Rabbi Jonathan Cahn reminds us that the Bible calls us to be people of thanksgiving. When we realize how much God has given to us, it is easy to do that. The major festivals in Israel were to give thanks to God. Cahn also tells us that "Thanksgiving in America is based on Sukkot, the Hebrew feast of tabernacles." This festival lasts for seven days and nights. The people are to dwell in booths to remember how God provided for them for their entire journey in the wilderness. And they are to give thanks to Him for His faithfulness.
As Believers, we can continue to give thanks and praise to God for His goodness and faithfulness.
However, His most precious gift, the one that stands above all others and is a game changer for our lives, is the gift of salvation and eternal life. Even though it is undeserved, this gift was given to us freely. There isn't any work we can do or price we can pay for it. This priceless gift cost God everything! It is God's desire that every one of us accept what He did in sacrificing His Son, Jesus, so that all of us will have eternal life. A recognition of the magnitude of this gift should compel us to live lives dedicated to Him.
The Bible is full of writings that show us how to give thanks to the Lord. Let's look at some of these Scriptures:
King David made sure that thanksgiving to God was part of the lifestyle of his people. He wrote many prayers and psalms that the priests were to use as they sang and declared God's goodness. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 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.' Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting." (1 Chronicles 16:34-36)
"Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 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. 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. Now our God, we give you thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)
Notice that these prayers of thanks have a prophetic flavor to them. They were written before the days of Jesus, The Savior, but clearly point to Him. Jesus demonstrated giving thanks to God whenever He shared a meal with someone. Consider this: He even gave thanks for the sacrifice He was going to make for us in the communion meal He had with His disciples. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:26-28)
We are meant to be people of praise and thanksgiving. Let us use this season to remember all the blessings we have received from the Lord and give Him all the honor and glory for the abundance He has poured out upon us.
If you were to look on the internet about celebrating a 70th birthday, you would find that this landmark year is significant for being the entry point of the "golden years." Thus, gold is the color to wear on this birth date. In Jewish tradition, the number 70 represents the "fullness of years." One rabbi says that "There is an obligation to rise in the presence of a person 70 years or older because anyone who has lived so many years and endured so many life experiences is considered wise and deserving of respect."
The Bible shows us that the number 70 is significant to Israel. There are two differing definitions for this number. 70 means perfect spiritual order. It is composed of the number 7 (the number of perfection and rest that we see when reading the creation story) and the number 10 (the number of completeness and God's law as we see when God gave His people the 10 Commandments). 70 also represents a period of judgment. Israel was in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Daniel's prayer to God for his people was birthed after he realized that the "desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years." (Daniel 9:2) Here is the promise that God gave to all of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah: "...When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:10-11)
I think it is significant that God told Moses to bring 70 elders of Israel with him when he went to the base of Mt. Sinai to worship Him. All of them "saw the God of Israel." (Exodus 24:10) The 70 elders also stood around the tent of meeting while Moses spoke to the Lord. Numbers 11:25 tells us this: "He took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the 70 elders." Deuteronomy 10:22 says that when the Israelites joined Joseph in Egypt there were only 70 of them. However, during their stay in this land, they became "as numerous as the stars in the sky." So, 70 can represent a starting point, a time that begins new growth.
As I approached my 70th birthday, I found myself looking back at my life and contemplating what has happened. One thought is deeply rooted in my heart and mind--The faithfulness of God! He has demonstrated this through supernatural acts of kindness and favor and through touches from dear friends and family members. I have had seasons on the mountain tops and ones in the valley; seasons in the green meadows along the water courses and ones in the wilderness. These seasons have brought fullness and joy along with difficulties and sorrow. Through them all, the Lord has been present, faithfully guiding me and protecting me so that I receive the inheritance He has for me. My heart swells as I remember the goodness of God, and I am ready for the next season He has for me.
The journey of the children of Israel demonstrates that God's plans for them included bringing them out of bondage and directing them into the inheritance of His promises. I feel encouraged that God has so much more for me, as He does for all of us. When the Israelites came out of bondage, God guided them to Elim "where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees, and they camped there near the water." (Exodus 15:27) One of the promises God has given to me, and all of us, comes from Psalm 92:12-15. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree; they will grow like the cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord. They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.'"
My desire for us is that we will continue to flourish--to produce the fruits of the Spirit and to carry the fragrance of the Lord wherever we go. We want to bring the Presence of God and His Kingdom with us. This will require a willingness to sacrifice for Him and a willingness to give Him permission to transform us into His image. May I share with you the words of a song that Julie Meyer wrote for Heidi Baker, missionary to Mozambique, when she turned 50? This is the cry of my heart, and I hope it is yours also:
"Pick me up like a paintbrush, God; dip it in the colors of my life. Paint Your picture, Father, and fashion a heart that is wholly Yours. Take Your fingers, God, Master Potter; come mold the clay. Tell Your story, as You mold me. Fashion a heart that is wholly Yours. And write Your name, write Your name in the clay. And sign Your name, sign Your name on the picture. Take all I am; take all I have. I am Yours forever, forever. Take all I am; take all I have. I am Yours forever, forever.
How does one live an abundant, joy-filled life? Do we understand that each of us was created uniquely to impact the world around us? Have we discovered what brings us satisfaction and freedom? Life is a journey that is meant to help us discover the treasure God has placed within us to bring joy to our lives and the lives of others. As I contemplated these questions I was reminded of a story or allegory written by Richard Bach called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Jonathan, the gull, found himself caught in a dilemma. His flock spent their days searching and fighting for food, a lifestyle he found completely unsatisfying. However, he discovered, more than anything else, he loved to fly. His passion for flying grew as he perfected his techniques and became an expert at it. Jonathan was so thrilled with flying that he told his friends he discovered "there's a reason to life." This alienated him from his friends, so they cast him out of the flock.
Since Jonathan could not continue in the meaningless gull lifestyle of conformity and limitations, he returned to his new-found love of flying, practicing until he reached the pinnacle of his abilities. Just as he thought he could go no higher, he met two gulls who took him to a "higher plane of existence." Here a society of gulls spent time perfecting their flying skills. He was told, "You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way." Jonathan fine-tuned his own flight skills, learning much from his primary teacher. As his expertise increased, so did his desire to return to earth and share what he had learned with other gulls. His teacher explained that there is a key to success: "Keep working on love." Jonathan could not be free without the ability to forgive and shed any hurt feelings. Before he could help others, he had to be released from the bondage of unforgiveness. A new Jonathan Livingstone Seagull returned to earth and found other gulls who desired to know the freedom he was experiencing. He became a coach and mentor as he taught the fine skills of flying and helped others have a sense of their own freedom.
How does this story speak to the family of faith in God? Jonathan understood that there was something different inside of him that he needed to pursue. It became his passion. We too have unique qualities in our lives that are meant to help us live the abundant life, full of joy and freedom. Jesus spoke to his followers about this lifestyle. I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!" (John 10:10 -TPT) Only as we live out our purpose will we be able to soar. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31 - KJ)
As Jonathan lived the way he was intended to live, he punctured the ceiling that held him down and lived in a place with like-minded gulls. The apostle Paul reminds us of our true home. "So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19 - TPT) We live as aliens in this world; our home is in heaven. It is up to us to live accordingly.
Joshua Silverberg, musician and producer, once said, "God has created us uniquely to touch His heart.
We have a unique worship to give Him." I would like to suggest that one of the ways we touch Him is when we use what He has placed within us to help others grow in their freedom and identity. This was the outcome of Jonathan's journey to live the way he was created to live, soaring in the heavenlies. May I encourage you to ask yourself, "What makes my heart sing?" In discovering this, you will find the pathway to follow that will bring you joy and freedom.
Cheshvan is the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, eight being the number of new beginnings and revelation. It is associated with the Hebrew letter NUN, symbolizing Messiah. Since there are no holidays during this month, the Jews say it is reserved for the time of Messiah. Messiah, Yeshua hamashiach, came to bring heaven to earth and demonstrate a new way to live that is counter to the ways of the world. Love begins with God. He was so grieved by the way that sin separates us from Him that He sent is Son to breach the gap. "For this is how much God loved the world—He gave His one and only Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes Him will never perish but experience everlasting life." (John 3:16 - TPT)
Our Messiah, Jesus, demonstrated the way of love during the three years of His ministry whether it was by touching a leper to heal him, raising someone from the dead, feeding the hungry or teaching about the way of His Father. He always pointed others to the love of Father God. Here is what Jesus said: "You heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:43-47) "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)
The October issue of "Charisma" Magazine features a story about some people who take the message of the love of God seriously. They travel to some of the most dangerous areas of the world to reach out to those who have followed radical Islam. Sean Feucht, a Bethel worship artist and founder of "Light a Candle" Ministry, uses his music to break into dark territory and shift the spiritual atmosphere. He has taken his songs into the war-torn regions of Iraq where refugees huddle in fear and terror. He brings songs of hope and redemption. In love, he prays for them so that they see the manifestations of the love of Jesus.
A gentleman who had his own life transformed by the love of Jesus went from being "a hardened Marine into a devoted missionary." Victor Marx says that the love of Jesus transformed his heart and "his hatred for the Arab people turned into passionate love." He goes undercover into the heart of ISIS territory and meets high-ranking Muslim leaders and their families. He goes into camps in Syria that house the wives and children of ISIS members. He quotes a staggering figure of 64,000 wives and children in one camp.
Marx believes in the strategy of Jesus to win many people to the Lord: "Love your enemies." Here is how Marx sees it: "Politically, we're limited. Militarily, we can't kill an ideology...But what will work is love." As Christians operate from a place of love, hearts are changed. Victor Marx shows himself as a safe and loving individual so that when Muslims he has befriended begin to ask him questions, he will have credibility with them.
Believers must be set apart as those who demonstrate unconditional love. "Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8) We must carry the love of Christ wherever we go and commit to praying for those who boldly go into enemy territory to bring God's transforming love to the world. For those who ask, "How can I love my enemies and those who persecute me?"—Paul has some advice. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Joan E. Mathias