Saturday, November 30, 2013

12-1-13- The Angel Gabriel

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
(Luke 1:19,20)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. (Luke 1:26-31)

Thoughts: While advent really begins in the mind of God, and shows in the prophecy of scripture, but it is the angels who give the message of the coming.
    It is the angel Gabriel that we want to examine as the first character of advent.  Gabriel appeared by name to Daniel (8:15-17; 9:21).  Some scholars consider Gabriel's message of seventy-sevens as a message of 490 years between the time of the exile and the time of Christ around 30 AD.
     Gabriel spoke to believers.  He is called an "Archangel" by some- one who "stands in the presence of God." In Enoch (an apocryphal book- non-canonical in the Protestant Bible), Gabriel is joined with Raphael and Michael as named archangels.  In later (post-biblical) Christian tradition, Gabriel blows the horn for the end of the world. Never in the Bible is anyone encouraged to pray to angels.  In fact three times angels tell people not to worship them.  

If Gabriel could speak, perhaps he might say something like:
"Often when I appear to humans they are afraid.  But part of my job is to calm them down so they can hear the message that I have to deliver to them from God.  It is my joy to bring good news.  I told Daniel the meaning of his vision and the hope of a Messiah coming.  I told Zechariah, an old man, that he was to have a child- John.  It was my joy to tell Mary that she was highly favored to bring the Messiah into the world. I think I have one of the best callings in the world- to tell the important and good news.  But what I have to say from God is not trivia and it is not to be trifled with.  It is to be believed.  in fact, if God sends you a message whether through an angel or through His Son or through His servants the prophets or apostles- it is not to be trifled with but listened to.
    Zechariah was a believer, but he did not believe me and became mute.  Mary was a believer who humbled herself to listen and believe.  Humans often just expect the usual and the normal.  I exist to disrupt that expectation.  The fact that I exist means that there is more to life than simply what we see on earth.  

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear your message you have already made known to me.  Help me to believe in more than I can see.  


Friday, November 29, 2013

11/30/13- Christmas (Advent) Characters

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  
(1 Corinthians 10:6-13)

 Thoughts:  Today we are beginning a new series on Advent characters.  I am not talking about the secular Christmas characters whose mythology often clouds the truth and reality of God's great love.  Characters like Frosty the Snowman, the Abominable Snowman, The Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and more (maybe even the semi-Christian Santa) are everywhere this time of year.  Christmas characters are also found in traditional Christmas movies- like Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" or George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in "It's a Wonderful Life" or Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) in "Home Alone" or Ebeneezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and now a slew of video game characters, or others.  In our culture these relatively new characters are sometimes better known than the real life characters of the original Christmas story- like Herod, Joseph, Mary, who were the shepherds and who were the wise men.   So I hope to explore some of the obvious ones as well as explore some of those not- so obvious with a little bit of educational license. 

      The New Testament tells us that the Old Testament was written in part for examples and warnings for us.  I pray that we will look at those who have gone before us and learn from them positively, or negatively avoiding their pitfalls. 
       Today we are learning the importance of those who actually (not fictionally) go before us.  If you were admitted to the hospital and the nurse came in to talk to you, the nurse would ask, “Do you have any diabetes in your family?  Has anyone in your family ever had heart trouble? Any high blood pressure?”  Today we understand that we can indeed learn from those who have gone before us, for they affect us.”  Those who have lived before us also effect our faith.  If their faith was strong, it is a lift to us.  If their faith is weak, it is harder for us to overcome their weakness.  So much of the Bible is simply biography and interpretation of biography as a way for us to learn or be inspired.  

Prayer; Lord, help me to learn from the real lives of others to be encouraged and inspired this year in advent.  

(Matthias Stom Adoration of the Shepherds 1635-40- from Wikimedia)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

11/29/13- Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication [Hanakkuh] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:22-33)

Thoughts: They say Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will not coincide for another 78,000+ years.  But both celebrate religious freedom and deliverance.  The Pilgrims celebrated being set free from the King's religion and that they were delivered from famine miraculously (they were down to rationing five kernels of grain per day).  Hanakkuh celebrates freedom from the secular and pagan Hellenistic pressure of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV.  Antiochus ordered that pigs be slaughtered on the Temple altar in Jerusalem.  Mattathias and Judah Maccabee fought through and rededicated the Temple in the 25th day of the month of Kislev 164 BC.  They found only one jar of oil which miraculously lasted eight days which showed God's provision and blessing upon them. Freedom to worship God as they wanted is celebrated with great Thanksgiving.  
     When Jesus went to worship in the Temple at Hanakkuh (Festival of Dedication) he was asked if he was the anointed one of God (anointed with the sacred oil).  Here Jesus claimed he was the Messiah and also claimed that they did not believe and was threatened with death for blasphemy for claiming to be divine.  Jesus is the light of lights- the light of the world (John 8:12)- the light of freedom, truth, and hope for which we give thanks. 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being my light and my hope.  Thank you for the freedom to pray and worship you without fear.  We remember those who are oppressed for their religious beliefs today. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks for who God is Psalm 7

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
    I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17)

Thoughts: God is not fickle nor untrustworthy.  He is faithfully right.  His righteousness is reliable.  God does not promise one thing and do another.  You can rely on God's integrity and His Word.  God will not promise heaven if we believe and give you hell instead.  The gods of the pagans were as fickle as human feelings and luck or happenstance.  God is worthy of thanks in both the good and the hard times because He sees us through and is waiting at the end of the curvy tunnel of life with the light of hope.
    God is "Lord Most High" because He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and God of gods.  He is above the fray and we can always look up to Him. But God Most High has a name, and is knowable.  We do not praise and unknowable or unknown God- but God who is knowable and wants to be known.  God wants to be known enough to come down to us and show us who He is.  

Prayer: Lord, thank you for who you are.  Thank you that you are righteous, worthy of praise; high above us in righteousness yet knowable by name. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reason for Thanks 1 Chronicles 16;34-35 11-26-13

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior;
    gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
    and glory in your praise.” (1 Chronicles 16:34-35)

Thoughts: Two lessons of thanksgiving are here.  First we are to thank God for He is good.  God defines goodness.  Without God, there is no ultimate good.  If there is no God, then there is no soul.  If there is no soul, then we are just molecules.  it makes no difference whether one molecule is kind or mean to another if there is no judge to say one action is better than the other.  But if there is a judge, then what we do matters and makes a difference.  God is good- let us give thanks that there is such thing as goodness- and that it is defined by God.  God is as good as it gets.  God defines goodness by His own character and quality.  God is good to us- so let us give thanks to Him.
     Second, Asaph the writer, asks that God would save us, gather us and deliver us so that we might give thanks.  It is almost as if God has in Himself, a desire that we give Him thanks and praise.  This is not a bad prayer to pray.  Lord, save me that I might praise and thank you properly.  Another Psalmist asks for God to deliver him from death because the dead do not praise God (6:5; 88:10; 115:7).  It is similar to bargaining with God to keep us alive that we might thank Him to His praise. 

Prayer: Lord, you are good to me adn I thank you.  Lord, preserve me that I may continue to thank and praise your name.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

11-25-13 Grace Causes Thanksgiving

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:15,16)

Thoughts: Grace is reaching more and more people and that should well up inside of us thanksgiving.  When the Church is growing and bearing fruit, we should be thankful to God.  Scripture says that (Lk. 15:10) that the angels rejoice over one sinner who comes to God in repentance.  When God is at work changing the hearts of people and drawing people to Himself, then we should give thanks.  When family members come to God in humility and faith, when friends turn their lives away from selfishness toward love for God and neighbor- then we should all be thankful.  

Prayer: Lord, may your grace be at work again in my life and the lives of those around me and my country- drawing more and more to you. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

11-24-13 Coming Back to the Blesser as Thanks

17 “When he [The Prodigal Son] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)

Thoughts: The Prodigal Son came back to his senses and came back to his father.  He came back to recognize where he would be apart from his father's love and grace.  He came back in part because of desperation, in part recognizing the father (representing our Father) had the ability to bless, and in part out of gratitude for what the father had done.  Yes, part of gratitude is realizing who gives the blessing and coming back to the blesser.  Whenever we come back to God it is always an acknowledgement that on our own we at best are limited and really can do nothing.  But we come back- sometimes in desperation, sometimes not, to the One who can help us.  Humility often opens our eyes to the need to be grateful for what we have and thankful to God.  It is hard to see God without humility and without turning back to Him to help us. 

Prayer: Lord, all that I have is a gift from you.  Help me to always come back to you acknowledging your provision and ability to help me in my time of need. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

11-23-13 Thanksgiving Mixed with Intercession

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Thoughts: This is an interesting and urgent request.  He urges that prayers of thanksgiving be made for all people.  God has placed people around us on purpose.  We are called to give thanks that they are a part of God's plan.  We are especially called to pray for and give thanks for kings and all those in authority.  Without rulers there is purposelessness and anarchy.  We pray with thanks for those in authority over us that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.  We should not take peace and quiet for granted.  We should give thanks for any rulers who allow Christians to practice their faith in freedom, peace, quiet with all godliness and holiness. 

Prayer: Thank you God for the opportunity to practice my belief in you in peace and quiet.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

11-22-13- Worship and Thanks

11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

Thoughts: To give thanks perhaps begins with acknowledging the ability of the one that we thank.  The second part is to acknowledge that we have shared in that bounty.  The third part is to actually thank the One who has given so much to us.
    Here Solomon in his wisdom acknowledges God's greatness, power, glory, majesty, splendor and the right owner of all things.  He is acknowledged as the Lord of lords- the giver of wealth and honor and strength.
     God is the invisible hand that leads, guides, and protects us.  If we can acknowledge that, then we not only can give thanks but we ought to give thanks.  Giving thanks acknowledges God's invisible hand is at work.
     My uncle used to love to give children gifts.  he would hide gold and silver coins under nuts near a bird feeder.  Whenever I would visit him as a child, he would walk me and my cousin out and show us "what the squirrels left."  It was only in time I realized the squirrels did not leave us the coins, but my uncle did.  It was only when I recognized my uncle's ability and generosity that I gave him thanks.  So we must worship the God who has done so much for us- for He is thhe Great One.  

Prayer: May I ever believe in your hand pointing the way, holding onto mine, lifting me up.  I give you thanks, O Lord, for your great love. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

11-21-13- Thanks for Saving Us From Ourselves

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” (1 Samuel 25:32-34) 

Thoughts: Sometimes thanksgiving should be given for what we didn't do.  If you were spared from messing up- doing something wrong- then thanks be to God.   Abigail tried to make up for her husband's stinginess in not giving David's men provision even though they had saved her husband much money by guarding his flock. David watched over Nabal's flock like God watches over us- guarding us and protecting us.  Abigail's husband, Nabal, was not even aware what kind of danger he was in.  Abigail saved her husband from danger and saved David from exacting revenge.   Sometimes God saves us from ourselves by another person's kindness.  When that happens, let us not forget to give thanks to the One who watches over us.  

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the many times and the many ways you save me from myself.  Your love often goes unseen because of my own blindness.  But thank you for your great care and protection.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

11-20-13- Thanksgiving in Prayer and Watchfulness

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2) 

Thoughts: Prayer is to be accompanied with thanksgiving.  Why?  God tells us to be thankful for our own good but also for the ultimate good- the glory of God.  We are made to glorify and enjoy God.  Giving credit, giving honor to God is part of what thankfulness to God involves.
    Watchfulness is also to be accompanied with thanksgiving.  For an impatient person (like me) this is hard to imagine.  When I think of watchfulness, I think of a soldier on guard in a watchtower waiting for the sun to come up and seeking to guard the people. So how does someone who is on the alert thankful at the same time? Watching soldiers are grateful for their loved ones, their home, their king, their people, their blessings. These things motivate them to be disciplined, alert, careful, and caring about their watch.  They are guarding these things against enemies and things that would destroy them.  If we are not grateful for our faith, for our God, for our true home, for our church, then we will have a hard time guarding these things.  If we are not grateful and thankful about what we have then we will lose heart when the tough time comes. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be thankful in the midst of my prayers and in the midst of my waiting for your love.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

11-19-13= Singing and Thanksgiving

Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the Lord’s dwelling. (2 Chronicles 31:2).  

Thoughts: Singing and thanksgiving go together.  When we are truly grateful thanksgiving easily turns into song.  When I was little my father tried to teach me how to whistle.  You kind of hum with your lips together- and then you blow out- and you keep doing that and it turns into a whistle.  Now I love to whistle.  Giving thanks is like the precursor to a song.  Sure there are different kinds of songs- blues, love songs, but thanksgiving seems to easily turn to song.  The verse of song sung over and over in the Bible is "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good."  God is good to us- better than we deserve.  He is not a god who loves evil and wrong.  He is a God who loves to give good things to His people.   That is worth singing about.  

Prayer: I give thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good.  I sing to you with gratitude in my heart for your great love and kindness.  

11-18-13 Shouting and Thanksgiving

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Thoughts: Singing and thanksgiving seem to go together.  When we are grateful we want to sing, give thanks, praise and yes... even shout.  We are at the end of American football- but it also applies to soccer.  People get excited scream and shout.  There seems to have to be some venue to do this.   I have heard many shout at marathons, at rallys for various causes, in bars, or even sales parties.  I remember sitting in the waiting room waiting for my grandchildren to be born (different occassions).  Each time I would hear a shout and "Yes!" from family members.  I knew the baby was born.
    The NIV translates 100:1 as "Shout to the Lord all the earth."  If we can shout about football, surely we can get excited about our relationship with God.  God has put shouting inside of us.  Every bet of good-natured excitement is a gift from God.  He makes the heights from which we jump (and the gravity and the risk of injury).  He makes the sinews and muscles and DNA that enables the best of us to break the record, to do the unthinkable and push the limits.  
    However, being Presbyterian I keep my shouts a bit muffled about God.  But I am still reserving a shout for the really grand occasions of answered prayer.  I struggle with how shouting and good manners go together.  For I do not want to draw attention to myself- only to God.  
Scripture gives no boundaries of when we are to shout or not.  Perhaps we should go to our prayer closet, close the door and shout at the top of our lungs to Him who is unseen (Mt. 6:6).  On the other hand- to only praise God in private is to tell the world we may get excited about football but not about God.  The Psalms and Chronicles speak of people shouting from rooftops and walls.  Some things are worth shouting about- so yes- "Shout to the Lord!"  But use your cultural mores in doing so.  Yet, push the boundaries of these.  Let your excitement about God overflow.  Thanks expresses itself the best in shouting and in song (which we will look at tomorrow).  

Prayer:  Lord, use my lips, my voice, my gutteral cry and exclamation to bring you honor and praise.  You are worth my attention and excitement.  May my heart as well as my my mind and strength praise and grow in love for you!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

11/17/13- The Father of Our Faith Tithes

14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:14-20)

Thoughts: 318 trained men fought against a well equipped army from the Fertile Crescent probably numbering in the tens of thousands.  But God was blessing Abram for caring for his nephew Lot.  Abram knew that this was a great risk.  So he was grateful to God.  He showed his gratitude by giving a tithe to God given to the priest/king Melchizedek.  The father of our faith gave the first example recorded of a tithe (10%).  He actually gave 10% to Melchizedek, some funds to his allies who helped him, and the rest of the booty to the King of Sodom.  Abram kept nothing for himself, though surely he was the hero of the whole adventure. He was able to let go of the booty as he did not have any before the fight. Abram, the father of our faith, held onto things lightly and with thanksgiving for what he had.  

Prayer:  Help me, Lord, to be a generous person who honors you with my giving and holding lightly to this world. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

11/16/13- Thanksgiving as Blessing

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:3-5)

Thoughts: Thanksgiving blesses everything.  Thanksgiving makes what is questionable acceptable.  Everything is worthy of thanksgiving in some sense- for all that is created was good.  While the good becomes corrupted by our abuse, our sin, our addictions, and our problems, thanksgiving is a call for God to bless and to forgive.  When we bless our food we give thanks.  Thanksgiving is blessing and blessing is thanksgiving.
    The context of this is eating meat sacrificed to idols.  This meat was given to the Temples of pagan gods who, of course, did not consume them.  So it was sold cheaply.  Christians had two views.  Either the meat was polluted because it was offered to false gods that lead people astray.  Some went to call these pagan gods demons.  Others had the view that these weren't really gods anyway so they didn't have the power to make the meat polluted.  Timothy says what makes the difference is thanksgiving- blessing the food.
    So even today we say "grace", or "blessing", or "give thanks" over our food.  Calvin said that saying words of thanksgiving over our meals (normally three times a day) was an essential part of our daily prayer life.  So give thanks and bless what is before you. 

Prayer: In a world that is corrupted by so much, let me live a life of thanksgiving.  Let me bless all those around me- turning the corrupted into the blessed.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

11/15/13- Hope in Heartache

I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:17-24)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Th. 5)

Thoughts: Where does the non-believer get their hope?  Where does the person find hope when things go wrong?  It is way too easy to criticize people of faith by wondering how a good God could allow evil.  But the other side is asking how people who do not have faith find any meaning- or even define what is evil.  
    I have been the chaplain in a medium city public hospital.  My job was to be there in the real crises with the families and help them with their grief.  In my small observances I have seen a huge difference between those who have faith and those who do not in how they handle disappointment, sickness and grief.
    Both Old Testament and New Testament speak of being able to find hope in God- even rejoicing in Him and giving thanks in the tough times.  It is not just that there is a silver lining behind every cloud.  It is that there is a good God who loves us even in the midst of the trials and sicknesses of life.   Jeremiah saw his city destroyed, his Temple burned, his friends and relatives killed.  Yet Jeremiah and all people of faith are given amazing hope when it makes no sense to have hope. 
     I have sat with many grieving families over 26 years of ministry.  I can tell you the love of God (often shown by the love of church friends praying and hugging and showing concern) makes a huge difference in mitigating the pain of heartache.  

Prayer: God your compassions never cease.  Your love doesn't fade in and out with my circumstances.  Let me walk by faith in thanksgiving rather than by sight with despair.