Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving Lesson

The Thanksgiving Lesson
by J. R. Miller, 1912
Gladness may not be thanksgiving. It certainly is not all of thanksgiving. One may have a heart bubbling with joy, without a note of thanksgiving. The task of happiness is one to which we should all firmly set ourselves. To be miserable in this glorious world, is most unfit. We should cultivate joyousness. But our present lesson is a larger and deeper one. Thanksgiving implies thought of God. One may be glad all the day—and never think of God. Thanksgiving looks up with every breath, and sees God as Father from whom all blessings come. Thanksgiving is praise. The heart is full of gratitude. Every moment has something in it to inspire love. The lilies made Jesus think of his Father, for it was he who clothed them in beauty. The providence of our lives, if we think rightly of it, is simply God caring for us. Our circumstances may sometimes be hard, our experiences painful, and we may see nothing in them to make us glad. But faith teaches us that God is always good and always kind, whatever the present events may be. We may be thankful, therefore, even when we cannot be glad. Our hearts may be grateful, knowing that good will come to us even out of pain and loss.

This is the secret of true thanksgiving. It thinks always of God and praises him for everything. The song never dies out in the heart, however little there may be in the circumstances of life to make us glad. Thanksgiving is a quality of all noble and unselfish life. No man is so unworthy, as he who never cherishes the sentiment of gratitude, who receives life's gifts and favors—and never gives back anything in return for all he gets.

Until we think seriously of it, we do not begin to realize what we are receiving continually from those about us. None may give us money, or do for us things which the world counts gifts or favors, but these are not the best things. Our teachers are ever enriching us by the lessons they give us. Those who require hard tasks of us and severely demand of us the best we can do, are our truest benefactors.

Sometimes we complain of the hardness of our lives, that we have had so little of ease and luxury, that we have had to work so hard, bear so many burdens, and sometimes we let ourselves grow bitter and unthankful as we think of the severity of our experience. But of all times—it has been in these very severities that we have got the richest qualities in our character. If we are living truly, serving God and following Christ, there is no event or experience for which we may not be thankful. Every voice of our lips should be praise. Every day of our years should be a thanksgiving day. He who has learned the Thanksgiving lesson, well has found the secret of a beautiful life.

"Praise is lovely," says the Hebrew Psalmist. Lovely means fit, graceful, pleasing, attractive. Ingratitude is never lovely. The life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it.

The influence of an ever-praising life on those it touches, is almost divine. The way to make others good—is to be good yourself. The way to diffuse a spirit of thanksgiving—is to be thankful yourself. A complaining spirit makes unhappiness everywhere.

How may we learn this thanksgiving lesson? It comes not merely through a glad natural disposition. There are some favored people who were born cheerful. They have in them a spirit of happiness which nothing ever quenches. They always see the bright side of things. They are naturally optimistic. But the true thanksgiving spirit is more than this. It is something which can take even an unhappy and an ungrateful spirit—and make it new in its sweetness and beauty. It is something which can change discontent and complaining into praise; ingratitude into grateful, joyful trust.

Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the heart, transforming the disposition and the whole character. Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed and permanent quality. An occasional burst of praise, in the midst of years of complaining, is not what is required. Songs on rare, sunshiny days; and no songs when skies are cloudy—will not make a life of gratitude. The heart must learn to sing always. This lesson is learned only when it becomes a habit which nothing can weaken. We must persist in being thankful. When we can see no reason for praise—we must believe in the divine love and goodness, and sing in the darkness. Thanksgiving has attained its rightful place in us, only when it is part of all our days and dominates all our experiences.

We may call one day in the year Thanksgiving Day, and fill it with song and gladness, remembering all the happy things we have enjoyed, all the pleasant events, all the blessings of our friendships, all our prosperities. But we cannot gather all our year's thanksgivings into any brightest day. We cannot leave today without thanks, and then thank God tomorrow for today and tomorrow both. Today's sunshine will not light tomorrow's skies. Every day must be a thanksgiving day for itself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ray Arthur Matthews

My brother, Lawrence Matthews, sent me this information regarding my Uncle Ray Matthews:

Pilot Officer Ray Arthur Matthews (RCAF Special Reserve) was killed in action on active duty on May 28, 1943 over Tripoli, Capital of Libya. He is buried in Lot 6, Grave 3 at the British Cemetary in Castel Benito, 15 miles due south of Tripoli. Memorial service was held at St. James Church in Lake Beauport.

Grandad wrote the following on June 5th, 1943:

One night alone, he flew away
To meet the enemy, come what may.
Far across the desert sand
Flying and fighting, life in hand.
Thoughts of home and love ones dear
His only comfort at night to cheer
A lonely vigil through star lit sky
His thoughts of home and his last "Good-by".
Suddenly from out of dawn
No friendly hand of danger to warn,
A shattering blast of gun shot fire
A few days later, a brief cold wire.
"KILLED IN ACTION, the sad news said"
"Your brave son reported DEAD".
Anguish mingled with joyful tears.
A Heros end he had no fears.
So passed into that glorious sphere
Our brave boy, we love so dear.
God bless you son. God speed your way
Happy United we shall meet some day.
                       - Arthur H. Matthews

Ray was also a member of the Late Arrivals Club. As a Flight Sergeant assigned to RAF 260 Squadron he engaged in what he wrote was a "stuka party" and was "shot up and down". As near as I can figure he was in a hospital somewhere over the summer, refused the offer to return to Canada and signed up as a test pilot and re-started active duty in September 1942. For quite a few months he was test pilot for a wide variety of different planes. His last entry in the log book was May 21st, 1943, after having been reassigned to a forward base near Castel Benito a week earlier.

Air Marshal H.Edwards sent condolences to the Matthews family informing them of the sad news. Followed by Charles Power, Minister of National Defence for Air, as well as a note from King George at Buckingham Palace, that said "The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow. We pray your country's gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation."

His Pilot's Log Book was declassified and sent to the family on March 4th, 1948. Looking at the log book, as near as I can figure he probably just missed being declared an "Ace", where you need 5 confirmed "kills" (downing an enemy plane) and he had 4, plus a number of probables.

But he'll always be an Ace in my book. Uncle Ray seemed like he would have been a great guy, I wish I had met him. Aunt Ruth also said he was a top of his class at Quebec High in academics and an excellent boxer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Abiding in Christ - Day 28 - He is Your Strength

Okay.  We know.  We're weak.

It's very easy for us to fall into sin.  It's very easy for us to be tempted.  Linda writes about it here.

We acknowledge we are utterly weak, but we often try to forget it.  God wants us to remember our weakness, and to feel it deeply.

We tend to mourn over it, believing our weakness is a hindrance to all-out service to the God we love.  Yet Christ teaches us to be content with the truth that we are very weak.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Here's a secret:

Our weakness is actually the secret of strength and success.

The Christian's life work is to testify concerning Jesus, either by living a holy life or by speaking in His name. But how are we to do this?  By abiding in Christ, and by yielding to Him as His power works through us.

Christ gives His power in us by giving His life to us.  He does not take our frail lives and impart a little strength to help us in our frailty.  He goes the WHOLE WAY.  He gives His own life to us, and gives us His own power.

Instead of taking away our sense of weakness and giving in its place a feeling of strength, our Saviour leaves and even increases the sense we have of utter impotence.  At the same time, He increases our consciousness of strength in HIM.

"The weakness and the strength are side by side; as the one grows, the other does, too, until his disciples understand the saying, "when I am weak, then am I strong; I boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." ~ p. 172, Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ

Believer, look to Christ.  Look to His beauty, His power, His ability to always do the right thing in every situation.   Remember that He is never tempted to sin, and never without strength to accomplish what His Father has willed.  Look to Jesus.

The believer who longs for holiness and power to do the Heavenly Father's work confidently remembers the power of Christ in him.

"He lives a truly joyous and blessed life, not because he is no longer weak, but because, being utterly helpless, he consents and expects to have the mighty Saviour work in him."~p. 173

Practical Lessons

  1. All our strength is in Christ.  He has all authority in heaven and on earth and is able to meet every need.  
  2. The power of Christ flows into us as we abide in close union with Him.  "When the union is weak, undervalued, or undercultivated, the inflow of strength will be weak."  But when we abide in Him, His power works through us.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Our one care is to abide in Christ as our strength.

Our one duty is to be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS MIGHT.  

The Lord is my strength and my song.  Isaiah 12:2

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil 4:13

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I've really been enjoying the book, Abiding in Christ, by Andrew Murray.  You can read the original version of the book online here.

The biggest benefit to me is that I have learned how to abide more faithfully, more deeply, and more consistently.  I have learned what it is to die to self, and to acknowledge the depravity of my heart and the neediness of my soul.  I am never able to live the Christian life in a godly manner on my own steam, and I know it.  I also know that Christ lives in me, and He is able to keep me and use me for His own glory.

So, in all of my learning and leaning on Christ, I began to feel sorry for those who do not yet know what it is to abide in Christ.  And in so doing, I became a bit smug, and a wee bit "holier than thou".

So, God smacked me a bit with a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.  My pain level was high from the gardening I did the other day.  I received a notice in the mail that my chiropractic assessment did not go as I desired, so I will receive no more compensation for chiropractic adjustments at this time.  I had a run-in with a couple of my kids, and I worried a lot about my husband, who is wearing a monitor to figure out what is going on with his heart.  Bills came in the mail and the phone rang with people looking for their money.  Physical pain, relational pain, marital pain, financial pain... all rolled into one day.

The good news?  It drove me to my God.  It reminded me that I only live a godly life when I am resting in Jesus, moment by moment, day by day.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.         2 Corinthians 12:9-10                                                               

I am content to know that I am weak, for the grace of my God is sufficient for me.  I am content with insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities, for I know that Christ is in me and is working through me for His own glory.

  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.~2 Corinthians 13:14 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Abiding in Christ - Day 27 - That You Might Not Sin

In Him there is no sin.  Whoever abides in Him does not sin. ~1 John 3:5-6
Jesus took away our sin by His work on the cross.  He is the propitiation for our sin - meaning He satisfied every requirement for justice by paying the full penalty in our place.  He is our Saviour Who by His life, suffering and death made atonement for our sins and allowed us to be reconciled to God.  Clearly, that is cause for rejoicing and praise!

But wait, there's more!  (I feel like one of those TV salespersons)... But there truly is MORE:

Christ also has delivered us from the power of sin, so that the believer does not practice sin any more.

In Him there is no sin.

Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

Believer, if you remain rooted and grounded in Christ, abiding in Him moment by moment, you will not sin, because you are rooted in Perfection.

If the root is holy, so are the branches.  ~Romans 11:16
How is this consistent with what the Bible teaches about our sin nature?

We have a sin nature.  We have sinned.

  • having sin - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.1 John 1:8
  • practicing sin - If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. v10

The holiest believer must admit these truths - he has sin within; his sin has broken out into sinful practices.

"The deepest confession of sin in the past, and the deepest consciousness of still having a vile and corrupt nature in the present may coexist with humble but joyful praise to Him Who keeps us from stumbling as we abide in Him."~Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, p.164

Look at Paul.  He acknowledged he'd been a persecutor of the church.  He was deeply conscious of being the Chief of Sinners.  Yet for him, to live was Christ; to die was gain.  He walked through life abiding in Christ in close and unbroken fellowship.

In Him there is no sin.   Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

There are degrees of abiding, my friends.  When the abiding in Christ is weak and intermittent, sin continually rears its ugly head and defeats the soul.

Yet the Bible promises...

Sin shall not have dominion over you.~Romans 6:14

And the Bible commands...

Do not let sin reign in your mortal body.~Romans 6:12
A believer who claims the promise and obeys the command, walking by faith in the Son of God and in His power to keep him, trusts Jesus to keep sin from overpowering him.  But weak believers who are ignorant of the promise or careless about sin's power if they do not remain abiding in Christ live a life of continual stumbling and constant sorrow and regret.  Satan wants to keep you defeated. But Jesus will keep you from yielding to your sinful nature, as you abide in Him.

Andrew Murray illustrates this with the story of a lion tamer who was in control of a young lion.  When the keeper was near, the lion would crouch and tremble at his master's feet, no matter who approached.  But if anyone approached the lion when the keeper was not present, it was instant death!

"In the same way, we can have sin and yet not practice sin.  The evil nature, the flesh, is unchanged in its rebellion against God, but the abiding presence of Jesus keeps it under control.  In faith the believer can entrust himself to the keeping, the indwelling, of the Son of God; as he abides in Him, he can count on Jesus to be there for him.  It is union and fellowship with the Sinless One that is the secret of a holy life:  "In Him there is no sin.  Whoever abides in Him does not sin."" ~Andrew Murray p.166, Abiding in Christ.
Do not despair or fall into the pattern of thinking that it is not possible for you to have this kind of life.  You can abide in your Saviour, Jesus.  He never changes.  His promises never fail.  As you rest in Him, acknowledging that you cannot keep yourself, but He can keep you, you remain IN HIM.  The key is to remain humble and helpless before Him.

Glory to God

"By keeping us on a daily basis humble and helpless in our consciousness of our evil nature, watchful and active in the knowledge of its terrible power, dependent and trustful in the remembrance that only His presence can keep the lion down-- this gives all glory to Him and not to ourselves.  O let us believe that when Jesus said, ":Abide in Me, and I in you, " He meant that, while we were not to be freed from the world and its tribulation, from the sinful nature and its temptations, we were at least to have this blessing fully secured to us-- the grace to abide wholly; only, in our Lord.  Abiding in Jesus makes it possible to keep from actual sinning; and Jesus Himself makes it possible to abide in Him."
Faith only has to deal with the present moment.

Can Jesus, right now, as you abide in Him, keep you from sinning and doing those things that have stained and wearied you?  Surely He can.

In the moments between your activities, in the middle of your busy day, can you stop and say, "Jesus, keep me now.  Jesus, save me now.  Help me to resist temptation and yield to Your will for my life, right now."?

Let failure drive you to Him.

Regard it as HIS WORK to keep you abiding in Him, and His work to keep you from sinning.  He is the Vine, you are merely the branch.  He must bear and hold you and keep you in His love and power.  All you have to do is surrender.  He will keep you from sin, but even better, He will purify you and use you as a channel of blessing to others, to demonstrate His power and His glory on the earth.

In Him there is no sin.

Whoever abides in Him does not sin.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bitter and Sweet

We've tasted the bitterness of family sorrows, of strained relationships, of financial ruin.  We know what it is to suffer under the pain of sin's consequence.

We've tasted the sweetness of full assurance in Christ, of knowing that heaven awaits, of sensing the peace that passes understanding and the joy that never ends.

James Smith, a Puritan writer, says it so much better than I ever could.  Go here and read!

And may God bless you on your journey today.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Abiding in Christ - Day 26 - Showing Love to Fellow Believers

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~John 15:12
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. ~John 15:9 


Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment, the great evidence of the reality of the new covenant, the one convincing and indisputable token of discipleship:  LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:34;:35

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ~John 17:21-23 

Jesus lived this life of love perfectly.  Look at His life.  It was one of

  • self-abasement
  • self-sacrifice
  • love to the unworthy
  • love to the ungrateful
  • humble Servanthood
  • giving Himself to death on a cross
Believers who gaze at Christ and live in Him are witnesses to the incredible Love that gave itself to die.  He is our example, and He wants us to love like He did.

"Christians are to prove that love has made them members of one body and of one another, and has taught them each to forget and to sacrifice self for the sake of the other."                          ~Andrew Murray, p. 159, Abiding in Christ

God brings into our lives the exact people that we are to love.  Do you have a difficult husband, and impossible child, an immoral relative, a nasty neighbour?  God has placed that person within your sphere of influence for His good purposes.

If you love God, you'll love others.

"Love to fellow believers is the flower and fruit of the root, unseen in the heart, of love to God."

We are in the School of Love

We live with a bunch of self-centered sinners if we live in an ordinary family.  This is where the Lord teaches us how to love the unlovable.  In interaction with a demanding toddler or hormonal youth, we are being trained to love.  This training expands to our being strengthened to love those who are as yet outside of Christ, not just with things you can agree on (like the weather or politics), but with a holy love that bears with the most disagreeable for Jesus' sake.

Study Jesus.  How did He love?

  • forgiveness 70 times 7; He even forgave those who crucified Him.
  • unwearied patience; He taught His disciples by example and word.
  • infinite humility; He left His exalted position to be a Humble Servant.

How do you feel about this glorious calling to love like Christ?

Does your heart leap at this unspeakable privilege of showing the likeness of eternal love to others?  Or do you sigh at the thought that you will never be able to demonstrate love the way our Saviour did?

The truth is, you can't do it.  Not in your own strength.  

Yet you are commanded to love like Christ.

The only way to do so is to fully abide in Him.  As you do so, you will love others with a love that is not your own.  Jesus' love will shine through you.  He can make you gentle and patient.  He can keep a watch over your lips so that every word that proceeds from your mouth is uplifting and kind.  He can give you a gentle spirit that refuses to take offense and is always willing to believe the best of others.

"Let the love that seeks not its own, but is always ready to wash others' feet, or even to give its life for them, be our aim as we abide in Jesus.  Let our life be one of self-sacrifice, always studying the welfare of others, finding our highest joy in blessing others.  And let us, in studying the divine art of doing good, yield ourselves as obedient learners to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  By His grace, the most commonplace life can be transformed with the brightness of heavenly beauty, as the infinite love of the divine nature shines out through our frail humanity."~Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, p. 161

Love one another, as I have loved you. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Real Prayer

"Real prayer has eyes on Christ, not the crisis."
                                           ~Ann Voskamp

Ann has written a gem about prayer.  Go and read it.

Ann writes, "I don’t know how God hears the wail of the woman howling raw for that one man to come love her right. The ache of the daughter rejected by the icy parent. The choking breath of the man crushed hard by a weight of debt."

The truth is that it is a hard road to travel, this road that the Lord leads us down.  In the middle of the crisis, He teaches us that He never fails, not even when the answer to our begging is NO.  

I have "howled raw" for those I love.  I know what it is to be rejected and crushed.  

But this I know, too:  My Saviour never fails me.  He never falters.  He is always, always faithful.

Keep your eyes on Christ, Beloved, no matter what crisis you are enduring.  

Real prayer has eyes on Christ, not the crisis.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Abiding in Christ - Day 25 - That Your Joy May Be Full

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.~John 15:11 

There is exquisite and overflowing happiness to be found in Christ.  Is this your experience?

. . . for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” ~Nehemiah 8:10

This is the daily, hourly, moment-by-moment experience of a believer who is truly abiding in Christ.

His Own Joy

"that My joy may remain in you..."

Because of the resurrection we have never-ceasing joy - the joy of a work fully completed by our Saviour, so that we can rejoice in the Father's presence, and rejoice in the souls redeemed by the grace of our God.  We are now partakers of the Joy of Christ.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in *triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.~2 Corinthians 2:14

* a reference to the lavish victory parades celebrated in Rome after great battles. God is depicted as the sovereign victor, with Christ as the general, leading the victory procession, and Paul as “captured” by Christ but now joyfully following him.

We are in a triumphal procession!  Look backward, and see the work He has done!  Look upward, and see the reward He has for us!  We are partakers in His joy, in His work, in His glory!

"With our feet on Calvary, our eyes on the Father's face, and our hands helping sinners home, we have His joy as our own." ~Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, p. 153

Abiding Joy

"that My joy may remain in you..."

This abiding joy remains, never to cease, never interrupted.

If you think the Christian life is a succession of changes, sometimes joy, sometimes sorrow, you do not understand the unceasing joy that is yours in Christ.  Paul understood this.  The Christian life is a paradox - the combination at one and the same moment of all the bitterness of earth and all the joy of heaven!

Paul writes,

through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:8-10

Andrew Murray explains,

These precious words teach us how the joy of Christ can overrule the sorrow of the world, can make us sing even while we weep, and can maintain in the heart, even when cast down by disappointment or difficulties, a deep consciousness of a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.~ Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, p.153.

The presence of Jesus cannot help but bring JOY!

Full Joy

Answered prayer is a token

  • of fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
  • of  God's delight in us as beloved children
  • of God's care and concern for us
Look with eyes of faith, and see Jesus, the Great High Priest, entering the Father's presence for us, praying for us, working in us.

John 15 - shows the full joy of abiding in Christ
John 16 - shows the full joy of prevailing prayer
John 17 - shows the full joy of knowing that LOVE pleads for me

Life in Christ

This life is not a life of self-denial and sadness - that is a result of NOT abiding.  No, life in Christ is full of JOY.  The difficulties all arise from our refusal to surrender.

To those who finally yield themselves unreservedly to abide in Christ for a bright and blessed life, their faith comes true - the joy of the Lord is theirs.~Andrew Murray, Abiding in Christ, p. 155.

Are you experiencing joy in the midst of sorrow?  Are you experiencing joy in the midst of pain?  This life of joy can be yours, as you learn to fully abide in Christ, surrendering to His will and resting in His care.

. . .that your joy may be full!