Giving Thanks For Gospel Gifts

Wheat field over cloudy sky

What are you thankful for? What are those things that put a little hop in your step or a song in your heart? What can bring tears of joy to your eyes? Perhaps it’s family and friends, the generosity of others, or the home that you live in. Some are thankful for meaningful experiences including visiting beautiful places, eating delicious food, or just sitting by a warm fire. My youngest son is thankful for bottlecaps and corndogs.

But the one thing that should move us to praise and thanksgiving is often the one thing we take for granted or have grown cold to, that is, our salvation. Before you roll your eyes at this obvious, sunday school answer, think carefully. The gospel of your salvation is one the greatest, life-changing truth that continues to bear fruit in you throughout all of your days!

I need to continually return to this myself. I need to consider how a perfect God would love, die for, and accept a deeply sinful person like me. This is more than amazing and should lead me to grateful worship. God’s holiness makes it impossible for man to draw near to God and yet  God has chosen to draw near to us in the person and work of Jesus.

Our reading for today tells us a few things about our salvation that we should be praising God for.

New Birth

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 1:3

The great mercy of the new birth (regeneration) is the life changing aspect of the gospel. It is when God reaches deep inside us and takes out our heart of stone in order to replace it with a heart of flesh that beats for him (Eze. 36:26). But a new heart isn’t the only thing we receive. God also gives us a new mind, a new spirit and new affections.

We are no longer what we once were. God has taken away the older person and made us new (2 Cor 5:17). We can now love God and treasure his word. The new birth causes us to weep over our sins and rejoice over God’s immeasurable grace. And best of all there is no person whose sin goes so deep that God’s cant’ reach it and exchange it for a heart of righteousness.

This is truly praiseworthy.

Inheritance

and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
1 Peter 1:4

God’s amazing generosity and love do not stop with simply giving us a new life through Christ’s death. He continues his generosity by granting us an eternal inheritance. This inheritance is beyond what we could ever imagine. It includes a kingdom, a new world, eternal life, and Christ himself. Sadly many of us find this boring. Those who are not excited about the inheritance don’t hate their sin and the evil in the world as much as they should, nor see Jesus Christ as their first love. We want to be with the ones we love. We long to escape the evil that hurts us and others. Study this inheritance and know it well–it belongs to you. The better you understand and know it the more thankful you will be for it.

who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
1 Peter 1:5,6

This inheritance is not something to be bought or earned in any way. As a part of the good news of the gospel it is a precious gift from God. And he is keeping it safe for us until we get to heaven. While life on earth can be very difficult, God will protect our souls and empower us to persevere in faith to the very end. What Christ’s blood has bought cannot be undone. The life that Christ gives through his resurrection cannot be killed. This is truly a great reason to celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving!

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

 

Our NEW upcoming Advent study begins December 1!

Mark these dates and keep an eye open for more information coming soon!

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The Lord, Our Rock

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I absolutely love that this Thanksgiving season we are looking to express gratitude to God not just for what he has given us, but for who he is and what he is like. Dear friends, this deeper understanding of God is what will drive our gratitude and lead us to become more thankful in all circumstances and for all things.

I don’t know about you, but every year I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. But inevitably they leave me feeling stressed, and overwhelmed. The planning, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and decorating can easily rob me of joy and replace it with complaining. Add to that the many family members that descend onto our home (many of whom we only see during this time) and things can get tense. This is the perfect time of year to meditate on the truth that God is our rock–because isn’t that what we really need? A place of refuge during emotional storms and a strong footing when we just want to crumble.

A Place of Refuge

There are many days when I want to run and hide from all the craziness in my life. Do you ever feel that way? But curling up in a fetal position is not the answer. It will neither protect us nor provide us with strength.

he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

Our strength may impress some, but it will never be enough. God’s strength must become our strength.  This will only happen when we take refuge in him. But what does this mean? How do we take refuge in God?

The answer is found not in any new way, but in the old ways prescribed to us by God. We must wrap ourselves in his word  so that the Holy Spirit can use those words to comfort and heal us. And we must shower our days with prayer .  I don’t believe we truly understand the importance of prayer. If Jesus was so clearly dependent on his Heavenly Father in prayer, how much more must we cast ourselves upon his mercy and listening ear! We must take our cue from Jesus. Prayer is vital to our spiritual and emotional health and the means by which God is active in our lives. Without prayer we become isolated and alone in our battles, whatever they may be.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

Christ my Rock

A Sure footing

Mountains do not move easily, and our God is mightier and stronger than even the biggest mountain. He cannot be moved and if we build our faith on him we are safe. Though satan may try to destroy us, our hearts will try to betray us, and the world will try to lead us away from God, our souls are kept safe atop this strong rock who is our God. So in the midst of uncertainty that we face during this holiday time, you can know that God does not waver, change, or move. He is your steadfast saviour, your calm place though the winds that swirl all around you. We can say with Chrysostom, “I stand upon a Rock, let the sea rage, the Rock cannot be disturbed.”
We will find strength the more confidently we stand upon this rock.

Let the verses for today lift your hearts and voices in praise of our good God, our solid rock.

For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
Psalm 18:31,32

Looking To Jesus,

jen-sig

God’s Mighty Hand

Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence ~ Augustine #LoveGodGreatly

Here we are at the end of our Esther study and I truly hope that you have been able to see this story in a new light. I pray that is has been a blessing to you and a means by which you have grown in the knowledge of your God.

The story of Esther is a beautiful story of God’s perfect hand working through people and events. From a young Jewish girl being made queen and risking her life to help save the Jewish nation, to the steadfast faithfulness of Mordecai, and the downfall of evil Haman, Esther has a happily-ever-after kind of ending. Esther remains queen, the Jews are safe, and Mordecai is lifted up to a high place of prominence, second only to the king himself. What a beautiful ending.

Before we close the door on this study I would like us to dig a little deeper and take a quick look at the doctrine of the providence of God. I love this doctrine, it allows me to catch a glimpse of the greatness and power of God which I find awe-inspiring, peace-filling, and worship-inducing.

“For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths!”
Psalm 135:5-6

We need to begin with a really good definition of what the providence of God is and the Heidelberg Catechism provides just that.

The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
– Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 27

God is the almighty God which means he doesn’t just hold some power, but all power. He isn’t a little in control, but completely in control. This has tremendous application for us in all areas of our lives, but I just want to highlight a couple.

1. The Providence of God kills Fear and Gives comfort

Many, if not all, of us have experienced times of fear and anxiety. This usually comes about because we feel that we are no longer in control of our circumstances. But here is the thing–we were never in control.  The providence of God teaches us that it is not man, or Satan, or this world, that is in control, but God alone. God brings life and death (1 Sam. 2:6), he gives riches and makes poor (1 Sam. 2:7), he sends the weather (Job 38) and controls the animals (Is, 7:18). God is in control, and because we know that our God is also good and trustworthy, his providence overcomes our fears and comforts our hearts. Rejoice that you are not in control because you would make things worse. Your righteous God reigns, presently in your life and in all things.

The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.
Psalms 145:17

2. The Providence of God kills our self-righteousness

How often do we have proud thoughts of ourselves. Maybe it was the fact that our kids are well behaved or that we have a nice home. Maybe we understand the word of God easily while others struggle. Perhaps our marriages are doing really well. Any or all of these things are not merely the result of your efforts. They are all gifts. Whatever it is you have has been given to you by God. Whether we are talking about money, position, beauty, brains, wisdom, talents, or anything else, all good things are gifts from God given to us to bring glory to him (James 1:17). Of course, this also goes for the things that hurt. Our afflictions and trials also come with God’s providence. Maybe you are struggling financially or have a number of health issues. God has allowed those things into your life in order for you to fix your eyes on Jesus and experience first-hand that He is all you really need.

3. The Providence of God encourages faith, love, and humility

The more you study and understand God’s governing hand over all things the more humbled you will become and the more you will love and trust your God. He is the embodiment of wisdom. He can do no wrong and makes no foolish choices. Isn’t it great that he is the one who is ordaining all things? Sure, at times it may look a little messy. We will often, like the Psalmists, have a lot of questions. But nothing is left to chance, nothing is an accident, and nothing comes about through fate or karma. Instead, we can sleep peacefully at night knowing that God’s hand is actively involved in all things, down to the minute details of life. He is active, he is involved and he is perfect. This encourages a humble, vibrant, faith.

While God’s name was never mentioned in Esther we see his hand working day and night. We see him lovingly bringing about the events that he ordained all the while caring for his people. We may not understand all that God is doing because we are finite and God is infinite, we only see part of the picture but God sees the whole, but we can trust him him with our lives and joyfully go into our days no matter  what the day may hold because it will always include God’s powerful hand.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

jenthorn.com

Week 7: Overcoming Worry

Esther Week 7 Header

Welcome to week 7 of our Esther study.

The King and Haman go to have dinner with Esther. Remember that at this point neither one of those men know that she is Jewish. I assume Haman felt that he could relax a little despite the events of the previous chapter. He knew that Mordecai was a Jew and that his death sentence had been signed and it was just a matter of time before the Jews would be annihilated, including Mordecai.

While at the banquet, the King asks Esther what her request is. At this point Esther’s heart must have been beating out of her chest. It was time to reveal who her people were and ask for their salvation.

I am sure that she must have laid in bed the night before nervous and possibly anxious. I would have been. If what she was going to reveal to the King angered him, it could cost her her life. I am sure she spent a fair amount of time battling anxiety and fear. This brings us to today’s verse.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Phil 4:6

We are not to worry about anything! Why is that? Because worry is a sin. Yikes, that is a hard word for us. It is one of the sins Christ died for. Why is worry a sin? Let me mention just a few reasons.

1. WORRY IS DISOBEDIENCE TOWARDS GOD
Twice in Matthew 6 Jesus tells us directly not to worry and yet it seems like no matter how many times we have read those verses we worry anyway. Worry is a form of disobedience. We are never given an exception in this.

2. WORRY DOUBTS GOD
Remember who you are in Christ. You have been adopted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has promised us an unimaginable inheritance, he promises to care for us, to love us unconditionally, and to vindicate wrongs done against us. He promises to be for us and with us always. Do we really believe these promises? Because if we do, we of all people, have no reason to worry.

3. WORRY CALLS GOD A LIAR
Worse than merely doubting God, worry calls God a liar. God has told us that though this life won’t be easy, he will be with us and for us. When we worry we are telling God that his word, that his promises, are not true.

Here’s the thing; as much as we want quick fixes, there is no quick fix for learning not to worry. Overcoming worry is a process, and it’s going to take time and work. Here are a few ways to work on killing worry in our lives.

1. KNOW GOD
Do we really know the character of God? Is he all-powerful? Is his love all consuming? Is he truthful in all things? Is he in control of all things? It’s not enough to say “yes” here, we must believe these truths–rest in them. Do we know how these truths intersect with and make sense of every situation in our lives? One step in overcoming worry is committing ourselves to studying every facet of God’s character and applying it to our lives.

2. PRAY AND KEEP PRAYING
The answer to our anxious thoughts is found on our knees. This may seem very unexciting, but when we pray we are approaching the throne of God, drawing near to him for help in our time of need. We are speaking to Jesus, our High Priest and intercessor. We have his full and undivided attention at all times and He is ready to help (Heb. 4: 14-16).

3. STUDY PHILIPPIANS, OR EVEN MEMORIZE IT
Though written in a prison, the book of Philippians is a very cheerful and encouraging book. J.R. Miller says that the words found in Philippians are “golden words for all believers.” If we are prone to worry this will prove be a good book to read, study, and even memorize.

4. CHANGE YOUR THINKING
When we worry we are often thinking about all the “what ifs” our situations could produce. But “what ifs” are not real or true. As Shakespeare said, “fears may be liars.” Most of our worries are false and dishonorable. We need to focus not only on what is true, but also on what is good. We really need to train our minds to see the right things. Philippians 4 tell us to think on things that are true, noble, right and pure. We are to focus on things that are lovely, admirable and praiseworthy. Sometimes our situations are so hard that the only lovely and praiseworthy place to set our eyes is Jesus. He must always be before us so that when we look at our circumstances we look at them through the love, strength and power of Jesus.

5. WORSHIP
Whether it’s coming together with other believers on Sunday morning to worship our risen Lord, or simply putting on worship songs in our homes, lifting our hearts to God in worship will also lift our countenance and confidence. Christ-centered worship will point us to the cross where everything we will ever need was purchased at a very dear price.

The truth is we will not banish worry forever, but we can get to a point where worry does not overtake our hearts. Where we are able to see the signs of worry creeping into our lives, we need to crush it under gospel feet. It won’t be easy, but with God all things are possible.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

 

WEEK 7: READING PLAN

WK 7 Reading Plan

 

WEEK 7: MEMORY VERSE

Esther week 7 memory verse

WEEK 7: CHALLENGE
Weekly Challenge w7

Bless Those Who Curse You

LOVE

So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”  Esther 6:11

This verse is a perfect recap of what has been going on this week in our study of Esther.

Haman thinks the King is going to honor him but instead it is Mordecai who will receive special favor from the King. After the worst day in Haman’s life, he goes to his home destroyed with shame. There is nothing he can do to the man he hates the most.

And what about Mordecai? He returns to the King’s gate. He is still concerned about the threat against the Jews and heads right back to the palace. He doesn’t let the honor that was given to him make him haughty or idle.

The man Haman cursed was now exalted and blessed, and Haman, who sought his own self exaltation was cursed. I want to spend a little time talking about the idea of blessing those who curse us. The verse for our SOAP today is Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God is promising Abram that he will fight against his enemies. They will be cursed and those who are for Abram will be blessed. He is letting Abram know, in no uncertain terms, that He, the Lord, is on his side and through him he will bless the nations.

This promise extends to you and me as well. Over and over again God tells his people that he is on their side. He tells us that if we are children of Abraham (through faith in Christ) we will be blessed (Acts 3:25). And in Romans 8:31 Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It is only through the blood of Jesus that God can be for us.

If we are honest, it doesn’t always feel that God is on our side (Psalm 73). We have a lot that seems to be against us like governments, institutions, individual people, and circumstances. But God who is in us and for us is stronger than any circumstance or person that comes against us (1 Jn. 4:4).

OUR RESPONSE

Here is something that is very important to remember. Nowhere are we told to curse those who curse us. That is God’s job alone.

The Lord will vindicate us (Psalm 138:8)

This is a good reason why we should bless those that curse us, because it is enough that God will curse them.
– Matthew Henry

Instead, we are told to bless those who curse us (Lk. 6:28). Wow, that is a very high calling. So what does that mean?

Loving our enemies or people who are against us means seeking their good. It means restraining our feelings of resentment or wishing them ill. It is getting rid of that desire in our hearts to return evil for evil.

And how do we do this? By praying for them, speaking kindly of them and to them, AND doing good towards them.

Here is the thing; loving our enemies, loving the people who wish us ill, who annoy us, who don’t love us back and talk badly about us and are hateful to us, goes against our nature. It is not natural for us to extend this kind of grace.

Our Lord God must be a pious man to be able to love rascals. I can’t do it, and yet I am a rascal myself.
– Martin Luther

Yes, we are rascals and worse! Thank goodness for our perfect example, Jesus. He showed grace and kindness to those who spit in his face, accused him of all kinds of false things, laughed at him, tortured and killed him.

Not only is he our example he is also our hope. I don’t know about you but this is impossible for me. Even if I could be kind to their face I would struggle in my heart. This does not excuse me, but it makes Christ sacrifice all the more precious. He loved his enemies perfectly for us, he endured wrong accusations and gossip with perfect grace for us and he died on the cross for all the times that we would fail in blessing our enemies.

We are called to take the high road, to bless those who curse us and to love those who are against us, but we are not called to take this road alone. God is with us and for us and in the end he will vindicate us because truth will win.

If we stand up for what’s right, we will have enemies. They feel justified in their hostility. But Jesus says, love them anyway. Hostile people expect hostility in return. Jesus says, surprise them.
– Ray Ortland

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

jenthorn.com

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