Overflowing with Gratitude

Who of us doesn’t love a good fairy tale? There’s a bright beginning . . .  “once upon a time,” then the middle is adventure and crisis . . . romance and tension . . . , but we can endure any number of plot twists because we know the “happily ever after” ending is coming.

That sounds a bit familiar to me. Consider this: perhaps we enjoy fairy tales so much because they offer a glimpse into God’s REAL eternal story written in the Bible.

  • Once upon a time . . . “In the beginning . . .” Gen. 1:1
  • Happily ever after . . . “and He shall wipe every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain.” Rev. 21:4

I’ve also noticed that the pages of the Bible chronicle true stories of the High King of Heaven giving grace and redemption to the people of earth. Getting a glimpse of that reality should cause us to overflow with gratitude.

This is our last look at Colossians 2:6-7:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude . . . ”

Let me share with you a true fairy tale from the pages of 2 Samuel:
The people’s king, Saul, turned out NOT to be a good king. He was jealous, angry and self-serving. But the king had a righteous son. Prince Jonathan was so righteous he chose friendship with his father’s rival, David, over loyalty to the throne. Saving David’s life meant Jonathan would never be king himself, and David made a promise before God to honor Prince Jonathan’s family in his coming kingdom.

Years of fighting and exile finally brought David to rule as God’s King over His people. Twenty years after David made that vow to Jonathan, he remembered to keep it. Knowing that Jonathan and his father had both died in battle, he searched for anyone who might be Jonathan’s heir. Finally one was found – a son of Jonathan, crippled in both feet.

You see, in his flight to safety after his father and grandfather were killed in battle, a 5 yr. old heir to the throne fell. The fall was so traumatic that it caused him to be crippled for life–broken and discarded. His name was Mephibosheth. He had been living in hiding for 20 years–hiding from David’s revenge, hiding from scorn, hiding with the pain of his fall.

But now King David seeks out the broken prince and sends for him to come before his throne. And as we read the story, we wait for the truth to be revealed. There was a promise and, since David is a good king, he will keep his promise. Won’t he?

2 Sam. 9:6-7
“And Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, ‘Mephibosheth.’
And he said, ‘Here is your servant!’
And David said to him. ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.”

Our hearts soar as we picture a broken, outcast like this fallen prince being welcomed to the table of King David. We see him limp awkwardly into the banquet hall as David’s favored guests — regal sons, mighty fighting men — rise to greet this new member of the family. David himself smiles broadly as a tear of remembrance for Jonathan rolls down his cheek.

A promise before God has been kept. A royal prince has returned. He has a place at the table.

Then the chapter finishes …

“So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet.”

A glimpse of our Happily Ever After?

I’ll let Max Lucado conclude this true tale . . .

“And I ask you, do you see our story in his? Children of royalty, crippled by the fall, permanently marred by sin. Living parenthetical lives in the chronicles of earth only to be remembered by the king. Driven not by our beauty but by his promise, he calls us to himself and invites us to take a permanent place at his table. Though we often limp more than we walk, we take our place next to the other sinners-made-saints and we share in God’s glory.”

When we realize we too have a place at the King’s table, may we be women overflowing with gratitude!

God’s Breath of Wisdom

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed . . .” Colossians 2:6-7

As a leader of this ministry committed to instructing women in God’s Word, “just as you were instructed . . . ” is my favorite line! I love to communicate and teach the truth of God. That’s the ONE thing God’s specifically asked me to do.

When I read that phrase I also recall all the ways I’ve received instruction. Being instructed myself is not always as much fun as instructing others. Maybe that’s because I learn things the hard way.

One of my earliest memories was learning John 3:16 at 18 months. (Not that I really remember it, but I’ve been reminded of that feat often enough.) My young life was saturated with Bible learning–at church several times a week, summer camp, and Christian school. Then as an adult, my job involved listening to radio Bible teachers in order to write advertising copy. I listened to biblical instruction for hours a day . . . read books . . . attended seminars . . . .

You’d think with that background, I would understand who God was. Yet even with lots of head knowledge, my heart was cold to the Truth of a living, loving God.

Much too far into my grown-up life, I asked God to give me a passion for His Word. I could see that those other teachers of the Word experienced something much deeper when they opened their Bibles than I did. I wanted that for myself–not just to read and know–but to confidently live in God’s Word. When I verbalized that desire, that’s when I truly began to be instructed in the Word.

These words in Psalm 119:73-77 (The Message) remind me of God’s instruction. I’ll take it line-by-line to show God’s model for instruction:

1. “With your very own hands you formed me; now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.” God’s breath–His Spirit instructs us. That’s an incredible gift we receive at salvation–the Spirit of God within us, who convicts us of wrong and convinces us of the truth.

2. “When they see me waiting, expecting your Word, those who fear you will take heart and be glad.” God’s Word instructs us. These words on a page are also a living Word. It’s one of those wonderful mysteries of Jesus . . . that He was the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Andrew Murray tells us this:

“Study much to know the written Word, but study more to know the living Word, in whom you are of God.  Jesus, the wisdom of God, is only known by a life of implicit confidence and obedience. The words He speaks are spirit and life to those who live in Him.” (Abide in Christ, pg. 63)

3. “I can see now, God, that your decisions are right; your testing has taught me what’s true and right.” God instructs us through the difficult moments in life. When everything we hold onto in this world seems to be gone, we learn what’s true and right in God’s eyes. We grow and mature when we learn that God’s decisions are right.

 4. “Oh, love me–and right now!–hold me tight! Just the way you promised.” God also teaches us through His people. Sometimes they are close enough to touch us; sometimes they bring a word or note of encouragement. People who speak the Truth to you give an up-close view of God. Some call this showing “Jesus with skin on.”

 5. “Now comfort me so I can live, really live; your revelation is the tune I dance to.” We respond to God’s instruction with praise. At the same time, we learn more about our great God. Praise brings new revelation . . . and we long for more.

God’s Word should delight us in a way that sets us free . . . free to dance in His presence.

Mind if I pray for you?

God, there is someone reading this today with a ridiculous amount of head-knowledge about Your Word, but her heart is still empty. Stir her in places that words alone fail to reach–tender places that bring her to tears, dry places that make her thirsty for You, overwhelming places that bring her to the end of herself. Then open her eyes to the wonder of living free in Your presence. Amen.

Our Faith Confirmed

Our weekly look at spiritual markers in Colossians 2:6-7 has brought us this far:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith. . .

You have received salvation through Jesus Christ . . . you can walk with God.

God has firmly rooted you . . . you are strong and steady in Jesus.

You are being built up in Him . . . it’s a continual process.

Now, what does it mean for God to establish us in our faith?   In this verse that phrase means that we are confirmed in our faith; our faith is a sure thing.  It’s not just a sure thing for today, but it will remain true into eternity (1 Cor. 1:8). 

Great!   Now we can just close the Bible on that one and live free knowing we are established in our faith, right?

Is it just me, or does anyone else have a hard time transferring the Truth of God’s Word into every day life? If I know that I’m established in my faith . . . why do I still struggle with doubt and fear? 

When I see a sign on the side of a building that says “Established 1992,” I certainly don’t doubt their word for it.  I don’t look up the record of the building to make sure it’s true.  If I’ve done business there and know firsthand what they’ve been doing since 1992, I would be silly to doubt that they were established.

Isn’t that what God is saying about our faith too?  I get so worried when I don’t feel something . . . or I’m not comfortable . . . or I’m not challenged in my faith.  Then I doubt and become fearful.  Yet, in reality, the greatest testimony to my faith is my very own life.  I can see that God has built into my life . . . I can see the business He’s been doing in and through me. 

God says “remember” what’s happened in your life of faith.

                Remember how you’ve changed and grown. 

                              Remember all the ways He’s been faithful to you . . .

                                  and you’ve responded by sticking with it.

Sometimes I think my problem isn’t so much a lack of faith but a lack of memory.  And since my memory isn’t improving with age, I’ve tried a few things to compensate. Maybe they’ll be of help to you.

  1.  Write it down.  Write down verses that speak to you . . . write down thoughts and feelings about God at key times in your life . . . write your questions and doubts.
  2. After you write . . . Review.  Keep going over those verses, pray them back to God.  Read through your old journals once in a while.  Review those key moments in life.
  3. For those things you are worried you’ve already lost to time . . . pray to remember.  I’ve had God revive old memories in the most wonderful ways, and they’ve led to new growth and change.  They’ve shown me crossroad moments in life when God was there.  I didn’t see Him at the time, but  now I do.  God isn’t limited by time, and He gives us wonderful memories when we ask.

A few years ago, when one of my boys was just beginning to learn to write, I gave him a stack of post-it notes.  So, he would write me little messages, or draw pictures and leave them where I could find them.  They cheered me up so much that I began to keep them, and tuck them away in books or drawers to discover later.

Just the other day, I ran across this one again, “I love you mom.  I hope you had a good day.”  When I see that note, I remember the day it was written. I REALLY needed to be encouraged to have a good day. I was emotionally and physically worn out, and God gave me a little boy’s note to cheer me up. 

Remembering and looking back over the years shows me how God has established my faith.  He has been so gentle and kind in the smallest details of my life.

Ps. 86:15-17 reminds us of how God establishes us:

“But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit. So look me in the eye and show kindness, give your servant the strength to go on, save your dear, dear child! Make a show of how much you love me so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed, as you, God, gently and powerfully put me back on my feet.”

 

Pause for Reflection:

How have doubts caused you to live fearful rather than free in Jesus?

What notes has God written and posted in your life to tell you of His love?

How has God established your faith? – it’s a personal story and one that God wants you to live and know, so you can truly live free.

Faith takes Root

Last week, I shared Colossians 2:6-7 which began with this phrase, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” and we walked together along Apple Road.

 That same verse continues, “having been firmly rooted.”  When we receive Christ Jesus as Lord—He plants us into a place where we are firmly rooted.

Roots remind me of trees, and I wonder . . . what does a tree require in order to be firmly rooted?

Soil.  The soil can’t be weak; it needs nutrients, fertilizer.  On the farm we call fertilizer MANURE.  In town you call it COMPOST.  Looks the same, smells the same—it’s all the same decaying, rotten stuff of life.  But somehow that rotten stuff breaks down chemically to make the roots strong.

So we have MANURE for our soil . . . what else does a newly planted tree need?

Water.  That water soaks into the roots and helps them spread out and grow.  Roots seek water and the deeper they go in tapping into the pure source of water, the stronger the tree will be.

What’s the last thing a tree needs to take root?

Sunshine.  The sun on the topside of the tree helps the plant to grow and thrive and gives it more strength under the ground too.  A healthy tree has strong roots and strong branches and leaves.

Much like a newly planted tree taking root, we become firmly rooted spiritually when we have some essential nutrients.

We need the Light of the World, Jesus.  He shines into our lives, and we reach up to Him for strength.

We need the Word of God to water our lives.  Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us that the Word of God is like the rain and snow that come down and soak into the ground. And just as moisture helps a tree produce fruit, when we’re rooted in the Word of God, we are fruitful in God’s kingdom.

Finally, we need manure.  Seriously!  Our lives are filled with the rotten, decaying stuff of life.  Because we live in a sinful world, there is a lot of disappointment,

                                  dissatisfaction,

                                              discontent,

                                                        disgust . . .

all the discarded and ugly things that really stink it up sometimes.

 We can let those sinful things pile up around us OR we can give them to God. 

Yes, God WANTS our manure.  He wants whatever it is that we hold back from Him, whatever sinful things we hold more tightly than we cling to Him.  He’s asking us to give them up. 

That’s where confession happens . . . because you can’t give up something that you don’t own. Confession means we own the sin in our lives . . . then we give it to God and accept His forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

That’s why confession is an integral part of our prayer time here at TW.  James 5:16 is the verse we claim: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” 

We realize the more you learn about who God is through His Word, the more your sin will start to stink to you.  We want you to learn a healthy way to respond to that sin . . .  to not just keep piling it up, but to give it up to God.  Then, He  is faithful to forgive and cleanse us. 

It seems to me that self-disclosure has become a very popular thing to do these days.  When I was growing up in the church, we hid our sin rather than have it known and healed.  So it just piled up in our lives.  Now we are quick to reveal our sins. But true confession is more than just acknowledging sin, it’s also asking God to forgive that sin.  When we do, God cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

And just like a newly planted tree uses fertilizer to strengthen its roots, God uses the manure of life to make us strong.  God redeems even the most disgusting things in our lives for our good and His glory. 

Pause for Refection:

What sin is God asking you to confess, relinquish, and allow Him to redeem today? 

What have you been piling up and holding onto in place of Jesus? 

What can you trust Jesus to set you free from today?

Our Witness Post

My road to freedom has involved walking with God. I mean literally walking WITH God along a road near my house—just me and God along Apple Road.  As I walk, I usually take verse cards with me. I pray . . . I cry . . . I talk. 

Colossians 2:6-7 is written on one of those verse cards:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” NASB

This verse reminds me what it takes to walk with God, to abide with Him.

Apple Road is a quiet road except for the one neighbor in a blue pickup who drives up and down several times a day.  I’m sure he sees me, mumbling to myself with tears running down, holding little white cards in front of my face. Well, I’m glad I can give the blue pickup man something to talk about at the local cafe! 

After walking my path along Apple Road hundreds of times, I was surprised one day when I see spotted something new . . . something I hadn’t noticed before. (Something besides the blue pickup.) On that day, with Colossians 2:6-7 running through in my head, I turned the corner on Apple Road and was given a sign. Not a vision of wonder, an actual SIGN . . . just a little white sign on a fence post.

Witness Post, it read, and below that, the words, Please do not disturb nearby survey marker.  For more information write NE Dept. of Roads . . . . (Oh, and the blue pickup did drive by as I was scrambling into the ditch to get a closer look at the sign!)

Somewhere under the dirt and gravel or maybe in the asphalt at the corner—I’m not sure because I can’t see it—a marker has been set permanently.  It’s a fixed marker, so that if anyone ever needs a reference point, if they need to set a course, if they need to get their bearings . . . they go to the survey marker.

 The Witness Post reminds us of that fixed point.

And Colossians 2:6 reminds me of my fixed point: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord . . .”

There was one time in the history of time on earth when a survey marker was set to determine life and death.  One man—God’s Son—drove that marker of Truth by giving up His own life as a sacrifice for the sin of each and every person. Never before or since has anyone with the power and privilege of freedom submitted himself like that. 

As Jesus’s enemies taunted Him,

          as the Roman guards mocked Him,

                   as the thieves on either side of Him derided Him

                                       and as the forces of Satan plotted to destroy Him . . .

 the host of heaven waited to rescue Him. 

With one whispered prayer, He could have called the most spectacular and glorious rescue squad ever seen.  Every part of Jesus’s physical being should have driven him to save himself.  In saving Himself, Jesus could prove His power . . . His detractors would be silenced. 

But . . .  in dying, He would become a sacrifice for the sin of the world.

                                    Jesus could save himself OR He could save us.

                                                   He had to choose.

For those of us who have reason to feel rejected or abandoned . . .  

            for those who are unloved or lonely . . .

                   for those who are just tired and stressed out . . .

                                for ALL of us who live bound rather than free . . .

                                                           know this:    

                           On that day, Jesus chose YOU!  He CHOSE you.

When you accept that—when you receive Him as Lord and King in your life—a marker of truth is set in your life.  You begin a relationship with Jesus, the One who chose you. No one can dig it up or pull it out.  Jesus Himself is the authority to hold you steady, to give you a new course in life.

God’s Word is our witness post. It reminds us that a survey marker has been set in our lives.  When we read the Word, God’s Spirit confirms what is true about who God is and who we are.

 “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

Pause for reflection:

 How often do you spend time alone with God and His Word?

 What markers has God placed in your life as a witness of His work within you?

 How does knowing Jesus chose YOU affect the way you view yourself?