graced by heaven but disgraced on earth, one before the baby came, the other during and after.

Important truths:

  • SUFFERING NEEDS TO BE STEWARDED WELL. It will shape our character and release the gifts of the Spirit if we do not allow resentment to color our perception of God. Elizabeth said, “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” only beginning to grow in Mary’s womb. Elizabeth’s remarkable recognition of Mary’s baby came out of the fires of affliction.
  • HUMILITY RELEASES GRACE that invites the activity of the Spirit. Elizabeth recognized that her task was dwarfed by a far greater assignment of being the mother of the Messiah. Her humility gave her revelation of the purposes of God. She could have made the moment about herself. If you want to prophesy well, suffer well and stay low.
  • GOD HAS CHARGE OF THE WOMB. He works His divine will without checking probabilities. “Against all hope Abraham in hope believed…” With God, it is not as it appears.
  • WE GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s bondservant. Let it be to me according to your word,” another way of saying, “Jesus can use my body. A man who owned a donkey said, “Jesus can use my colt.” A woman said, “He can use my alabaster box.” Another said, “Jesus can use my grave.” What can we offer Jesus? Our car, our home, our gifting, our position? Use us, Jesus!

 

LEARNING TO LISTEN TO GOD

Things were going well for Joseph. Then Mary delivered the news. He would have preferred hearing that she had died. But God intervened. Joseph had already made a good decision by choosing a pure bride. Now he would make the hardest decision of his life.  

“Joseph, son of David…” The angel identified his subject: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Mary was telling the truth. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20,21). What looked like shame just turned to honor.

We assume the job of listening rests on our ability to hear. Scripture puts the ball in God’s court. The disturbing news that just destroyed his future had not tampered with God’s. Some truths surface about hearing:

One step at a time.

Don’t expect the entire scenario. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” He could do that. If you stand at point A, ask B questions. “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” You need the next step. Nothing more.

God’s will is good.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid,” because Joseph was terrorized by his option: “Divorce the lady.” God’s strategy proved just the opposite: “Marry your beloved and raise the Son of God as your own.” Fitting into the purpose of God does include suffering, but the presence of the Almighty gives purpose to pain.

God speaks with clarity.

“His sheep hear his voice.” The more confident we grow in God’s ability to speak, the more we will hear. By morning, Joseph knew what to do. Those who find themselves paralyzed by indecision need to act. Quit worrying that you might miss His “perfect” will and affirm that He lets you walk in it.  

God’s messages are often counter-intuitive.

They don’t spring up in our minds as if created by interior logic. They sound more like God than us. When Joseph heard from the angel, he didn’t say, “I should have known that the Holy Spirit did this.” Yet those learning to walk in the Spirit find that their intuition begins to track with God’s will.

What God says agrees with what God said.

God proves the present word with a past one. He links destiny with history, making His will verifiable. Matthew adds his commentary: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (22,23).

Hearing means heeding.

To hear and not obey is not to hear. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (24). We desperately need to hear from God—and desperate people do! Those more casual will turn guidance into a technique: “Give me three sure-proof steps,” while men like Joseph know it flows out of relationship. The story could have read, “When Joseph woke up, he divorced Mary.” And he would have missed his God-appointed destiny. He obeyed—and Jesus called him father.

 

DO YOU HAVE THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT?

The spirit of Christmas captures folks. Not sure what it is, but one reading of the Christmas story in Luke tells me that the spirit on that first Christmas was the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT FILLS US.

The announcement came to Zechariah during his course of duty: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son…and many will rejoice at his birth…He will be great…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:13-15).

God had his eye on John before John had his eye on God. What would make this child great? His diet? Abstinence? Demeanor? No, his filling! It is the Spirit that makes people good—and great!

He would “turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord” (16). How? Persuasive preaching? No. “He will go before him [Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah” (17). The same Spirit empowers you and me. Incredible!

THE SPIRIT MAKES THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE.

Mary received the shocking news that she would have a baby. When she asked about it, the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God” (35,37). Matthew wrote that “she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (1:18).

It didn’t look that way. What appeared as an unholy moment of passion proved the quiet work of the Spirit. People looked at her getting bigger and wondered, while she looked at God, who grew bigger in her eyes. When Mary asked, “How?” the angel said, “The Holy Spirit,” the answer to every human impossibility, including yours.

THE SPIRIT GRANTS US GIFTS.

Mary’s visit with an angel was followed by a visit to her relative. When Elizabeth heard her greeting, the Spirit moved upon her, the same Spirit that moved on John, still in her womb. He responded to the presence of Jesus, less than a month along. Elizabeth burst into prophecy. It was likely her first time ever. Nothing strange about a kick in the womb, but it was this time, because it was the Spirit moving, not just John. The Spirit does the same for us, turning a conversation into an encounter.

Meanwhile, Zechariah had a nine-month time-out. But when he opened his mouth after the naming of John, resisting tradition, he “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Lk. 1:64,67). Before he had doubted; now he spoke powerfully and prophetically. The Spirit that shut him up now welled up—in his body. Trust the Spirit to do the same in you.

THE SPIRIT LEADS US.

Simeon’s timing was right on. He came to the temple “moved by the Spirit” (Luke 2:27). How did that happen? ”The Holy Spirit was upon him” and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (26).

Were these people superstars? No, just common folks who yielded to the divine Spirit. Do you need the Lord’s leading—toward the right job, the right mate, the right decision. Paul says we prove we’re in the family by the way the Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14).

The spirit of Christmas is more than a party with good friends. It is the Holy Spirit, filling us to cooperate with God’s redemptive purpose, to speak His truth and recognize His Son! Have a Spirit-filled Christmas!

HOW TO MAKE THIS CHRISTMAS THE BEST EVER

I jumped in with both feet to the Christmas season. I got my lights up this year BEFORE Thanksgiving. Don’t stone me. We had a great Thanksgiving, perhaps the best ever, all 30 plus of us. My kids agree. The lights weren’t a distraction. They simply added to the mood and announced, “Let’s celebrate and be thankful.” We can use two major holidays (literally “holy days”) to our advantage.

I’m doing something new this year; I am keeping the lights on all night. Hey, someone is going to drive by at 3 AM and say, “Look at those beautiful lights.” I just helped with a boring commute to work.

Mary and Joseph announce our Christmas every year by gazing into the feeding trough on the front lawn. (Okay, it’s really a short stool). Their devotion calls me to do the same. I want to meditate again on the Scriptures that might otherwise breed boredom for their familiarity. They are announcing the incredible descent from glory to shame, from the highest place to the lowest, from the throne to the barn out back. Wait a minute. Is that the way it was supposed to be? Couldn’t God have done better with His Firstborn? Yes, but He chose to make a point–He is for the outcast and the downcast.

More lights than ever this time around–inside and out. Light’s a good thing. God said, “Let there be light,” so I follow Him. Light always wins over the darkness. It is a law of physics. Go ahead. Open the closet door. Does darkness invade the bedroom, or does light penetrate the dark closet? I want to be a champion of the light, in my heart, in my home, in my relationships–okay, in my Christmas decorations.

We are playing the Christmas CDs daily. We do not tire of wonderful Christmas hymns that are not sung the rest of the year, tunes with great theology, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” We also enjoy the lighthearted melodies that help to put us in a merry spirit. What a gift music is to elevate the spirit and draw us into the powerful message of the Creator coming into His creation.

We launched this year’s Christmas celebration on the first Sunday of Advent by attending the Christmas concert at Northcentral University. Good decision. Wonderful and edifying music. You have permission to enjoy this beautiful season to the utmost!

Nate Johnstone’s message Sunday on the incarnation kicked things off for Lydia House in a profound way. The mystery of this truth cannot be overestimated. That “the word became flesh” goes past what the mind can grasp. The heart must receive it first–and marvel. Let’s do it!

How about lighting Advent candles? We do. Just as a season in Lent prepares of for the smashing glory of Easter, so four weeks of Advent get us ready for the powerful day of Christmas. The resurrection story does not grip as much when we haven’t thought about Calvary, about denying ourselves and taking up the cross. Good Friday anticipates brilliant Sunday. And so Advent announces that “the King is coming.” Prepare to meet Him, whether He comes by way of the barn out back or on a horse with fire in His eyes! Come, Lord Jesus!

 

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE

But first–

THE PROBLEM WITH INGRATITUDE

It closes the heart to receiving. The elder brother said, “You never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29), and he didn’t expect it from a stingy dad. Ingratitude brings two dangerous outlooks–victimization and entitlement. They will paralyze you! Guaranteed.

Ingratitude puts you in bad company. Jesus said that His Father “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). I wouldn’t put those two words in the same sentence—but Jesus did! Ingratitude brings you into a stinking crowd. Paul said that “there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful…” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). He concluded with a warning: “Have nothing to do with them.”

Ingratitude places you in the enemy’s camp. No one has ever shown greater ingratitude than Lucifer, the most beautiful creature God ever made. And yet he envied God and staged a coup on the throne. How stupid can you get?! Ingratitude turned him into the ugliest creature in the universe. And he’s never had a grateful thought since.  So would you agree with me that ingratitude is serious, not a little sin? On the other hand–

THE POWER OF GRATITUDE

It makes you shine. Thankful people are fun to be around and exude a radiant countenance. I don’t have to tell you that ungrateful and grouchy people are at the opposite end. Would your friends call you a grateful person?

Gratitude allows you to receive grace from heaven, because you don’t feel like you are entitled to it. When you have a grateful heart, you always feel like you are being blessed. You can’t help it—God simply pours it on. Think prodigal. If you don’t enjoy healthy, holy, happy relationships, ingratitude may be a root cause.

Gratitude connects you to important people–like parents. If you want to draw closer, express thanks for what they have done, not what they haven’t. (And if they are still drawing breath, it’s not too late). My friend Jacob did it as a college freshman. I asked why he was not looking forward to thanksgiving. He answered, “They don’t talk about spiritual things, and they still treat me like a teenager” (which he was). I told him to write a letter of gratitude, make it long, and write it out freehand, because Mom will treat it as a trophy. He did. I’ve seen the parents four times since. Every time they bring up the letter. It changed their home–for years. Way to go, Jacob! Gratitude is powerful!!

Gratitude and generosity are siblings. Generous people cause thanksgiving to rise to heaven: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous to every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). If you have learned generosity, you probably picked up gratitude along the way.

When? “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 30:12).

Why? “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 118.1).

How? “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4).

Who? “Surely the righteous will give thanks to your name” (Psalm 140:13).

YOU CAN GET GOOD AT GRATITUDE

I dropped my blind friend off at the airport and into willing hands Saturday at 5AM. He called four hours later: “You wouldn’t believe what happened. I’m in Charlotte on my way now to Palm Beach, and the flight is a different number, but it’s the same plane. I don’t have to change planes, just change seats. Isn’t that cool?!” I rejoiced with David, realizing that  I would not have called a friend to say, “I don’t have to walk off this plane and get on another –cool, huh?” But for a blind person, a change is a challenge, especially an airport change, especially walking off one plane and getting on another. The thought creates tension for a person who hopes he gets help, trusts he isn’t forgotten. He may ask for help, if anyone is around and interested.

Then he said, “Another cool thing–I found my cassette at the bottom of my bag.” He memorizes what he puts into his two bags–and where. We look for things we can’t find in a bag–but we can see!  After two trips to our home, David memorized the floor plan. He doesn’t want to be crashing into walls in the middle of the night. As we maneuvered our way up our walk, he said, “Oh, there’s the little bump in the pavement.” He was right!

Relationships are important to David. He remembered the names of the grandchildren he met–once. He was hoping he could see Shepherd–for the second time. He had met him a year before. He was thankful that two of my sons stopped by. Not a huge thing to some–huge to David.

I said on the phone, “I am going to start my sermon on gratitude with your plane story.” He responded, “Good. I want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, the ones who bring our thanks to the throne.”

I’m not sure about his angelology, but I know one thing–he wants to get good at gratitude. He is not a victim, although he sure could be, a victim of the hospital that didn’t know excessive amounts of oxygen mess with the retinas; of his parents who split up the household that took dad out;  of bullies who made fun of him. He could be a whiner–blaming parents, the hospital, the God who saw it all and apparently did nothing. He could feel entitled to more because he has less.

We know what blue looks like. When I asked about colors, he said he associated the color blue with the ocean and the sky, neither of which he has ever seen.  His world is colorless. David doesn’t know what he looks like, or his mom, or his older brother, who sometimes tells him what he does wrong.  

When he leaves for the bank, he doesn’t want to go at rush hour, because he keeps cars waiting when he crosses the street. Oh!  He has been romantically involved with two different girls, not to the point of getting physical but to the point of feeling close. But he didn’t know what they looked like. They just felt special. One died–the other moved.

When David departs, I thank God for my life, my wife, my children, my eyes, the color green, lilacs, the Christmas tree. I too want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, if that’s really what they do.

HOW TO DEVELOP GRATITUDE

What if…

…you thanked God when tested—and He turned it into a testimony?

…you thanked parents for what they gave and forgave them for what they didn’t?

…couples tossed expectations and chose gratitude?

…you changed your environment with gratitude and started an epidemic?

…you shed your whining, developed gratitude—and found it fun?

A STORY ABOUT GRATITUDE

“Now on his way to Jerusalem…” (Luke 17:11).  Jesus had set His face for the showdown. What could slow Him down? Ten lepers. His last miracle in this region. Those who said, “Next time,” lost their chance.

Outcasts in every way, they didn’t dare get close. They knew the rules and cried out: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

One command changed their lives: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” “And as they went, they were cleansed.” Priests were the Department of Health. They needed to act in faith for God to act. It often works that way. They went—it happened. One returned, while nine kept going: “That’s what He said to do.”

“I know, but don’t you want to say, ‘Thank you?’”

That guy was a Samaritan, the least likely to return to a Jew. Jesus asked three questions: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Jesus expected people touched by love to show gratitude.  Saying, “But He told me to go to the priest” doesn’t settle the issue. Who is Jesus waiting for you to thank—parents, a teacher, coach, neighbor, relative, policeman, Holy Spirit?

INGRATITUDE IS SERIOUS

It doesn’t go unnoticed in heaven. It disconnects us from Jesus. While gratitude sets us up for a miracle, ingratitude closes us off. It suggests entitlement. The elder brother said, “You never gave me a kid so that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29).  The last days will highlight ingratitude (2 Tim. 3:2). Don’t you!

Ingratitude sets you on a path toward perversion: “Although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

On the other hand…

GRATITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS

Thankful people are fun. They exude a radiant countenance. Gratitude allows you to receive grace from heaven, because you don’t feel like you deserve it. Think prodigal. Gratitude connects you to the people for whom you express appreciation. If you want to grow relationships, develop gratitude. Works every time.

Far better to join the Samaritan who returned than the presumptuous group who just kept walking. They got the “please” down but not the “thank you.”

You are most likely a grateful person. As you read, you may think of areas where you can walk in greater gratitude. Suggestion: try “thank-you” in difficult times and wait for miracles—when you’re being tested, when temptation presses in, when irritation is rising, when pressures at work escalate, when tension at home mounts, when conflict in relationships bring extra frustration. Thanksgiving shows that your God overturns evil with good. Hardship either discourages us or forces us to upgrade our confidence in the sovereignty of God.

YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A GRATEFUL HEART IF…

…your prayers sometime don’t get beyond thanksgiving.

…you often reflect on those who have impacted your life.

…you manage to give thanks in the midst of pain.

…you can only stand in awe of a God who has been so kind and faithful to you.

 

GRATITUDE INVENTORY

(Suggestion: print and use for your Thanksgiving time together. Happy Thanksgiving!)

  1. Have I expressed enough thanks to my mother and father?
  2. Have I thanked teachers who made a positive contribution to my life?
  3. Have I thanked coaches, pastors, siblings, people who serve me, like mail carriers?
  4. Do I give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances?
  5. Do I resist the temptation to complain because my situation is not better?
  6. Have I chosen to give thanks for a hardship rather than holding onto a wound?
  7. Do I give thanks instead of expecting others to wait on me?
  8. Am I content with what I have or do I deserve more?
  9. Do I have a distorted picture of God that keeps me from thanking Him?  (The elder brother was angry and could not receive from his father).
  10. Have I chosen as an act of the will to be thankful rather than waiting for proof?
  11. Do I need to receive more before I will have a heart of thanksgiving?
  12. Would people close to me say that I have an attitude of gratitude?
  13. Has gratitude turned to skepticism because things turned out differently than expected?
  14. Am I generous with my money? Generous people are thankful (2 Cor. 9:10); ungrateful people are stingy.
  15. Am I happy? Grateful people are (Ps. 92:5).
  16. Do I live in the peace of God? Gratitude keeps me there (Phil. 4:6,7).
  17. Do I recognize that God is in charge? If so, I will be thankful (Ps. 97:1).
  18. Is life for me a matter of giving? “Thanks—giving” means both thanks and giving.
  19. Will I fit well with the atmosphere of heaven? It is full of thank-you’s (Rev. 7:12).
  20. Do I struggle with lust? Thanksgiving is a guard against sin that takes from others.
  21. Do I live close to Jesus who demonstrated a thankful heart? (Matt. 15:26, Jn 11:41,Lk 10:21f).
  22. Do I express gratitude every day?  (David appointed the Levites to give thanks twice daily: I Chr. 16:4, I Chr. 23:30).
  23. Do I thank God in hard times, knowing that He will bring good out of bad?
  24. Am I able to thank God even when my personal security is threatened? (Dan.  6:10).
  25. Am I thankful for people God has connected me to? Paul gave thanks for people he wrote to.
  26. Have I thanked God for healing and health? (“Where are the nine?” Luke 17:17).
  27. Have I grown self-indulgent? (They are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.. ungrateful, unholy…” 2 Tim. 3:2).
  28. Am I thankful for God’s truth? (“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” Ps. 119:62).
  29. Am I thankful for food ? (Acts 27:35; Ro. 14:6; I Tim. 4:3).
  30. Am I thankful that God is gracious? (I Cor. 1:4).
  31. Am I thankful for deliverance from death, even though I wasn’t aware that it was happening? (Angels attend to us and keep us from harm).
  32. Am I thankful for government leaders? (I Tim. 2:1,2).
  33. Am I aware that ingratitude can harden my heart? (Rom. 1:21).
  34. Am I humble? Thankful people are humble people.
  35. Am I modeling a thankful heart for my children and for others that I serve? (Col.3:15,17).
  36. Do my prayers often include thanksgiving? (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; I Tim. 2:1).
  37. Do I enjoy singing? (Is. 51:3; Jer. 30:19).
  38. Is my thanksgiving contagious? (Paul’s gratitude caused “thanksgiving to overflow” 2 Co. 4:15).

6 REASONS WHY YOU CAN BE GRATEFUL

1 YOU ARE DRAWING BREATH.

Life is a miracle. That the body functions as it does witnesses to God’s genius and creativity. The organs don’t compete with one another but assist each other, just as the body of Christ is meant to do. Your body is a picture of how the church is called to function. We complement each other rather than compete with each other, just like our bodily systems do. Take another breath–and thank God!

2 YOU HAVE ETERNITY IN YOUR FUTURE.

Scripture tells us to put all our marbles in the age to come: “Set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you with the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13). We have the new earth to look forward to. The prediction for today may include dark clouds, but tomorrow promises to be sunny.

3 IN THE MEANTIME, GOD USES EVERYTHING.

He is an economist. He doesn’t throw out our failures–He uses them. In His creative genius, everything counts. So there is no room for regret. We repent–and move on, knowing that “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” What a way to live. Regret is a useless emotion. Worse yet, it puts our engine in reverse and keeps us from walking into our God-appointed destiny. It doesn’t get us anywhere except on the road to discouragement. By contrast, we can know assuredly that God uses our bad decisions as well as our good. When Jesus showed up on Resurrection evening, He came to commission, not to complain. The greatest failure in the lives of the disciples was answered with the words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I want to follow a King like that!

4 YOU ARE LOVED,

In your best times and in your worst. God is not in a bad mood today. He has not turned His back on you because you turned your back on Him last week. He has a good forgetter. With regard to our sin, the prophet tells us that “He remembers them no more.”

5 GOD HAS PLANS FOR YOU TODAY.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). It doesn’t insult me that God has planned specific works in advance, and I get to step into them today and in the days ahead. Call it predestination. Look at the word: you have a destiny that has your name on it–planned ahead of time. God thought about you in advance and has gifted you specifically to do what He has designed for you. That brings peace and a deep sense of fulfillment. Today is not another random day where we throw the dice and see what number comes up. We are living out the purposes of the architect of our soul. Good reason for gratitude.

6 CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE–GOD DOESN’T.

He is teaching us all to live above the circumstances. We learn to not ride the roller coaster of up and down situations. We live above them, subject to a God whose plan is not conditioned by the weather report. His Word is sure and steadfast. We can count on it–today and tomorrow! Blessed Thanksgiving!