By Roland W. Keith
As Turkey Day approaches I thought I would write a little on what we as Christians have to be thankful for. As I started researching scriptures it became clear there are far more things on the list than I can write about in a page or two and do scripture justice, so instead I’m just going to make a list of reasons to be thankful with accompanying verses. It is not an all-encompassing list, but I hope it gives you food for thought.
1. We should be thankful because our God is good and loving.
1Ch_16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
1Ch_16:41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa_54:6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
2. Jesus gave thanks for the food He was about to share, and so should we.
Joh_6:11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.
Act_27:35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.
1Ti_4:3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
1Ti_4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
3. We should be thankful that our LORD is a righteous and just God.
Psa_7:17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
4. I’m lumping some important stuff together here, but we should be thankful to our God, Who has extended His grace to us, and is worthy of our trust and faith.
2Co_4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Psa_28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
Col_2:7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
5. We should be thankful that God has turned His wrath from us, and that He provides us comfort instead.
Isa_12:1 You will say in that day: "I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
6. We should thank the LORD for the victory He has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ!
1Co_15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Ch_16:35 Say also: "Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
7. We should be thankful that God has given us a place among His saints, gathering us together from among the nations of the world to enroll us in His kingdom.
Col_3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Psa_106:47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
8. We should thank the LORD for setting us free from sin and its destructive power.
Rom_6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
9. We should be thankful that we have a God to Whom we can turn with all our concerns.
Php_4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
10. We Should thank God for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
1Th_1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
2Th_1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
1Th_3:9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,
11. We can be thankful that God is with us in every circumstance, and that our eternal fate is in His hands.
1Th_5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
12. As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day let us do so with a proper understanding.
Rom 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Rom_14:6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Rev_7:12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
By Roland W. Keith
What is the difference between wisdom and folly, or common sense and foolery? Perhaps the primary distinction is that of discernment. The ability to analyze a situation and act with keen insight and good judgment. I once heard a man describe another as being “born without any common sense.” While some individuals may be born with a better natural disposition for attaining good sense, it is not actually, or not entirely, dependent on heredity. Discernment is to a large extent a learnable trait. Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the Hebrews, writing, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
We can learn good judgment. As in all skills some may become proficient in its use while others may struggle at times, but all can achieve a discerning heart. The first lesson of discernment for the man of God? “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Solomon also wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Man is not wise enough to navigate the natural world without the need for guidance, let alone the spiritual one. However, if we are sensible enough to follow the path that God has laid out for us, though we may occasionally stumble, God will uphold us along the way (Psalm 37:23).
For those of us who are seeking to know and follow the way of God there is a growing knowledge that many in the world are not interested in the Lord’s wisdom, or any path for that matter, which does not allow them to do as they please. Concerning such people Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21). In his letter, James compared such folly to true wisdom, writing, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:14-17). Paul wrote that we should put such things away from us (Ephesians 4:31).
We have all heard that a bad apple can spoil the whole barrel, or as Paul said it, “Bad company ruins good morals” (I Corinthians 15:33). We often think that we can rub shoulders with those of the world without being affected, but that simply isn’t true. We influence them, and they us. The question is when we are out and about in the world are we letting the Lord’s light shine through us, or are we allowing ourselves to be unduly influenced by them? And, what about our children? Do we allow them to venture into situations that put undue pressure or temptation on them? Or, are we preparing the soil of their souls and implanting the word of God within them so that they will develop honest and good hearts?” (Luke 8:15). Are we raising up healthy trees that will bear good fruit or spiritually diseased trees that will produce bad fruit?” (Matthew 7:17-18).
The Bible is full of examples for those who failed to exercise discernment. The account of the old and young prophets in I Kings is a prime example. When the king invited the young prophet to his house the prophet replied, “for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, “‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’” Later when he also turned down the invitation of the old prophet, we read, “And he [the old prophet] said to him, "I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'" But he lied to him” (13:9, 18). The young man went in and ate with him only to find that his disobedience to the Lord would cost him his life (13:19-26). He had trusted the word of a man over the Lord’s command with tragic results.
In the New Testament Martha, a diligent hostess and housekeeper, was worried about serving her guests, not discerning that under the circumstances the opportunity to listen to the Lord teach was of greater value (Luke 10:38-42). It is possible to allow us to fill our minds with so many concerns that they affect our discernment, just as it is possible that one may affected out of neglect or ignorance. It is also possible to fail in our discernment out of willful disregard, as noted by Jesus’ condemnation of some of His listeners on one occasion: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:23-25). These were experts in the Law and religion of the Jews who had no excuse for their failure to act with Godly wisdom.
One of the saddest examples of a failure to exercise discernment was recorded by John: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:4-43; see also I Samuel 15:24). These were believers who knew the truth, knew the Law and what was right and yet still acted contrary to good judgment because their love was misplaced. Just as sad is the fact that two thousand years later such actions within Christendom are in fact not uncommon. Inside and outside of the body of believers are those who refuse to love the truth and perish (II Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Solomon noted that “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (Proverbs 13:16; see also Proverbs 16:13). The spiritually prudent are ever watchful and strong in the faith and their determination to do God’s will (I Corinthians 16:13). Jesus said that if we seek, we will find (Matthew 7:7). His brother encouraged us to ask for wisdom, knowing that God gives to those who ask (James 1:5). Knowledge, understanding, common sense, discernment— none of these are beyond our grasp. If we prayerfully seek them in our studies of God’s word we will find them, and the ability to comprehend them will be granted to us. As Solomon wrote, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints” (Proverbs 2:6-8).
Paul told the Philippians, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). When we focus our thoughts on high spiritual things trusting the Lord for strengthening and guidance and we examine His word daily we will certainly grow in our faith and spiritual strength (Acts 17:11; Proverbs 23:23).
In the end, spiritual discernment in the fullness of its strength will depend on our own effort, our trust in the Lord, and our openness to the truth. Yet, more than these, it will depend on our love for the LORD. We will be like the rulers of Jesus’ time who loved the glory that comes from men more than the glory that comes from God or will we love God the most? Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me” (John 14:23-24). Our spiritual discernment, even our earthly discernment, will ultimately be as strong or as weak as our love for God. It is that love that will drive our effort, or lack thereof, to grow in the wisdom of God and hone our ability to discern all things aright.
By Roland W. Keith
Christ was made to suffer for us; that is, He took human form to establish the Father’s plan of salvation, and that plan required Him to suffer the punishment due one who has violated the law. Though He had not transgressed the law personally, He suffered the world’s rejection and death on the cross in our stead, taking the penalty reserved for us upon Himself. Paul explained His sacrifice with these words: “But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that He, for Whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:9-10). The man Jesus was made perfect because He remained obedient to His Father’s command, even under duress, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). In achieving that perfection in human form, He became the author and source of eternal life for all who would follow after Him (Acts 3:14-16; Hebrews 5:8-9).
As a result of Christ’s victory over Satan and death caused by sin God sees each Christian as His own child, like Jesus, and as such fellow heirs of the promises made through Him. However, as Jesus suffered for us, we must in turn be willing to suffer with Him (Romans 8:17-18). No suffering is wanted, but considering what Christ accomplished on our behalf, and the eternal glory that awaits us, it is a small thing on our part to act in obedience to the Heavenly Father in emulation of our Savior’s Own submission to His will (Romans 8:17-18). In his first letter Peter wrote, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God… Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you… Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:1—2, 12, 16-17).
Not only should we be willing to suffer for the name of Christ, we should not be surprised when it happens. Persecution is just a part of the path we take as Christians. Those who hate the truth will try to obstruct its spread, particularly where it interferes with their own willful desires. When it happens, we must be prepared to put on the implements of our spiritual warfare and to soldier on (Ephesians 6:11, 13; II Timothy 2:3). It is our duty to share in the suffering attached to the Lord’s name, entrusting our eternal welfare to Him, even while we place our hope in the reward that awaits us at the end of our lives (II Timothy 1:8, 12; Revelation 2:10; II Timothy 4:8). James and Paul remind their readers that others before us have suffered as we will (James 5:10-11; Hebrews 11:32-40), but if we resolve to have the steadfastness of Job, we can and will reap the blessings attached to such faith and perseverance.
Paul had much to say to say about the afflictions that will be suffered for the sake of the truth, writing, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). The apostle to the Gentiles endured much during his life in ministry, but for strength he kept his eyes on the Lord and the glory of what awaits beyond the physical realm, writing also, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4: 8-10, 17-18).
There is something else for us to consider. Whether you are a Christian or not life will give most of us our share of vexations, hardships and suffering in varying degrees. Looked at in the proper light life should be seen as a joyful experience (always look for the silver lining), nonetheless, there will be tough times, and for some dark times indeed. Those of faith should view those times from a different philosophical vantage point than the nonbeliever. We have something beyond those times to look forward to. We also have a source of inspiration and strength to draw upon during those moments that others do not have. We have the avenue of prayer to unburden ourselves, the word to guide us, and our Christian family to console us. We above all others are blessed beyond measure even in the worst of times.
At other times we should regard our situation in a prudential light. Peter wrote, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:20-21). It is one thing to suffer for our own bad behavior, and quite another to suffer as the Lord did— for doing what is right. When a Christian suffers for God’s word He or she is trusting in God’s promises— that whatever we suffer here in this life will pale in comparison to an eternity in heaven with Him. It is that faith and hope that bolsters our resolve and positive outlook when enduring our suffering for the good (I Peter 4:19).
There is one arena of suffering that none of us want to spend time in. As a child I do not no anyone who wanted to disappoint or provoke a parent to the point of needing to be disciplined. Regardless, everyone I know was disciplined as a child. Some of us repeatedly. Such measures are a form of suffering all their own. Self-inflicted and administered by one whose love and approval we were continually seeking. Yet the one executing our suffering did so with loving hands for our benefit. Paul wrote, “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:6-13).
The form of misery a child endures at the hand of a parent as a corrective to bad behavior should lead to introspection and positive change when coupled with proper training and reinforcement for good behavior. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant. Just as our earthly parents punished us so the LORD may find it necessary to discipline us from time to time. We should feel the disappointment of letting God down. However, when handled with a determination to do better and a resolve to avoid future failures and a reliance on God’s perfect guidance it will always lead to our spiritual growth and strengthening.
No matter what form of suffering we may pass through the words of James remain true: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). When we turn to the LORD and cry out to Him He will ultimately deliver us (Psalm 34:17-19). He may allow us to suffer for a time as a way of purifying and refining us but He will draw us to Himself in the process: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:10). Therefore when we are suffering, for whatever reason, let us turn to the Lord and seek His guidance and strengthening knowing that is there to bring us through whatever trial we are enduring.
By Roland W. Keith
In the church we often show concern for those who are not at worship services— especially if their lack of attendance becomes a habit. We miss our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when they do not gather with us to worship the Lord and study His word, and to fellowship with us. And, rightly so. Their welfare should be our concern. Not for their sake alone, which should be a sufficient reason for us to check on them, but for the strength of the congregation as well. As a body we are healthier and stronger when all of our members are an active part of the family. However, there is another area of concern that is often overlooked. Our prayer life. Particularly, in our private lives. In the assembly prayers are a scheduled part of the service, and although I sometimes think we could use a little training in the area of preparing for public prayer, the greater worry is in the area of personal, one-on-one prayers between the individual Christian and The LORD.
Scripture tells us that we should draw near to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace in a time of need (Hebrews 4:16). It also tells us to pray without ceasing, giving thanks (I Thessalonians 5:17-18), and that the prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16). To neglect prayer is to fail to give God the praise and thanks that He deserves, to miss out on the many benefits available to us as His children, and to fail to do all we can to help others through its power.
Our Savior taught us how to, and how not to pray (Matthew 6:5-15). Not only did He teach us, but Jesus set the example of a proper prayer life for all of us. He began His day in prayer: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). He prayed with the multitudes (Matthew 15:36). He ended a busy day with prayer: “And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). And, during significant moments in His life He remembered to speak to His Heavenly Father: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). He prayed for the welfare of His followers, both present and future (John 17:6-24). And, finally He prayed during the darkest day of His life (Matthew 26:36-44).
Through His leadership the apostles and other early disciples learned firsthand the importance and power of communicating with their Creator. Of Christianity’s earliest converts we read: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). When one of them was imprisoned for the word they prayed: “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). These followers of Christ saw the power of earnest prayer again and again, and as time went on, they and newer converts were admonished by the apostles, in word and deed, to remain faithful to their prayer life. Paul told the Colossians that they were continually in his prayers; he was particularly praying for their knowledge and understanding (Colossians 1:9). He also encouraged them to be steadfast in prayer (Colossians 4:2). He told the Philippians to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
The Romans were to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). The Ephesians were encouraged to persevere in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). These were not merely exercises to keep them focused on the Lord, as important as that is. Prayer was, and is, the way for Christians to communicate with our God both as a family, and in private, more intimate conversations as a child would speak alone to a Father about personal matters. John wrote, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him” (John 9:31).
We are told repeatedly that if we are obedient and pray with faith, we will receive what we ask for (John 15:7; 14:13; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; I John 3:22-24). God’s ears are open to our prayers (I Peter 3:12), so long as we pray aright. James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:3-4). God is not a genie in a bottle to fulfill our every wish. What we ask for must be proper and according to God’s will (I John 5:14). We must ask in confidence, not in doubt (James 1:5-7; Philippians 4:6).
When we are seeking God’s will in our lives our prayers will be most effective, as Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:7-11). So, what then should we pray for?
First, we should pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 3:17). We should pray for our daily sustenance and welfare (Matthew 6:11). The sick among us should be in our prayers (James 5:14). Many of the things we in the Biblical examples should be a part of our public prayers, as well as our personal ones. On the other hand, many things of singular or personal benefit or nature should be kept for our personal alone time with the LORD. We should pray to overcome our weaknesses and for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 8:22-24). For the Philippians Paul prayed, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). I need to learn to pack as much into my prayers as Paul obviously could!
There is not much we cannot pray for so long as it is something that the LORD would approve of, understanding however, that God’s will for one person may not be the same for another. But there are some things we all need to pray for with constancy, as Jesus taught, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak… Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven… But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 6:13; 26:41; 6:10; 5:44). We can pray for ourselves, we can pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we can pray for our politicians, we can pray for our country, we can pray that the world turns back from the direction it is headed in, we can pray for God’s word to be taught around the globe. In fact there are so many things to pray for, can we afford to neglect our time in prayer?
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.