Thoughts from a Very Thankful Dad

Isn’t it very easy to get down in a world full of negative words and phrases?  It seems discouragement thrives amid the pressures of daily life, causing many people to make statements like “Hopelessness Abounds”, “I’m against impossible odds”, or, one I’ve said many times myself when a situation looks bleak:  “There is no way possible!”.

The fact is, these quotes have a lot of truth in them.  Truth, that is, if we try to trust only in ourselves, and seek a path that leads us away from the Hope of the world.

However, quite the opposite is true when we decide to trust God for our daily living.  We can overcome despair by filling our hearts and minds with the positive promises in His Word!  Countless things are achievable when we trust God.  “The possibilities are endless” when we allow the Lord to fill our hearts with His truth.

Saving Grace

More than anything else in this world, we need salvation from our sins.  This is impossible to earn by our own merits, but God provided the Way to have our sins forgiven through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  About this saving grace, Jesus Himself told His disciples, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Superior Faith

After we are saved by God’s grace, we can then experience faith that exceeds any other on earth.  Jesus told his disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed… nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).  When the troubles of this world are trying to drag us into a negative attitude, we can keep positive by exercising extreme faith in the Creator of the Universe.  When we trust fully in Him, what looks impossible becomes very possible.

Supreme Guidance

Although this journey of life is filled with ups and downs, and often we cannot seem to clearly see the path ahead, we are positively assured from God’s Word that by trusting the Lord wholeheartedly, acknowledging Him in all we do, “He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The difficulties of the road may seem impossible to bear, but we can confidently trust our Faithful Guide to lead us onward and upward!

 Supernatural Blessings

Not only will trusting Almighty God carry us through life’s storms, we can expect to receive an abundance of heavenly blessings even when it appears we have lost everything.  Although we feel totally worthless, and so undeserving of any good thing from the Lord, He assures us in His Word He has forgiven us, and He delights in lavishing us with His goodness.  What a wonderful Savior!

So beginning today, don’t let the gloominess of this world send you spiraling into the depths of defeat.  All these things and more are possible for the child of God who places his trust in Him.  “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Yes, the possibilities are endless for those who believe!

Tonya & Me1

“Best of the Class!”

Yesterday, my “verythankfuldad” self-proclaimed nickname took another step forward in a major way.

Our youngest son Jordan, who will be graduating May 22 as Valedictorian of the Elk Valley Christian School class of 2014, had the honor of participating in the Charleston-Huntington TV station WSAZ’s annual “Best of the Class” program. Together with more than 200 other top seniors from the Tri-state area high schools, he donned his cap and gown for this pre-graduation ceremony in front of TV cameras and news reporters…and needless to say, some very proud parents…including me.

Best of the Class1-edited

First, I should say I’m quite thankful he even asked me to tag along, let alone to drive him to this prestigious event more than an hour from our home. After all, tons of the soon-to-be graduates came “stag”, pulling up in their own cars, or perhaps borrowed from their folks. But this very thankful dad was invited as the guest of an Honor Graduate, and he let me know quickly what a privilege for his old man it was. Ha ha. Of course, he wished his Mom could’ve joined us, but she wasn’t “up to” the crowds…which she predicted very accurately! So, Dad alone it was, his least-favorite parent, that got to enjoy the colorful scene of high school academic all-stars from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Jordan was named earlier this year to the WV Christian School basketball all-star squad, and now has earned a spot representing his school with the best of the academic talent across the area as well!

Not only am I (and certainly his mother as well) extremely proud of my son’s accomplishment, being included in this once-in-a-lifetime elite group of high school seniors, I am also grateful for what God has done in his life, and the desire he has shown to serve the Lord with his divinely-bestowed talents.

And not only am I thankful for Jordan’s being named to this academic award, I am also overwhelmed with joy to think that all we who have trusted Christ as our Savior have been included in God’s “Best of the Class”! Can you imagine that?
The seniors I watched yesterday gathered for that special event were there due to their merits of outstanding achievement, hard work and hours of studying. But we? We have done absolutely nothing to earn favor with a Holy God…to be named in a group with other undeserving senior saints such as Moses, David and Paul. Yet God sent Heaven’s “Best” to give His life for our filthy rotten sins, so that through His grace and mercy, we could be so unworthily named to His “Best of the Class”. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (I John 3:1)!

Now that’s the Best of the Best!!

 

When Did Christ Die?

As we enter Easter season and Passion Week, I’m thrilled in my heart to once again be able to re-read those familiar passages in the four Gospels of God’s Holy Word, of how Christ suffered and willingly laid down His life on the cross to pay the debt of sin that we owed! When I think about what it cost our Savior to purchase our Redemption, I am overwhelmed with amazement that Someone would love us that much!

Probably the most familiar Bible verse known to man is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What unfathomable love!

During this wonderful season of the year, I’ve also thought many times…. “When did Christ actually die?” The traditional day of the week has always been Friday, thus, the Christian holy day “Good Friday”. Most people think this was Crucifixion Day because Jesus told his followers and the religious Jewish leaders that “he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt 16:21).  It was also the day before the Sabbath.

Some, on the other hand, tend to believe his crucifixion had to have been on Thursday, for he told the Jewish scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:40: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” A Friday death would only allow two nights before Resurrection Sunday, instead of three, as He predicted in this verse.

Although we may never be able to agree on the day of Christ’s death, nor ever know for sure, the Bible is still God’s infallible Word.  And I want to share with you a glorious truth from it that we do know.  The Bible does indeed tell us when Jesus died for our sins…and it has absolutely nothing to do with days of the week! It’s all found in the book of Romans, chapter 5.

First, He died when we were without strength. Verse 6 says, “For when we were yet without strength…Christ died for the ungodly.” We were too weakened by the filth of our flesh to save ourselves. Only the almighty Son of God has power to save!

Secondly, He died when God’s appointed time came. Verse 6 also explains, “…in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He left the beauty and splendor of Heaven, being the eternal Word of God, to take on flesh and reveal the Father to the world He created, only later to be rejected by His Father in order to become our Sacrificial Lamb to save us from our sins!

And lastly, Christ died when we were sinners. Verse 8 proclaims, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There is nothing good in ourselves that could make us righteous before our Holy God. The Scripture plainly states, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). But on that glorious day when Christ died, His holy blood atoned for our sins!

So as we celebrate His crucifixion and resurrection this weekend, remember this:  the day or date when Christ died takes a back seat to the awesome thought that when He died, He gave His life at just the right time…to purchase eternal salvation for weak, helpless sinners like you and I! Praise God for the Lamb that was slain!!

Have you trusted Him to be your Savior? Accept Him today!

 

Anxious to Write!

Well, it seems that every time I say I’m going to start regularly blogging again, something seems to come up.  “So what was it THIS time, Mark”?   I guess you’re anxious to know, huh?  Well, so was I!  REALLY anxious, as it turned out!

Back in January, I suddenly started experiencing a rather quick elevation of my blood pressure, which has been relatively normal for a long, long time.  After some caring nurse friends advised me to see an urgent care doctor, then my family physician, the doctors agreed I was facing a bout with good ole Anxiety!  I’m so very thankful there was no problem with my heart, but nonetheless, this blood pressure needed to come down.  I’d like to say this anxiety issue was due to our youngest son being in his Senior year, and helping him plan for college next Fall already, and his being the typical “let it all hang out around Dad” type of teenager at home.  But then how could I claim to be a “verythankfuldad”, right? Haha

Actually, I’m sure now that a whole lot of factors have contributed to this period of “Anxiety Gone Wild” that I went through several weeks ago.  My doctor was quick to assure me that the responsibility I’ve had taking care of Tonya (and I’ll quickly add that ANYONE who is a caregiver for a family member has!)  since she came home from the hospital after surviving her massive stroke just over 2 years ago, has gradually caught up with me….not to mention the “50 Factor” that I had to face last June!  But we won’t go there.  Haha.

So, add all these family issues up, and my doctor gave me peace and encouragement that I had a very good reason to be experiencing a little stress in my life.   She believed a medicine regimen to treat this very common problem would most likely bring down my blood pressure.  And, thank the Lord, she was right.  I did not like to have to take any more medication, but I would be crazy to refuse what could help my condition in this case.  However, I also had several days to search my heart during the week I took off sick, and the Lord spoke to me about a few items that quite possibly have been the biggest factors in bringing on anxiety….greater than the family issues!

In trying to solve the world’s problems lately (my Family World, especially), I found out I had, for quite some time, strayed away from some extremely important matters pertaining to my physical and spiritual life.  For one, I had become too hard on my son about some home-life issues, and also, I was wearing out my body with keeping late night hours needlessly, which was doing very little to strengthen my walk with the Lord!  So with this recent trial, I have come to the conclusion that God in his great mercy has tenderly spoken to my heart about these areas of improvement needed in my life….in order for me to be a better caregiver for my wife….and a better Dad to my sons.

The Bible verse He kept bringing to my mind through this battle with anxiety, and still does, was Philippians 4:6, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  When I finally realized I needed to focus more on Him instead of myself and my problems, some of which I had totally brought on myself, then peace began to replace some of the anxiety (Phil. 4:7)!

The appropriate medicine is good, and I’m thankful for having it and for  how it helps, but a closer relationship with the Heavenly Father is the very best antidote for anxiety!   Yes, I’m anxious to write again, and to draw closer to the Lord…but that’s the only kind that’s good for the soul.  Praise God for his goodness and healing in all parts of my life!

I’m Hangin’ In!

Let’s just face it. Life can be pretty tough some days.

Have you ever gotten up in the morning, minding your own business, trying to simply get awake, when suddenly, “Meow! Hiss!!”… you’ve stepped on the cat’s tail?  Or a family member (who will remain anonymous until further investigation) has left something fairly heavy in the middle of the floor, and your foot painfully discovers it on your way to the bathroom?  Already, you know it’s going to be one of those days where you feel you would be better off (not to mention safer) jumping back into bed!

Some days, life feels like a merry-go-round ride where you’re spinning furiously and hanging on for dear life! My family has experienced this literally since my wife Tonya’s stroke in December 2011. She herself was hanging on to her very own life the first few days after it happened, while our sons and I were hanging on to every thread of hope for God to spare her, which, praise God,  He gloriously did!!

I’m a firm believer that there are days when all you can do is jump on this merry-go-round of life and hold on for the duration of the ride.  During times like these, I’ve heard some people exclaim when asked how things are going, “I’m hangin’ in there”!  And truthfully, it’s a struggle some days just to survive – to continue grasping with all your might God’s rope of faith, hoping not to let go and fall spiritually, crashing to the ground.

Thankfully, you do not have to try to cling to this life in Christ solely on your own strength.  In Isaiah 41:10, not only does God’s Word reveal why you do not need to fear, it also reminds you that you have One who will help you hang on through every storm.  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

First, He will provide you His own strength to hold firm.  He is like a coach cheering his players on, instructing them from the sidelines. He will support you when your trials come, reminding you He always will be near.  What encouragement!

Then, if the battle increases, making holding on extremely harder, He promises He will be ready to help you.  He moves from the sidelines to right behind your back as you face your burden, ready to catch you if you fall.  What comfort to know!

And, for those moments when your trial becomes so heavy it seems virtually impossible to hang on, this same God we serve gives you the assurance that He will hold you up by His strong and mighty hand!  In such struggles as these, He will wrap His loving arms around you and give you strength to press on and finish the battle.  What a mighty God!

So when you feel like the day is starting out all wrong, and all you can do is just “hang in”, remember these awesome words of promise in God‘s Word, and trust Him to strengthen, help and uphold you.  You may not be able to stand up by your own power, but His righteous hand is fully capable!

Happy New Year! Well, since a new year has dawned, one of my resolutions is to begin blogging again. I know…you’re thinking, “Su-ure he will”. So I’m thinkin’, “I’ll show them!” And so to prove the writing of Verythankfuldad is seriously coming back (hopefully!), I’ve decided to give “Mark’s Blog” a facelift!

A new year, a New Look for the ole blog site! Time to turn a new leaf…to start a new page in the Notebook….to gain a New Outlook on sharing my thoughts about life….especially, about life In Christ!

But one thing is for certain: tho’ the appearance of the page may be new and different, and the outlook of this very thankful Writer may have taken a new surge of enthusiasm…the Reason for the blogs, and the Inspiration for the words that appear on each page, are from the same, consistent, faithful, unchanging, unaging Savior, whose mercies are new every morning!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). Praise God for sending His Son!

A Typical Day

For those of you following my blog, you may have been wondering, “Where in the world has Mark been”?  Or maybe you, as one of my few followers, have said, “Has he been gone”?  Ha ha.   Hmm, that reminds me…Tonya used to say that to me from time to time when we would be apart for a while and I had asked her if she missed me. I’m not laughing now.

I’ve not been able to blog nearly as much as I’ve wanted to in 2012.  Life for the Elkins Family has been very busy, and a typical day is much different than it was a year ago.  I have had the privilege, though, of writing a few devotional articles that have been published on the “Christian News Blog” at http://www.christian-news-today.com.  Please take some time to check them out on this site.  Just search for my name and you’ll see them.  I thank the Lord for giving me these words, and I hope they will be a blessing to those who read them.

What a year it has been for my family! Since Tonya’s massive stroke in December of last year, our lives have totally changed, as I wrote about back in the Spring.  But God has shown us that He is in full control, and nothing has surprised Him!

A typical day now in our lives is also filled with praise and thankfulness for what God has done for Tonya…and the rest of our family.  I truly understand alot better these past 9 months or so the words of Solomon in Proverbs 27:1, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth”.  We may often think that we have today, tomorrow, or the future all planned out, but only our Creator knows exactly what’s going to take place in our lives each day.  I’ve found it very wise to trust Him one day at a time, and rejoice that every morning we are able to open our eyes is a precious gift from Him!

I pray that, as our family has learned through Tonya’s recovery process, you also will consider it a typical day in your life to be able to rejoice that you are a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!!

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