Sunday, March 26, 2023
Is gratitude a way of life to the believer or is it a seasonal, though nice, but fleeting thought? So often we can dwell on what we may not have, what we want or what we think we need instead of all that we have been blessed with. Maybe this is just part of the 'human condition.'
But of all people, believers in the one true God should be known as people of gratitude. Every morning we wake up and say the Modei Ani prayer saying, 'I am grateful as I stand before you, Lord, King of Life. For You have returned my soul to me after I have slept through the night. You have done this in kindness, great is your faithfulness.' It is a perfect way to begin the day – thanking God for keeping us alive all night long, and brought us 'back to life,' in the morning!
And that is the beginning of gratefulness.
Now a tone has been set, an attitude has been put into action. Now we can get up, and thank Him for the ability to use the restroom, to see, to hear, to think, to speak, to eat and digest food, to form ideas and even put them into action. These are amazing abilities that we can take for granted, but they should give us opportunity to be grateful and to express our gratefulness all day long. Through all the business and work of the day, we can thank Him for the abilities He has given us to make a difference in the world.
Scientists say that having a grateful attitude actually improves physical health and immunity. When we can forgive and move on from the hurts and abuses done by toxic people, and cling to God’s goodness and His grace, we can be grateful. We can rejoice that our identity is not written by the abuse we may experience, but our identity is in the Lord Almighty. He defines who we are and that is something to be eternally grateful for. We can rejoice in the salvation He has provided for us. His strength and His joy fill us to go out and do His will. Rejoice!
If you are stuck in the mire that wants to trap you, and you sometimes feel that gratefulness is too big a sacrifice, that the flesh would rather just pout and be miserable over some perceived or ever some very real injustice, I encourage you to lift your eyes and lift your heart and begin to praise Him and thank Him and be grateful for all that is good and right in your life. Go out and help someone who is worse off than you. Visit a children’s hospital and bring some joy to those kids’ lives who are suffering. Help an elderly person do their shopping. Write an encouraging note to someone you know.
To be truly happy, gratitude is a must. Gratitude never compares. Gratitude glows and it grows as you set your mind to practice it every day --- all day. Be encouraged – you were made to be grateful!
It is good to praise the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High…
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
The miracle of Hanukkah occurred at a time strikingly similar to our own. The Greeks/Syrians ruled in Israel, bringing their gods – worship of the human body, and worship of the arts and entertainment. These gods were very appealing to the flesh, and many Israelites were being assimilated into the alluring culture of the Greeks, allowing their flesh to overrule their pursuit of the one true G-d and follow in His ways. A silent war to assimilate the Jews was raging.
Though they may not be identical, you can see the parallels today. So many things in our culture have become more important, even to believers, than G-d – entertainment, accumulation of wealth, sports, social media and the list could go on. Even believers have been lured into these traps, rather than showing up for a prayer meeting or even a weekly service; other things occupy their time. There is a silent war going on for our time and our attention.
A cruel leader, nicknamed 'Epimanes' meaning madman, came on the scene. This was Antiochus Epiphanes. The silent war of assimilation turned into an all-out war under his rule, as he tried to enact harsh decrees forbidding Jewish people to worship G-d, burning the Torah scrolls, outlawing Shabbat rest, circumcision and dietary laws. Thousands of Jewish people refused to follow these decrees and were murdered. But then an elderly priest named Mattityahu stepped up when a Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of his town, Modiin, and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. He exclaimed, I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our G-d made with our ancestors!' Then a Hellenistic Jew stepped up to offer a sacrifice on the Greek altar. This was too much for Mattityahu who grabbed his sword, killed the Hellenist, and many of the Syrian officers and men and chased the rest away. The physical war had begun.
It was a war fought by the few against the many, and a war fought by the weak against the strong. But in the end, the few and the weak, being the Jewish army, committed to G-d, won!
Then returning to Jerusalem, they entered the desecrated Temple, clearing the idols placed by the Syrian vandals. The golden menorah had been stolen, so these soldiers now called the Macabbees, made another one out of cheaper metal. They wanted to light it and found only one cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan, who had been murdered. This was only enough oil to burn for one day, but by a miracle of G-d, it burned for 8 days!
This light that continued to burn when it should have gone out; this is the miracle of Hanukkah.
This is the light that reminds us today to never be afraid to stand up for what is right.
This is the light reminding us that the flame of goodness that went out from us yesterday, can be even better today!
This is the light that even though may be little, will light up a very dark room.
This is the light that can be taken to the streets and wherever we go.
Matthew 5:14,15 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Remember Hanukkah and Let Your Light Shine!
Tuesday, December 6, 2022
We live with quiet miracles every day; miracles that go totally unnoticed. Our very lives are miracles second by second. Our hearts beat without being reminded. Our eyes adjust to light and print size and blink to replenish the lubrication they need to function, and we are unaware. We breath all night long and don’t even know we are doing it. The very God of miracles has created our bodies miraculously to work without our control. He is in control – these miracles should remind us of that fact.
Then there are miracles of divine intervention. The definition of a miracle in Webster’s Dictionary is: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. The Bible bursts with miracles too numerous to list, but a few to remember are:
Yeshua being born to a virgin who had become pregnant when the Holy Spirit came upon her.
Yeshua’s first miracle of turning water into wine
The miracle of a boy’s lunch feeding 5,000 - with left-overs!!
Yeshua speaking to the storm that obeys and stops.
Yeshua speaking life back into Lazarus after he’d been dead for four days!
And, of course, the resurrection of Yeshua after three days in the tomb! He miraculously overcame death for all of humanity! Only God could do that!
And now we enter a season of miracles as our thoughts turn to Chanukah. Just a small band of Jewish fighters, determined to fight for the right to worship God as they had been instructed, fought a large, well organized Seleucid army and won! Did I mention that the Jewish fighters were outnumbered five to one? Could we call this a miracle? By all means. It is the amazing miracle of God working with the efforts of men to bring about something that in reality should never have been able to happen. But it did.
Then in the desecrated Temple, the soldiers found one flask of pure oil for the Menorah, enough to last only one day. The oil was lit, and miraculously, the one flask of oil burned not for one day, but for eight days.
And we celebrate the miracle of this light and the winning of this war during Chanukah. It is a miracle that keeps us all hoping and struggling to maintain our religious and political freedoms, not only for our generation, but for generations to follow.
John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
Miraculously, Jesus’ words are still true today. As the world gets darker, it is time to let His light shine through us.
Light Shines Best in the Dark!