GraceWaves Articles


The Way to Stop Hating One Another

“What is man that Thou are mindful of him?” Psalm 8:4

Does the night sky make you feel insignificant? Most people reading this have a very limited access to the night sky, our city lights washing out all but a relative few bright points. But when you had a chance to see the vastness of our galaxy, perhaps even seeing the slash of the Milky Way across the night sky, did you feel small? That would be understandable. But did you feel insignificant? That’s hazardous.

In his book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil de Grasse Tyson tells of a planetarium in New York that takes people on a journey from the surface of the earth to the edge of the cosmos. Within a month of the opening he received a letter from an Ivy League psychology professor who studied things that make people feel insignificant. He said that when he viewed the show he experienced a dramatic sense of smallness and insignificance. He wanted to administer a before-and-after questionnaire to assess the depths of depression people experienced from viewing the show. Dr. Tyson eventually proposes “the cosmic perspective” as a solution, and explicitly states that this perspective must not be religious.

Contrast that with the response of a man whose vocation early in life required him to be outside at night, so he literally spent untold hours looking up. He lived in a time undimmed by any city lights, and he actually considered this question of smallness and insignificance that plagued the professor. “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” In other words, with all of this “bigness” how can God even notice me in my smallness?

David’s answer, however, was far different from the professor’s. “Thou hast created man a little lower than the angels.” The night sky produced a feeling of religious awe in him that led to a sense of profound significance. His religious faith was integral to his feelings of self-worth and having a valued place in the universe.

Psalm 19 is another astronomical psalm and is a marvelous study in the healthy relationship between scientific knowledge and religious belief. David’s curiosity and observations led him to both wonderful insights about nature and deeper theological convictions.

That combination has interested me from a very early age when I had telescopes, microscopes, and chemistry sets. Discovery for me has always been tinged with religious awe. And my theological convictions have always led me to want to discover and know (the word science is from the Latin word for knowledge – that’s a good thing!). What concerns me today is the culturally binary attempt to dispense with the former while embracing only the latter.

Chesterton said that before you tear down a fence you need to find out why it was there in the first place. What are the spiritual, intellectual, and even social implications of getting rid of religion?

When we lose the capacity for religious awe, or even lose the willingness to respect the role of religion, we begin worshiping lower things. Without question religious participation is on the decline in our country. This is particularly true among young adults, which has actually always been the case. People tend to gravitate toward matters of faith as they grow older. That’s been true as long as I’ve been watching the statistics.

What’s changed however is a growing impression that religious convictions are not only obsolete or anti-intellectual, but downright dangerous. This phenomenon accelerated tremendously after the 9/11 attacks. Equating religious beliefs with fanaticism became vogue, and thus “militant atheism” was born.

I see this regularly. A student from a university I’m familiar with recently told me one of his professors stated one of his goals in the class was to expose the lunacy of religious belief. I don’t recall the details other than the class had nothing to do with religion at all. The supposition, however, is clear: religion is dangerous, we’ve outgrown it, and we need to rid ourselves of it. In the professor’s case he went so far as “I need to rid it from you.”

Shouldn’t the real distinction be between good and bad religion, instead of religion or no religion at all? We can easily point to screeching failures of both religious people and religious institutions, but do we really want to get rid of the whole idea? That would be akin to my saying I don’t like art because I don’t like Andy Warhol.

What do we lose if we frivolously dispense with the notion of a Creator and the religious structures that seek to teach us about Him and to connect us to Him? (the word religion literally means to reconnect – that’s a good thing!). Again, when we lose sight of the Highest we end up worshiping lesser things. Thus, for example, I fear too many of our young people are graduating from our great academic institutions with empty souls, meaningless degrees, mountains of debt, but a passion for recycling.

To return to my art analogy, to witness the beauty of such artistry everywhere around me calls deeply for me to believe in an Artist. Religion simply helps me to develop the rituals, rites, and rhythms that help me understand and serve the Artist. In that belief I find my truest significance.

My modest weekly suggestion for all ills, both personal and societal, is to emphasize the great necessity for grace. Whatever your religious impulses might be, grace, at the very least, should make you feel accepted by God and significant to Him. If we accept at our deepest levels the great fact of God’s love for us then not only will we feel significant, we will stop hating one another. Think of how much better our world, our nation, our communities would be if we simply stopped hating one another?

Therefore, if we lose religious awe, I truly believe we lose ourselves and the impetus for us to love one another.

I honestly see no prospect for a better anything apart from grace, and that begins with me. When I look into the night sky I may feel small, but I don’t feel insignificant. God created me a little lower than the angels. With that conviction I get a better sense of personal value and the value of all people. Far from being an impediment to any real social gain, my religion, founded upon grace, leads me to love and serve God and love and serve you, whoever you may be.

Do you feel insignificant? God knows and loves you. Now with that certainty go love and tell someone else. That, I’m sure, is God’s great aim for us all.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

July 14, 2019

Collateral Grace

“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces enduring strength, and you must let that enduring strength have its full effect, that you be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

I have a friend whose son is a professional pitcher, working his way through the many levels of the minor leagues in the hope of making it to The Show, Major League Baseball. He’s had all the ups and downs of a young, aspiring athlete. Success in an early level means a promotion to the next level with better hitters and bigger challenges. He’s apparently working hard and has good prospects of success. We’re all pulling for him.

One day I asked my friend how her son was doing, and in the course of giving me a brief run-down she said “His attitude is ‘you either win or learn.’”

Win or learn. I really like that.

How different we might be if we had a “win or learn” attitude for any pursuit in life. In fact, I believe this is really solid theology and goes to the heart of what James had in mind.

When it comes to life, not just sports, I’m fully committed to winning. I like to win. For example, I like good health. When I have some nagging injury (a loss), I go to my doctor or PT (or call my son who is a PT, very good, and totally free) and try to get well (a win). To date, I’ve had really solid success in winning at health.

I like solid professional success. I enjoyed a long career as a pastor (a win) and enjoy my present career as an interventionist and speaker (another win). Now I haven’t always gotten my way, and there have been those rareexceptions of an ornery church member or two (losses), but I’m in a good place professionally (back to winning).

You get the picture. We all want to win these often significant “competitions” in life. They can be as minor as the air conditioner working all the way up to healthy and happy children and grandchildren, for example.

When we lose, our natural and understandable response is to try to get back to winning. We want to fix things, and, for the most part, we’re pretty good at that. But if we meet a trial only with the desire to fix, then we are going to miss a very important principle: we only learn through the losses.

Now you’re probably mentally trying to come up with all kinds of objections, but never try to live by the objections. There is a certain way the spiritual world works. God takes our trials, our setbacks, our sufferings and teaches us something very powerful that we could learn no other way. If we expect nothing but unbroken success, then we risk becoming spoiled children who just really can’t handle real life.

That’s what James had in mind with the staggering verse that we are to “count it all joy when we meet various trials.” No one wins all the time and winning all the time is not even the point of life. Growth is the point. Growth in faith, in love, in joy, in peace. James had learned through a lifetime of being with Jesus that in every loss God includes enough grace to get us through and a blessing that comes no other way. God makes certain that on the scoreboard of eternity, no one ever needs to lose.

You’re either facing or will face another loss. Try to avoid the tendency to curse pain and sink into self-pity. Instead look for the collateral grace and blessing that God tucks into every loss. The endurance and faith you gain are the real and eternal wins.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

July 6, 2019

When Faith Falters

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

You’re not as faithful as you could be.

I may not have met you, but I’m right! Right? Somehow your faith is not as steady, sturdy, regular, or deep as it could be or needs to be. You struggle with doubt and fear. The uncertainties in your life, perhaps right now, have nearly overwhelmed you. Or your faith has cooled to the point of irrelevance. Was it ever real?

The easiest preaching in the world is soaked in guilt and shame. A clever speaker could make someone the stature of Billy Graham squirm. After all, who among us is as perfectly faithful as we should be? It’s always easy to point out faults, and all of us have them, especially when it comes to consistency in faith.

So it’s likely that all readers who’ve stayed with me through this warm and uplifting beginning could agree with the first line. In fact, I’ll embrace it, “I’m not as faithful as I should be.” Perhaps my failure at this point is doubly disturbing, for I have the degrees and background that should make for really strong faith, in the original language no less.

An aside here, I have an MDiv, a Masters in Divinity. In the universe of academia there cannot possibly be a more pretentious-sounding degree. My Doctorate in Theology frankly sounds like a step down. Yet even though I have purportedly mastered The Divine I’m not as faithful as I could be.

Now let’s shift from the negative destruction of error (my lack of faith) to the positive construction of truth, and this truth is very powerful: God is perfectly faithful to me. Even though I limp and doubt, God is faithful to me.

That’s Paul’s point in 2 Timothy. The author of half our New Testament included himself in the phrase “if we are faithless.” I don’t know that Paul ever reached the depths of faithlessness, but I do know from his other letters that he struggled, and wondered, and despaired and was disappointed. His response was not simply “I need to be more faithful!” The solution included “God is faithful to me.” I find that extraordinarily comforting.

You will not make any progress if you consistently beat yourself up for not being faithful enough. You might as well despair because you can’t fly. Life’s shadows can make any of us wonder about the light. It’s simply a part of being human.

A part of being God, however, is that He’s always faithful to you. It’s a major theme of the Psalms. One of our most beloved hymns is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” God doesn’t doubt or give up on you because it is His character to be perfectly consistent. In that consistency He has chosen to believe in you.

We tread in life on the borders of change and uncertainty. I believe that a great deal of our struggle with this inevitability arises from a lack of conviction, of having not made up our minds about the most important matters of life. Of course, I struggle with faith sometimes, and I can, and should, repeatedly affirm my faltering faith. “I do believe! I do believe!” And the struggle often remains.

How different it can be, however, if I will also say “You are faithful to me.” I’ve then focused on God’s enduring and unchanging character. We have moved here more deeply into the realm of grace. “I believe” is my response to God’s revelation, and that takes work. God’s affirmation that He will be faithful to me is His commitment based on grace. He simply will not give up on me no matter how I struggle with my faith in Him.

All of this means God will take care of me. That is settled. As Moses assured the people who faced a variety of enemies, “Do not be terrified or afraid of them, for the Lord God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

Am I as faithful as I can or should be? Of course not. My lack of faith does create problems for me when I face an enemy such as fear, for example. If I trusted more I would certainly fear less. But whatever terrors swirl around we now have a firmer place to stand, even with a sometimes-feeble faith. For God is as faithful as He can be.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

June 30, 2019

Asking God

“May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans…May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” Psalm 20:4-5

One of the most common questions people ask me in my 35+ years of ministry is some form of “Is it all right to ask God for things?” The “thing” may be healing for a sick loved one, direction for life, a mate, even divine help for a sports team (which is always acceptable for the Kentucky Wildcats…but never for a team with a satanic mascot name, like, say, Duke).

The short answer is yes. Paul wrote that we should let all our requests be made known to God. All means all. When in doubt, ask. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid of offending God. He knows what you want before you ask, according to Jesus, so you can’t hide anything from Him anyway.

Paul was drawing on a deeply rooted biblical tradition. David in many psalms prayed for God to “fulfill your heart’s desire, answer all your petitions, and accomplish all your plans.” He had himself made known many times his desires, petitions, and plans and found God open and answering.  He, and other psalmists, had a deep and abiding belief that God responded to us in our times of trouble. This conviction, I’m sure, was based not only on both David’s personal experience, but also his understanding of God’s character.

Jesus made God’s character very clear. He consistently helped people with their most difficult problems. He taught that God is a joyful Giver knowing how to give good things to His children, and being very responsive to our pleas. When I read again Jesus’ teaching about prayer I’m impressed that I usually expect too little from God, not too much.

And going back to Paul, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. So somehow God takes what may be our most infantile and self-centered prayers and “filters” them so that, purged of any harmful or useless qualities, they can properly become part of what is best for us and the people for whom we pray.

I know the objections. In fact, I hear some people voice so many caveats about prayer that I wonder what they’re left with. Yes, it’s true that prayer mainly changes me. Yes, it’s true that I can’t change someone else through my prayers. Yes, it’s true that God doesn’t grant all my requests. Yes, it’s true that I can sometimes treat God like a cosmic Santa Claus.

But it’s also true that my prayers somehow release God’s power into my life and the lives of people I pray for. God and prayer are powerfully mysterious, but I do know that my prayers are part of God’s Providence.

My mother would conclude every phone conversation of my adult life with “I pray for you every day.” How much of my life has been shaped by those prayers? I can’t know, of course, but I’m greatly comforted by the conviction that God honored a mother’s prayer for her son. And that conviction compels me to bring to God my desires, plans, and petitions for myself, and for you.

Grace and peace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

June 23, 2019

The Muddle of Uncertainty

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "Plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

GraceWaves are reminders for the most part. Seldom am I going to break some new ground, or reveal some new and deep insight. Frankly, I'm not that good. But I think I am a good "reminder."

Today I want to remind you that God is taking care of you. He has not forgotten you. He has not overlooked you or neglected you, and He is not idle. He is at work right now in your life.

This verse from Jeremiah is one of the most memorized and cherished in the Bible. It's a reminder to people in exile who only saw despair and hopelessness. Their minds were filled with questions and doubts. Perhaps they were on the edge of belief about to step out of that warm circle of light. Perhaps that's why God inspired Jeremiah to speak these words at that moment. "I'm taking care of you. You have a future. You have hope."

Perhaps you need some direction today, or reassurance, or a solution. That's a pretty safe bet actually. I've never met an honest Christian who didn't wonder and worry. We're destined in this life to "see through a glass darkly." We walk by faith and not by sight, and sometimes we tend to stumble rather than walk.

So perhaps today, in that muddle of your uncertainty, you need to be reminded that God still knows your name, loves you dearly, and is working out His marvelously mysterious Providence in your life right now.

We all tend to ascribe far too much power to our present discomfort and allow it to become a verdict on God's character. That's short-sighted, which of course God never is. He does take the long-term view, and I believe He's also concerned about the near-term blessings. That means He's giving you precisely what you need right now to be a fully functioning child of the Kingdom and is preparing your for eternity as well. Your task, as always, is to trust Him to make all things right in His perfect timing.

I really do love what John Piper wrote: "God is doing about 10,000 things in your life right now…You may be aware of three of them."

Maybe today's GraceWave is a reminder of one of those three things. I think it could be! So be patient, trusting, and hopeful. God is at work.

Grace and peace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

June 9, 2019

 

Joy: The Laughter of the Soul

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people.” Luke 2:9

A scene from Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan serves as a wonderful Third Sunday of Advent illustration. First, a little background.

During the Hundred Years’ War, the teenage Joan of Arc claimed to hear the voices of Michael the Archangel and two other saints instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination. She eventually led several successful military campaigns that paved the way for Charles’ coronation and eventual French victory. That’s the history.

Now in one scene of the play Charles peevishly complains “Why don’t the voices come to me? I am king, not you.” Joan answers, "They do come to you, but you do not hear them. When the angelus rings you cross yourself and have done with it. But if you prayed from your heart and listened for the thrilling of the bells in the air after they stop ringing, then you would hear the voices as well as I do."

The theme of the third Sunday of Advent is joy. Joy is an unusual word. We don’t use it often. We talk of happiness incessantly as if it were the highest good. But happiness depends on agreeable circumstances (literally “good haps”). Joy is quite different from happiness.

Joy is a gift from God. Paul lists it as the second fruit of the Spirit. You don’t work to get joy. It’s the soul’s response to God’s grace. Now interestingly, at least to me, the word for “joy” in Greek is derived from the same root as “grace” and “gift.” In other words you can’t earn or achieve joy.

In this realm of grace we operate with an entirely different calculus. Joy is not a quantity you can increase any more than you can increase the carbon in your body. That element is there simply as a function of the organic chemistry that enables life. So it is with grace in the spiritual realm.

The key is to become awareof grace, and that is the single most important difference among people. A few are aware. Most are not. When we become aware of God’s grace then the soul laughs. Joy is the laughter of the soul that fully accepts that it is fully accepted by God. Grace leads to joy.

Joan’s reply to the king is spot on. You don’t perform any extra religious rituals to hear the voices. You simply be still and listen. The voices are constant. They will come to you. Be still and you become aware of the joy that is your birthright as a Christian. You can receive joy, and experience joy, but you cannot achieve joy.

Are you making time to be still this Advent? Don’t complicate this! Find a quiet place, perhaps with the glow of an Advent wreath, and make time for that divine hush, the pause, the selah (as the psalmist put it). Don’t rush. That little tingling you likely feel? That’s it. That’s the laughter of the soul that hears the Word telling you that you are loved, accepted, and secure. And that is good news of a great joy.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

December 16, 2018

Trust + Obedience = Peace

“We have peace with God.” Romans 5:1

What a way to run an incarnation!

The coming of God in the flesh is one of the great moments in history, right up there with Creation and the resurrection. Yet so much about the birth of the Messiah is puzzling, surprising, even outlandish.

The casting appears all wrong. A peasant girl. A carpenter. The setting is puzzling. Bethlehem was full of surly, out-of-town tax payers. This is before Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, even Motel 6. The inns were booked.

So full was the city that Joseph and Mary couldn’t find anywhere to stay, even though Mary was about 39½ weeks along, and had just traveled about 80 miles ON A DONKEY! That trip would have taken about two weeks or so. You’d think that God would pull a few strings here. The incarnation was swaddled in uncertainty.

Yet the theme of the second week of Advent is peace, and the candle we light is called “The Bethlehem Candle.” Who planned this? Nothing about the first Christmas in Bethlehem was peaceful, unless you look at it through God’s eyes.

Look at it through God’s eyes and you see a plan. You see the outworking of salvation. You see Him meeting every need. You see love. You see hope. Right there in the middle of all that chaos you find God’s peace.

God’s peace is like a steady, dependable line through the sine curves of life. The good and bad will oscillate back and forth. If you tie yourself to that chaotic rhythm then you’re going to be alternately high, then low. Over and over again. You’ll be just like everyone in Bethlehem that first Christmas.

Everyone, that is, except Mary and Joseph. I’m sure they went through moments of panic. No one is immune to the sine curves. But they had a basic trust in God and a fundamental commitment to obedience. Trust plus obedience equals peace.

I think most people reading this GraceWave trust God. The alternative seems foolish. It’s the obedience part that trips us up.

Obedience is stillness when everything around you is swirling. Obedience is silence when the world is shouting. Obedience is refusing to wrestle with every disagreeable circumstance. Obedience is stepping aside when someone throws dirt at you.

So when will you be still this week? Or silent? Who, or what, do you need to stop wrestling with? Or let go of?

God’s job is not to make life easy, but His job is to give you peace. So find the time and the will during your busy Bethlehem days to trust and obey. Then you will find peace.

Grace (and peace),

Dr. Terry Ellis

December 11, 2018

Hope

“And this hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Romans 5:5

Are you hopeful? Honestly, I fear hope is on the decline. All of our little handheld computers, and otherwise, are too often little more than the amygdala’s megaphone shouting all of our fears, angers, and frustrations to an itchy-eared audience. We broadcast our caustic emotions and create and ongoing expectation of imminent apocalypse. Hope is lost, or at least severely muted.

Hope, however, is the theme of the first week of Advent, and hope is most needed where it appears most absent. In fact, hope loves to show up where it is least expected.

The  Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a great example. Longfellow opens with his typical optimism. The Christmas-day bells remind the world of “peace on earth, good will to men.” The second stanza is even better, for he hears that sweet refrain in his heart. So far so good.

But the tone changes dramatically in the third stanza. Longfellow turned from the hope of heaven to the misery of the moment, and those moments were genuinely miserable. Written in 1864, Civil War ravaged the country, and the future of the UnitedStates was sorely in doubt. No wonder Longfellow wrote “And in despair, I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

Now there’s The Realist! Hatred was strong. Any wooly-headed optimist who suggested something higher and better may well have been mocked and ridiculed. Such is the sad, predictable refrain of The Realist.

Frankly, it takes no particular intellect or creativity to sound doom. The world alwayshas enough bad in it for despair to set in. There’s plenty of hatred today. And anger. And resentment. All seven deadly sins are alive and well. If you want a reason for despair, then click on the front page of your favorite news outlet.

Thank God for the fourth stanza! Longfellow turned back to the heavens and penned, “Then peeled the bells more loud and sweet, God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

Hope, real hope, is always grounded in God’s character and providence. That’s the ultimate Reality. Connect hope to worldly metrics, like health, wealth, relationships, performance etc. and you will be disappointed, for life is hard. Focus on God and hope becomes the candle of your soul.

Trust God to make all things right in His time, and you’ll find hope. As for the despairing world around you? In the words of St. Francis, where there is despair, we bring hope.

Grace and peace,

Dr. Terry Ellis

December 3, 2018

Drop the Reins

“The Lord is my shepherd.” Psalm 23:1

Do you know what to do if you get lost while riding a horse?

Neither did I until I heard this story from an acquaintance.

Alicia is an avid and experienced rider. She and a friend took their own horses to an unfamiliar piece of land. It was many acres, with rolling hills, woods, and water. All the elements to make for a fine morning excursion.

After riding for more than an hour, they became disoriented. After a few uncertain efforts to find the right way they realized they could be wandering around for quite a while. At this point, Alicia’s friend said, “drop the reins.” They both did, and the horses confidently made their way back to the barn.

“Drop the reins.”

Life is full of unfamiliar territory. We often find ourselves in situations where we simply don’t know how to make things better, how to help someone else, or how to solve a thorny problem. In fact, many times our efforts to arrange and control matters and people, even benevolently, results in more chaos.

What do we do then? Usually we grip the reins of life more tightly, jerking this way and that. Certain that if we just increase our frenetic efforts then somehow everything will turn out all right. After all, “I am the master of my fate! The captain of my soul!”

Not really.

One of the most uncomfortable discoveries in life is realizing how little control you have over so many things, including careers, health, children, spouses, etc. In fact, if it’s on the outside of you, then you need to forget controlling it.

I’ve too often wrangled life, sometimes getting my way, but not feeling any lasting peace from all the battles. Only when I let God lead do I find my way home. When I drop the reins means I  stop worrying so much, and I start trusting more. I accept that God is in charge of my life and this world. Not me.

The Bible, as it often does, presents us with a beautiful paradox. On the one hand we are to ask, seek, and knock. We are to strive, pursue, and build. But we are also to trust, abide, wait, and lose. Jesus’ most common invitation to disciples is “follow me.” A follower doesn’t lead. A follower follows. If the Lord is my shepherd, then I relinquish the right to determine which pasture I want Him to lead me to.

Some of my golden dreams have tarnished. Some people have let me down. I’m not as strong, wise, or influential as I might have been. But I’ve discovered that my desperate wanting inevitably led me to disappointment. When I want, I get lost. When I let God lead, I do not want. I drop the reins, and He leads me home.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis                                                                                                                         November 30, 2018

God's Got This

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

A few years ago while going through a period of uncertainty and fear I called a good friend of mine, Bill Hamm, and said simply, “Bill, I’m just afraid.” He replied, “Terry, God’s got this.”

God’s got this.

The best theology is simple, and you can’t get much simpler than “God’s got this.” Those words at that time allayed my fear, renewed my trust, and calmed my heart. The outworking of that particular “this” still took some time, but “God’s got this” reminded me then and reminds me today that in all the truly important ways, God is in control of my life and this world. Because of that, I can relax in the rhythms of His grace and take it easy.

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day, a day on which we are to particularly remember that the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving is grounded in a fundamental trust in God’s providence. We look back and see how God’s gracious hand has guided us. We look to the present and realize that we are surrounded by a bounty that is truly astounding by any reasonable standard. We look to the future with an abiding trust that as God has acted in the past, He will act in the future.

And that covers every present and future “this.”

What is your “this” today? What is the event, relationship or circumstance that has stolen or threatened your peace? As a prayer and confession of faith say quietly “God’s got this.”

I don’t know that we ever actually articulate the words, but many times we live with an attitude of “my ‘this’ is too big, too frightening, too entrenched. It keeps returning. The solution can’t be as simple as “’God’s got this.’”

As with so many deep and abiding truths, we tend to believe them except when we really need to embrace or apply them. If your “this” really is huge and overwhelming doesn’t that mean you really need to say “God’s got this” instead of dismissing or neglecting it?

Lincoln declared a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863. You don’t have to be a history buff to recall what was going on in our country in 1863. Civil War (could there be a more oxymoronic phrase?!?) ravaged the country. The outcome was in doubt and the future of our nation hung in the balance. Lincoln realized something we need to remember, thanksgiving is most necessary when it seems most difficult.

“God’s got this” is not conditional. It goes right to the heart of what Paul meant when he wrote, “Be thankful in all circumstances.” Not some circumstances. Not pleasant circumstances. Not mildly challenging circumstances. ALL circumstances.

A final observation. Note that Paul did not say be thankful “for” all circumstances. Some of your circumstances are terrible beyond description. You don’t need to be thankful for those. But even in those extreme circumstances be thankful to God. He is with you. He’ll take care of you. God’s will for you is that you let God be God.

Think now of your challenging “this.” Now say it: God’s got this.

Grace,

Dr. Terry Ellis                                                                                                                         November 22, 2018