Thankful Thursday

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14) (ESV)

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23) (ESV)

The words jumped off the page at me and I had to read them again:

“Sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  “Glorifies me.”

As believers on this side of the cross, we tend to confine sacrifices to the Old Testament law system, from which today’s believer has now been freed. Yet the sacrifices of thanksgiving are not the bloody sacrifices carried out in the temple worship during the time of the Bible.

No, we no longer offer animal sacrifices as a means of finding favor before the Lord, for Christ took care of the sacrifice for sin once and for all on the cross: We are fully accepted in the Beloved before the Father.

While these verses were written during the Old Testament time-period, I believe they provide valuable instruction about giving tanks that that can be applied to the believer.

Observation #1:  Such sacrifices are a way to worship and glorify God.

The Psalms clearly state that a thankful heart is a sacrifice that renders glory to God.

Why is the attitude of giving thanks called a “sacrifice”?

The New Testament discusses the believer’s relationship to sacrifices with specific language, for Romans 12:1 tells the believer to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)

While Christ has done away with the need for offering the sacrifices of bulls and goats, we are now called to offer up the sacrifice of our own bodies, our own living bodies.

Did you catch that? The acceptable worship that we are now called to offer to the Lord takes place with our bodies–our physical bodies.

Observation #2: Spiritual sacrifices involve our physical bodies

How then, do we offer our bodies as a sacrifice? If this is not a literal, physical, blood-shedding sacrifice, we must be called instead to offer some form of a spiritual sacrifice.

It is here that we often get stuck: the concept of spiritually yielding our physical  bodies as a living sacrifice feels ambiguous and the implications of such are difficult to understand on a day-to-day basis. How does “offering up the spiritual sacrifice of my living body” impact my morning that is filled with soiled laundry, a sink filled with dirty dishes, and a fussing toddler’s oatmeal-smeared face?

I believe Hebrews 13:15-16 gives us a glimpse into how offering up our bodies–the members of our physical bodies—as a living sacrifice plays out in a very practical way: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (ESV)

All these things are very practical, concrete things that we do with the physical members of our bodies: the acknowledging His name with ourlips, the doing good (with our hands, feet, and mouth), and the sharing of our goods. These verses help us connect the spiritual with the physical and show us how we can do spiritual sacrifices with our physical bodies.

Such a connection makes the concept of offering up spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to Him somewhat easier to grasp.

So, if our spiritual sacrifices consist of using our physical bodies, then these spiritual sacrifices are carried out with the very members of our bodies: our hands, feet, mouth, mind, and heart.

This gets very practical, does it not? We use these members of our body every minute of every day. Every day, we have opportunities to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are pleasing to God, and in turn offer up a living sacrifice pleasing to Him.

Or at those same moments, we can yield our physical members as instruments of unrighteousness and choose to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are not pleasing to God.

Observation #3: We offer up sacrifices every day

And it is here that we learn what a  sacrifice of thanksgiving looks like:

How often throughout the day are we not tempted to be irritated about  having to pick up the fork our toddler threw off the table for the tenth time or annoyed with that person we talked to yesterday who always seems to  “have it all together”?

How often are we not tempted to have a pity party for ourselves because we haven’t had any “me” time or to text to a friend to complain about something?

How often do we tend to fail to see that choosing to be content and thankful in even the most mundane ways is in fact the very significant form of offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord?

Suddenly, the insignificant becomes very significant.

To offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving now becomes very clear: yield up those moments of temptation and turn them into moments of sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the particular situation that is planting seeds of ingratitude in your heart, turn it into an opportunity to offer the specific sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing to the Lord.

And in turn, we glorify Him.

~ Angie

Looking at Jesus – Christ in James – Part One

This past year our Pastor has been teaching through the book of James and I have spent a chunk of personal Bible time in this epistle.

Today let’s look at Jesus in the book of James.

Though James talks about the Christian more than it talks directly about Jesus, there are two names of Christ that we find in James and they  gives us a bold picture of who He is and His dramatic contrast to sin!

LORD OF GLORY

This is the first descriptive name we see of Christ, chapter two verse one.

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.”

Jesus Christ, in His essence IS glory! The audience that James was writing to knew about the glory of God! In the Old Testament the Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle and temple was the very presence of God Himself! In this verse, James says that Jesus Christ IS the Lord of Glory, an undeniable truth that Jesus IS God.

Though He is God, Jesus Christ humbled Himself and died for the sins of the WORLD; old, young, rich poor, dark, light, male, female. He shows no partiality in His offer of salvation!

The application which James is drawing here in chapter two is that a believer, one who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ ought not to show partiality. Favoritism is NOT glorious. Partiality is NOT in line with the character of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, the One who saved us from our sin.  Romans 2:11 says “God shows no partiality”.

James drives his point hard in verse 5, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” God has chosen to give great faith even to the poor of this world.

In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul the Apostle writes,

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

God’s ways are not our ways and in His sovereignty has saved the weak, unlovely, and in our eyes, unusable.

Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world! We wore the “vile raiment” of sin, we should have been given less than the “lowest stool”, we should have been given HELL! Instead, the Lord of Glory gave us salvation!

Partiality is not in harmony with our identity as children of the Glorious God.

I’ll be honest, I can look back and see how I have shown partiality, sometimes not even meaning to. Showing favor to another lady or mom who I know better, or I click with, or am just more comfortable with. In my life, partiality is often driven by fear. Fearing what another woman might think of me or my kids. Fear of what other lady’s life story might look like and not knowing how to relate. This name of Christ convicts me and challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to others who are different, yet are loved by God just as He loves me!

THE CHALLENGE! When we are tempted to judge and show favoritism let’s remember who we were apart from Christ. Remember how unlovely our sin was and is. Remember that favoritism does not reflect the Lord of glory who died in our place. Revel in God’s grace and in turn reach out to those around us!

 

Longing to be more like Christ,

~ Rachel

 

 

Thankful Thursday

 

Kelly is such an outgoing person.

Liz is a very happy person.

Ginger is a compassionate person.

It seems like my minds is always connecting people with a characteristic or attribute or when I think of  a trait I often associate it with a person.

What about thankfulness?

Is thankfulness an attribute that is evident in my life?

When I think of “Thankfulness” the first two people to come to mind are the biblical individuals David and Paul the Apostle.

In the Psalms I can almost hear the voice of David as he sings songs full of praise and thanksgiving!

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. – Psalm 106:1

Paul is the one who writes to the Churches “In everything give thanks.” [emphasis mine]

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Think about Paul, he had it hard. A group of men vowed to not eat or drink until they killed him, he was let down the wall in a basket to escape being murdered, he was shipwrecked, imprisoned… we could go on and on. It seems like Paul was almost always in the middle of a hard time yet almost every letter that he wrote begins with thankfulness to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! When Paul was in the midst of hardship he looked at Jesus!

Consider David, he had it hard.  He spent years running, hiding from a powerful king who wanted to kill him. Becoming king sure didn’t make everything hunky-dory, still then he had contentions and people out to kill him, even his own son and his own sin got him into a lot of deep water.  David too struggled with unthankfulness, he was human after all, his psalms are riddled with WHY, GOD?!  Yet, in those moments, in the midst of sin, strife, fear, trouble, we see David running to God! David lays his heart wide open before the Almighty! David knows he cannot hide his sin stained heart from God and he is confident that his salvation comes from God. Intertwined with those heart-wrenching Psalms we find Psalms saturated with praise and thanksgiving based on the attributes and goodness of God! When David struggled, he looked at who God is!

So often I dwell on the hardships of life and discontentment and let unthankfulness creep into my heart. I have a little pity-party, battle to suppress the thought that God doesn’t know what He is doing, fail to look at Jesus or trust in His sovereignty. When the guilt of that sinful way of thinking hits my heart I often feel like I have to get my act together before I can approach God, have to conjure up thankfulness and praise for God before I can speak to Him. How often am I vulnerable with God, like David? God wants a relationship with me! He wants me to bring my sin to Him, He died for it after all, to confess and receive forgiveness!

Let us confess our unthankfuness to God, tell Him our struggles, and what makes life hard.  Ask for His forgiveness. Ask for His help. John writes in 1 John 1:9,” if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” This includes our sin of unthankfulness.

Our Father wants to forgive!

Then let us pour out thanksgiving to our God! Even sing like the Psalmists!

Let us thank Him for WHO HE IS!

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. – Psalm 30:4

Let us thank Him for His SALVATION!

But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: – 2 Thessalonians 2:13

Let us thank Him for His PROVISION!

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

Let us thank Him for ALL THINGS! Even those hard things, because we know He is faithful, because we know He loves us, because we know He is in control, because we know it is His will.

When we are tempted to complain, when we see unthankfulness wrapping around our heart let us look at Jesus, who He is, what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do!

When I look at Jesus I cannot help but thank Him!!

Is thankfulness an attribute that is evident in our lifes?

If not, step back and

look at Jesus!

 

~ Rachel

 

 

By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Menu Fillers

To go along with the Thanksgiving theme of this month, here are some of our favorite recipes we make for our families during the holiday season!

 

Pumpkin Roll 

Makes 1 roll

My sister, cousin, and I had fun making this pumpkin roll almost every Thanksgiving growing up. And now as an adult, it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without it! ~Chrystal

Roll Ingredients:
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
Mix together cake ingredients. Grease parchment paper and place on jelly pan or cookie sheet (with edges).
Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle a lot of  powdered sugar on towel. Immediately after cake is removed from the oven invert cake onto towel, remove parchment paper and roll. Let stand for 2 hours.

While roll is cooling, mix together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add Vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar until creamy.

Once roll has cooled, carefully unroll and spread cream cheese filling on inside of roll. Roll back up and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

Merry Berry Salad
Serves 8-10
Growing up, this was the salad we always made if we wanted a nice, festive salad to add to our holiday meal! ~Angie

Salad Ingredients:
1-10 ounce package salad greens
1 red apple, unpeeled, thinly sliced
1 green apple, unpeeled, thinly sliced
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted*
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:
Layer ingredients in this order: salad greens, chopped apples, cranberries, almonds, Parmesan cheese.
Drizzle dressing over prepared salad.  (See below for salad dressing.)

Dressing Ingredients:
½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoon apple juice concentrate (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon onion, chopped
¼ cup oil
¼ cup water
In a blender, blend together all dressing ingredients, except oil and water.
Slowly drizzle oil and water into the blender and blend until smooth.
Refrigerate any leftover dressing.

*To make toasted almonds, place the almonds in a sauce pan and heat on a very low burner with 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar melts and coats the almonds. Cool.

Easy Rolls
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

My mother-in-law came by this recipe when she and my father-in-law were in missionary training. I make so much more bread because this recipe is so quick and easy! ~Rachel

Ingredients:
5 cups flour, divided
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (or oil)

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
In a sauce pan, heat the water, milk and butter (or oil) to 110-120 degrees.
Pour into mixing bowl with flour mixture and stir until smooth.
Slowly add 2 to 3 more cups flour until the dough is no longer sticky and all flour is kneaded into the dough.
Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Shape into rolls and let rise for 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Note #1: If you don’t have milk, you can replace it with water and the rolls still turn out beautifully.
Note #2: Replacing half of the white flour with whole wheat flour is also a yummy option.

 

Coconut Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole 
Serves 6-9

The traditional sweet potato casserole is topped with gooey marshmallows, but I love the touch of coconut and the crunch of the pecans in this recipe. ~Rachel

Potato Ingredients:
3 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar

Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:
Combine potato ingredients and spread into a greased 9×9 baking dish.
Combine topping ingredients and crumble over potatoes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or u until golden brown.

 

Cheesy Corn Dish
Serves 6-8
A simple, but yummy way to dress up frozen corn, this is one dish that you can put together first thing in the morning and then pretty much forget about it until it is time to eat! ~Angie

Ingredients:
3 – 16 ounce packages of frozen corn
1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Place all ingredients, except cheddar cheese, into a small crockpot.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
Mix in cheddar cheese right before serving.

 

Pineapple Filling 

Serves 8 – Very yummy paired with ham! 

This is a new recipe brought to the family table by my sister-in-law and is a fun twist to your traditional stuffing. ~Chrystal

Ingredients:
1 loaf of white bread, broken up
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c. milk
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 can crushed pineapple and juice

Directions:
Mix all ingredients, except for the bread, in a large bowl.
Place bread into a 9×13 cake pan [greased]
Cover bread with combined ingredients. Mix until all of the bread is wet.
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

 

We hope you have a wonderful time around your Thanksgiving table thanking God for His many gifts! 

Introducing Thankful Thursday

Since the very beginning of time, the human race has exhibited its propensity for discontentment: in the garden of Eden, where all of creation was in its state of exquisite perfection and where Adam and Eve had everything they could ever desire at their immediate disposal, Eve surrendered to the temptation to be discontent with such perfection. Eve decided she wanted something more than what God had given her. As a result, she and Adam acted on this discontentment. The simple act of taking that single bite from the forbidden fruit is the event that changed this world forever.

Today, thousands of years later, we’re still suffering the consequences of that single act of discontentment.

Discontentment. It is still around today: Our social networks of Facebook, Pinterest, and the picture-perfect mommy blogs often contribute to our tendency to be unhappy with what we have. All too regularly, when I open any one of these websites, I find myself feeling grumpy, annoyed, and irritated with anything and everything around me.

Why?

I believe it is because I willingly buy into the lie of discontentment. I convince myself that if only I were as organized as this person, if I could write as well as that person, or if I were the thrifty and creative homemaker like this other person, I would be oh, so much happier than I am right now.

But I cannot blame Facebook, Pinterest, or blogs (or anything or anyone else for that matter) for this tendency to be discontent with my life. Rather, can I propose that this attitude of discontentment is simply the product of my lack of thankfulness to God for what He God has already so richly provided for me—be those things physical, emotional, or spiritual? That such attitudes of discontentment only flow from the spring of ungratefulness that already
exists in my heart?

Facebook, Pinterest and mommy-blogs are simply the means of causing my cup of unthankfulness and discontentment to overflow and spill all over the floor for me and all those around me to see. When this happens, it is not a pretty sight.

So what does it mean to be thankful? How can we cultivate a heart that is thankful? How do we give thanks in everything, even those things that are less-than-desirable? Why is it so hard to be thankful? What are
some practical ideas on how to cultivate thankfulness?

It is these kinds of questions that we at Hearts Refreshed want to consider during the month of November.

 

~Angie