The Power of Gratitude and Thanksgiving

thoughts for Thanksgiving Day from Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

1 Thankfulness lessens our anxiety (“do not be anxious”).

2 Thankfulness reframes every situation we find ourselves in (“in every situation”).

3 Thankfulness puts us in a posture of prayer and submission to God (“by prayer and petition”).

4 Thankfulness authorizes us to ask God for what is good (“present your requests to God”).

5 Thankfulness imparts peace (“and the peace of God”).

6 Thankfulness orients us toward the transcendent (“which transcends all understanding”).

7 Thankfulness protects our hearts and minds (“will guard your hearts and minds”).

8 Thankfulness keeps us connected with Jesus Christ (“in Christ Jesus”).

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

(written originally for Thanksgiving Day after 9/11)

Dear God,

You have invited us to give you thanks, and this is what we wish to do. We live in a time in which there is great anxiety, but you have offered us a way out of anxiety. We long to know your loving care. We pray to you because there is no one so good, so high, so holy, and so merciful as you.

Thank you that you have invited us to bring our petitions and our requests to you. Who else can we go to for wisdom, or for hope, or for guidance? We pray for the victims of violence wherever they may be found. We pray for those in authority, that they would seek and find the wisdom that comes from above.

We pray for peace in the world. And we pray for peace in our own hearts, a peace that proceeds from your forgiveness, the wholeness that comes from your restorative touch.

We thank you for creating a world you called “good.”

We thank you that despite the evil that has entered the world and still wages war in our own souls, your own goodness is undiminished.

We thank you that we have seen

honor that is bolder than shame…

mercy that is wider than cruelty…

truth that is straighter than deception…

faith that is stronger than treachery…

hope that is deeper than desperation.

We thank you for the ordinary things: the bread we receive today, the breath by which we live today.

And we thank you for the extraordinary things: the strength we didn’t know was possible, and the discovery of truths we didn’t know we didn’t know.

We thank you for the immeasurable grace shown to us in the coming of Jesus Christ, the hope of the world.

In His Name,


Foretaste of the Future

Day 30 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

Writing from the island of Patmos to seven churches, the elderly apostle John is both pastor and poet. He writes metaphorically, allegorically, apocalyptically, and in everyday terms. The book of Revelation is mysterious and often confusing! But John’s letter is grounded in the history of the early church’s expansion, the realities of persecution, and in his deep and abiding love for Jesus.

What Is the “Big Picture” of the Bible?

If you walked into someone’s home, picked a big book off a shelf, and read a single line on a random page, one thing is certain: you would not understand it. That is because we receive meaning through words by seeing them in their context.

One of the most helpful things we can do to understand the Bible better is to gain a clear comprehension of the whole sweep of the biblical text. To see “the big picture.” Grabbing a verse here and there for life meaning is like saying to God that we will only listen to him if he uses Twitter to send us tweets.

No, the Bible is a vast, epic story. The story of God, and the story of humanity. The Hebrew Scriptures (what Christians call “The Old Testament”) are a collection of writings that dozens of authors wrote over hundreds of years. It is breathtaking. The books of the Old Testament include history, prophecy, poetry, wisdom, and law.

Bibles for Studying


People have strong feelings about the Bible version they use. That’s a good thing when it reflects our devotion to the gift of Holy Scripture. You are welcome to offer your thoughts in the “comments” section below.

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Study Bibles have concise introductions that are no more than a page. For instance:

The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan)

The ESV Study Bible (Crossway)

The most popular versions of the Bible sold in English today are:

English Standard Version—an “essentially literal” update of the widely used Revised Standard Version.

New International Version — a standard translation using universally used English (thus, “International”).

New Living Translation—an easy-to-read thought-by- thought translation from Hebrew and Greek.

King James Version—the classic 1611 translation that is a landmark in English literature, but far removed from contemporary English.

New King James Version—a very literal translation, updating the language of the King James Version.

Common English Bible—a new translation blending word-for-word and thought-for-thought approaches.

New American Standard Bible—widely seen as the most literal translation produced in the 20th century.

The Message—a free translation by Eugene Peterson using everyday modern English, idea for idea.


The Christ Community

Day 29 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12

“Love one another” is perhaps the most memorable of the many “one another” passages in the New Testament, which also includes forgive one another, accept one another, serve one another, and many others.

Blood, Then Peace

Day 28 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:19-23

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace…”

In his last and perhaps most memorable major speech, his second inaugural address given on the steps of the Capitol, Abraham Lincoln pleaded with a divided nation to bind up its wounds.

Heavenly Students of God’s Interracial Church

Day 27 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Groucho Marx reminds us that language is a funny thing. If we’re not careful, we might miscommunicate in humorous or unpleasant ways.

Broken Body, Broken Wall, Restored Humanity

Day 26 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16

In 1871 and 1935, archeologists in Jerusalem discovered inscriptions that warned of death to Gentiles who passed beyond the wall within the temple that separated the Court of the Gentiles from areas reserved specifically for Jews. These signs confirm Paul’s statement earlier in Ephesians regarding the alienation of Gentiles from Jews, but also point to the failure of the Jews to live according to the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12:3. Rather than living such that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” the Jews had focused on privilege.

Jesus resolved the Gentiles’ alienation from both God and the Jews by simultaneously setting aside the law and fulfilling the law (see Matt. 5).

It’s All About Zeal

in the series "How to Study the Bible"


I want to say, right at the start, that I am looking forward to offering this new series on understanding, studying, and applying the Bible to our lives. I’m encouraged because I have seen over my lifetime how the power and truth of the word of God have given people life when it seems like so much about our world is going downhill.

I read the Bible when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I was 17 years old and someone put an easy-to-understand version of the New Testament in my hand and I devoured it one summer, that I experienced the ring of truth and the deliciousness of the word of God. That summer changed the whole trajectory of my life because from then on I knew where I could hear the voice of God confronting me, beckoning me, filling me, correcting me, inspiring me.

Church Potluck and a Movie

Day 25 of RECONCILE, A 30-day devotional


When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned…. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. Galatians 2:11, 13

You and I, along with Peter and Paul, have been invited to dinner at the church of Antioch’s potluck. Picture the table spread: BBQ pork ribs, bacon, ham, hot dogs, lobster, shrimp, and crab—all cooked and donated by Gentile Christians. The guest of honor is the apostle Peter. He has enjoyed these treats for several days as the guest of Paul. You might recall that Peter at one time had a disdain for Gentiles and their potlucks, but he was freed from his own bigotry and strictly kosher diet after having a liberating dream in Acts 10, and a God encounter at Cornelius’ house. As a result, Peter and other pillars of the early church approved of Paul’s gospel of grace and ministry to the Gentiles.

Real Diplomacy

Day 24 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20

Shirley Temple Black starred in over forty films before her twelfth birthday. Decades later she entered diplomatic work and served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. During those years, she once stated: “There are many of us who should be in a position to bring peace to the world.”

Unlike Ms. Black, in the ancient world ambassadors were older, experienced men commissioned for a special assignment. However, like Black, they acted and spoke on behalf of the nation or power that sent them. Indeed, then and now, ambassadors are both messengers and representatives.

Easy to Say, Difficult to Do

Day 23 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

After the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the leaders of the country put together the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this court-like setting, people who suffered under apartheid were able to give testimony, and those who perpetrated injustice were able to explain themselves and seek amnesty. Dramatic stories came out of the proceedings, but the result was mixed and controversial, with some groups feeling as though justice was undermined.

Jumping the Broom

Day 22 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:11

“Jumping the broom” was an African marriage ceremony tradition continued by African-American slaves. Slave owners prohibited any legal recognition of marriage and rights for slaves. Therefore, the slave community developed its own methods of identifying committed unions. Today, many African-American newlyweds still jump the broom after the minister pronounces them as man and wife.

No Excuses!

Day 21 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional


If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

“I’m sorry.” There may be no two words more difficult to utter. Doing so requires a willingness to examine ourselves, come to grips with our behavior, and take responsibility. Although admitting our faults to another when we have injured them isn’t easy, we’re usually pretty sure that they’ll forgive us. Living at peace always requires humility.