Devotional

Happy Thanksgiving! Reflections on Gratitude

by Kathryn Hughes and special guest Marcy James

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Thanksgiving Day is the one day of the year that we deliberately try to express our thankfulness to others and to God who provides all things and shows His great love towards us. How wonderful it would be if we all were thankful to God and to others all of the time.

Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. It is grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. It shows an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving is also part of Christian maturity.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  (Colossians 2:6, 7 NIV)

My friend Marcy James overflows with thankfulness. She is one of the most grateful people I’ve ever met. She expresses her gratitude for even the smallest thing one does for her or says to her. She shares her thankfulness to God as well as to others. I asked her to write her thoughts on gratitude:

“Right now there’s someone happy who has much less than you.”  Those words were on a poster at my daughter’s first school.  It’s a simple statement about gratitude that gave me pause and had me thinking about what “much less” is.  I’ve seen “much less” in China when a man with no legs used as his wheel chair one of those boards with casters mechanics use to slide under cars.  He propelled himself with his hands against the frigid winter road.  It’s not hard to see those with “much more” who somehow have it hard, but in a different way.  That might beg the question, “What is the source of happiness?”  But maybe the bigger question is, “Why are ‘much less’ and ‘much more’ not really a factor?”  I think the unmentioned factor is Christianity.  The love of God, the promise of salvation in Christ, the very loyal support of the Body of Christ all put this world in perspective.  The Word of God sharpens our focus on how to navigate our own trials and tribulations and still have the Fruits of the Spirit, which include joy and peace.  Vacation Bible School often speaks of God sightings, and the most moving God sightings to me have been kindness and compassion in others towards others.  The youngest of children can point them out.  Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. 

I want to become more like my friend Marcy. I confess that I too often take things for granted. Unwritten thank you notes sit near my desk, as I substitute a quick verbal thank you for a gift or for an act of kindness from others. I thank God regularly for my food, but how often do I thank Him for the air I breathe, or for the sunrise I saw on my way to work? I’m learning to be more grateful.

Giving thanks to God is shown and taught throughout Scripture. Psalm 100 shows that thankfulness is more than words. Note the attitude and actions in the Psalm. (Underlines are mine.) May we be thankful and show our gratitude first to God, and then to others.

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him,
and bless His name.

For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. ” ~ Marcy James

Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for being You. Thank you for Your faithfulness, for being my provider, and for Your unconditional love which You showed through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue me from the punishment for my sins. Thank you for Your care for me. In Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving Fall photo by Hudsoncrafted on Pixabay

Devotional

The Lord Keeps His Promises

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 8

Then God said to Noah and his sons, “I solemnly promise you and your children and the animals you have brought with you…that I will never again send another flood to destroy the earth. And I seal this promise with this sign: I have placed My rainbow in the clouds as a sign of My promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-13 LB)

Noah and his family went through a terrible storm, the flooding of the whole earth. They lost not only their home, but friends and neighbors. It must have been reassuring to know God promised not to destroy everything with another flood, and to see His bow as a sign of that promise when storm clouds gathered. They experienced how the Lord carried them safely through the storm. They saw God’s power and His redemption in their lives.

I have seen God’s power and redemption in my own life. My health is good. I’m cancer free. Relationships that were once tumultuous are now calm and loving. My husband is employed after periods of job losses. It encourages me to know that the Lord keeps His promises, for He is faithful and trustworthy. When storm clouds gather, it helps me to look back at how the Lord has carried me through to the other side. Reading His love letter to us reassures me as I read His promises in Scripture.

Image by Navallo on Pixabay

Below are some of God’s promises that mean a lot to me. I hope they bring you joy and peace.

  • Promises of forgiveness
    • I write to you, little children, for your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. (I John 2:12)
    • Psalm 103 is full of King David’s praise for who the Lord is and His forgiveness.  
  • Assurance of Salvation
    • For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (RSV)
    • Romans 10:8-13   If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes in his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. Verses 9-10
  • God will finish His work in me and in loved ones
    • Philippians 1:6; I Thessalonians 5:23-24
  • God’s Holy Spirit lives in me 
    • John 14:15-18
  • The Lord will never leave me.
    • Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5
  • He will guide me:
    • He has good plans for me that will give me a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
    • God will give me wisdom when I ask without doubting. James 1:2-8
    • The Lord will teach and lead me. Psalm 25
    • The Holy Spirit will guide me in all truth.  John 16:12-15
  • The Lord loves and cares for me. 
    • Psalm 23; I John 4:19; Ephesians 5:25; Psalm 139
  • My ultimate future- I will spend eternity with Jesus Christ.
    • I Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3, 6
  • God is faithful to keep His promises
    • Hebrews 10:23; Numbers 23:19

What are some of God’s promises that are meaningful to you? May we not just read them, but absorb God’s promises into our lives and cling to them. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Dear Lord, I give You thanks for your many promises. I praise You for Your faithfulness. Amen.

Devotional

Prayer: Hold On to the Lifeline

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 7

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry in distress, and He hears my voice. (Psalm 55:16, 17 NIV)

A storm can make it hard to know where we are going. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, On the Bank of Plum Creek, Laura described a blizzard so bad that Pa was lost in it for four days without knowing that he was very close to home. He couldn’t see the light in the window. During the blizzard, Ma had to hang onto the clothesline to find her way from the house to the barn to care for the animals, or she would have been lost. The clothesline acted as a lifeline.

In the storms of life, such as financial setback, ill health, or other crisis, we may not see our way to safety. The path ahead can be dark, and we may not feel God’s presence. It’s easy to lose our direction, our hope, and our peace.

Prayer is our lifeline.

Prayer is talking to God. It doesn’t need to be full of ‘spiritual’ phrases. Our Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with Him, just as we want our children to communicate with us. The Lord listens and He answers our prayers.

Jesus expects us to pray. When He taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew, chapter six, He said “When you pray”, not “If you pray.”

The Apostle Paul also told believers to pray. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Sometimes we may not know how to pray, or what to ask of our loving Heavenly Father. Is what we are asking according to God’s will?

We have a Helper. Paul assured us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us … And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26, 27 NIV)

In 1988 I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast that ultimately changed my prayer life. Dr. James Dobson was interviewing Fern Nichols, founder of Moms in Touch International (now called Moms in Prayer International). Fern described how she and other women gathered weekly to pray for an hour for their children and for their children’s schools. I looked at my three-month-old daughter and decided that when she entered Kindergarten, I would join a Moms in Touch (MITI) group. When that day came, I was fearful. I’d known Jesus since my childhood, yet how would I pray for an hour? I certainly couldn’t imagine that I would later lead MITI groups and eventually teach Moms in Prayer (MIPI) on mission trips.

I learned how to pray using Scripture, as I’ve done using I Thessalonians 5:16-17 in the prayer below. The following prayer format used by Moms in Prayer still helps me to pray. I hope that it helps you.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com
  • Praise – Praising God for who He is, His attributes, His name, or His character.
  •  Confession – Confessing your sins to the God who forgives. (In a MIPI meeting the confession is done silently.)
  • Thanksgiving – Thanking God for what He has done.
  • Intercession – Coming to God in prayer on behalf of others.

Writing and dating the prayer requests and God’s answers to prayer in a prayer journal helps us to see the way God has worked on our behalf in the past and reminds us that God will answer in the future. Let’s talk with God.

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for being the God who listens. I confess that I grumble and I forget to seek You. Please forgive me. Thank you for loving me. Please help me to rejoice always, pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Your will for me in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Devotional

Seek Refuge in the Storm

When Storm Clouds Gather series, Devotional # 6





My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. (Psalm 62:7 NLT)

When storm clouds gather, we prepare for the coming tempest. We stay alert, watching for danger and the storm’s impact. We eliminate leaks and put on protective gear. We seek refuge in a safe shelter where tornadoes or other elements won’t harm us. Watching the storm outside the window from a warm room is much safer and more comfortable than standing in a storm, whipped by cold winds and rain or snow.


Preparation can help us with the upheaval in our lives as well.


King David had a stormy life. He stood up to Goliath and killed Israel’s enemy while the Israelite army trembled in fear. Jealous King Saul sought to kill David, and Saul and his army pursued David for years until Saul died. Wars continued in King David’s reign. David tried to cover-up his adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle. David’s sin cut him from his relationship with God until he repented and sought the Lord’s forgiveness. Friends and family members died. Twice David’s sons usurped his power and set themselves up over the kingdom. It was enough to want to give up!


The Psalms are filled with David’s laments, his woes, his joy, and his praise to the Lord in Whom he sought refuge. Psalm 62 is an example of David waiting for God and finding rest in Him. David wrote, Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; ; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. (Psalm 62:1,2 NKJV) Truly my souls finds rest in God…I will not be shaken (from verse 1, NIV).


David had a lot of waiting time! It was about fifteen years between the prophet Samuel’s anointing of young David as king and the day David was made king of Judah. Another seven years passed before he became king over Israel; a wait of twenty years! Yet David knew it was the Lord who defended him, and that God’s promises to him would come true. Though David often was in despair, he turned to the Lord. David’s advice? O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 NLT)

Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb on Pexels.com

I don’t always wait patiently or silently. Sometimes my waiting includes foot tapping and grumbling. It’s not restful when my attitude is in the way. God’s working on that with me. I’m much happier when I’m trusting God and relying on His timing.


How have you waited on the Lord?


Are we realizing the rest we have in God by faith in Christ Jesus? He is our peace. Our eternity is secure. Are we resting on the promises of our Savior? I confess that too often I am so busy “doing” things for God that I neglect to spend time with Him. My priorities shift to other things and I miss the rest God gives me when I read and apply God’s Word.


How have you experienced His rest?


God was David’s refuge. When we take refuge in a place such as a tornado shelter, we are trusting it to keep us from harm. When we take refuge in God, we can pour out our hearts to Him and trust Him to give us comfort, peace, and rest in the storms. Our security is only in Him. Everything else is temporary.


Where is your refuge? Is your comfort found in material goods, food, substances, or in your position? Or is your refuge in God and the promises and direction of His Word?

Dear Lord God, Thank you for being my refuge. You are my rock where no enemy can reach me. No storm can unsettle me as I wait and trust in You. May I be quick to seek You and the rest You give. Amen.

Devotional

Fear or Faith?

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 5

By Kathryn Hughes

“Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:3,4 NLT)

There is so much to fuel our fears right now. COVID-19 threatens our health and life. Loneliness can overwhelm us as friends and family are distanced. Jobs are threatened or eliminated, adding another level of fear for personal finances and our economy. Riots, looting, and social injustice amp up the fear level too.

A friend once told me that fear is an acronym for:

False

Evidence

Appearing

Real.

Yet there is so much that is real in our fears right now. How can we avoid drowning in the fear?

FAITH

Remember that the Lord is still in control. Sure, the winds are whipping around and the waves are high. But is our Heavenly Father throwing up His hands in despair? No. The LORD reigns…surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. (Psalm 93:1) He isn’t surprised by racial injustice nor by a medical diagnosis. He’s not surprised by any moment in our lives.

When I received a diagnosis of cancer, my Heavenly Father already knew it. In fact, I believe that God allowed me to have a minor unrelated health issue so the mass on my kidney would be discovered in the ultrasound. Was I afraid? You bet.

I read a limited number of articles about kidney cancer and talked with my surgeon. But I couldn’t allow myself to read everything there was on the subject nor focus on my family history of other cancers or other unknown fears. It distracted me too much and made me fearful.

Instead, I clung to what I did know. The Lord allowed the disease. He will accomplish his purpose for my life. I will not die one minute earlier than the day He already planned.

Thankfully, the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancer.

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

When fears surface and try to pull us under their wave, focusing on God’s greatness and character helps us remember who He is. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive [with us,] Nor will He keep [His anger] forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10 NASB) Like King David, we can say, I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Let’s be ready to confront fear with faith. Write down some Scripture that helps bring the focus back onto the God who loves us. Use those verses in prayer, personalizing them as I’ve done with a few verses of Psalm 103 in the prayer below. Here are a couple Scripture passages that mean a lot to me, I hope they encourage you too. Psalms 139:16-18; Psalm 103.

Heavenly Father, I bless Your holy name. May I forget none of Your benefits. You pardon all my iniquities. You crown me with lovingkindness and compassion. You satisfy me with good things. Please forgive me for focusing on fear instead of on You. Please help me to praise You and to trust You to remove the fear.  In Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.  

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