Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 4)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:1-5 ESV). Day 4: I am thankful for the creation.  Our reading today is just one of many in the Scripture that extols the majesty of God’s work in creation. Some would approach this time of year, especially in places like Texas with the absence of color in the fall foliage, differently than I do. It is rather drab in various shades of brown in this part of the world, but, this is really my time of the year. So many memories of friends are tied to the sights, sounds, and smells of this time of the year for me. Recently one of my dear friends, Jamie McClain, contacted me and wondered when I was going to go to the deer lease with him. My hearty answer was, “Pick a day!” He still hunts at what we called “Windham State Park” near Abilene, Texas. You can see from the picture taken when I was on the same lease that it was not a “park.” It was our little bit of heaven though. Our campsite, while not surrounded by mountains or grand vistas, as full of life and fellowship as we gathered around our campfire and told our tall tales. I am thankful that God has created this kind of world and placed me in it. Of course, this place is not everyone’s place. However, God does have that place for you too. Perhaps it is the mountains that draw you to sit a bit by a quiet stream, gurgling its way down the mountain with cold, clear water. It could be that you love to sit a while in the warm sandy beaches of an ocean with the sounds of the cadence of the waves rolling in and the smell of salt water strong in the air. Maybe you merely enjoy sitting outdoors on a clear night and gazing to the innumerable stars that are hung in the night sky with quiet and solitude wrapping you like a favorite blanket. Whatever your place looks like, be sure that it is God who has created it. And, he created it all with us in mind. Yes, indeed, I am thankful for that forethought. It also prompts me to remember that, as wonderful as this world may be, it is nothing compared to what it will be when the final redemption of creation itself takes place. The make me think of how much I have yet to see. Our God is so vast and wonderful we cannot ever plumb the depths of that glory. Creation reminds me of that too. Our God is a great God! Celebrate that with me...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 3)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30 ESV). ay Three: I am thankful for faith. Our reading today is my fallback position in life. It is where I am drawn to gather strength for every step I take in the journey God has given me. I’ve done a little research concerning where our reading is placed in its importance to the Christian. In one list of “The Most Important Verses for a Christian to Memorize,” Romans 8:28 nearly doesn’t make it. It comes in tenth. I can tell you that this verse is never very far away from my consciousness. It is a mainstay for my journey. Through all the challenges, failures, and set-backs of life this message is the basis of my hope and security. John Pipe calls the following verses of Romans 8:28 “the Himalayan Peaks of Biblical promises (cf. Romans 8:30-31). However, God’s staggering pledge of verse 28 is that “all things” — not just the good, but even and especially the bad — work for our good. Life’s worst pains are for our eternal joy. All things is a massive phrase. It’s universal, all-inclusive, with no exceptions. It doesn’t take much to believe that life’s best things work for our good. But what makes this verse such a life-transforming promise is that this “all things” includes all of life’s worst things – every single one. Every stab of pain, every barb, every lingering scar is just construction material for God to make something good for us. And if we want that with specificity, it’s here in the context (cf. Romans 8:35-36). There the apostle lists life’s greatest pains — none of which can separate us from Jesus’ love: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and even death (“regarded as sheep to be slaughtered”). No, in all these things, God is working for our good, not just giving us victory over these pains, but making us “more than conquerors” by having life’s greatest pains serve our everlasting joy. I am thankful for that kind of faith. It keeps me from being overcome in...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 2)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5 ESV). Day Two: I’m thankful for my family. The psalmist is so clear about our family being “from the Lord,” in fact, he says they are “a reward.” And so they have been in my life. You can see in the picture here that our “Emmitte” clan is pretty big. Even in this picture, which was taken two years ago, some were absent and others have been added. In our immediate family we now have two additional grandchildren, Harris and Lucy, making the total of twelve. I suppose it would be easy for me to recount all the things they have done and make that the foundation for my gratitude. However, that would not be correct. They have done much, both in our family and in the community where they serve. They have garnered awards and trophies; they have excelled in everything they have done achieving high honors. But, those are mere things and mean nothing in the eternal plan of God. Oh, I suppose I need to additionally say that have done some things that were not so good as well, otherwise you may be tempted to think I see them with purely subjective perspective. They are all wonderful. And, they are all human, just like me. We make bad choices, we sin. The difference is the God who gave them to me. That’s why they are a blessing. God knew precisely who I would need in my life. They are the perfect weapon in my quiver. My enemy cannot but fall in the face of such an onslaught. Just the other day when Maggie (our soon to be three-year-old granddaughter) tore some pages out of a book, her parents corrected her and she said, “PeePaw will fix it.” Well, I’m honored that she thinks I’m the “fixer”, but she also needs to learn a different behavior. This is God molding that “arrow” into just the right weapon against our enemy. The wisdom of God and the perfection of his plan for our lives is marvelous. It may be that you have some difficulties in your family. Set them aside and recognize that God does have a plan. Be thankful for each of them. Celebrate God’s gifts to you in each of them. I hope you will name each one, each day, as you take them to our heavenly Father. Be that kind of blessed...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 1)

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3 ESV). Today I am beginning a little journey to take us to Thanksgiving next week. There are so many things that I am thankful for that I can hardly imagine how long it might take to single one of those out each day and write a bit about it. So, I am choosing just six. Now, first, I m must encourage you not to place any emphasis on why I am choosing “six.” There is no underlying principle or subtle symbolism taking place here. I suppose the greatest reason for choosing “six” is that there are six days until Thanksgiving and that seems to fit the schedule best. I would also encourage you to join me on this journey taking six things you are thankful for and journaling about each of them one per day until Thanksgiving. I’d love to see what you write about. Leave a comment on this site with the one word and maybe a sentence or two. That would be very encouraging to all of us. Oh, one other thing: there is no right or wrong answer and there is no particular order to them. With that brief preamble, let’s start. Day One: I’m thankful for redemption. In our reading today, the psalmist says, Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south (v. 3). This was no small accomplishment; both as far as my personal redemption and the whole process for all men are concerned. Look at what he says. These people come from all over: gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. For me that means that this gift of eternal life is not reserved for the privileged few or sociologically elite. Redemption came to this second generation immigrant’s grandchild with no notice of who my family was or wasn’t. God saw me and loved me and “redeemed me from trouble.” I know we have often heard that we are not redeemed “from” something, but “to” something. There is truth in that, but I can see the “from” so much more clearly that the “to.” Along with lots of others I was moving through life. I was wounded and weary; burdened and tired; and guilty and shamed. So were all those walking with me; we were all on the same path. But in an instant, God broke into my pain said, “I choose you!” I’m thankful. When we found our dog at the rescue, he wasn’t the cutest nor the best behaved. He was a reject. Others didn’t want him. Maybe it was his short stature. Perhaps it was his odd underbite. Maybe it was his persistent personality. Whatever it was, he was excluded and soon to be pushed aside forever. We chose him, because we wanted to. We’ve had Teddy (our rescue Terrier) for nearly four years now. There have been challenges of course. He is still all Terrier and a very busy little dog. Why, the one time he challenged a skunk and lost should have been enough to take pause at our decision; however, we haven’t. He is and will forever...

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How Much Can We Trust God?

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. (Psalm 42:1-4 ESV). Sometimes it’s just better to be a little more specific. “I can trust God with this” has all kinds of implications that bring peace in the midst of life’s chaotic thoughts and emotions. Let me start a list that you can finish at your experience. These things are in no particular order. They simply come as I have thought about them: I can trust God with the timing of my loved one’s death. I can trust God with the way my loved one died. I can trust God with the unknowns about my future. I can trust God with my unanswered questions until faith becomes sight. I can trust God to heal the hurt. I can trust God to fill the emptiness. I can trust God to illumine this darkness. I can trust God to restore joy to my life. I can trust God to speak to me through his word. I can trust God to supply sufficient grace and divine power for facing whatever comes. I can trust God to cause this to work together for my good and for the good of others impacted by this, to conform us more closely to the image of Christ. I can trust God that resurrection day is really coming and it will be worth all the waiting. I can trust that God knows who belongs to him, even if I don’t know if my loved one belonged to him. I can trust that God will do what is right, even if I don’t know what God will do. I can put my trust in a God who is merciful and loves to save, even if I don’t know if my loved one trusted in that mercy or took hold of that salvation. When the sorrow of life seemed to mock his dependence on God, the psalmist wrote the incredible words of trust and hope in our reading today. Even when everyone is discouraging us, we can remember the goodness of our  god and know there is so much more to...

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