Friday, November 20, 2015

Be Thankful in ALL Circumstances

Many years ago my sister Mel shared a story that inspired her to start a thankful journal: it was of a mother who's daughter was enduring a particularly difficult day of chemotherapy. She was encouraged by a friend to begin writing 5 things she was thankful for each day and on this day she found herself being uplifted rather than hopeless. Thankful for the medical staff, her husbands support, the love shared between her children, the bright full moon, and the unwavering commitment of family and friends. It was this story that also sparked a flame in my own heart; if this woman could be thankful in such dire situations, I could as well. More than 5 journals later, another 8 women joining me, and countless days that seemed I had nothing to be thankful for (examples: One of "THOSE" Days and 'Tis the Season {To Be Thankful}) I am forever changed. Everyday I'm thankful Mel inspired me to join her.

I encourage you to join us.

This Thanksgiving season is a perfect time to start. Find a journal, date it, and begin writing 5 things you're thankful for each day. If the above story didn't encourage you, here's 10 more reasons to start one. And if those 10 reasons don't have you convinced, perhaps the truth in God's Word will.

Be Thankful in ALL Circumstances

It was this verse that inspired Betsie Ten Boom to be thankful for the fleas in the barracks of her bed in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Corrie Ten Boom (her sister) wrote of this experience with wide-eyed-shock in her book, The Hiding Place. How can one be thankful for fleas?! Betsie's simple explanation was that God's Word said to be thankful in ALL life's circumstances. At that moment, they were dealt fleas. The reason they decided to list things they were thankful for was because they had a Bible and that morning they finished reading 1 Thessalonians. The story Corrie pieces together of how they were able to keep the Bible gave me goosebumps. It was one of the many ways God revealed Himself in their lives. So they were thankful for that Bible and Betsie was genuinely thankful for fleas. It came to be that every day the ladies in their barracks were able to read the Bible together, which in and of itself was a miracle, the guards would not allow that (had they been in their barracks). You want to know why the guards would not step foot in their barracks? Fleas. God gave them fleas so they could read His Word and pray together! Had Betsie not been thankful in ALL circumstances, this would not have been revealed to them. As a result of this story, this particular verse is one my heart clings to, and my prayer is often (with trembling lips), "God, make me like Betsie." I can only hope and pray that when dealt hardship I will be able, God willing, to give thanks in all circumstances.

Let's consider, for a moment, Paul, the author of the letter of 1 Thessalonians. He was dealt hardship throughout his life as well. His conversion (in Acts 9) resulted in his being blind and Jesus said of his ministry, "... I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:16) Suffer he did. Continue reading Acts and you'll find he was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and threatened. In each of his letters he is thankful for the audience, thankful to God for his circumstances and is content as a result. Read Philippians as one illustration. Despite his imprisonment, his attitude was one of rejoicing and contentment (Philippians 4:10, 11). He told his audience that he is thankful for their generosity and concern for him. He learned that in whatever situation his secret in the face of hunger, need, abundance, plenty and imprisonment is Christ.

We should live in the same way. In abundance or need, hunger or plenty, be thankful. Starting that habit now will help you rejoice in your blessings and give you a grateful heart on those rotten days; because they will come. Prepare your heart for rejoicing and thankfulness to God for ALL He gives and takes away (Job 1:21) - starting today! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

One of My FAVORITE Ministries!

We feel Operation Christmas Child is one of the best ministry programs out there for many reasons, here's 4 of them.

BUT before you read my reasons, understand that Operation Christmas Child is a program that offers children around the world two wonderful gifts. One is a shoebox packed with toys, candy, necessities, &etc. by people around the globe and the second is a 12 lesson journey where the children who received this gift learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ! The second is the greatest gift - one that is eternal, life-changing, and offers hope when there is none.

1. It's a ministry my children love participating in and learn about the value of giving to others who are not as blessed as they are. It took many explanations that the toys Bean was picking were not for her to take home. After the 100th time stopping, as we shopped, to explain, "These toys are for other girls who do not have a playroom full of toys to play with like you do. Many of them do not have any toys. In the Bible God tells us that when He gives us much, we need to share, and sharing is one of the ways we show love to others." she finally began to open up and excitedly talk about the girls she picked items for.

2. God uses this ministry in so many different ways. There are countless stories of children, now adults, who can point back to this ministry as being God's way of bringing hope into their hopeless lives. I LOVE reading these stories of how God used Operation Christmas Child to work in their lives. One of my favorites involve a couple, now married, who met because he packed a shoebox as a child, sent it off and years later the girl who received the box wanted to meet and thank the person who packed it because it left such an impression on her life. Upon meeting they fell in love and got married. What an incredible testimony of God using this ministry to bring two people together for His glory! There are so many stories like this that I could spend an eternity reading about them! (Follow this link to read some for yourself.)

3. Discipleship. If you didn't already know, I'm a big fan of Jesus' final commandment to His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." He told us to make disciples, teaching them what Jesus taught so they can teach others who can teach others and so on and so forth. That's the beauty of Operation Christmas Child: they equip children with the knowledge of Jesus Christ so they can teach their friends.

4. Gift giving! The joy of giving to others is better than the joy of receiving, even if you do not personally know the individual receiving it. Like I said earlier, this is a two-fold gift: children receive a gift of goodies, but they receive a more precious gift: the good news of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

On an average month this blog receives a little over 1,000 views. Imagine if even half of those readers filled a box, reaching out to 500 children, who learned about Jesus and shared the gospel with one of their friends... 

Now imagine if you took me up on this challenge my family decided to undertake this next year: every month we plan on filling a box. That's 12 children who will receive a gift and hear the message of Jesus. If even a quarter of you decided to join us... just imagine the possibilities!

If you're interested in doing this, here's how: