Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving-picturesAlthough the Pilgrims set aside a day of thanksgiving in 1621, Governor William Bradford, governor of the Pilgrim’s Plymouth Colony, formally declared a day of thanksgiving in 1623 with these words:

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

On this day of Thanksgiving 393 years later, we all share similar sentiments. God has given us an abundant harvest of His provision, and He has protected us from the savage attacks of countries and terrorists who hate us. He has spared us from disease and granted us freedom to worship Him. We have much for which to give Him thanks.

I am thankful for a God who loves me with a love that can’t be measured, redeemed me with a price that can’t be earned, filled me with a peace that can’t be understood, and secured me with a hope that can’t be conquered. He’s given me the joy of my family, the community of my church, the mission field of His world, and a home that is eternal. I am a blessed man indeed. I have a wife who loves me, children who honor me, and a church who gives me the privilege to serve. I could die today a very contented man.

Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, I can only say with the great hymn writer: Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

What Now?

americaprayWhat now? It seems like an eternity ago, but it’s only been a week. Many of us stayed up all night on November 8 to await the outcome of the presidential election. I couldn’t go to sleep. I sat glued to my television until after 4:00 in the morning. I’ve gone on the record a few months ago by saying that I didn’t like either option for a president (that is Republican or Democratic candidates), but voters obviously narrowed it down to two possibilities, so I had to choose between the two. My vote for president this year had more to do with policies and positions rather than personalities.

I do not believe God can bless a nation who passes laws contrary to His Word. God cannot honor a people who dishonor His people. By this, I mean that I want a president who is not a part of the movement to persecute Christians and to withdraw from Israel. I want a president who will help insure my religious freedoms and not force Christians to stand against government policy because it is contrary to God’s policy. I want a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who will abide by the Constitution and not try to rewrite it. I believe that life starts at conception, and I want justices who will protect life from its inception. I have other political priorities and opinions, but these issues are close to my heart. Will Donald Trump bring all of these things to pass? I hope so, and will pray to that end.

So, what must we do now? We must do the same thing that I hope we’ve been doing our entire life: pray for our nation and pray for our leaders. First Timothy 2:1-2 states, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” It is our responsibility to pray for our leaders. The Scripture indicates that the consequence of the persistent prayers of the faithful people of God is that we will be able to lead tranquil and quiet lives. While many of us prayed fervently before the election, we must double our efforts now after the election. President Elect Trump and all of Congress are counting on us. The people of the United States are depending on us. James 5:16 states, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

The United States of America is the greatest nation on the earth, but our greatness is not just for our benefit. God has made us great so we can bless the world. He gave us light so we can shine it throughout the darkened recesses of our globe. I urge you to join with me as we pray for our political leaders and for our spiritual leaders. I also urge you to join in with me in recommitting yourself to shining your light into the darkness. We have much work to do for God’s glory.

 

Healing for America as we Seek God’s Face

prayer22 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Today is the day. So much will be determined about our future by the casting of ballots, and a lot hangs in the balance. At the same time, God is not limited by what happens today. Regardless of who becomes our next president or representative or senator, God is still on His throne. His plan will not be thwarted and His purpose will not go unfulfilled. We can find great comfort today in knowing that God’s will is not dependent upon our opinions and actions.

Regardless of today’s outcome, America is in dire need of renewal. Our renewal, however, does not need only to come in the form of new initiatives, new laws, and new Supreme Court justices. We have a much deeper need than that. We need spiritual renewal and revival. God says that He will heal our land if His people will humble themselves and pray. He also calls us to seek His face and turn from our wicked ways.

Seeking God’s face is a call to authenticity and transparency before a holy God Who already knows all things. Looking into the eyes of our Heavenly Father is an invitation for Him to look deep into our souls and see everything. Such divine scrutiny always leads to repentance in the lives of God’s children. We cannot maintain our heavenly gaze unless we’re willing to repent. We either seek God’s face and enjoy the refreshing grace of a merciful God, or we turn away and continue in our destructive patterns and rebellion.

Seeking God’s face also calls for a relationship. God never intended us to just obey Him. He also wants us to love Him. We can be rule followers and still be far from God. It’s like the strong-willed little boy who finally sat down after being told to do so by his mother one hundred times. He replied, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside.” God doesn’t just want outward conformity. He wants an inner relationship. God has many things He wants to do in your life, but He can only do them in the context of love.

Seeking God’s face also means gaining God’s approval. Imagine the nod of God’s eternal head as He watches the lives of His children. God says that he will bring healing to our land when His people live in such a way as to please the heart of our Heavenly Father. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the world and begin comparing ourselves to the wrong standard. My mother used to remind me that it didn’t matter what my friends did because they weren’t the standard. Our only standard is Jesus Christ and His Word. If you want God’s healing in our land, in your family, or in your life, seek God’s face by living in obedience to His will.

We want God to heal our land; therefore, it means that we must fall on our face in prayer and seek His face. We must humble ourselves and continue to pray as we repent of our sins and intercede for our land. If God’s people will do that, God will respond and heal our land. May we join our hearts together and plea for the soul of America.

Family Devotion by Amy Autry

Getting Started: Take a piece of paper. Have a member of the family rip the paper into smaller pieces. As a family work to put the paper back together. Like this piece of paper, it started out perfect. Our actions tore into tiny pieces. We can try to put it back together, but we cannot make it look like it did before. It is the same with sin. We cannot do it by ourselves. Only God can restore us after we have sinned.

Bible Time:

Read 1 John 1:5-10

When God created the world, he created us in His image and there was no sin. In verse 5, John tells his readers that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness.” We were created to have a perfect relationship with God where there was no sin. Sin is anything we think, say, or do that disobeys God. Soon after God created people, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.

Because of sin our relationship with God was broken. Verse 6 tells us that we cannot have fellowship with God if we continue to sin. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Sin separates us from God, but God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to take our punishment for disobeying God. God tells us that if we repent of our sin, our relationship with Him will be restored. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

When we ask God to be our Lord, it doesn’t mean that we will never mess up. God wants us to constantly confess, or repent of our sins and turn back to Him. Repent means that we are turning away from our sin and turning back to following God. God promises that when we repent, he will forgive our sins as if they never happened and our relationship with Him is restored.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is sin? (Anything we think, say or do that disobeys God)
  • Who has sinned? (Everyone)
  • What does God do when we confess our sin? (He forgives us and restores our relationship with Him.)

 

Spend some time praying and asking God to forgive any sin in your life. If your child is asking questions about salvation, spend time discussing what it means to follow Christ.

We’re Not “All That”

humbleThis election race has been grueling and has revealed flaws in America’s values. We have the two most unlikely and unliked candidates vying for the most powerful office in the world. Why is it that someone so unpopular with the American people will become our next president? Is it possible that the citizens of our great country no longer care about the things that matter? The last year has proven that lying and hypocrisy are no longer red flags as long as our favored candidate can put money in our pockets. It seems that character, or the lack of it, is no longer a factor in running for office.

This election process has not only revealed the flaws of our candidates, but it has also revealed the flaws of our people. We are a flawed people who sometime lack character. We also do not always act from a stellar moral center, and the arrogance of the candidates may be a reflection of the arrogance of the American people.

I shared a theme scripture with you yesterday that I plan to use today and again tomorrow. 2 Chronicles 7:14 states, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This passage not only calls us to prayer, but it also presents three things we must do as we go before God. The first is that we must humble ourselves.

Pride is the one thing that will keep us from God. It is our arrogance that keeps us from repenting and crying out to God for help. God must be the sovereign of our hearts, but our pride causes us to remove God from the throne of our hearts and take that place ourselves. The prophet Isaiah (Isa 47:10) wrote inspired words 2700 years ago that sound as if he wrote them about America this morning: “You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” We forget the words of Proverbs 18:12: “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”

We cannot experience repentance without humility. Through humility, we recognize our dependence upon God and our utter helplessness. Through humility we see that we are not “all that,” and we realize God’s sufficiency. The marvel of it all is that God, in His mercy and compassion, longs to meet the deepest needs in our lives. He is simply waiting for us to humble ourselves before Him and cry out to Him in prayer.

 

I’ve asked our Children’s Minister to write family devotions to go along with my blog each day.

Humble Yourselves Before God – Family Devotion by Amy Autry

Getting Started: Ask each member of the family to a draw picture of someone who is powerful. This may be a real person or a fictional character. What do they look like? What makes them powerful? How did they get their power?

Most of the time we think of powerful people as being the biggest, or strongest, or having the most accomplishments.

Bible Time:

Read 1 Kings 3:5-14

When Solomon became king, God appeared to him in a dream and asked, “What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon could have asked for anything? He could have asked to have the most money, or be the strongest person in the land. Instead, Solomon prayed that He would have a wise and understanding heart. Solomon was humble before God and understood that true power and wisdom only come from God. God was very pleased with Solomon’s request. In fact, God promised that if Solomon continued to obey His commandments he would have a long life.

Like Solomon, God wants us to be humble before Him. To humble ourselves before God means that we know that we are not perfect and we surrender to God’s wisdom and trust His purpose for our lives.

Read Psalm 25: 8-10

In verse 9, the bible tells us that God will teach the humble His way. God wants to teach us how to live and follow His plan for our lives. God promises that when we trust His ways and follow Him that he will show us exactly how to live.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What did Solomon ask God for? (A wise and understanding heart)
  2. What was God’s response to Solomon’s request? (God was pleased and gave Solomon more than he asked for)

How can we humble ourselves before God? (By trusting God and following Him)

If My People Will…Pray

pledge

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Solomon obeyed the Lord and built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. At the conclusion of this great project, all of the people of Israel gathered to celebrate the completion of the temple and to dedicate it to the Lord. After the people left and Solomon was alone, the Lord appeared to him one night and told him that He heard Solomon’s prayer. The Lord then made an interesting statement, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…”

Why would God shut up the heavens so it didn’t rain or send a plague on His people? It sounds to me like he was pointing to the reality of judgment upon Israel. God knew that even though they had just dedicated the temple, His people would waver and fall away from Him. Israel’s history and humanity’s disposition shows that as sure as night follows day, sin follows obedience. Israel lived out a cyclical pattern of obedience, submission, and pleasing God followed by a period of sin, rebellion, and dishonoring God. In response to this reality of human weakness, God made two promises. The first one is stated above: He will bring judgment upon humanity. The second one is contained in the next verse (2 Chronicles 7:14): “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

This famous verse was part of a conversation God had with King Solomon in the middle of the night about Israel, but God included it in His Word for us. Israel is not the only people with a propensity to sin, and God’s promise still rings out true for us. If we will turn to God, God will heal our land.

Our nation is at a crossroad, and the people of God must fall on their faces before Almighty God and seek him as never before. The path we have taken for many years is a path leading us away from our Creator. The consequence of rebellion is judgment. If we do not repent and come back to God, His hand of protection will be lifted from our great country, and we will encounter His wrath.

We are in the final stages of electing a president for our nation. This election process has been shameful and embarrassing, but the differences between the candidates are stark. As Christians who have a voice in the electoral process and who are seeking the face of God, we must vote and we must ask God for mercy and healing as a nation. We should vote for the candidate who will best lead us to be a nation who honors the Lord. While economic prosperity is important and while military strength is essential, the Bible says that a nation is blessed “whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

This next president will be selecting at least one new Supreme Court justice and will have considerable influence upon the future direction of our land. In the past, we have passed laws that stand in direct contrast to the clear teaching of the Word of God. Our next president will be making choices about future laws. Will we continue to move down a path away from God or will we come back toward being a people who submit to God’s sovereign rule? If we move away from God, we can expect “the heavens to be shut up and locusts to devour the land.” God’s judgment will come in a variety of ways, but it will come.

I’m writing to call us to pray. We must seek God’s face and intercede for our nation. We must turn from our sin and turn to God. I’m asking you to join me in these final three days of the election process in prayer, crying out to God for help and mercy. If you can fast, I encourage you to fast. Will you set apart a significant amount of time during the next three days to cry out to our Creator for His help and intervention. If we as a people will pray and seek the face of God and turn from our sin, then we will hear from heaven, and God will heal our land.

Family Devotion

Getting Started: As a family, name ways that we can talk with someone who is not in the same room as us. When we talk with people, we can get to know who they are and what is important to them. It is the same with God. God wants us to talk to Him, so we can know him better. What are some ways we can talk to God?

Bible Time:

God loves it when we talk to Him. Another name for talking to God is prayer. When we pray, we are talking and listening to God. We can talk to God anywhere about anything.

Read 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 29:11-13

After the temple had been built, God appeared to Solomon. God told Solomon that there would be hard times ahead for the nation of Israel. He promised that if the people prayed and followed God, He would hear them and heal their land. In the book of Jeremiah, God again promised that he had a plan for Israel and promised to hear their prayers. Just like God had a plan for Israel, God also has a plan for each of us and listens to us when we pray. We can talk to Him about anything!

Discussion:

  1. How can we talk to God?
  2. What are some things we can talk to God about?

Family Activity:

Stock a basket with index cards, markers, and stickers. Have children decorate the cards and write a prayer request on each card for our country and leaders. Place the basket on the dinner table. Each night at dinner have a child choose a card and pray for that request. Remind the kids how God promises to hear our prayers.