Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Timing of Thanksgiving

It's the nature of the film industry that employment on any one job is of limited duration. A movie is budgeted, the crew gathers together for a few weeks or months of active shooting, and then scatters once more to wherever the next project takes them. While boredom is rarely an issue, neither is there any such thing as job security, as plans can be canceled on short notice when financing falls through or there is a relationship fallout between some of the key people involved. As contacts are made and reputations are built, the job offers come more readily, but the pursuit of a paycheck can be a constant struggle for those just starting out.

As a worry-prone mother of an electrician/lighting technician in the industry, I long ago committed my son's employment and financial status to God. My job is simply to thank Him in advance for taking care of the issue and for building in my son the skills set and personal character needed to be successful. Therefore, I was delighted with the news that his November bills would be covered by a three-week stint on a short film in at the start of a traditionally slow season of the year. Additionally, there was the hope that he might jump onto another movie after Thanksgiving. When telling a family member that we were keeping our fingers crossed that this would happen, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't need to cross fingers on hands already clasped in prayer.

Two words in the situation I was relaying suddenly caught my attention: the job he wanted would start after Thanksgiving. More than a suggested start date, the combination refers to the timing of any expected answer to prayer. Truly the key to unleashing God's bounty in any situation is to thank Him for releasing His answers and gifts before they are received. The traditional celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday is to look back on the year just past and give thanks for the good things that have occurred in the preceding three hundred and sixty-five days. But if that's all we do, we stop short of receiving the full blessing that God has packed into that twelve-letter word.

I'm approaching the Thanksgiving holiday a little differently this year as a result. As usual, when our family gathers around the dinner table and looks at the platters of steaming family favorites set before us, we'll go one by one around the room and tell what we're especially thankful for this year. When my turn comes I will certainly thank God for His faithfulness in the year just past. But this time I will also thank Him for the same in the year to come, thanking Him in advance for His answers to the specific situations I've laid at His feet.

Too often we pray with the attitude of a quarterback who throws a pass deep and just hopes that a team member will catch it downfield. It's a last ditch effort to save a situation that we deem hopeless in the extreme. Yet God wants us to realize that He is on the receiving end of our prayers and He never drops a one. He honors hands raised in praise, those signaling victory before the end zone has actually been reached. In my son's situation it is that praise and thanks in advance that will turn the possibility of a job offer into a check deposited in the bank. The job may start after the holiday, but not before the thanksgiving – I've made sure of that!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”
(Philippians 4:6 NKJV, emphasis mine)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Promise Keeper

(2 Corinthians 1:20)
“But you promised...!”

Few three-word combinations express more heartbreak, despair, and betrayal than those above. We've said them as kids to a parent who didn't come through on some promised treat. Some of us have said them to spouses who've walked away from the vows expressed on a wedding day. They've come out of our mouths in all manner of situations when we've felt wrongfully let down or betrayed. Some of us have even said them to God.

We likewise hate being on the receiving end of such an accusation. The words speak failure...even when that wasn't our intent. Most of us mean well when promising actions of one type or another. Sometimes, however, we find that we are unable to come through as expected for any number of reasons. Perhaps the words were spoken in haste or when under extreme duress. Life circumstances sometimes intervene and physically prevent us from accomplishing what we said we would do. And surely we are fallible human beings who sometimes lie, fall to temptation or otherwise fail to live up to the expectations placed on us by ourselves or others.

But God is infallible. So how does He feel when we accuse Him of failure? Surprisingly, He wants us to come to Him when the circumstances of life don't line up with what the Bible says is ours through Christ, and the three-word combo above are words He loves to hear! What makes all the difference in the outcome of things, however, is the tone in which we speak them. Do we say them in an accusatory fashion that suggests we tried things God's way and are in trouble as a result? Or do we say them as a declaration of faith in the One who keeps His promises, no matter what the situation looks like in the flesh? It's the latter that turns the promises of God into actuality in our lives.

It's okay to be honest with God about the way things stand in whatever issue we're dealing with. As our loving Father He wants us to come to Him and truthfully communicate our feelings and concerns about what we're going through. But what changes the discussion from a pitiful recitation of problems to productive prayer is when we end it with the only words that make a difference, and the ones that God is waiting to hear: “But You promised...”, followed by the words He has given us concerning the situation spoken back to Him in faith, despite how things may look in the natural.

Of course, this only works when you have a promise to declare! As believers we have a Book-ful of them, as all the promises the Bible contains are ours to claim as a result of Jesus' death on the cross. But there is nothing more wonderful than to have gone to God with a problem and to have received a specific word on the situation directly from His heart to your own. It could be a Scripture verse that jumps off the page at you, a word of prophecy specifically spoken about your future, or perhaps a line from your pastor's sermon that you simply can't forget. That then is a rhema word from God, a promise from His heart that is yours to believe, recite, and claim as your very own. God is simply waiting to hear you voice your belief in what He has to say, no matter what things look like in the flesh.

Nothing expresses to God your belief that He will come through as promised like thanking Him in advance for doing so. Giving thanks before you see the answer you seek changes its progression from the need for a the seed of one in the finally just a matter of time.

Abraham...didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said...”
(Romans 4:19-25 MSG)
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