First Thanks, Then Giving

I love the Thanksgiving season. Time to reflect, enjoy and spend cherished moments with family. Whether that be around a dinner table, at a special location or at a family member’s home. For some this year, holidays may not be a time that has been anticipated but a time that brings great sorrow for a loved one that isn’t present around the “table” this Thanksgiving. Whichever situation you find yourself in this season, we can all choose to make this Thanksgiving the most memorable one yet.

As I began to think on the word Thanksgiving, being the teacher that I am, I started to break apart the word. “Thanks”, “giving”. Not only is it a time for great thanks but it is also a time for great giving. What if we stopped not to think upon what we’re going to gain from this Thanksgiving but instead, chose to think about what we can do for others. No matter if this is a time of sorrow or a time of joy, we can choose in either situation to give, out of the abundance that we have been given.

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In God’s Word there are many instances where various people chose to give thanks but one instance, in a room filled with His closest friends, Jesus gives us direction in regard to giving thanks.

“He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves.”

Luke 22:17

In reading this verse, a few things Jesus chose to do should be our guide in giving thanks this Thanksgiving.

  1. Give Thanks

It sounds so simple but how often we choose to meander through our days without stopping to give thanks for the blessings God grants us each and everyday. The air we breathe, the house we live in, the food we eat, the shoes we put on our feet. All blessings granted by our gracious God! One thing God has been teaching me lately is that He never guaranteed that when I became a child of His, I would have the necessities of life, but He chooses to bless me with them. Me, even me.

2.  Accept or Take His Blessing

The necessities of life, that we just discussed, are not earned but freely given by a loving God. He, the Creator, loves His creation so much that He chooses to lay out blessings before us. We can choose each day to accept those blessings or reject them. I’m sure we can each think of family members that have rejected the blessings of God. Whether it be a wandering son or daughter, husband or wife. However, not only are they quick to reject His blessings, but we as believers can choose to reject His blessings as well when we fail to take part in His will for our lives. Our days can go by with us choosing to go our own way instead of God’s way full of blessings with each obedient step. One obedient step would be to take part in God’s way this Thanksgiving, share His good news with those wayward family members. Another way would be to follow His lead and listen to what He would have you do in order to bless others with food or encouragement. Who then would be receiving the bigger blessing?

3. Divide or Give Among You

Blessings are even more joyous when we have the opportunity to share them with others. What a miraculous event a child being born is but it is even more joyous when family and friends come to celebrate and share in the special day. How wonderful it is when a child comes to Christ, but how much more joy we receive when we share the occasion with others. Choose this Thanksgiving to divide, share or give blessings to others. Whether that be the blessing of food to a needy family, a kind word or encouragement to a hurting friend or family member during this season, or the gift of Jesus to a wandering heart. Choose to share out of what has already been given to you.

 

Give thanks, accept the blessing and then divide it among you.

The night before Christ gave it all, He chose to spend it modeling what it truly meant to give thanks. Around a table, with His closest friends sharing in His blessing and enjoying a meal.

Let us choose to do the same.

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Selfishness and the Sabbath

Recently I have discovered that I struggle with truly “resting” from the world.

(Is it just me or is the world VERY distracting?)

Last night I realized just how distracting it really can be. I began to enter into God’s Word when I realized that my mind wasn’t really present with God as much as it should be. You see, when we are actually “present” and enveloped with God, our minds are empty and open to what God has to say. So empty that as He speaks, we are lingering on His every word and absorbing it into our innermost being.

If I’m honest, I can say that often my mind has a segregated portion of it designated for God’s voice, while my mind is still racing with the cares of this world.

Last night as I prayed and asked God to open my mind and empty it of all but Him, He spoke to me loud and clear and this is what He said:

“I need you to be selfish and keep the Sabbath sacred.”

At first, I didn’t know exactly what He meant by keeping the Sabbath sacred but then as I began reading and seeking Him out I found Him and just what I needed to hear.

As I began in Mark 6:31, He said

“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.”

Wow, even Jesus needed to take time away and rest for He knew that in that quiet place of rest, He would find His strength. You see, He, the Christ, the Miracle-worker, the Savior of the world, needed rest. He was not so busy that He didn’t need rest. So many days, we try to get everything done that we are too busy to realized how important rest truly is. Even as I am saying this I am visualizing my own to-do list. Not pleasant. However, we need to realize that just as Christ had a lot of things that were of more importance than our simple to-do list, He still valued His rest. There is a never-ending supply of lessons to learn from Jesus and this is one of them.

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After reading this Scripture I then was led into the question of, “Okay, so where do I find this rest? I know I’m supposed to go away and rest but what does that look like?”

The next Scripture Jesus led me to was in Jeremiah 6: 16,

“This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!”

Ouch, how many times have I overlooked God’s path for my life because it wasn’t what I wanted. How many times have I turned away from obedience to Him because it just wasn’t what I saw for my life. It says here that the “old. godly way” is where my feet should walk. This old, godly way that God presents us with is His obedience. When we walk in full obedience to God we will find His rest which is the soulful rest that releases His strength in our lives. Obedience also requires an act of worship or giving our Sabbath or rest back to the Lord. As we rest in His presence or out of the connection with the world, we see that it is best to give that rest back to our Lord who first gave it to us. When we spend time in His presence, there our true rest is found.

After realizing that God was calling me to keep the Sabbath sacred by resting with Him, He left me with a Scripture that showed me just how much He gives in reward for our sacrifice of rest.

In Ezekiel 20:1-20, Ezekiel confronts God’s people about rejecting the fourth commandment which is to keep the Sabbath holy. When the people heard this they continued to disobey. How often do we look at Sunday as a day to catch up on the things we did not get a chance to do throughout the work week? In all reality, what is intended for the Sabbath and what have we made of it?

When we turn to God in obedience to His command to rest and we disconnect from the world and understand that we need rest just as much as we need fellowship with others, there we find true freedom. Freedom takes sacrifice and the sacrifice of our rest and Sabbath back to God is the way to receive that true freedom.

What a powerful and toe-stepping message from God.

There comes a point when we need to embrace our selfishness and realize how sacred the Sabbath is to our faith walk.

Rest is needed and what better reason to rest than to know that even our Savior needed a quiet place to rest.

It is in this rest that we find our freedom.

Let’s be free today and sacrifice our rest to Him!