It has now been a couple of weeks since we watched our elected officials grapple with whether the President of the United States should be impeached for a second time. No matter which side you fell on regarding this decision, I found myself asking these questions. Was it true that the constitution does not allow for an impeachment after they leave office? Did the President know folks were coming to storm the Capitol? Was this just done because the Democrats wanted one more shot at Mr. Trump? Were the news outlets reporting objectively or was their desire to just sell more advertising? These questions led me back to my main question, Who can we trust? We all have people in our lives that we think we know and to whom we can depend. This was further compounded for me when I heard about two strong Christian leaders who were living sinful private lives while leading thousands to and in their faith journeys. I was saddened to hear this had happened but was not surprised. Why? Because, like many leaders in the bible and like most of us, they fell prey to the things of the world. The end result is, should we choose to place our trust in man, we will ultimately be disappointed. Nor, can our family, friends, and colleagues truly trust us as we will make mistakes as well. The Bible makes it clear in Romans 3:23 that ALL not some “sin and therefore fall short of the glory of God” Meaning, people will disappoint us and we will disappoint others. It also means that there is no one we can truly trust except for God.
So what is the answer? It is that at the end of the day, we are only responsible for ourselves. I don’t mean this in a selfish, “it’s all about me way”. Quite the opposite. we need to have an attitude that no matter what comes our way, no matter how someone else wrongs us, how we respond is the choice we get to make. God exhorts us to “turn the other cheek”. He says “love others as I have loved you.”
So how do we do it? If you have been reading my blog, you know Andrew Murray says it happens when we “Abide in Christ” like branches cling to the vine. Gregory Boyd in Present Perfect says we need to remind ourselves that “God is in the Now”. He goes on to say when we strive to honor Him the we can trust in the outcome. When we allow ourselves to detach from God’s presence thinking we can live life on our own power, like a branch, without the vine’s nourishment, like the faith leaders who lost their way, we lose our strength and the ability to live as we were meant to live. Charles Stanley says another way to think of it is to stop and wait. “The word wait has a different sense here—it means “pause for further instructions.” It’s not passivity; rather, we must choose to stop our actions and listen for God’s directive. Sometimes the Lord is silent for a season, but He has a purpose. He knows the perfect time for us to act, and until that moment, He wants us to wait. More strength and character are required to be still in the midst of a storm than to frantically seek our own solution.” May we all go out into our worlds acknowledging our desire to do things under our own power. When we do, the only one we can truly trust, promises to make us strong enough to persevere through whatever challenges or disappointments that come our way. Allowing us to remain “thankful in all things”.
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Psalm 27:14 simply states, “Wait for the Lord. Be Strong, Take Courage. Trust in the Lord.” Over the last year, I am guessing, like me, many of you have struggled with trusting God given all that is going on in the world. Every time it looks like things are settling down giving us a glimmer of hope, we hear that the virus is mutating, virus cases continue to spike, and despite the promises, the vaccine continues to be out of most of our reach. Whether it is being lonely, out of work, knowing people who are sick; These things are creating angst in all of us. I would like to write that these challenges will be soon be over. Instead, I want to share what I have learned during this self-isolation season of my life. As I try to embrace the uncertainty of these days, one thing has become quite clear. The Bible’s call to trust God and serve others is what lifts me out of the feelings of despair or discouragement. Writing this blog post is a great example of this thought process. There was lots going on this weekend and I just didn’t feel like writing. I asked, “what do I have to say about remaining thankful in all things?” What I have to say is finding ways to serve others can make the difference as it lifts you out of your own pity party when you see what you do for others can make a difference. Here are a few messages I received over the last couple days that what we do for others can have a positive impact while also lifting our own spirits. “A little reflection on Christian love…..You are a precious friend. I will always remember you and Dottie’s love and support.”
“Michael. Thanks for your steadfast communication with me.” “The Lord used you right on time this AM. One day I will explain how this meant more today than you can know”
“My mother truly appreciates your thinking of her and the support”
The scripture says in John 15:10,11 “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” The commands Jesus is talking about are found in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-39. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
I have found that encouragement comes from knowing God loves me. I then try to focus on sharing that love by serving others as He has commands. It has worked for me. I pray and believe it will work for you too!
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What is it about a snow day? Where I live in Charlottesville, VA, snow days are a big deal. Everyone talks about it for days before and things shut or slow down during and after the event for a couple of days. Part of the attraction is that sometimes because of the mountains to our west and the Atlantic Ocean not far to our east, it goes around us and doesn’t happen at all. We got one today 😀
Watching the snow fall early and into the morning, I relished it’s beauty and the way it brings a fresh look to my usual perspective. The view from in front of my house or off the back deck is the same. (see below) Yet, it has been changed by the newly made winter wonderland. What came to mind is that it is only temporary. It is exciting and allows us to enjoy something new but pretty soon it melts away and the view is back to what it was before. The deer poop in the back yard is still there. It is just under the white blanket that will soon go away.
This is true about our lives as well. How many times do we try or do new things hoping they (like the snow over the deer poop) will cover up what is really bothering us? Interestingly, what deer leave behind can be harmful to your yard if not removed. https://mybackyardlife.com/what-to-do-with-deer-poop-in-yard/ The same can be said if we don’t deal with what causes stress and worry in our lives. It just spreads and causes more damage. If we are to remain thankful in all things, we need to find what brings us our purpose and our joy. Only then can we fight the circumstances that want to rob us of that very thing. Paul David Tripp says it this way. “Looking to creation to do for us what it was not meant to do will not only disappoint us, it will enslave us, and for that there is rescuing grace. We need to be constantly pointed toward the One who alone is able to satisfy the longing of our hearts.” What the world has to offer us is like the snow. It is temporal and will melt away leaving us disappointed and once again, yearning for something more. Most of us know the Latin phrase, carpe diem, meaning “seize the day.” What we all need though is Coram Deo which is Integrity found when men and women live their lives knowing they were created to be in a relationship with God. A Ligonier ministry writer said it this way. “It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.” What it is not is a life that continues to be disappointed as it goes from one experience or snow day to another hoping to find happiness. The good news is that God makes it all possible. He desires to be in a relationship with us and says the darkness of our imperfections are made as white as freshly fallen snow. Isaiah 1:18. James 4:8, says “if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us” and when we do we can have that snow day experience exclaiming “new every morning, new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” https://youtu.be/TYyZCCs5bJc
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My son sent me a Hillsong Church sermon the other day titled, “Are you Ready” by Tolu Bladders. Here is the link. https://youtu.be/-0I5a_Zu2EY Listening to it reminded me of a theme in the Bible I rarely hear preached about but have personally experienced over the last couple of years. Peter wrote in his 1st letter, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope/stance that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. The sermon and this verse took me down three streams of thought. What does he mean when he encourages us to be prepared, how do I prepare, and how do I know when I am ready?
The first lesson is know what you believe and why you believe it. Take the time to learn how to articulate the reasons for your stand on a given issue. Don’t push your beliefs or viewpoints on others. Instead, wait for them to ask what you think. That way, hopefully you will have “walked the walk before you talk the talk” earning the right to be heard.
By treating those around you with, as Peter advises, gentleness and respect, your answers will be better received even if the other person might not agree. How do I prepare is the second question and the one we don’t hear preached on very often. The Bible makes it clear that many of those called by God to lead or speak for others were forced into a “timeout.” Moses (exiled) , Job (sickness and loss) , Noah (build an ark) Esther (wait and fast before the seeing the King) , Ruth (leaving her home to serve another), David (hiding in the caves from Saul) John the Baptist(time in the desert) Paul (from persecutor to apostle), and even Jesus (40 days in the desert) himself were placed into times of waiting before God used them for His purposes. Why? Because like us, they could have been tempted to charge out on their own power rather than waiting on God to send them out. These heroes of the faith teach us that we need to wait and make sure we understand what we are being called to do. It also takes time to study and learn so that we can back up what it is we are to say. If you read back through their stories, each of them wondered about the third question of this blog post, Are you ready? The answer from God came in different ways to all of them but it can be summed up in Isaiah 6. Like with the others, God came to Isaiah asking Him to worship Him. Isaiah knew he was unworthy (Isaiah 6:5) and yet God cleansed and redeemed him. When God knew Isaiah was ready, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Because Isaiah drew near to the Lord, studied His ways, and been taught what needed to be said and done, Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:7,8) Whatever you are feeling called to do, I encourage you to take as much time as you need to make sure you have studied and know your position well. Be willing to listen to others points of view but when asked, articulate your points with gentleness and respect.
The link to my “timeout” in 2019 is here www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie Please subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications when new content is posted. Contact me by email at email@example.com
John taught, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). We are to “be imitators of God, understanding we are all God’s beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1–2).
I am saddened to see so many these days choosing to not walk in love. This past week I have heard friends calling others human scum and willfully ignorant. I have also spoken to people who say they will no longer be friends with people that believe or support a certain individual or cause. I am guessing these last two sentences have brought a certain person or belief to your mind. That is why I want to encourage all of us to step back and remind ourselves we are called to Love our neighbor. That does not mean we have to agree with them or condone certain actions. It does take a willingness to treat others respectfully so that we can be willing to understand different points of view. Miles McPherson, in his book The Third Option https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Third-Option/Miles-McPherson/9781501172205, writes that we all have blind spots. His premise is you will only see people a certain way if you just engage with others who are like minded. He challenges his readers to get out of their comfort zone and spend time in places where they have never been and with people that think differently than them. How can that happen if our mindset is “ I won’t have anything to do with those kind of people”?
I know reaching out to people you don’t like will not be easy but if each of us won’t do it, who will? I believe we are to be men and women who are willing to give up our will to be used by God in extending and advancing His love and care here on earth. We need to become servant hearted so we can lift up others’ needs above our own interests. It can start with doing a random act of kindness to a neighbor across the street or a colleague at work who may not look like you or had the wrong election sign in their yard. Let me be the first to say it is hard to make it my first instinct and doing it can be challenging. It becomes even more powerful when you do it for no other reason than you want them to know someone cares and knows they live there. As a friend says, “doing awesome things for others, quietly” Romans 12:15 says, “we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” Paul writes later in Ephesians 4:32 “Whatever wrong someone does to us, we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Hebrews 10:23-25 encourages us toward this honorable endeavor. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Yes, even Inauguration Day.
How awesome would it be if we all made a New Year resolution to “Love our neighbor”? What does it look like for you? St Francis of Assisi in his prayer below, answers the question much better than I ever could. First, pray that God would give empower you take this on in your own life. After that, change the pronoun to plural and pray it for the community and the country in which we live. From our lips to God’s ears, please Lord, hear our prayer. Lord, Teach us your ways. https://youtu.be/_NRzrRok7Ds Let us love each other as God sees us. We are His Beloved.
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I have been doing the One Word challenge https://www.onewordchallenge.com/ for several years now. I wish I had written them all down. I do know that 2018 was Blessed because I realized how often I forgot how much I had for which to be thankful. Who would have guessed when I chose Prayer as my 2019 word, it would be so needed as I battled Guillain Barre Syndrome chronicled here. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrie 2020’s word Generosity was an easy one to choose. I wanted to pay forward the generosity everyone shared with Dottie and me the previous year. Covid19 gave me lots of ways to practice generosity. Thinking of and stepping out to serve others kept me from self-isolation pity parties and spiraling into discouragement. If these last few years have taught me anything, it has been stuff happens that is totally out of my control. That is why my word this year is EMBRACE. My focus will be on two different meanings of the word. “an act of holding someone closely in one’s arms.” and “accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.” Instead of trying to figure out why things happen, I want to trust God enough knowing “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Therefore, I can be thankful in all things. Charles Stanley writes-“Signs of God’s blessing are all around us, but discerning them can be difficult. We tend to think God is moving and blessing us when things are going well—when marriages are thriving, we get the promotion, or sickness is healed. But He blesses us even in the wilderness of our lives—in the unknown, unpredictable, and uncomfortable. When things are difficult, it’s common to believe the solution is to move past our problems—to change our circumstances. But God doesn’t just pluck us out of the desert places. Usually, He comes alongside us, bringing life, water, and renewed hope as we journey onward.”
This is what I want to do with 2021. Embrace whatever comes my way. Over these last two years, I have experienced God’s presence in ways that have deepened my faith. I have learned the need to Abide in Christ to have the confidence I can trust Him no matter what the outcome. Jesus teaches in John 15 that we are to cling to the True Vine. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. I think we can all agree that clinging on to something during these stormy times sounds like a pretty good idea. It has certainly worked for me and I believe it will work for you as well. This passage communicates we are to be grafted into a place God has prepared for us as a result our faith in Him. The better that attachment the more our new life of faith can flourish. My hope is as I focus on clinging even tighter to my relationship with God, more of what He wants for my life will appear. The result will be the fruit https://www.biblica.com/bible/niv/galatians/5/ produced by my embracing Him no matter what 2021 brings with it.
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A CBS weekend show used my subject line as its topic for this past weekend’s show. https://art19.com/shows/america-changed-foreverI agree that our country has been changed but will we as a people come out of this pandemic positively changed or go back to the our old ways prior to the Coronavirus? If only it had been a year that we just dealt with Covid19. It started with the fires in Australia, then in the US out west, and then came word of what turned in to a pandemic. If that wasn’t enough, we had a record number of named hurricanes and then the senseless shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmad Arbery, and others rekindling an anger that spilled out into the streets of many cities in America. What have we learned? Will we allow it to make us better moving forward? I have a bit of a platform from which to speak as I now have lived through two straight years of living through unexpected challenges. *footnoted below
What I personally viewed and experienced over these last two years of adversity, makes me optimistic that because of what we have endured will commit to making things better moving forward. First, God will be with you no matter what the circumstance. My faith grew stronger as I felt His presence which gave me peace even when I was unable to move. Exodus 33:14 “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Second, when people come around you to care for every need, you become motivated to do the same for others who are in some sort of need. Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” That is why I chose the word “Generosity” http://thankfulinallthings.com/my-one-word-for-2020-will-be/ as my One Word for 2020. Little did I know I was in for a 2nd transformative year in a row. 😀 A key component for not spiraling down in discouragement because of self-isolation was finding creative socially distanced ways to be generous. Finally, systems and acts of injustice in its many facets has sharply slapped us all in the face. I am encouraged by more and more people saying “enough is enough” and “What can I do to make a difference?” If it continues the world will be a better place for sure.
There is no doubt our world is in a very dark time but it is certainly not the first time adversity in its many shapes and sizes has wreaked its havoc. How we come out better having experienced it will depend on each of us. It will start with us understanding it all starts with us and yes, a belief that each of us has the power to impact our worlds. God chose people like Moses (Exodus 3:4-6), Esther (Esther chapters 5-10) and Nehemiah (chapters 40-48 of the book of Ezekiel) to lead others out of what were very tough times. He can use each one of us in the very same way. A 100 year old English gentleman in England decided he would start walking around his garden in support of health care workers. It resulted in him being Knighted after more than $40,000,000 was raised from his initiative. http://bit.ly/manknighted Thirty years ago Tom Powell got up in a cherry picker at his gas station to entice people to donate Christmas presents for kids in need. Thirty years later it is unimaginable how many children have had a Merry Christmas because of http://www.toylift.org
It is a New Year and with it come resolutions. Instead of the usual ones, may we will all resolve to make a daily effort to see and then do our part to meet whatever needs that come our way. We can then be assured that we have done our part to assure America, the world, and our own communities will indeed be changed forever.
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This week the stars aligned. Well actually, NASA described it this way. “Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the night sky on Dec. 21 in an event astronomers call the “great conjunction” — also referred to as the “Christmas Star” — marking the planets’ closest encounter in nearly 400 years. https://apple.news/AHBOEehUORSyRWvSNsB9wBQ There are many that say this is what the Three Wise Men followed when seeking to worship Jesus after He was born. I was struck by the fact that all around the world people were looking upward to catch this amazing phenomenon. What a wonderful picture analogy of the Advent season where we wait expectantly to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Like us seeing the great conjunction, the Israelites waited hundreds of years to welcome a Messiah who Isaiah prophesied about 700 years before his birth. The difference of course is in a matter of days Jupiter and Saturn are no longer visible whereas the world has never been the same since “unto us a child was born whose name is Jesus, Wonderful counselor, our Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6
The second similarity that the great conjunction brought to mind is that we are all waiting for Covid19 to release its wretched grip on our lives making it so difficult to be with the ones we love. Like the planets, we look to the availability of the vaccine to be made so all we will be well and life as we imagine it will get back to normal. It certainly feels like the Christmas carol, “a star, a start dancing in the night” that provides us some glimmer of hope that this soon could be over. As I thought about this I happened upon the Season 3 The Crown episode where Prince Phillip watches every moment of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landing on the moon.https://youtu.be/qLebb96VHJM It is again a picture of looking up at the moon and being amazed at the courage it took to achieve this heroic accomplishment. The Prince was astounded that the astronauts were more interested in Buckingham Castle and what his life of royalty was like than landing on the moon. So often, we think what others have done or are doing is much more important or significant than ours. It can lead to discouragement as we fall into the lie that our life doesn’t measure up to others.
Christmas speaks truth to that lie. Missionary, Doug Coppage, sums it up well in a recent letter to a friend. “My hope does not depend on other people, no matter how religious or corrupt they may be. My hope rests in Jesus alone, and he did a very, very good job of overcoming darkness, despair, death, and every other curse of human life. God did all this through Jesus for us – and for me! This is God’s Christmas lesson for me this year.”
This Christmas, may the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may have a deeper “Christmas star” understanding of what it means to love God and to love others. Only then can we receive the best gift God offers Us; His unique divinity, His grace and truth, His indescribable peace. May it make you “Thankful in all Things”
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I have written about the African proverb above before in this blog. On a Glenn Lundy podcast recently, I was introduced to Ubuntu. In the Bantu language, it means, “humanity”. Unpacked further, it says, I am because you are”. Once again the African culture teaches the importance of going together. “Their belief is in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”(Wikipedia). As we enter this Christmas week, practicing Ubuntu Would be a great gift to give each other. Treating one another with respect and honor.
Paul in Ephesians 4 wrote about it this way.
“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The Christmas angels sang about this peace when they announced the birth of a baby born in a manger, Jesus. They promised “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” There is no doubt in this season of uncertainty, we could all use some peace in our lives. I submit that it can happen with you doing two simple things. First, the simple act of showing goodwill to others makes us realize we are all connected. It is good to know and show others we are not going it alone. Secondly, Christ calls us to 1st “Come unto Him” As we “Abide in Him”, He promises to bring “rest to our souls”. This song reminds us to make your own trip to the manger and at His feet, may you lay your burdens down 😃 https://youtu.be/dK_azB1-HMU. Listen and then rise up knowing Jesus wants to take on whatever burdens your carrying around these days.
I pray you will have a blessed Christmas filled with great tidings of His Joy. Please subscribe to this blog post if you want to receive email notifications when new content is posted. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not sure where or who taught Dottie and me to not wish away a current time in our lives. It could have been when our children were little and as her Mom shared with us “the hours of the day now crawl, but the years will fly by”. Or was it when we moved from the “physically tiring” stage of life into the “emotionally exhausting” time of having teenagers? 😀 We have all had them haven’t we? Think about time or times where you couldn’t help but say, “once we get through this or that trial or ideal, things will be much better?” If you are like me, several come immediately to mind; including my bout with Guillain Barre and now 9 months of Covid19. So, As we enter into the last couple weeks of Advent, remember the waiting is to be intentional. A time to reflect and prepare ourselves for what God wants to do with us through His son Jesus.
Christmas reminds us we have a loving Father and a wonderful counselor who wants the very best for us. It doesn’t start tomorrow or in the future, it starts right now. We have a choice, every day, to give him thanks. And with a heart of thanksgiving, we realize that no matter what we face, God doesn’t just work to change our situations and help us through our problems. He does more. He teaches us in those moments to prepare us for what lies ahead. He changes our hearts so that we might become better. This 3rd Sunday of #Advent2020, take time to stop, wait patiently, and expectantly to celebrate the tiny baby who God allowed to change the world. May we prepare our hearts so that we receive Him in love and then go out to serve with hearts full of compassion. This is a time to reflect on the fact that the Mighty God and Prince of Peace has that same compassion for us. How do we not miss out on what God wants for us right now? Try not waiting 364 days each year for Christmas or Thanksgiving to say thanks and give gifts. Instead, have a thankful heart and the Christmas spirit every day so that you have no regret on how you spent a season no matter what came your way. After all as Eleanor Roosevelt so aptly put it, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift..That is why it is called the Present.”
During this Advent Season, as you wait, work on Making your Present Perfect by keeping God in every moment of your day.
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