An Instinctive Response

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(Excerpts from a devotional I submitted to my church for its “21 Psalms of Thanksgiving”….)

Let’s begin with this declarative statement: it can be a challenge to give thanks in all circumstances we encounter. It’s not an impossibility but it is definitely a challenge as we are accustomed to thanking when something good or positive happens to us….

But when the promotion goes to someone else or the job is downsized, we don’t receive the award, or the door is closed in our face as soon as we get to the door (literally and figuratively) – how are we expected to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks? When disappointment knocks us back or tragedy strikes us down, how can we do this? More importantly, why should we do this?

The answer is found in the life we live in the power of the Holy Spirit. This power creates a solidified joy that is not dependent on feeling good when something good happens to us. In the tough and uncomfortable times, the Holy Spirit keeps our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Coupled with continuous prayer which ensures that all we do is done with a sense of God’s presence, giving thanks in the midst of our circumstances—in the midst of “adulting”—becomes less of a challenge and more of an instinct. With regular practice in all situations, the “more” transforms into a definite instinctive response.

~~~Personally, 2020 has provided opportunities to practice “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances“, as recently as this week. Not gonna lie, it has been challenging. But like the song goes, “When I look around and I think things over / all of my good days out-way my bad days / I won’t complain.” Throughout this year, the Lord has truly been good, IS good, and will forever BE good. Throughout this year, Jesus has let me know that He IS here, and ain’t going anywhere. Where He is, there is peace, love, unity, and purpose.

I’m still practicing, y’all, but I know giving thanks in all circumstances will become an instinctive response for me, as it will for you. I wish each of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Don’t let the “itis” get you too badly. 😉

Prayer: Lord, you’ve heard us say many a time that “2020 has been an unprecedented year”, or “Can we start over? Because 2020 ain’t working out too good.” But through it all, You have been the one true constant in our lives, showing us that You are faithful and be trusted, showing that You love us and will never leave us. It is my prayer that we become more instinctive in our response to all circumstances – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I pray that we rejoice no matter what, pray like there is no tomorrow, and give thanks to You for above all, simply being You. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Still No Room for Fear

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?…Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” – Psalm 27:1, 14

We all know what’s happening in the US today, from local to federal government levels.  The eyes of the world are on us and have been for quite a while.  The normal levels of anxiousness and concern during election season have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, and the chances of returning to “normal” have all but faded.  Deep-seated fears—either justified by past experiences or imagined by insecurities—have manifested in truly scary, ugly ways.

2020 has done a number on us, fam, that’s for certain.

And yet Psalm 27 rings out loud and clear: the LORD is our light and our salvation.  Not politicians, not special interest groups, not media conglomerates, but the LORD.  His track record of leading and guiding His people through dark and uncertain times is impeccable, so really, who should we fear?  Why should we fear if we believe when we say, “The LORD reigns”?

If we declare so quickly that God is the strength of my life, then of whom should we be afraid?  Naysayers?  Voter intimidators?  Local, state, and federal leadership?  I’ll say it again: God’s track record is impeccable.  I’ve seen Him move the mountains of life out of the way so His children can walk boldly into their season.  I’ve born witness to Him lifting His people above the snare of the fowler and block the enemy’s arrows from striking home.  So, to paraphrase a comedian, “I wish I would be afraid!”

Instead, I choose to follow verse 14 of Psalm 27, because I have experienced the blessings of waiting on the Lord to do His thing, of being encouraged by Him in the meantime.  I know how He strengthens my heart—and how He strengthens yours, too—to trust Him, to cast all our cares on Him and not take them back when it seems He’s moving too slow.  (And for the record, the LORD never moves slow; He moves right.  On.  Time.)  Because of this, I wish I would give the enemy one second of time, one joule of energy fearing the outcome of today.  There are better things to do with the time God has given us, like staying in constant prayer with Him, reading/listening to His word, praising and worshiping Him, thanking Him for all He has done, is doing, and will do in our future.  And especially, we can be encouraging one another not to throw in any towel in defeat, when we are in the family of a victorious God.  

So, fam, here’s my encouragement to you: If any of this happens to be where you are mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually, then go on and put that figurative towel back down, throw that fear away.  Stand tall with shoulders back, eyes forward, and declare at the top of your lungs:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Always remember who you are, Whose you are, and that there is no room for fear.

No room at all.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for Your ageless, powerful word that speaks life to dead situations, and light to darkness.  Wrap us all in the reminder of Your strength and love on this and every day, that You and You alone are in control, and therefore we have nothing and no one to fear.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Amen.