{re}fresh

Month: November, 2015

Thanks Be to God, but How?

by Mike McKinniss

341692249_aa6b44d876_o

Cheers!” by melalouise used under license CC BY 2.0

I’m recently married, so you’ll have to excuse me while all I ever talk about is my wife. It wasn’t long after our engagement, which was its own remarkable story, that she exclaimed to me (she’s always exclaiming things to me), “I’m just so grateful!”

This she followed up with a question: “How do I show my gratitude to God?”

My wife was expressing something I too was feeling, and would continue to feel straight through the wedding and on to now. The Lord had been so good to us both in ways we could hardly have fathomed just a couple years ago. Simply saying, “Thanks,” hardly seemed enough.

How do you rightly express thanks to the Lord?

At first, my mind wandered toward placing a little extra in the offering plate, but that hardly seemed like saying, “Thank you.” It would have felt more like repayment, which is perhaps the greatest insult one could offer in response to a gift.

There had to be a better way to give thanks.

We turned to Scripture, and thankfully (get it?), we found a little thing called the thank offering. Leviticus 7 had us covered:

Now this is the law of the fellowship sacrifice that someone may present to the Lord: If he presents it for thanksgiving, in addition to the thanksgiving sacrifice, he is to present unleavened cakes mixed with olive oil, and well-kneaded cakes of fine flour mixed with oil. He is to present as his offering cakes of leavened bread, with his thanksgiving sacrifice of fellowship. From the cakes he must present one portion of each offering as a contribution to the Lord. It will belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the fellowship offering; it is his. The meat of his thanksgiving sacrifice of fellowship must be eaten on the day he offers it; he may not leave any of it until morning (Lev. 7:11-15, HCSB).

Essentially, for Israelites who had reason to give thanks to the Lord, a dinner party with the priest was prescribed.

Some sacrifice! You mean, we didn’t have to fast for days on end, sit atop a telephone pole, or pledge our firstborn to demonstrate our genuine, heartfelt thanks for the place God had graciously put us?

No, as far as the Lord is concerned, the best way to demonstrate gratitude is to have a little party, with plenty of meat and carbs.

Now, it is a regular quip of antinomians of all stripes that no less a God-man than Jesus performed his first miracle at a week-long wedding celebration, producing wine worthy of any sommelier’s tastevin, long after the guests were in a stumbling stupor (John 2:1-12). It’s hard to be antinomian, however, when the law itself supports a good celebration.

Regardless, my wife and I, newly engaged and completely blissed out, had the answer to our question.

How do you demonstrate your gratitude toward the Lord, from whom every good and perfect gift flows? You share a meal, you make a toast, you throw a party and let others in on your great fortune, all the while celebrating the God who loves you and never ceases to be good.

Slandering Appliances

by Wendy

Image by Jeremy Brooks 5/4/08; https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/ CC BY ND 4.0

Image by Jeremy Brooks 5/4/08; https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/
CC BY ND 4.0

“What didn’t go wrong in the last two weeks?” I snapped at my friend’s innocent “How is it going?” My litany of woes wasn’t short; the daily absurdities felt like a swarm of hungry mosquitoes, intent on making me dessert.

I reviewed the damages:

  • The refrigerator puddled water on the floor, costing hundreds of dollars to fix, just as my husband left for another unexpected business trip.
  • Our new laser printer digested my expensive cardstock and refused to perform just before our scheduled seminar.
  • A predatory virus blossomed into a raging ear infection and pounding sinuses after four flights in one weekend.
  • And finally, our faithful Honda van joined the onslaught, blinking the dashboard lights randomly on and off (and on, and off) en route home.

Barely scratching the surface of my afflictions, I wondered if now was the time to add the story about wanting to throttle a well-meaning co-worker. Perhaps not? At least I could slander appliances and viruses without fear of retribution.

My friend groaned and then laughed. “Wait, wait,” she interrupted, “tell me three things you’re thankful for!”

Great. Thankful? I wasn’t even close.

I stopped, retracing my brain’s steps and taking a breath. Slowly, pictures surfaced in my mind. Better pictures, not fantasies of kicking refrigerators or throwing printers out the window. Images of friends helping, sacrificing, coming alongside. “The leader who gave up time and rest to come to our ­­­­­meetings when he wasn’t well enough to do so,” I said, forcing myself to calm down. “And my colleague – she spent hours copying and collating notes for Board sessions the other weekend.”

I took another breath. The list was getting easier. “Oh! My friend surprised me with an invitation I didn’t expect. She made me feel so welcome and loved!” More pictures surfaced, unbidden. Like eager puppies released from a cage, appreciations tumbled out on top of one another. “The weather, the gorgeous foliage, the food and the show when we saw the performance last weekend; The lavender and rosemary bushes that survived the cold snap; our excited friends helping with next weekend’s bridal shower; and our marvelous supporters who paid for all our expenses at the seminar,” I gushed. Breathing was easy now, and fun pictures of the past weeks bubbled to the surface.

“Okay, okay, my turn!” my friend interjected. By this time we were both laughing, blessed beyond measure that in the midst of stress, Jesus was holding us and keeping us afloat. Nothing changed on the outside, but inside our worlds shifted. For the umpteenth time, God reminded us that He was bigger than our circumstances. He understood, He knew our pain, He was there to help and redirect us, and to redeem all the offending attacks.

I shook my head. “I’ll learn,” I thought. “I really will get this!” Determination rose up and joy snuck into my soul, ready to try again. After all, the refrigerator was working again, the car would probably be fixed tomorrow (and last until spring?), and the laser printer and I had called off our divorce.

The assaults were real, but God was more real, more present, and more able than I’d remembered. Appreciation opened the door, and the Holy Spirit blew in. I smiled, grateful for the break from unrelenting attack. This was a thankful I could live with.

In the midst of your stress, are there “thankful-nesses” waiting to be noticed?

More Than Hearing: Soul Life

by Dawn Aldrich

LivingWater

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees planted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers… Jeremiah 17:7-8a The Message

One by one, cool mornings gather – sneak between our flip-flopped days. Summer scorched edges line the garden beds and pile beneath the trees. Back-to-school bargains fill our closets and drawers. We trade loose cottons for warm wools and bare toes for socked feet.

I think of all those lazy, carefree summer days gone by as autumn rushes in, clutters the ground and my calendar. Busyness pushes her way into every day, overrunning God’s presence – threatening soul death.

God describes self sufficient, busy people as tumbleweeds in the desert – roaming aimlessly with no roots. But…

God restores soul-life

Those who trust in Him – stick with Him – they are like trees replanted in Eden (paradise), rooted near rivers – “Never a worry through the hottest summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season”(Jeremiah 17:8b)

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be a strong tree, rooted in paradise, planted near living water, serene and calm, bearing much fruit than an aimless, tumbling tumbleweed in the hottest desert.

How?

Ø  God replants us in paradise. Sin uproots our relationship with God, like in the Garden of Eden. But Jesus came to restore that relationship through his death and resurrection. Romans 10: 9 say, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Ø  God supplies us with living water. Like trees, our souls need living water to flourish. Throughout scripture, God refers to himself as the spring of living water. If we stay rooted in Him by reading His Word, (the Bible) and learn to abide in Him – listen, pray, worship, we cannot help but thrive, flourish and bear fruit. God is our source of life.

Ø  God requires we rest and worship. Even God rested. At the end of creation, he looked around at all his work and said, “It is good” and then, he rested. He saw how good rest was and He required it of us: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). It was still important to God in Jeremiah’s time:

“‘This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the      Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors’ ” (Jeremiah 17: 21-22).

In our fast-paced, cluttered, 24:7:365 worlds, let’s be mindful to keep our souls rooted near the spring of living water where soul-life flourishes in perfect rhythm between work, worship, and rest.

Prayer:

Father God, make us mindful of you throughout our busy lives. Tug at our hearts to slow down when we’re entangled in the demands of the day. Help us to carve our time alone with you so that you might fill us with soul-life that comes only through the infilling of your precious Holy Spirit. 

No Greater Love

by Rob Dunne

United Nations Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo CC BY - ND 4.0

United Nations Photo
courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo
CC BY – ND 4.0

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Katie asked me what we were hoping to do on our trip to Guatemala. The team was comprised of three adults and four teenagers. “We wouldn’t mind doing some physical labor while we are there.” She said she would see what she could do.

A week or so before our trip, heavy rain produced mudslides in the region we were traveling. An entire village washed away, displacing hundreds of people. Many lost their lives – men in particular.

The day after our arrival, the head of the ministry approached us. They owned an abandoned school that was converted in to a storage facility. “There are some things we need to move from the school to a warehouse. Can you help out? It is going to be hard work.” “How bad could it be?” we asked ourselves.

The next few days were spent hauling 110 pound bags of beans from one storage facility to another. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever worked that hard in my life. Returning to the ministry each day, we spoke with teams from other parts of the U.S. “What did you guys do today?” we asked. “We hiked to this really cool waterfall and did some cliff jumping. You?” “We hauled bags of beans all day long.”

This interchange happened two days in a row. Finally, I begged their youth leader for help. Without it, this temporary shelter was not going to be completed. Curiously, it was the teenagers on his team that convinced him to participate. Fortunately, they agreed to help us and the shelter was up and running by weeks end.

People can be selfish. Cliff jumping sounded really fun and my team wanted to do it. However, the thought of helpless people not having a place to lay their heads seemed more important. Sacrificing our desires to help others was clearly the right thing to do.

Jesus sacrificed everything for us. His followers abandoned Him. The people He healed, fed and loved rejected Him for a murderer named Barabbas. He suffered unimaginable physical pain from His arrest until His dying breath on the cross. He became sin and was separated from His Father for the first time.

There are times in life when God may seem distant. Occasionally, we don’t feel His love for us. During these times, we have to remind ourselves of the cross. The cross is where God demonstrated His unfailing and eternal love for us. The cross is where God proclaims, “You are valuable. I believe in you. There is a plan and a purpose for your life. Let’s figure that out together.”

God created us in His image. That means that we are called to live life the way that Jesus did. Jesus never thought about His wants, needs or desires. Rather, He thought about us and what His death would accomplish for us.

God encourages us to be like Him. He asks that we esteem others more than ourselves. That is what it means to put on His love. It is what God’s kingdom looks like. In the end you will find that loving others like that is not a sacrifice at all. Rather, it is a complete joy.

%d bloggers like this: