Thankfulness for the Unseen

Once again it’s Thanksgiving time, and I’m immersing myself in the festivities. I love to cook and find myself busy planning the menu and purchasing the plethora of groceries. When the actual day of cooking comes, though, I sometimes wonder, “What was I thinking?” as I buckle down in the kitchen. Yet, it’s usually with a smile on my face.

Thankfulness for the UnseenOn Thanksgiving Day many of us will share around the table with our family and friends for what we’re thankful. As we go from person to person, I’ll hear gratitude for freedom to worship; thankfulness for spouses, children, and grandchildren; and the blessings of a comfortable home, good health, and safety. We have so many blessings and I’m grateful for all God has done and provided.

But these are the obvious, visible things. I’ve been thinking about thankfulness for what’s on the other side, and by this, I mean the unseen. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) states, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

My finite mind finds it easy to comprehend the blessings I can see, but scripture cautions us, as these are temporal. This includes our family, friends, and health.

The unseen blessings are the eternal ones, and they spring from a life submitted to and committed to Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. The apostle Paul declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3, NIV)

As we live our lives of faith and obedience to Him we become more like Him. Some days are easier than others are, as certainly, complications and difficulties arise in life. Often when I feel like escaping due to life’s pressures and demands, it’s challenging to hold on. And, when we perform our roles at home and in work, service, and ministry, we may find ourselves wondering where the applause is. Where is the “attagirl” encouragement for jobs well done here on earth? That’s when I have to remember to lift my eyes to heaven, not allowing them to be dimmed.

We don’t perform for an audience here, but rather for what lies beyond and is of eternal significance.

That gives me hope. And so, this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for God’s many blessings, but even more so, for what is still to come.

Father God, Thank you for your hand of mercy and grace in my life, and I praise you for your generous blessings. I also want to acknowledge and thank you for your assurance of what lies beyond and is unseen—spiritual blessings in Christ of eternal riches and significance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Psalm 100:4 (NIV): “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

Colossians 1:3-5 (NLT): “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.”

Hebrews 12:28 (NIV): “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV): “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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.”

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Steer Toward the Shore

“… But a [woman] of understanding keeps a straight course.” (Proverbs 15:21b, NIV)

During a recent vacation we decided to try our hand at some different water sports.Steer Toward the Shore Spying several Hobie Cats lined up on the beach, my husband exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to sail one of those,” to which I replied, “Absolutely!” A Hobie Cat is a small sailing catamaran, and before the rental facility allowed us to take it out, a short sailing lesson is a requirement of theirs. Venturing out into the calm bay, we learned how to steer straight, and our instructor established the boundaries of where they permitted us to take the boat. Next, it was time to practice turning our Hobie Cat.

In order to have smooth sailing we quickly learned it was all about the turns—always turn toward the shore, take your time so you’ll go in the correct direction, and let the wind guide you.

As we became more proficient in our sailing skills our confidence increased, we relaxed, and we had a marvelous time out on the water.

While making headway around the bay, I discovered many parallels between sailing and serving the Lord in works He prepared in advance for us. Just as we allowed the wind to guide us, it’s essential to submit to the Holy Spirit and seek His guidance and direction in where we are to serve. He discloses His way to us if we listen to Him. Furthermore, our sailing instructor told us not to sail outside of certain boundaries, illustrating why it’s critical not to take on more than what the Spirit wants you to do. It gets troublesome and we run the risk of burnout if we venture too far out of His will/boundaries for us.

Faithfully staying the course in ministry is necessary as others are counting on you. We need to commit to a particular course and stay on it through focusing and intentionally doing what God has designed for us. Just as we can capsize the boat if we take too quick or fancy of a turn, it can get messy when we go in different directions. Proverbs 4:25 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.” Sometimes it’s possible to lose focus of the goal, so it’s important to steer a steady course toward it. The Proverb continues with, “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” in verse 27.

Finally, we know the importance of a safe completion of the journey, landing the boat where we’re supposed to go. Navigating toward the shore, and not giving up, ensures we will present our best to the Lord.

I felt freedom and peace out there on the water, but I knew we were under control—God’s control—as He brought us in to shore.

Father God, I pray for the wind of your Holy Spirit to point me in the proper direction for where you want me to spend my time in service and ministry. Please grant me focus and intentionality serving in those areas, and help me to strongly finish those tasks. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Romans 8:5 (NIV): “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

Galatians 5:25 (NIV): “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Ephesians 4:14 (NIV): “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

Hebrews 12:1b (NIV): “… Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

© 2016 All rights reserved.

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Squandering a Lead

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)

Here in the south college football is king—particularly the SEC.squandering-a-lead Our alma mater, which we watch and root for, happens to bear the colors of maroon and white and has a handsome collie dog, Reveille, as its mascot. What is it about our team, or do other teams do the same thing? All of a sudden, with fans behind them and millions viewing on TV, they start running out of oomph in the fourth quarter. They don’t finish strong. Why do we vigorously give our best in something and then all of a sudden we falter and fail?

Numerous times in my life, I’ve taken on an endeavor that starts out with a bang with which I later grow weary. More often than I care to admit, I give it up, take some time off, and then turn my attentions to something new. I realize our Lord takes us through different seasons, and our circumstances and focus will shift as He directs, but all too often my mind wanders and a lackadaisical attitude starts slipping in. That’s when I’m vulnerable and easily sacked.

Or, we’re going strong and arrogance muscles in. Usually we’re thinking a particular project is impressive—wow, look what I did! Our reliance on God lessens as we perform in our own power. Taking credit for ourselves for what God has done, it usually doesn’t take long to start fumbling.

Why do we squander our lead? Is it due to pride and thinking we have everything under control? Or, are we simply lazy?

Today’s scripture passage sets the stage of an athletic stadium filled with former champions of the faith, including Abraham and Moses, cited in Hebrews 11. I refer to them as the Faithful Hall of Fame, and they’re not merely spectators, but examples for us, exhorting us to give our best. They are cheering us on!

The writer instructs us to get rid of the encumbrances that get in the way. Just as the opposing team tackles us and keeps a hold on us until we’re down, sin is waiting to snare us. The enemy doesn’t want us to finish and he will use any means to distract us, including pride and difficulties. Sin is a heavy weight that slows us down and clings to us. A winning team throws off the opposition when being tackled.

Whether you’re envisioning a track and field event or a football game, the calling of an athlete is to exhibit endurance, to stay the course, and to finish strong. Strong athletes don’t abandon the game, but rather grind it out. Also, we can’t assume victory. The race requires stamina and we are to remain faithful, as our Christian saints who went before us did.

Remaining centered and concentrating on Jesus Christ, we will find Him as our source of strength and ability. He alone mobilizes us in our race. Pride and looking to do the task in our own power just doesn’t work. We complete the pass when Jesus is our quarterback.

Only prayer, abiding in God’s Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit will disqualify the opposition. The enemy wants us to become careless and not give our best, and eventually give up. Let’s remember what Jesus suffered for us and stay focused on Him. His opposition was hostile.

Kickoff has occurred. Now we need to catch the pass, run with the ball, and cross the finish line. Touchdown!

Father God, I submit my intentions to you. I cannot run this race without you as my champion. Help me when I grow lethargic or prideful. I do this for you and I desire to complete the task and finish strong—I do not want to squander my lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV): “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV): “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

Hebrews 6:12 (NIV): “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV): “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

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When We Grab the Promise and Run

“For I know the plans I have for you,”  declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord …. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a, NIV)when-we-grab-the-promise-and-run

Earlier in my marriage and when our children were young, we experienced several moves due to my husband’s corporate career. Even though there was a certain amount of excitement about going to a new place, I was still fearful and apprehensive about what my future would look like. What would my new church home be like? Would I make new friends? Would we find a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood? And, of course, there was the all-important question of where I would shop. During the first time of transition I discovered and applied Jeremiah 29:11 knowing God did have plans for me that would not harm me and they included hope and a future. This verse became my life verse.

Years later, though, I continued reading and wondered why we just claim the promise portion in verse 11 and leave off the next few verses. God instructs us to call upon Him. The promise and the instruction are both intertwined; this is a two-sided interaction with our Lord. Am I doing my part by prevailing upon Him in prayer and seeking Him with my whole heart? Or, am I dining and dashing—when someone enjoys a nice meal at a restaurant and then leaves before paying their tab?

Am I grabbing the promise and running, then neglecting to seek the Promise Giver?

And yet, there’s an even greater blessing when we’re faithful to beseech God. His Word tells us we will find Him. But how do we practically accomplish this? Scripture reveals, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

Throughout the day God waits for me. By committing to connect with Him in prayer and to search the scriptures, and then doing it faithfully, we find God. God speaks to us through His Word and in those quiet times of prayer, reflection, waiting on Him, and praise. As a prospector seeks and searches for gold, I’m to whole-heartedly pursue God and dig for His treasures. This is how we discover Him. And, He will listen to us. During this process He reveals His plans, purposes, and hopes for us in His perfect timing, but we need to seek Him with our time, commitment, and perseverance.

I love the familiar lyrics to the hymn “Standing on the Promises” which encourage us to listen to our Lord and confidently rest in Him, so we may stand on His promises:

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call

Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Father God, Thank you for your promises that continue to hold true through time for those who call upon you and seek you. Thank you for providing hope and a future for me. Help me to seek you with my whole heart so I may find you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Bible Truths:

Psalm 9:10 (NIV): “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 145:18-19 (NIV): “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”

Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV): “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

© 2016 All rights reserved.


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An Open Heart

Photo: Amy Konieczka, (
Photo: Amy Konieczka, (

Filling her basket with an assortment of elegantly dyed purple fabrics, Lydia realized she needed to hurry up in order to promptly arrive at the riverbank. Regularly, on the Sabbath, she met with several other women for a time of prayer at this special spot outside the city gate. Today, however, she viewed her basket and thought that perhaps she shouldn’t be mixing her business pursuit with what she considered her appointment with God. She earnestly was seeking God and who knows what could happen today.

“On the Sabbath we [the apostle Paul and his companions] went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:13-15, NIV)

“After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.” (Acts 16:40, NIV)

Scripture tells us Lydia was devout and went routinely to the riverside. In cities where there were less than ten married Jewish men, the minimum number to form a synagogue, people would gather outdoors near a river to worship. Historians believe Lydia was either a righteous Gentile or a “God-fearer” attracted to Judaism. What stands out, though, is

She was a woman of prayer who sought God.

God had prepared her heart for this encounter with the apostle Paul and his companions. This work of God in opening her heart and her positive response to the gospel message marks Lydia as the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe.

Biblical names are significant and we know Lydia was from the city of Thyatira. Well known as a center for the purple dying of fabrics, Thyatira was a city in the province or region of Lydia. Therefore, her name is probably from her place of birth—the Greek region of Lydia. Lydia was most likely a Greek living in the Roman colony of Philippi when she met Paul.

As a seller of purple cloth, which was expensive and highly prized, Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman and merchant. She was a woman of means.

Lydia was also possibly a widow, as she did not need a man’s permission or consent to invite Paul and his traveling companions back to her home. Scripture indicates she owned her home, therefore being in good circumstances. Being a prosperous businesswoman, Lydia had servants, and possibly some family members, as Paul and his companions baptized her and the other members of her household. This act of faith by her servants and family members shows she influenced and controlled the household.

Lydia demonstrates hospitality by hosting Paul and the others in her home. Prevailing upon them to stay with her reveals her determination and fervency. Her home became a place of Christian fellowship, and Paul and Silas knew it was a safe place to go to after their release from prison for proselytizing. Scripture says they met with other believers there before leaving Philippi.

Women of faith, such as Lydia, who went before us can teach us through their lives and examples. Are we setting aside our business pursuits and other interests to meet with God regularly? Are our hearts open to what the Lord has for us? How are we allowing God to use our resources and talents? Our homes? Do you find yourself widowed or single-again? If so, your life is not over and in fact, the best just might be ahead of you. Won’t you join me down by the river?

Father God, Thank you for the example of Lydia in your scriptures. Please prepare and open my heart to you and all you have for me. Allow me to use my talents and resources as a positive influence for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Ephesians 1:18-19a(NIV): “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Revelation 2:18-19 (NIV): “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.”

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