Do you remember your first birthday party? Do you remember your first day at school? Do you remember when your first car, job, or prom? You may not remember these events, but here’s one thing I’m sure you can – when someone disrespected, hurt, or upset you. Our memory of other events in life may be vague, but we can recall how and when someone mistreated us with ease.
Aren’t you glad God isn’t like us? Can you imagine how painful prayer would be if He used it as an opportunity to recount the times we hurt Him? We wouldn’t have time to ask Him for anything, for we all have a long list of errors in our file. Instead, God forgives and forgets: “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah 43:25, New Living Translation). When God extends forgiveness, He truly forgets what we have done. He gives us a clean slate and doesn’t reserve our mistakes for a more convenient time.
We’re alive today because God forgives and forgets. Every sin we have committed, consciously and unconsciously, qualified us for the death penalty, but He forgave us. Be thankful that He doesn’t remember what we often take a lifetime to forget.
Tomorrow, many Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. Most of our agendas will include lunch or dinner with family and friends we adore and cherish. But what would you do if you received a Thanksgiving meal invitation from someone you really didn’t like? What if that irritating co-worker or nagging boss invited you to their celebration? What if the person who lives to make your life miserable asked you to stop by for turkey and dressing? If you’re like most people, then you’d happily decline the invitation.
I used to think the same way, often dreading being around people who got on my nerves. A sermon I heard earlier this year, however, changed my approach to “enemies.” The sermon title was “A Friend Called Enemy,” an oxymoron, I might add, and it was based on Psalm 23:5 – “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.” The sermon and David’s words convinced me to get excited, and not aggravated, when I’m around people that make life difficult. According to this verse, God reserves some blessings for moments when we have enemies. He uses their aggravating attitudes and gestures as the prerequisite for our blessings. God enriches our lives so those who don’t like us, and probably don’t know Him, can see how awesome He is!
Only God can use irritating individuals to bless us; He truly arranges every circumstance to work favorably for His people (see Romans 8:28). If you’ve become more faithful, patient, prayerful, merciful, or compassionate this year because of your enemies, then thank God for it. Truly, He has prepared the table of blessings for you in the presence of your enemies!
One of my friends posted something on Facebook that made me think. He shared how grateful he was for family and friends who listen when he needs to talk. I thought about it, and I agree – it’s a blessing to have people in your life who are willing to listen. Many people are too busy or self-absorbed to really listen when you have a lot on your mind. And if they do “listen,” they’re often so full of advice that they never hear what you’re saying. It’s truly a blessing to find anyone available and able to listen when you need to talk.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus isn’t like us? He’s compassionate, understanding, and eager to listen; that’s why we can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” (Hebrews 4:16. New Living Translation). Daily, He gives life to everything on earth, yet He’s never too busy to listen to us. Even when a lot of people call Him at the same time, He never gets distracted; He gives everyone undivided attention. And even when we can’t articulate how we feel, He’s an interpreter (see Romans 8:26).
Most importantly, He answers our prayers! No wonder David exclaimed, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4, New Living Translation). If you prayed this year, be thankful, because God heard you! He never gets tired of listening to us, so call Him whenever you need to.
Have you ever yearned for Jesus’ return? Have you ever wanted to see Him or enjoy heaven with Him? Maybe you’ve felt like Paul and your desire to be with Him competes with your desire to serve Him on earth (see 2 Corinthians 5). Or maybe you’ve been through so much hell on earth that you can’t wait for your eternal vacation in heaven.
Why hasn’t Jesus returned? It’s getting harder to be a Christian, and sometimes we wonder why He hasn’t delivered us from life’s turmoil. If you’re curious about the delay, then Peter provides the rationale: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9, New Living Translation). Jesus hasn’t forgotten about us; rather, His love for us makes Him wait. He doesn’t want anyone to miss the opportunity of eternity; He wants everyone to live with Him in heaven.
As I thought about the delay, I couldn’t help praising Him. At one point, I wasn’t ready for His return. Aren’t you glad He didn’t come back when He could have? Aren’t you glad He delayed His return for you? Just imagine the eternal fate you could have had, and I guarantee you’ll be thankful!
I bought a foam roller last month. It’s not too extravagant; it’s just a large piece of Styrofoam, used to relieve pain and tension in your muscles. When I first received it, I regretted the purchase; my muscles ached so badly while I was using it. But after I concluded my exercises, I noticed that my muscles felt great! Later, I realized that the longer I used the foam roller, the better I felt. Although it hurt me initially, the foam roller eventually helped me.
Interestingly, I had the same attitude toward trials. I used to hate them, for they lasted so long, caused so much pain, and, at times, seemed unbearable. But when the smoke cleared, I noticed that they helped me become more like Christ. Only God can put mountains in our path to build our climbing “muscles.” Only God can put us in the fire to demonstrate His extinguishing power. Although we usually don’t like them, trials make us better. No wonder the psalmist wrote, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71, New Living Translation).
I used to think this scripture was bizarre, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2, New Living Translation). Why would anyone be happy about suffering? Now that I see how much better I am, because of what I’ve been through, I understand. If God allowed any trials in your life, and they made you better, rejoice. He always has our best interest in mind!
I watched one of the most disheartening news reports ever earlier this week. Shaniya Nicole Davis, a 5-year old girl from North Carolina, was found dead six days after her mysterious disappearance. My heart went out to her father; he was so devastated by the news that his friends had to hold him up at a candlelight vigil. Even worse, the investigators think her mother allowed her to be taken for sexual servitude. I think the headline from Tuesday’s News and Observer said it best, “Sad end to search for girl.”
At first, I couldn’t imagine a parent exposing his or her child to such inhumane circumstances. Then, I started thinking about how blessed I’ve been. I could have been in a similar situation, but God blessed me with great parents. I’m thankful that He blessed me with parents who made sure I had and pursued the best things in life. Most importantly, I’m thankful that they embraced Proverbs 22:6: “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (New Living Translation). I am what I am largely because of the deposits they made into my life.
I’m not sure if you’ve considered this, but some people don’t have good parents. If your parents have done anything to help you be a great person, then thank God for it. It’s only by His grace that your parents (or guardians) realized that “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3, New Living Translation).
Have you ever had a bad day? I’m not talking about the days filled with bodily aches and pains; rather, I’m referring to those days when it seems you can’t do anything right. Have you ever said or done something wrong? Maybe you’ve had a bad attitude or thought about telling someone what was really on your mind. Or, maybe you just didn’t dot a few “I’s” or cross a few “T’s.”
I don’t know about you, but I know that I’ve missed the mark several days this year. Thankfully, however, God is not like us. When people are unforgiving and vengeful, God is merciful. When we admit our errors, He forgives and forgets. He buries our past and doesn’t resurrect it; “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:23, New Living Translation). When our actions qualify us for the death penalty, God’s mercy is our plea bargain!
If you’ve done anything wrong this year, and you’re alive to read this email, then praise God. It’s not that your apology was so convincing; you’re living because of His mercy! If you haven’t received any other blessing this year, then thank God for the fresh start you’ve received every day. He looked beyond our faults and saw our needs; He deserves our praise!
Last week, I saw a man, standing near the exit ramp of a major highway, asking for financial assistance. Earlier this week, I saw a commercial that said the average American has at least $17,000 in credit card debt. The American economy has plummeted so low that even “Uncle Sam” has asked for assistance. The Federal Government has offered tax deductions to anyone who donates money to reduce the estimated 12 trillion dollar deficit. Long story short, times are hard for a lot of people.
Considering these financial challenges made me appreciative of the little I have. I may not own a mansion or a yacht, but I’m thankful for the few dimes and nickels I can rub together. The way the economy has been, I’m thankful just to be able to buy the necessities. Being able to spend money, no matter the amount, is a blessing. It’s a sign that even in the recession, God has continually supplied all of your needs (see Philippians 4:19).
You may not have all the money you want, but if you have some, that hasn’t been allocated to paying someone else, you’re blessed. Our God is faithful, even when the economy isn’t. Once again, I implore you, “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3, New Living Translation).
Have you ever had a day when you had a lot on your mind? If it happened this year, then I understand. Mass murders, layoffs, bank closures, H1N1 (“swine flu”), plane crashes, war, health care debates, and the list goes on. We’ve had so much to think about, just this year, that we should have gone crazy!
This year, I’ve had so much on my mind that some nights I couldn’t sleep. I’ve even had so much on my mind that I drove somewhere and didn’t remember the journey. But God is faithful, and this year, I also learned that this verse is true: “(He) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in (Him), all whose thoughts are fixed on (Him)” (Isaiah 26:3, New Living Translation). God is a mind decongestant; He can calm the calamity in your mind!
The best news is that He’s not hard to find, for “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1, New Living Translation). If you’ve had a clear mind at least once this year, thank God for it. He’s the source of your peace of mind.
P.S. Happy Veteran’s Day
Yesterday, I watched a news report about the national unemployment rate. The report noted that just over 16 million people are unemployed; that’s 1 out of every 10 Americans. The news anchor, however, proposed that 10% was a modest estimate and did not include the people who simply gave up looking for a job. If you add in those who stopped looking, then the unemployment rate is as high as 17%. Almost 2 Americans out of 10 do not have jobs.
The more I thought about these statistics, I couldn’t help thinking about the people who long to be employed. Think about it – that 17% probably includes people with doctorate, masters, and undergraduate degrees. It probably includes people with more experience and qualifications than I have. It probably includes people who could work more productively than those currently employed. Yet, I have a job that’s extremely gratifying. It’s not that I’m so great; rather, it’s the great God I serve. “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father …” (James 1:17, New Living Translation), and I praise Him for being employed!
Maybe you haven’t considered it this year, but trust me, being employed is a blessing. If you’ve worked at all this year, whether part-time or full-time, thank God for it. Millions of people would love to enjoy the job you’ve been given, so I hope you’ll heed Paul’s advice: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23, New Living Translation).