Only one prayer? Give thanks!

Only one prayer? Give thanks!

I’ve been feeling rather blank, dull, fatigued from a strenuous, constant, energy-expending fall. I even had to pass when my husband and I were praying together the other evening…I couldn’t think. But then I remembered this thought, first posted in 2014 … one of my very first “blogging Thanksgiving” posts. And so I’m no longer blank but rather voicing my thanks to my God and to others. Join me here even if you have “no other prayer”?

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Only one prayer? Give thanks!

Only one prayer? Give thanks!

Early one fall, I had a few moments in between errands, so I decided to follow the "garage sale" signs into a neighborhood off the main road I was traveling on. It was at the end of the day...and the house I stopped at looked a bit bare and disheveled.  But I got out of my car anyway.  And by the time I got back in my car, I was so glad I had stopped.

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Overflowing with Gratitude

Overflowing with Gratitude

When I used to teach language and writing to GED students, we would do an exercise together as a class to practice writing a five paragraph essay.

As the end of November approached, I usually chose the topic of Thanksgiving.  I thought that in this age of entitlement it might be a double "win" for the students to count their blessings and practice their writing.

So to prepare for my lesson, I sent out an email to friends and colleagues for quotes about being thankful.  I received some great ones!

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Overflowing with Gratitude

fall trees

fall trees

It's not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous A few years ago, I started teaching language and writing to GED students.  Every Wednesday, we would do an exercise together as a class to practice writing a five paragraph essay.

As the end of November approached, I chose the topic of Thanksgiving.  I thought that in this age of entitlement it might be a double "win" for the students to count their blessings and practice their writing.

So to prepare for my lesson, I sent out an email to friends and colleagues for quotes about being thankful.  I received some great ones!

Some were fun:

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? Erma Bombeck

pilgrim family

pilgrim family

May your stuffing be tasty May your turkey plump May your potatoes and gravy Have nary a lump May your yams be delicious And may your pies take the prize And may you Thanksgiving dinner Stay off your thighs! Anonymous

Others, really profound:

Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of the vices. Thomas Fuller

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts....nevertheless, they set aside a day of thanksgiving.  H.W. Westermayer

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the others. Cicero

And my favorite:

It's not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous

But as always, God's Word takes the prize for the most profoundly sublime quote on being thankful.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Col 2:6-7

Let's meditate for a few moments on this beautiful phrase, overflowing with gratitude:

What does it mean to overflow?

roosevelt dam overflow

roosevelt dam overflow

A reservoir holds water.  When it rains too much or the snows in the mountains melt, the water flows over the edge.  When my husband John was a child he lived near the Roosevelt Dam.  When the dam spilled over, it was quite an event...a wonder to behold!

And that's what this word in the original language means:  to be in excess, to have more than enough, to super-abound...to overflow!

What is gratitude?

This word means appreciation, thanksgiving and and praise to God...and to others who have enriched our lives. After all, ...what do you have that you did not receive? 1Cor 4:7

communion set

communion set

The original word in Greek is eucharistia. In Christian liturgical traditions,

Eucharist is used in modern language for Holy Communion, embodying the highest act of thanksgiving for the greatest gift from God, the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies. Spiro Zodiates

In fact, Jesus Himselfgave thanks to the Father as He broke the bread and blessed the cup at the Last Supper with His disciples.  He acknowledged His Father as the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift.James 1:17

So let us also, dear brothers and sisters, be a people overflowing with gratitude...not just at this season, but all year long!

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Thanksgivng Exercises:

  1. What 5 things can you thank God for right now? In your journal list them. Then chose one of the 5 and list 5 more. Keep going if you'd like. :) If you're having a hard time getting started, take a peek at this link and thank God for the gift of sight

  2. Have a time of family or personal communion, thanking the Father for the gift of His precious Son.

  3. Do this Bible study exercise:

Kaden the student

Kaden the student

Read through the book of Colossians and find at least one verse in each chapter about giving thanks. Be sure to read the context to get the complete message.

Only one prayer? Give thanks!

garage sale

garage sale

Early one fall, I had a few moments in between errands, so I decided to follow the "garage sale" signs into a neighborhood off the main road I was traveling on. It was at the end of the day...and the house I stopped at looked a bit bare and disheveled.  But I got out of my car anyway.  And by the time I got back in my car, I was so glad I had stopped.

No, I didn't buy any treasures....in fact, I didn't spend a cent.  But I did leave with the treasure of a truth etched in my mind.  It was from a somewhat banged up looking plaque:

If you only have one prayer...give thanks!

I wrote the words down in my little notebook, and I've been mulling them over ever since:  Just one prayer...thank you!

I've thought of the words that we love to hear from our babies...ma-ma, da-da, wuv oo...  Wouldn't tah-too {thank you} be in that early list?  How lovely as a mom or dad to be appreciated!  And when those kind words just tumble forth from a toddlers mouth...oh, sweetness and delight!

So then it makes sense that the primary characteristic of a child of God would be gratitude.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7 ESV

In fact, the first words of affection coming from a baby believer may very well be "Thank you, Father God!"

give thanks

give thanks

Our modern culture has lost the art of "thank you"...no more "thank you notes"...more about entitlement, I guess.  But I suppose that it's not just our modern culture.  In the epistle to the Romans, Paul points out that one of the main characteristics of the pagan was not giving God thanks, despite knowing and seeing Him in creation.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened... Romans 1:20-21 NIV

{If you want a real eye-opener, read the surrounding verses in Romans.  It sounds more like modern day America than we might like to think!}

I wonder if that's why our own minds, though believing, may at times be plagued by dark and depressing thoughts.

Give thanks, O child of God!  Abba, our Creator, is worthy!

So as we approach our very American holiday of Thanksgiving, start your list...and never stop!  Thank God and others every day.  What a great way to prepare for the language of heaven...where we will thank our Savior face to face...and perhaps thank those He used in our earthly lives to draw us to our great God!

...since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God... Hebrews 12:28 NIV

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Don't miss this -- For an amazing story and video of modern day pagans spontaneously bursting into thanksgiving at the moment of salvation, view Rich & Karen Brown's account.  Click on picture to read their story and view the video at the end of the post:

6-brown_family

6-brown_family

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Are you overflowing with gratitude?  For some fun, as well as profound, thoughts about Thanksgiving, click on picture:

pilgrims dancing

pilgrims dancing

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Overflowing with Gratitude

giving thanks

giving thanks

A few years ago, I started teaching language and writing to GED students.  Every Wednesday, we would do an exercise together as a class to practice writing a five paragraph essay. As the end of November approached, I chose the topic of Thanksgiving.  I thought that in this age of entitlement it might be a double “win” for the students to count their blessings and practice their writing.

So to prepare for my lesson, I sent out an email to friends and colleagues for quotes about being thankful.  I received some great ones!

Some were fun:

What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? Erma Bombeck

Thnksgiving turkey

Thnksgiving turkey

May your stuffing be tasty May your turkey plump May your potatoes and gravy Have nary a lump May your yams be delicious And may your pies take the prize And may you Thanksgiving dinner Stay off your thighs! Anonymous

Others, really profound:

Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of the vices. Thomas Fuller

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts….nevertheless, they set aside a day of thanksgiving.  H.W. Westermayer

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the others. Cicero

And my favorite:

It’s not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous

But as always, God’s Word takes the prize for the most profoundly sublime quote on being thankful.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Col 2:6-7

Let’s meditate for a few moments on this beautiful phrase, overflowing with gratitude:

What does it mean to overflow?

roosevelt dam overflow

roosevelt dam overflow

A reservoir holds water.  When it rains too much or the snows in the mountains melt, the water flows over the edge.  When my husband John was a child he lived near the Roosevelt Dam.  When the dam spilled over, it was quite an event…a wonder to behold!

And that’s what this word in the original language means:  to be in excess, to have more than enough, to super-abound…to overflow!

What is gratitude?

This word means appreciation, thanksgiving and and praise to God…and to others who have enriched our lives. After all, …what do you have that you did not receive? 1Cor 4:7

communion set

communion set

The original word in Greek is eucharistia. In Christian liturgical traditions,

Eucharist is used in modern language for Holy Communion, embodying the highest act of thanksgiving for the greatest gift from God, the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies. Spiro Zodiates

In fact, Jesus Himselfgave thanks to the Father as He broke the bread and blessed the cup at the Last Supper with His disciples.  He acknowledged His Father as the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift.James 1:17

So let us also, dear brothers and sisters, be a people overflowing with gratitude...always...not just this week!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Gratitude Exercises:

:)

:)

  1. What 5 things can you thank God for right now? In your journal list them. Then chose one of the 5 and list 5 more. Keep going if you’d like. If you’re having a hard time getting started, take a peek at this link and thank God for the gift of sight. Incredible!

  2. Have a time of family or personal communion, thanking the Father for the gift of His precious Son.

  3. Do this Bible study exercise:

Read through the book of Colossians and find at least one verse in each chapter about giving thanks. Be sure to read the context to get the complete message.

First posted in November 2011 :)

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Thanking Week

Thank you...beach

Thank you...beach

It’s not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous

I love this quote!

If you've spent any time reading the apostle Paul's writings, you most likely would say that Paul is a happy, joyful person...and this despite many trials and much suffering.  Listen to these verses from our current study book, the letter to the Colossians:

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you... to make known... the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory...To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:24-28 NIV

Now if it is true that...

It’s not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy.

...then I think it's reasonable to believe that Paul's joy and happiness sprang from a thankful heart.

So this week at A Branch in the Vine is Thanking Week.

In each of the four chapters of Colossians, we read a "thankful word" (such as thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude, etc).  Read through Colossians again (yes, again :) ) and see if you can find all of them.

Here's a hint:  there are 2 in chapter 1; 1 in chapter 2; 3 in chapter 3; and 1 in chapter 4.  [Let me know if you find more.]

Then list what Paul says he's thankful for.  Go on also to list what he says for US to be thankful for.

book 1000 Gifts

book 1000 Gifts

After that, start a list of your own.  Start a section in your journal and list 5 today...then 5 more tomorrow...and then the next day...

Or maybe you'd like to take up Ann Voskamp's challenge in her best-selling book One Thousand Gifts:  Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Start your own list of a thousand (just 3 a day will do it in a year).  For some fun help, see her July Joy Dare...download and print it out for yourself.

And last but not least, if you would like to see gratitude spring forth from a believing heart, read Rich Brown's story, Moi Joy.  He and his wife Karen have been working with the Moi tribe in Indonesia.

Many of these naturally treacherous, ungrateful people were transformed when they received the good news of the Lord Christ.  View the moving, spontaneous testimony of one man.   Immediately after his conversion to Christ, Mbanapeoma gave thanks to his Creator and to the missionaries.  Don't miss this!


"Moi" Joy!

I'm so excited to share this story with you.   Some of you may have read my Christmas post MEGA-JOY.  Well, here is a real life sequel...with all the drama and joy of a present day coming of Emmanuel. Rich Brown (my first "guest branch") is our real life storyteller.  He and his wife Karen, along with their sweet daughters Atalee, Alyssa, and Ashlynn, are church planters with New Tribes Mission among the Moi people of Papua, Indonesia.  After years of seeming fruitlessness, the Lord has brought forth an amazing harvest of new believers among the Moi.

Now that the frenzy of Christmas shopping and wrapping and unwrapping is over, take a few moments to read Rich's account of this incredible work of God.  And be sure to witness the joy and thanksgiving that broke through for one man at the moment of salvation (shown in the video at the end).

Rich speaking:

What would it be like if you were born among a small people group of 1000 surrounded by beautiful jungle covered mountains?  Doesn’t sound too bad, maybe.  Well, what if the 1000 people you lived among were full of fear, hate, and treachery?  What initially might have sounded like a romantic setting suddenly becomes dark and oppressive.  This is the setting that the Moi people were born into.

Before the year 2000 the Moi were totally untouched and unknown by the outside world.  They were literally stuck in time; living just like their ancestors from centuries before.  Death was all too real with an infant mortality rate of 75%.  If they managed to be the one in four that survived childhood they likely weren’t going to live long because of frequent sickness and homicide.   Their world was sad. What makes their story even more heart wrenching is the fact that they were not just victims of circumstance, but rather, reapers of what they and their ancestors before them had sown.  They lost all knowledge of God.  In fact they did not even have a name for God, fearing only the evil spirits.  Their ancestors had followed after a course that led to a hopeless eternity from God.  All the generations that followed had also fallen headlong into the depths of a world without the knowledge of God.

Romans 1 so clearly shows this downward spiral mankind is on.  We, like the Moi, had chosen a path 180 degrees from Him.  In Romans 1:21 it says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The desire to worship and thank God had been lost.  Although man did not seek God, He in His goodness had sought man.  He promised a Deliverer through Eve and many generations later that promise was fulfilled through His Son, Jesus.  After Jesus presented himself as a perfect sacrifice for mankind through his death, he rose from the dead three days later.  In His final words on earth he sent his followers to share the Good News about Him to all mankind.  He had made a way for people who were lost in their sins and blinded by Satan, the ruler of this present darkness, to be freed once and for all.  Hebrews 2:14b-15 says, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

In God’s goodness and love He had a plan for bringing the Moi people back to Himself.  For hundreds of years God had been looking down at this people group, with their own distinct language and culture, desiring that they might know Him.  Yet the Moi continued to live as they had for centuries without the knowledge of God.

Romans 10:14 says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

Before we were ever born God knew who would go and tell the Moi.

He would use a total of four different families to reach this small people group.  He desired to use people like me, who are naturally selfish and unloving to show the Moi His entirely selfless and loving Son.  The plan really didn’t make sense, but strength being made perfect in weakness is a foreign concept anyway.

In June of 2000 three families, with New Tribes Mission, left their relatives and homes to live among the newly discovered Moi people.  Supported by a network of believers around the world they intended to see a church born from ashes.

They began the long process of learning the language and culture of the Moi so when God’s Word was finally taught it would speak to their hearts.  Day in and day out they were salt and light to the Moi.  Medical care was one of the means of showing God’s love and compassion.  Sadly, only three years after living among the Moi, one of the families had to leave for health reasons.  In August 2005 we joined the team.  By this time the Moi language had been analyzed and reduced to writing.  Chronological Bible teaching lessons were being developed into Moi and accompanying scripture portions were being translated.  We actually had to come up with a name for God since they didn’t have one.  Taking the verb “anegite”, to create, we made the name, “Anegitemee”, the Creator.  It literally meant, “the one who creates”.

Finally, after years of hard work the time had come to present the truth about the Creator.  None of the Moi knew who this “Creator” was, but eight of the Moi were curious enough to find out.  For seven weeks they sat through the teaching.  Listening to nine lessons a week they were taken from Creation to Christ.  They were blown away by power and majesty of the Creator.  He was so powerful he could speak the worlds into existence and yet so loving He would walk in the garden with Adam and Eve, the pinnacle of His creation.

The faith of the eight who would believe continued to grow.  As they intently listened to the unfolding of God’s plan they saw His awesome power not only displayed in creation, but also in judgment of sin.  He wiped out the world with a flood and saved the eight who believed in Him.  He set a bow in the sky as a promise to never again destroy the world by flood.  They learned for the first time that the rainbow wasn’t an evil spirit’s walking stick, as they had always heard.  Right after the lessons on Noah and the flood, as we were leaving the small schoolhouse, we looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow.  The Moi for the first time in their history spoke words of praise and thanksgiving, “Thank you Creator!  It is a sign of your promise.  Praise you Creator!”

That day marked the first day where words of praise and thanksgiving were finally given to the one to whom all praise and thanksgiving are due.

A few weeks later the first eight of the Moi understood and believed in the substitutionary death of Jesus on their behalf.  He was their spotless lamb who had taken away their sins.  They were forgiven.  It was fitting that the Creator would make them into new creations in Christ.  They were never the same.

God used those first eight Moi believers to turn their world upside down.  They were radically changed by “The Creator’s Talk”.  From the testimony of their changed lives the Moi church has grown from eight to more than 120 believers.  The believers have written countless songs of praise and thanksgiving.

It says in Psalm 107:22, And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of JOY!

Here is Mbanapeoma’s testimony only moments after understanding and believing what Christ had done for him on the cross.  Notice his first ever words of praise and thanksgiving given to Him who alone is worthy.  Praise you Creator God!

If you would like to contact Rich and Karen and learn more about their lives and ministry among the Moi, please visit Rich's blog.

To read a response by Ron Hoffman, an AMF missionary...

6--brown_family
6--brown_family

URGENT PRAYER NEED for the Moi: Rich received word that there's a tribal war going on right now.  It's possible that some of the new Moi believers may have been killed in that war. Isn't it amazing to think that some of those who not long ago were in darkness and without God could now be in the arms of their Savior! Read Rich's Christmas letter to learn more...but above all, please PRAY!!!!!