The Absence of one Little Word

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Another translation says: “Give thanks whatever happens”, but have you noticed the word that isn’t there? Does it say to give thanks for all circumstances, to give thanks for whatever happens? It doesn’t, and I’m glad about that.

I heard recently about Corrie Ten Boom when she was in a concentration camp during World War 2. She and her sister were placed in a dormitory infested with fleas, and her sister used the verse above to encourage her to give thanks – even for those fleas. As it turned out, because they knew the dormitory was flea-infested, the camp guards wanted nothing to do with it, so they got much more freedom than they would otherwise have had. God certainly works all things in our lives together for our good (Romans 8:28). Perhaps without those fleas they wouldn’t have survived, but if you ask me, being thankful for them was going above and beyond. They could still have been thankful in their circumstance without being thankful for it. “Lord, thank You that the fleas put the guards off coming to our door, but please help us because getting bitten all the time is a struggle” would have been my sort of prayer, and I think that’s all God asks. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him – struggles, thanks and all.

I don’t have to be thankful for the cancer my mum had, but I can be thankful that she got through the chemo with minimal side-effects. I can be thankful for all the care and support family, friends and neighbours showed her.

I don’t have to be thankful for my blindness, but I can be thankful that God’s meeting my needs within that. I have a volunteer to read my post regularly; disability benefits are generous enough that I can have a good quality of life and book taxies if I need to; I have family and close friends in my life.

I don’t have to be thankful for not being in paid employment, but I can be thankful for the volunteering opportunities I’ve had and still have.

I don’t have to be thankful for my singleness, but I can thank God for friendship, for the privilege of spending time with someone and hearing their laughter.

Have a think about some of the circumstances in your life. Are you thankful in them or for them?

Thoughts on Yoga and the Mind

When I first became a Christian, it was at a friend’s church some distance from where I lived. I didn’t know of anywhere locally where I could grow in my faith. This meant that when I went to stay with my friend, breakfasts were my most-loved times of the day. We’d sit at the kitchen table with her mum – a strong Christian who read her Bible at the start of every day, and we’d talk about spiritual things. If there was a question my friend couldn’t answer, her mum was sure to know.

I don’t remember how we got onto the subject of yoga, but I’m glad we did, because what Iris said has always stayed with me. “They teach you to open your mind,” she told me, “but when you open up your mind, it’s empty – you’re leaving room for the devil. You’ve got to keep your focus on Christ.” That has always been enough to put me off anything that would take over the power of my mind – hypnosis to conquer fear, etc.

The Bible is very clear on this sort of thing too. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). How can we use our minds to take thoughts captive if our minds are empty? “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking” (Romans 12:2). If I’m watching something on YouTube and a scene plays out in front of me, I have to decide in my mind: Is this acceptable or isn’t it? We’re in the world, but as Christians, we shouldn’t just swallow whatever it wants to feed us, and when it comes to something like yoga, you’re being fed more than you might think.

Recently I came across this article, which I’d strongly recommend if you want to read more about the topic. To summarise, yoga has been designed not just to keep you physically fit, but to give you a spiritual experience. It’s based on the belief that these experiences can be obtained through opening up energy-sources located in different parts of the body – a belief found nowhere in the Bible. God isn’t an energy; He’s a personal God. He came into the world and became one of us in His Son Jesus, because He wanted to approach us. Power can be transferred from a yoga teacher to their students during meditation, even if the students may be unaware of it at the time, and think what kind of power this is. Jesus clearly says in the Bible: “The only way to the Father is through Me” (John 14:6), so for those who try to find God through yoga or anything other than a relationship with Jesus, it won’t be God they’re finding. It’ll be a counterfeit – demonic power instead of God’s power; evil spirits instead of the Holy Spirit. That’s why yoga concerns me so much.

However, the article says that once this former yoga teacher came to know Jesus Christ, he was delivered from the evil spirits. That same clean slate is available to anyone who turns to Jesus. I don’t want to leave you anxious, but to give you a warning and offer you hope. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). It’s not opened-up minds we need; it’s guarded minds, protected by the peace of God.

Why you Needn’t Feel Intimidated

I was thinking today about something somebody told me. He’d been walking round the local shops when he saw a group of sixth formers on their lunch-break from school. Being tall and well-built, he felt quite intimidated by them; then he realised one of them was his son.

As I wondered if there was something I could learn from this, God seemed to tell me that I needn’t feel intimidated by anyone, because He created them. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that mankind was made in the likeness of God. Just as when a baby’s born its genes resemble its parents’, so we have a resemblance to God the Father in the way we were created, and we’re all given the opportunity to become His children. Talking about Jesus’ birth, John says: “He came to the world that was His own, but His own people did not accept Him. But to all who did accept Him and believe in Him He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12).

I’ve hardly met any of this blog’s followers face-to-face, so as you read this today, I don’t know whether you’ve thought much about Jesus, but if faith in Him enables you to become God’s child – to be drawn to the God who formed you in your mother’s womb, isn’t He worth considering?