Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:3-4 NIV)
Two thousand years have passed since Jesus and Nicodemus had this conversation, yet skeptics still ask, “How can someone be born again?” To the world, the concept sounds ridiculous. They look at spiritual matters with human eyes and miss the meaning entirely.
When we discover the truth about Jesus and ask Him into our hearts, He deposits His spirit within us. We see the world from His viewpoint. We think differently about our activities. We crave new “food”…spiritual food found in the Bible, in church, and in godly people. The pleasures of this world grow vaguely dim as we focus on God’s kingdom.
“…He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16b NIV)
Christmas is a time of reflection…a time to look back and see all that God has done for us. He has provided rain for crops so we have food. He has provided jobs, shelter, family, and friends. He has provided the very air we breathe. Even if you lack some or most of these things, God can fill your heart with joy.
Recently, I’ve read testimonies from people who have plenty of sorrow. They have lost their jobs, their homes, and their families. They suffer from cancer. They are paraplegic or quadriplegic, blind, deaf. Yet they are happier and have accomplished more than most who have both health and wealth. What enables the misfortunate to sing God’s praises and capable of achieving their goals?
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior… (Micah 7:7 NIV)
As a child, I waited for Santa Claus like many children do today full of expectation and anxiety. My parents did not trump up Santa, but did sign our presents from the jolly old gent. I don’t even remember discovering the truth about him. He wasn’t the central figure of my Christmas or the fondest of my Christmas memories.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…(Hebrews 12:28 NIV)
Be Thankful for All Things
Since we are receiving a kingdom that never ends, we can rejoice and give thanks in all things, which is pleasing to God. Paul says it more graciously in Philippians 4:6. But the command, not a suggestion, still stands. When we accept God’s sovereignty, we can accept all things from His hand as His provision for us in preparation for His kingdom. Thereby, we can give thanks for all things, even the most difficult trials we go through in this life. We may not understand the trial and it may hurt too much to thank Him for it, but we can be thankful knowing He is there and He will work it out for His glory and our good.
In a simple way, I tried to practice this concept every day throughout the month of November. Here are a few things I discovered:
Criticism points to my character flaws, which God wants to correct
Stormy weather slows me down and frees time to spend at the Master’s feet
Fellow believers sharpen, stretch, and strengthen my faith and encourage me to nurture my relationship with the Father and the Son
When problems assail, God’s love prevails
Imaginations are a gift from God
A stiff neck serves as a reminder to lift my head in praise
The most difficult seasons in life often turn out to be our greatest blessings
Sleep is a health restorer
Last minute decisions can lead to personal discoveries
Alone time can foster creative productivity, especially when the Internet is unavailable
God provides a way when I am willing to step out of my comfort zone
Learning curves prove that I am still teachable
Frustration shows me how much more of Jesus I need every minute and how willing and able He is to meet my needs
A broken washing machine reminded me of my helplessness in many areas. I had to call a repairman and rely on his knowledge and recommendations. Similarly, I call on God for help and trust Him to work everything out for my good and His glory
Differences color my world like autumn leaves—bright and beautiful
Delays are silent blessings from God. With delays, God protects me from disasters; He keeps me from doing unnecessary things that would cause anxiety; He opens doors I would’ve missed otherwise
God uses my forgetfulness to keep me humble and mindful of His omniscience…not to mention my undeniable dependence on Him.
How about you? What are some of your blessings in disguise?
There are differences…but the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:5)
Differences—what a broad topic! There are differences in facial features, hair color and texture, skin tones, body shapes, and voices. There are differences of opinion, creeds, and doctrine.
There are variables of trees, grass, flowers, fruits, and vegetables…birds in the sky and fish in the sea and everything in between.
God loves differences. He created a multifaceted universe to hold His diverse specimens of life. And He saw that it was good!
Unfortunately, people don’t seem to share their Creator’s appreciation for differences. Sure, we like variety in nature. We even admire the physical differences of others. But, we try to change those around us to reflect our views and live by our standards. We even attempt to mold God into our likeness. That’ll never happen. Read More