Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name (Psalm 100:4).
This week is Thanksgiving and I would think that everyone who is reading this has SOME reason to be thankful. Just the fact that you are alive, can breathe, can see to read this page, and understand the words which are printed here are all reasons to be thankful. So what have you said “thank you” for today? Two of the simplest yet most gracious words in any language are "thank you”. Most children are taught these words as soon as they begin to talk. My grandchildren were taught how to say “thank you” in sign language long before they could utter intelligible sounds.
My desire today is to show you how Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is also our supreme Example in giving thanks. As the only begotten Son of God, and as a fully human man, Jesus was a grateful person and He led the way in showing us how to express thanks. There are three prime examples in the New Testament of Jesus giving thanks.
In John 6:9-13, before feeding the crowd of five thousand hungry people with five barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus gave thanks. He then broke the food and gave it to His disciples to distribute to the multitude. Everyone ate and went away filled -- with twelve baskets of food left over. When Jesus gave thanks for the food, he gave glory to God for what He was going to do in feeding the hungry crowd. Do you thank God for your food even when you are in the midst of a crowd?
In John 11:42, Jesus gave thanks for answered prayer. He stood, deeply moved, before the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, and told the people to take the stone away. He then lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. Even before the remarkable miracle of Lazarus resurrection occurred, Jesus gave thanks. He did it so that those who were standing by might believe (John 11:43). Prayer is our privilege and God always answers. How many prayers has God answered for you? How have you prayed with and for others that they might believe? What answered prayers will you thank Him for right now?
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, the apostle Paul, in explaining the institution of the Lord’s Supper, said, The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it. If you read Luke 22:14-20, you will see that Jesus actually gave thanks two times: before breaking the bread and again before passing the cup. The bread and wine He shared with His disciples that night symbolized His crucified body and His shed blood. Jesus, our Savior, thanked God that He, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), could be the sacrifice for your sins and for mine. When was the last time you thanked your Savior for shedding his blood and dying on the cross for your sins? In what ways have you been a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) for Him and for others?
I believe we all have many things for which to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Will you begin today to make a habit of thanking God daily for His provision, for answered prayer, and for your salvation? What else can you think of to thank God for right now?
May you have a thankful day,
For many weeks now, I have been intent upon editing the Disciplers study of Judges and Ruth. The editing has been mainly for typographical errors with a bit of updating since those lessons were written in 1991. If you have studied the Book of Judges, you may remember that the events took place in a time when, There was no king in Israel and, Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Besides the repeated downward spiral into sin, described in chapters one through sixteen, the ramifications included the horrific chaos, moral degeneration, spiritual immaturity, and anarchy pictured in chapters seventeen through twenty-one.
As I have read the lesson notes for Judges, reviewed the questions, and studied to confirm the accuracy of all the commentary and Scripture references, I have been increasingly struck by the similarity of the Book of Judges to our world today. Israel’s real problem was not the lack of a human king but their refusal to recognize God as their king. And so it is in today’s world. The result is that everyone does what is “right in his own eyes.” This seems to be the case more and more, not only on the level of common everyday life in the home and community, but also on the highest levels of government. Sadly, there are abuses of power which are often contrary to Biblical principals and result in nothing but problems for people, communities, and our nation. This is just as it was in Israel during the time of the judges.
This week, I began to re-read a devotional book, Growing Spiritually, by the late missionary and theologian, E. Stanley Jones. This book was written in 1953 but the introduction expresses so clearly the problem of Israel in the time of the judges and the problem in our world today. This is what Dr. Jones wrote:
“At the center of almost every acute problem -- personal, social, economic, political and international -- is moral and spiritual immaturity. The problems and the possibilities in almost every situation have outgrown the persons. We are immature persons dealing with mature problems. We have on our hands powers and possibilities for mature people, but the people who handle these powers are immature. Deficiency in our moral and spiritual growth means devastation around us. Our immaturity is costly -- increasingly so. For larger and larger powers are put more and more into the hands of people morally and spiritually too immature to handle them for the collective good. Our intellectual lives have outgrown our moral and spiritual lives. We have grown-up powers handled by half-grown persons. And that is serious. For the powers we now have are such that an irresponsible mistake by a few immature people can set the world on fire -- literally. Moral and spiritual maturity are not a luxury for the few; they are a necessity for us all."
So how do you and I respond in the face of this? Well, growth must begin with the individual, must it not? So we begin with ourselves! Moral and spiritual maturity can only come through the knowledge of God’s word and humble obedience to His will. We must read and study God’s word before we can obey it. Then, in order to obey and stand up for the truth, we need accountability. Are you a student of God’s word? Knowledge is necessary, but useless unless it is applied. That is why Disciplers Bible study lessons are designed to be studied with others -- in a group, or at least with another person. The group concept fosters clear understanding and personal growth by holding you accountable to others. As you work on your lesson every day and grow in understanding of God’s word, you will be blessed if you meet regularly with others to share what you have learned, listen to their insights, and consider what God is teaching you through His Holy Spirit. The study of God’s word, the humble desire to obey, and the encouragement of other believers will help you live as a morally and spiritually growing person. You will be eager to share how God is working in your life. You will shine as a light in the world. God will be glorified. We at Disciplers are here to fortify you, both individuals and groups, in your spiritual growth. And we are committed to grow with you. So let us grow together and let us see how God can change this world through us!
We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15 NASB)
By His grace,
The study of James for youth is now available to download. It is our first released youth study ever. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see the youth impacted by the Disciplers Bible Studies. Two years ago, my children, their grandmas, and I sat down in my living room once a week to discuss the book of Acts. We used the Disciplers adult lessons and Gram (Suzie) graciously rewrote questions for the grandkids to use. Each week we would take turns leading the study. It was a very special time. My son with dyslexia (who dreaded reading) was always eager to read from God's word. The older siblings had a great time poking fun at incomplete answers, often time their own. We grew not only in our knowledge of God, but also in our relationships to one another. God's word is more than a common bond. It is like crazy glue that sticks you together forever!
Half way through the school year, I began to have a strong and overwhelming desire to share all that we were learning with the youth at my church. I longed for the friends of my children and their siblings to receive the same blessing my children were experiencing. When I mentioned it to Suzie, she was in complete agreement. So, she and I began to pray.
In the fall of 2012, the first ever Bible classes featuring Disciplers Bible Studies for youth launched. There were two classes: 4th-7th and 8th-12th. There was approximately 15-20 students between the two classes. Suzie led the upper grade class, while I led the lower grade class. It was amazing! Everything I had hoped for and more. I was blessed to see the understanding with which the Lord gave the students. There are no words to describe the joy I received from watching the children grow in their knowledge of God.
This school year, the classes filled up in two weeks! So, I added another class. Two weeks before classes started in September, I added two more classes. This school year, we have FIVE classes and nearly FIFTY students studying the book of James and Judges/Ruth. God has blessed the youth studies abundantly! Suzie moved away over the summer, so she is no longer leading a class. However, she continues to be a crucial part of developing the youth ministry. I also stepped down from leading a class so that I can devote more time to writing and developing the youth lessons. I am working close with the five leaders, and I also rotate sitting in on the classes. The leaders and I meet to pray for the students and discuss the lessons after class. Often times, I am brought to tears of joy during our fellowship.
As the mother of five children, I think about the future often. At times, I battle being discouraged. The world's wisdom calls out to children from every direction: television, radio, internet, and ads, to name a few. A popular radio song right now is entitled, 'Blurred Lines.' I have watched Christian teens sing the lyrics to this song on several occasions this year. To me, it represents the desperate need our youth has. Many are trying to be 'good girls' and boys while surrounded by a world that wants only to make their vision blurry. Only God's word can protect their eyesight. It is in His word that they will learn to resist the devil and draw near to God. The apostle Paul quotes Isaiah saying, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:17).
I hope you will be blessed by the opportunity to study the book of James along side your children. Perhaps the Lord will lead you to organize a group study for youth, as He did me. Either way, I pray that the Holy Spirit will be with you and that you will increase in the wisdom and knowledge of God.
In Him, who is my strength, Marchelle
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.