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in Hope

Give Thanks, Get Perspective

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The practice of stopping and thanking God for His blessings is as American as roast turkey and apple pie.  The Pilgrims ushered in our annual tradition in 1621.  It was reinforced by numerous proclamations over the next four hundred years.  Governor Bradford, of Plymouth Plantation, issued the first such proclamation in 1623, two years after the first Thanksgiving was celebrated.  Different colonies and states proclaimed their own days of thanksgiving over the years.  The tradition was continued by Governor Dummer, of Massachusetts Bay, in 1723.  The first "national proclamation" of Thanksgiving was made by by the United States Congress, in 1777, only a year after declaring independence.  Congress kept declaring days of thanksgiving throughout the Revolutionary War.  Afterwards, many Presidents, beginning with Washington, kept the tradition alive. It was Lincoln who set the national standard, ordering that government offices shut down and that the last Thursday of November be set aside for a day of praise and prayer. 

Many of these proclamations did not wait for times of peace and prosperity.  People thanked God while enduring hardship.  Pilgrims gave thanks after their numbers were cut from 100 to almost 50.  Congress asked the nation to praise God only a year into the 8-year revolution.  Lincoln called for thankfulness while the carnage of the Civil War raged on.  It is a sobering thought.  We are called to thank God, even when things aren’t going our way.  This kind of Thanksgiving alters my perspective. 

Giving thanks is not being happy after getting what I want.  It is first and foremost an act of faith.  When I thank God, I declare my dependence on Him.  I recognize He is good, even when things for me go bad.  To give thanks is to have a perspective that looks beyond past and present circumstances.  This perspective is hopeful about the future while acknowledging life's brevity.  It looks toward eternity.  

This thanksgiving, tune out the noise of the news, economy and politics.  Tune in with a renewed perspective that declares dependence on the God who made you and sustains you.  This God gave his one and only Son to save those lost in the darkness.  Rekindle that faith by giving thanks and regain the hope that burns undiminished, even when the earthly light flickers. 

Read Psalm 136

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The Fruit of the Spirit (Pt. 10): Self-Control

“God would rather have you messed up than not at all.” I saw this on a church sign last week. Few admit it, but we all lack self-control at some point. Attempts to become self-controlling on your own will have temporary effects at best and result in a controlling personality, at worst.  But we all need it, so where do we begin?  The apostle Paul says self-control is a work of the Holy Spirit. He specifically says it is a fruit, so this shows us where to begin.  Read more to learn where this process of gaining and learning self-control begins.

Paul was a prisoner, in the custody of Governor Felix, in Caesarea.  The Governor was familiar with Christianity, called "The Way" at that time, and he enjoyed listening to Paul talk.  Acts 23 records one of these times, saying Paul spoke of righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come (verse 25).  Felix couldn't take it.  He got scared and left.  What was it about Paul's message?  Felix needed the first two things, righteousness and self-control.  The thought of judgment scared him so much that he moved.

Jesus is calling you to surrender to him.  So many people hear the call, but they want to clean up their mess first.  Many, like Felix, know they fall short, but they think they can get it all together and then come to Jesus. This attempt at self-control does not begin with God and always end with a frustration.  Jesus has offered you terms of surrender, and he wants you, mess and all.

Jesus will not accept you on your terms--not because he is picky, but because he knows your condition better than you.  You are unable to get your self out.  You cannot control your situation.  But Jesus can. 

Governor Felix felt the heat of his shortcomings when Paul spoke. It made him move, but he moved away from help.  Do you feel the conviction of the Lord today?  Move toward the light. Stop hiding in the dark.  Take control of the situation by surrendering to Jesus.  The fruit of the Spirit, the new life God wants to grow in you, grows as you respond everyday to the leading of Christ.  He gives power for Godly living to those rely on him.

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