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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

Thank you Lord that you are a refuge, a fortress in times of distress. Thank you for the peace you provide in the midst of stressful situations. Take time today to give thanks to the Lord God for the blessings he has given you. If you are so inclined, make a comment on something you are thankful for this week.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

Thanksgiving Day is everyday. Take time today to give thanks to the Lord God for the blessings he has given you. If you are so inclined, make a comment on something you are thankful for this week.

“Is their hope? Is healing possible?” I asked my friend. “Yes,” she replied. “It is possible.” I looked into her eyes and I sensed her response was not just empty words. “You know from experience, don’t you,” I remarked. “Yes,” she nodded, “I do.”

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Knowing that she had gone through trauma; knowing she had suffered gave her answer credibility. And now, because of the suffering in her past, she was able to bring me comfort; bring me hope that healing is possible. She knew first hand how God can help us through traumatic events in our life. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul wrote about our compassionate God, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (NIV).”

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Our suffering teaches us to reach beyond ourselves and rely on God. It helps us to learn perseverance that deepens our faith in Christ Jesus. It shows others the authenticity of our belief in God and where we put our trust. The suffering we endure also provides hope to those currently suffering. We can tell them because we share the sufferings of Christ, we also share in the comfort that abounds through Christ.

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The struggles we go through in life can deepen our faith and reliance on Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:9 that struggles cause us to “not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” But it is the aspect of bringing comfort to those who are struggling that helps to deepen the bond between us and other Christians. In verse 7, Paul told the Corinthians, “just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

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As a community of believers we should be united in our suffering and our joy, giving praise to God for both. Paul reminded us in verses 10-11, “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”

⁃ Psalm 95:2-5 (NIV)

Take time today to give thanks to the Lord God for the blessings he has given you. If you are so inclined, make a comment on something you are thankful for this week.

I was surprised last week to see Thanksgiving items in the store discounted 50-80 percent for clearance before Thanksgiving Day. It gave me a feeling that they were discounting the need to be thankful. Here in the States it seems the minute Halloween is over Christmas displays appear with holiday ads. Thanksgiving seems to get squeezed between two major holidays that generate major income for retailers.

It’s easy for me to grumble that our society isn’t taking time to give thanks. Yet I have to admit this time of year I tend to want to jump into the Christmas season before Thanksgiving Day. I need to remind myself to stop, slow down and take time for Thanksgiving; to thank God each day for the love and grace he has showered on me this year.

As the Christmas ads inundate us each day, urging us to “hurry” to get those great Black Friday deals, I encourage you to hit pause. Take time this Thursday to give thanks to God for his never ending faithfulness over the last year. Thanksgiving is a day to orient us toward thanking God for giving us salvation through his son Jesus.

I am thankful for all of you who take time to stop by this blog and read the posts. I appreciate the insight and encouragement you offer in your comments. As a reminder to continue to give thanks to God each week, now until the end of the year I will do a Thanksgiving Thursday scripture post. I encourage you to read the verse and take a moment to offer praise and thanksgiving to the God we serve.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

For the last year I have been watching my granddaughter grow and develop. It is amazing to see how she has matured from a helpless infant to toddler. She is walking now and able to explore so many more things that are now within her reach. In a world we have known for so long, everything is new to her.

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This is what I think of when Jesus said in Mark 10:15, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (NIV).” A little child is curious about the world and wants to learn about it. They don’t walk around and analyze everything they see or question its existence. A little child is full of wonder and amazement at the world. They hunger to learn about it.

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So many things prevent people from receiving the Kingdom of God. Approaching God as a child means we trust him to care for us, to provide for us. It means depending on him to protect us, knowing he will guide us away from dangerous things that affect our faith. It is that childlike wonder at the vastness of the world God created and his infinite love for us.

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Don’t let others hinder you from approaching Jesus with your childlike faith. Run to him with wonder and amazement at the grace he gives us, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:4).” Let Jesus take you into his arms; let him place his hand on you and bless you.

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Autumn leaves fall from trees

Like joy in life slipping away

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Dry leaves sway, drifting down

Like sadness piling by my feet

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Barren tree exposed to cold

Sorrowful emotions laid bare

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Darkness of night moves on in

Nothing to see but despair

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Flakes of snow tumbling down

Freezing cold numbs the mind

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Pure white snow blankets it all

Frost-bit body feels the pain 

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Morning light pierces the dark

Squinting eyes see some hope

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Melting snow drips away

Warming light eases the pain

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Buds appear on barren branch

Soul renewed by God’s own hand

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Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

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As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11

“Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” is a popular song for kids in church. One of the stanzas kids shout out is, “And the walls came tumbling down.” Indeed, Joshua 6:20 tells us that when the Israelites heard the trumpets they shouted and “the wall fell flat.” But there is one verse that makes me wonder if the entire wall was actually flattened.

In Joshua chapter 2, we read about how Rahab hid the men that Joshua sent to spy on the city. In 2:9, Rahab expresses her faith in God by telling them she knows “the Lord has given you this land.” She strikes a deal with the spies who tell her to tie a scarlet thread in her window and they would spare anyone in her house. But it is not this deal that gave me pause in this chapter.

If you read the chapter carefully, you’ll notice that 2:18 tells us something amazing, “…her house was on the wall. She was living on the wall.” Anytime a Biblical writer repeats a phrase they want you to take notice. Think about this for a moment. Verse 6:20 tells us the wall around Jericho fell flat and 2:18 tells us Rahab’s house was on the wall.

We know in verse 6:22-23 that the two spies “went in” Rahab’s house and spared her as well as her family. The wall fell flat except Rahab’s house which was on the wall. Imagine Rahab’s family huddled in that house as the Israelites shouted after the trumpets blared. Picture the tremendous noise and vibration as the wall crumbled around them. All they had was the scarlet cord in the window to tell them they would be spared from God’s judgement.

With the wall gone, the Israelites took Jericoh and destroyed everyone and everything as God commanded. Just as death passed over Israelite homes with blood over their doorway in the Passover in Exodus, destruction passed over Rahab and her family because of a blood-colored cord in their window. It was Rahab’s faith in God that brought salvation to her home.

As Revelation 11:15-18 tells us, someday the seventh trumpet will sound and judgement will be at hand for those opposed to God. Just as Rahab was spared, only the blood of Jesus Christ over the doorway of your life will save you from destruction. On that day, you will feel the noise and vibration of the world crumbling around you, but will be reassured by Rev. 12:11, “And they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb and because of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 18, 2012.

I had anxiously waited for this day to come. With great anticipation I approached the building where I would finally get to tour the Hall of Fame. All the great heroes I had read about from young on were memorialized here.
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My guide greeted me at the door with a warm smile and presence that made me feel like we had been close friends for a long time. “Welcome,” he said as he opened the large ornate door and motioned for me to enter. I stepped through the entrance into a large lobby area with a polished marble floor and vaulted ceiling with a painting of the universe.
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“Ah,” my guide remarked as he observed me gazing upward. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3, NIV).” I nodded. “It’s important that you understand what we recognize here as greatness,” my guide continued.” I looked at him and said, “The great things they did for God.” My guide shook his head no. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” he explained. “This is what the ancients were commended for (11:1-2).”
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I frowned wondering what he meant. How could someone be commended for just having faith? All the other hall of fames I had visited recognized people for their deeds, their great accomplishments. My guide smiled and motioned for me to follow him through a modest wood door. We entered a dimly lit hall with small gallery lighting illuminating signs with names printed on them. “That’s it?” I exclaimed. “I came all this way to see a bunch of names on a wall?”
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My guide gently smiled and said, “Come, follow me.” As we walked past the names of so many of my heroes, my guide would stop at each one and explain. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (11:8).” At Moses, my guide said. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (11:27).” 
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We continued down that long hallway as my guide told the stories of all the great names of the faithful. At the end of the hallway we walked around a corner into another long hallway and stopped. I stared at the walls, confused. “These walls are blank. Why?” My guide smiled at me with a gleam in his eye. “These walls are reserved for the faithful yet to come. There is a place for you if you choose to follow God in faith.” I frowned as he continued, “If you choose to persevere and run the race marked out for you (12:1).” He paused and placed his hand on my shoulder, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (12:2).”
#WednesdayWalk through the Bible — Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3.

I have often found comfort in Psalm 91 during traumatic times in my life, particularly verses 1-2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (NIV).” Finding refuge and rest under his wing (verse 4) is a comforting image of God’s care and concern for us. But when I read Psalm 91 yesterday, the word “fortress” in verse 2 resonated with me.

As a fortress, God also defends us against the forces of evil. We need not be afraid because the arrows of the evil one bounce off the fortress of God that surrounds us (verse 5). We do not need to fear the evil that stalks us (verse 6). “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (verse 11).”

Verse 14 tells us God offers protection to those who acknowledge Him; he answers those who call his name. Declaring that God is your refuge is more than just a place of rest; it is also a declaration that you put your trust in God as your fortress against those who pursue you with evil intent. By declaring, “The Lord is my refuge, my fortress, my God, in whom I trust,” we verbalize that we put our faith in God and his eternal purposes, not the temporal ways of the world.

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