“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
We’ve arrived at the best time of the year – the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. I just love being with family and friends… enjoying great food, great fellowship, and great football (Go Crimson Tide of Alabama!)
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we tend to focus on our blessings and giving thanks for God’s goodness. While that is certainly a good thing, it is not the best thing. The best thing is to turn Thanksgiving into Thanks-living. Regardless of the day or the situation, God wants us to be thankful. Why is that?
1. Thanks-living lets God know you have confidence in Him, no matter how deep the problems or how dire the circumstances. Thanks is faith turned inside out.
2. Thanks-living changes your countenance and disposition. Instead of being down and discouraged, spreading gloom and despair everywhere you go, you begin to radiate the joy of the Lord. The best witnesses for Christ are those who are facing life’s trials with a song of thanksgiving on their lips.
3. Thanks-living opens the door for God to work. God hates it when we grumble and gripe, but He loves it when we praise and give thanks. As we begin to live a life of thankfulness to God, He begins to work, even through the toughest trials and tests of faith. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison… and they sang a hymn of praise to the Lord. And when they finished singing, the Lord sent a jailhouse rock, and the prison doors were opened. You mark it down: God does miracles on our behalf when we choose to thank Him and praise Him, even in the deepest, darkest pit.
Let me challenge you as I challenge myself. Discipline yourself to give thanks in everything. Thank Him for the mountains … and thank Him for the valleys. He is worthy of all your thanks and praise.
A Prayer You May Need to Pray
Father God, I hate to say it, but I have been guilty of grumbling and griping about all my problems and trials. I have failed to be as thankful as I really should be and to remember that You are at work in my life, even through all the troubles. Please forgive me, God. I want to be a person who keeps my eyes on You and praises You, no matter what may come my way. So, thank You God for these blessings (name them) and these challenges (name them). I know You are in control of all things. I know You love me and work all things together for my good. I choose to trust You, Lord. Teach me to be a “praiser” who always finds the good… and not a complainer who always finds the bad. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We are excited to announce the publication of two new books I’ve recently completed. One focuses on our personal connection to God in Christ and the other is a more scholarly, academic work about theology and psychology today in counseling situations.
Let me take a moment to thank you all, from the heart, for your continued prayer support as my prayer partners! Without your prayers, I simply could not do what God is leading me to do.
With the holidays approaching, please stay tuned for special devotional posts to help you enjoy to the fullest the reason for the season: JESUS.
May God continue to bless you and keep you always!
November 8, 2018
When autumn leaves begin to fall
I think of Him most of all
Colors bursting with the sun
Rays shine down on everyone.
There is a leafy autumn smell
I walk on softness where they fell
Floating gently to the ground
Touching down without a sound.
Animal are scurrying to and fro
Instinctively the creatures know
The leaves scattered everywhere
Beautifies a place once bare.
Rising up to the bluest sky
A tree looks down, creaks a sigh
Nestled in her hollowed place
Life will wait through winter’s race.
When the tress at last have shed
Sturdy branches though not dead
Beneath the earth roots hold tight
Tall and stately through the night.
When autumn leaves begin to fall
The Father orchestrates it all
Blooms in waiting seem to say
He is coming back someday.
Again dressed in a formal gown
Branches filled and hanging down
See the miracle of God once more
Birds leap from her branch to soar.
Here I stand in wonder of this
A soft wind blows to me a kiss
My spirit tells my mind to hush
Peace abounds in Christ for us.
The seasons change, come and go
But this is what I truly know
When autumn leaves begin to fall
I think of Him most of all.
Written by Kathleen Higham, 2011
(Associated Press: Mexico Beach, Florida)
(Update: Friday, October 12, 2018)
As many of you know, I was born and raised in Panama City, Florida–with many friends and family still there. However, the scene there now is more a “war zone.” It’s much worst than most people realize or even see on the limited news coverage. I’ve been in constant communication (counseling & prayer) with many in the Panhandle who have lost homes and businesses from Hurricane Michael. It’s beyond heartbreaking.
Imagine coming back, from fleeing this monster hurricane, only to discover the worst shock of your entire life; finding your home and-or-both business totally destroyed like a bomb had exploded it into complete rubble?
In Panama City
The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into sharp focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to enter stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.
Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle awoke to “unimaginable destruction.”
“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.
The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route, was closed.
Video from a drone revealed some of the worst damage in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). Many meteorologists claim we had wind gusts close to 185 mph. Certainly, it was hurricane of catastrophic proportions never encountered in the history of Northwest Florida.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, leaving concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were rendered piles of splintered lumber. Entire roofs were torn away in the town of about 1,000 people, now a scene of utter devastation.
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael. More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.
National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews arrived Thursday. But the fate of many residents was unknown.
Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman.
“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?” McPherson asked.
Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge water, they fled upstairs. “All of my furniture was floating,” she said. “”A river just started coming down the road. It was awful, and now there’s just nothing left.”
As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams spread out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away because of hazards such as fallen trees and power lines.
“I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and begin the recovery process,” Scott said. But “we have to make sure things are safe.”
More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane’s landfall, mostly from coastal homes. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
In Panama City, many homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high.
In neighboring Panama City Beach, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford reported widespread looting of homes and businesses. He imposed a curfew and asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.
The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital included blown-out windows and a cracked exterior wall though no patients were hurt.
The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said. All phone communication was cut off to the complex of nearly 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving emergency radios as their only link out.
A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home. One of the carport’s legs punctured the roof and hit her in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.
Former Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone and had sped out over the open Atlantic early Friday, but there will be nothing quick about Florida’s recovery from the devastation it left behind. The storm has also brought heavy rains and flash flooding to hurricane-weary parts of North and South Carolina and Virginia.
High winds, downed trees and power lines, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighboring North Carolina.
One of Michael’s survivors said his city “looks like an atomic bomb” hit it. Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, Florida, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet.
Michael was the one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths. Florida officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.
As of late Thursday night, some 1.5 million homes and businesses in the Southeast had no electricity.
One-time Category 4 Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone moving across the Atlantic early Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. But people in the Florida Panhandle were only beginning to deal with the destruction in its wake.
Michael is Not Done Yet
The National Hurricane Center said early Friday Michael was getting stronger as it was transitioning into a post-tropical storm. It still had damaging winds and was generating “life-threatening flash flooding … over portions of North Carolina and the southern mid-Atlantic” states, the center said.
Updated Power Outage Numbers
There are over 1.5 million without power in six states as of 10 p.m. Thursday, officials said.
A breakdown by state of the power outages. All numbers are approximate:
326,691 customers without power in Florida
37,966 customers without power in Alabama
133,333 customers without power in Georgia
92,000 customers without power in South Carolina
731,596 customers without power in North Carolina
271,487 customers without power in Virginia
Some Floridians return to find homes destroyed
Deirdre Hawthorne and her family rode out the storm with more than 200 other people in a shelter, CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste reports. On her way home, she said she was filled with “dread.” She has called Bristol, Florida, home for the last 18 years.
CBS News was with her when she saw her house for the first time. Somehow it was still standing beneath a twisted knot of fallen trees. Her daughter Amanda had to find another way into the house.
Amanda said she was “devastated, scared, happy.”
A tree happened to fall the other way, narrowly missing their home. But not everyone was so lucky.
Fortunately, our family was spared by the mercy of God, but many were not. Please continue praying for all the relief efforts going on now by many Christian organizations and also road clearing and construction crews in this massive cleanup going on right now.
The worst hurricane on historical record has just left it’s scar on the beautiful NW Florida tourist Panhandle. It will be a long time before things will ever be “back to normal,” if ever.
See my updated post on Facebook today for (CBS) aerial coverage of Panama City and Mexico Beaches extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.
Thanks again friends for all your prayers,
Likewise the Spirit of God also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. — Romans 8:26
Has there ever been a time when you just didn’t know how to pray about some kind of challenge, or when you were in a predicament and you didn’t know how to get out of it? Maybe you’ve come before the Lord and prayed, “Father, I’m not even sure if I know what the desires of my heart are. Please help me pray.”
We all experience moments like these at one time or another. That’s why I want to share with you about the Holy Spirit’s responsibility toward us regarding prayer. We find a wealth of information about this in Romans 8:26.
Romans 8:26 begins, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….”
Pastor & Greek Expositor Rick Renner writes….that word “helps” is extremely important because it conveys the idea of real partnership and cooperation and paints the picture of two individuals working together to get the job done. The Greek word translated “helps” is actually a compound of three Greek words. The first word is sun, meaning to do something in conjunction with someone else. The second word is anti, which means against. The third word is lambano, which means to take or to receive. When these three words are joined, the new word, sunantilambano, means to take hold of something with someone else, gripping it together as tightly as possible, and throwing your combined weight against it to move it out of the way.
For instance, suppose you walk out of your front door one morning and discover that someone has placed a huge boulder in the middle of your driveway during the night. You walk over and push on that boulder to move it out of your way, but it’s too heavy and you can’t budge it. Then you try to move it from the other direction, but no matter how much you tug and pull, you can’t get the job done by yourself. So what do you do? You call a friend and ask him for help. He comes over, grabs hold of that boulder with you, and together the two of you press against it with all your strength until you have moved the boulder out of the way.
This Greek word sunantilambano, translated “helps,” powerfully conveys this same idea of partnership and cooperation to remove an obstacle. It tells us that the Holy Spirit literally becomes one with us in the task of removing every obstacle. In the midst of our weaknesses when we are inadequate to get the job done, the Holy Spirit says, “Let me grab hold of that hindrance with you, and you and I will push against it together until it is moved completely out of your way.”
In this way, prayer becomes a twofold partnership between you and the Holy Spirit. When that really becomes a revelation to your heart — when you realize that your prayers are not something you’re responsible for alone — it will forever change your prayer life.
Verse 26 goes on to say, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities….” It is the Greek word asthenia, which would better be translated “weaknesses.” It is used to describe people who are sickly or ailing in their bodies, minds, or emotions. Frequently it is also used to describe people who are spiritually weak.
Thus, we see that the Holy Spirit comes to help us because we are asthenia. We are simply too weak — physically, mentally, spiritually — and by ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get the job done. This is why we need our Partner to help us. We simply cannot pray like we need to by ourselves. So the Holy Spirit comes to assist us in prayer, throwing His weight against our weaknesses to remove them from our lives. The truth is, according to this verse, we cannot remove anything from our lives without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. And that is why He comes to bear this responsibility for us, assisting us in removing anything in our lives that is ailing — whether it is frailty in the body, a sickly mental state, or a weakness in our spiritual walk.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit is willing to become a Partner with me to remove those weaknesses when I’m not able to remove them by myself!
Romans 8:26 continues, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” In other words, we just don’t have the “know-how” when it comes to prayer. We confront situations in which we simply don’t know how to accurately view or pray about a difficult situation or decision we’re facing.
This verse says we know not “what” we should pray. That word “what” is a Greek word ti, which depicts a very little thing. This tells us that we don’t know the fine points, the hidden problems, the intricate details of what is involved in the matter we’re praying about. Left to ourselves, we simply don’t have the ability to see the whole picture in a comprehensive view. We don’t have the know-how to deal with the smallest details and the entirety of possible challenges and problems that might arise regarding the situation.
Is there a specific way to pray about each instance that comes into your life that will remove every obstacle and foil the enemy’s strategies against you in that situation? The next phrase in verse 26 sheds some light on that question: “…For we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” That word “ought” comes from the Greek word dei, which means necessary. Thus, this phrase refers to something that must be a certain way. So this part of verse 26 could be translated, “…We do not know how to pray according to the need, as is necessary to pray, or as that need exactly demands.”
Some needs demand a different kind of prayer. And this verse here says that without the Holy Spirit’s cooperation in prayer, we don’t know how to pray as each need demands. But thank God, His Spirit comes to remove our weaknesses and to help us in our inadequacy to know what to pray!
How does the Holy Spirit actually help us? We know from the word “helps” that He partners with us in prayer, grabbing hold of the obstacle and pushing against it in conjunction with us to remove that satanic blockade. Now let’s look at the very end of verse 26 to learn more about how He helps bear the responsibility in prayer for us: “…But the Spirit itself [Himself ] makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
The word “intercession” is an interesting word. It’s the Greek word huperentugchano, which means to fall into with. It is the picture of a person who comes upon someone who has fallen into some kind of quandary. Upon discovering the trapped person’s dilemma, he swiftly swings into action to rescue and deliver the one who is in trouble. This word huperentugchano also carries the idea of coming together in experience or meeting with. Finally, it can mean to supplicate, which denotes a rescue operation in which one snatches and pulls a person out of imminent danger. So we could translate the phrase, “the Spirit itself makes intercession for us” this way: “The Spirit Himself falls into our situation with us”; “the Spirit Himself meets us in a common experience”; or “the Spirit Himself supplicates for us, rescuing us from our weaknesses.”
Here we gain more insight into the way the Holy Spirit comes to your aid. As you’re walking through life, things may seem to be going fine. But then the devil digs one of his holes in the path ahead of you that you don’t even know is there. You take a step, and before you know it, you fall headlong into the hole. Now you’re all scuffed up, covered with dirt and bruises, trapped at the bottom of a pit.
You can do one of two things at this point. You can feel sorry for yourself and stay at the bottom of that pit — or you can say, “Holy Spirit, this is where You come in. I don’t know how I got here, and I don’t know how to get out of here. I need Your help!”
So let’s say you choose the second option. What does the Holy Spirit do after He meets you in your common experience at the bottom of the hole? He begins to supplicate for you — to move on your behalf to rescue you. When you say, “Holy Spirit, I need You to help me,” He answers, “That’s what I’m here for. I am here to bear the responsibility of helping you in prayer.” And there at the bottom of that pit, the Holy Spirit takes hold together with you in prayer against the hindrances that are preventing your deliverance.
Have you ever prayed when you’re in the pits? Your zeal is not exactly at a high level at that point. You might feel discouraged and confused about why you fell into that hole in the first place. You’re bruised and dirty, and you may have spent most of your prayer time voicing your negative emotions about the whole situation to the Lord. But then the Holy Spirit meets you right where you are in the midst of your trouble and begins to help you in your weakness. He says, “I’m here with you. I’m going to grab hold of this problem together with you, and we’re going to press against it until it moves out of your life.”
All of a sudden, something rises up on the inside of you, and you sense a renewed strength to go after that problem in prayer. You throw back your shoulders, lift up your head, and pick up the spiritual weapons God has given you to win this battle and overcome the enemy’s strategies in your life!
What just happened to you? The Holy Spirit grabbed hold of your weaknesses and helped you push them out of the way! This is His responsibility. And He’ll keep pressing with you against that problem you’re facing until it is moved out of your life and you’re out of that pit for good!
Aren’t you thankful for this wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Whatever challenges you’re facing in these uncertain times, of this you can be certain: Right now He is making intercession on your behalf, and He’s not going to stop until every obstacle to your victory has been moved out of the way!
If you’ve been feeling like you’ve fallen into a pit and you don’t know how to climb out, just remember who’s down there with you, ready to help. Then begin to pray, knowing that the Spirit of God will make you strong where you are weak and help remove every obstacle that hinders your forward progress in Him.