A Gift Not A Given

thankfulness, grace, GodI met a remarkable fellow this week.  In my job doing internet sales I come into contact with people from all over the world.  Mostly these are fleeting encounters that only take as long as a single phone call and are quickly forgotten.  This one man, however, I hope I will not soon forget.

I am confident that this meeting was ordained and orchestrated by God.  The reasons for the sale, both our product and his need aligned so perfectly that he flew half the length of the country to come and meet us face to face.  In addition there was a circumstance that required his presence in our state that was completely separate from the sale.  That this circumstance and his need for our product could have occurred at the same could only be considered providential.

As we were wrapping up and he was preparing to leave he shared with me a little bit about his other reason for visiting our state.  A younger relative of his who no longer had any parents or guardians around had gotten in to some trouble with the law and was incarcerated on some serious charges.  As a retired pastor and minister of the Lord he felt it was his responsibility to go and visit this relative and pray with them and give them whatever comfort and wisdom he could.

This man was now in charge of a large non-profit ministry that fed and assisted the homeless in several communities across the northern part of the country.  Based on his own past experience and the trouble that his relative was now in he made this statement:  “If you can work and provide for your family and put food on the table and keep a roof over your heard then that is a gift, not a given.  We are all equal in God’s sight but we do not all have equal abilities and are not all equally capable.  Some people just need more help than others.”  Although it went unspoken I could see in this man that he felt that he had been called to help the helpless and I thanked God for his witness.

Later in the day I thought about my job and my home and all that God has provided me and I realized that I tend to take it for granted.  I don’t thank God enough for giving me the ability to work and a place to work.  As I look back on my forty years I realize that I have worked for over half of it and I have never had difficulty finding a job when I needed one.  God has always been there, looking out for me and making a way for me.  He has provided for my family and even in lean times we have always had enough.

When you really get down to it, God does not owe me or anyone else anything at all.  We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and God would be well within his rights to turn His back on us and leave us to our own devices.  Yet His love and grace is persistent and His mercy is new every morning and He delights in giving His children good gifts.  Woe to me if I begin to think that I am owed God’s provision or that I deserve what He so generously offers.

My prayer is that God would open the eyes of His children to see all that He has done for us and that we would not take any of it for granted.  I pray that He would keep us humble and help us to acknowledge Him in everything that we do.  God’s grace is given with every breath that we take.  Let us always remember that this is a gift, not a given.

God Changes Us For The Good

thankfulness, gratitude, praiseFresh out of bed and still bleary-eyed I stumbled into the bathroom to start my morning routine.  I would need to leave for work within the hour and I did not want to be late so I was already starting my mental checklist.

I glanced out the window at the early morning light that glowed and defined the tall pines and old oaks of the forest that began at the edge of our yard.  As I did so I was struck by the need to just be still and raise my hands towards heaven.  I began to praise God for His goodness and His love and I thanked Him for His grace and mercy and for including me in His redemption plan.

All of a sudden I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love and peace and I knew that just for a moment, I had touched the heart of God and that He had touched me in return.  I began that day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart that stayed with me and colored every moment and every interaction with joy.

Practicing gratitude and looking for opportunities to be thankful can open our eyes to moments like this.  A year or two ago I am quite sure that I would have missed the Spirit’s tug on my heart so soon after tumbling out of bed.  I would have been too focused on “me” and my needs and my dull spiritual receptors would not have tuned in to the call to praise.

The great news is, things are changing.  Rather, God is changing me and I am encouraged by His work!

I’m still not perfected, this is a process and a work in progress.  I still miss Him, sometimes, when He shows up and I am distracted and the flesh in me is in control.  That makes a moment like my spontaneous praise and worship all the more precious because it shows me that God is not through with me yet.  It is proof that He is changing me from the old man that I was into the new, holy child of the King that I want to be.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress. (Psalm 59:16) NASB

 

 

How to Overcome the Negative, Nasty and Nervous

gratitude, thankfulnessQuestion: What sneaks up on you more quietly than a whisper, is more infectious than the the flu and will taint your mind and attitude if left unchecked?  Furthermore, everyone is vulnerable to its attack and no one is immune to its effects regardless of race, background, wealth, intelligence, age or status.

The answer is Complaint.  Not complaint as in a singular fault or flaw but Complaint with a capital “C” that is a pervasive mindset and the opposite of gratitude.  A complaint may be valid and presented in a positive way.  Complaint (which I will refer to from now on with the capital “C”) is always ugly and self-centered.  There is generally very little love and very little in the way of Godliness in Complaint and for Christ followers who need to be a positive witness to the world that is a big problem.

Complaint infects for a variety of reasons but those reasons are almost always circumstantial.  As Christians we are to base our outlook and our attitude on our position in Christ which is eternal, unchanging and assured.  Circumstances are the opposite of that.  They are temporary, seasonal and constantly changing.

Unfortunately in the scheme of things we tend to forget or downplay our position in Christ and focus more on our circumstances than we probably should and in turn that gives our circumstances more power than they should have.  Those circumstances come to dictate our feelings to some degree and Complaint begins to grow.

Our attitude becomes one of pessimism (“they are out to get me!” “what next will go wrong?”), selfishness (“I don’t have enough as is, how can I give to someone else?”) and hopelessness (focusing on the bad instead of the good and basing one’s outlook on that).  When we are pessimistic, selfish and without hope we discourage those around us and miss chances to bless others and be blessed ourselves.

Worse still, Complaint is contagious.  So much so that it effects entire families, workplaces, teams and even the body of Christ, the church.  With very few exceptions once one person gives in to Complaint there will be others who begin to show the symptoms of negative thinking and negative speech.

How do we fight Complaint?  How can we defend against it?

Quite simply, we must practice and model thankfulness.  We need to be consistent with our praise to God and we to be visible and vocal about how we do it.  We need to be sharing with one another frequently about all the ways that God is blessing and has blessed our lives.  We must be encouragers to one another and we must be lifting our brothers and sisters in Christ up in prayer daily that they might be strengthened and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Living a life of gratitude requires discipline and conscious choices.  We can choose to give God our praise and thanksgiving even in the midst of tough times and difficult circumstances.  Circumstances will change and trials will come and go but our God remains and His goodness and faithfulness is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Let us choose to be thankful.  Let us choose to be grateful and to share our blessings with those around us in such a way that Complaint has no chance of taking root.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

 

 

Thoughts on Thankfulness

thankful, praise, blessingsThankfulness as a way of living has been my theme for some time now.  Some days I am more successful with this than others.  It’s been easier this month with the Thanksgiving season upon us but that still does not lessen my responsibility to be mindful of my blessings.  As I sat down to write this week I seemed to have a jumble of ideas all centered around thankfulness so I thought I would collect them here.

1. Being thankful is God’s will for me. (1 Thes. 5:18)

2. Thankfulness is like armor.  It protects me from bad attitudes, greed and envy.

3. Thankfulness alleviates depression.  Count your blessings!

4. Pride can destroy thankfulness (when I am proud I feel I deserve more instead of being mindful of what I already have been given)

5. My thankfulness should be expressed often, verbally and by my actions.

6. I should be especially thankful for those that God has put closest to me: my family and my church.

7. Because I am thankful I am compelled to serve the Lord out of love for Him.

8. It is still difficult to be thankful for trials and tribulation but I am starting to understand how God uses those to shape me into a usable vessel for Him.

9. Difficult people are a blessing from the Lord that I should be thankful for.

10. The gift that I am most thankful for is my salvation and the hope that the Lord has given me for eternal life.

I hope that this month has caused you to think about all of the things that you are thankful for.  I hope that you understand how important it is to be thankful at all times and in all things.  I would ask you to stop and think of all the things that God has done for you and the ways that He is working in your life and then give Him praise for it.

 

The Words That Make Me Most Thankful

1 Peter, thankfulness, salvationBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

I have a living hope, a hope that does not die and does not fade.  My hope is in Jesus and the work that He has already done for me.  My hope relies on the power of God and and I am so thankful because I know the He never fails and never falters.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1: 6 – 9)

I am thankful for the faith that God has given me because it is a gift from Him.  To my Heavenly Father, my faith is more precious than gold or jewels and it is His desire to refine it to perfection.  In order to do this He allows various trials to come in to my life that test me and strengthen me as I rely on Him.  Trials and tribulation are not comfortable but the end result is a life that gives praise, honor and glory to God.  In this I rejoice because I know that the ultimate expression of my faith is found in the salvation of my soul through Jesus Christ my Lord.

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1: 17-21)

I will continue to call on my Father who loves me and sent His only Son to die for me.  I know that I have been redeemed at the highest possible price and that I must conduct myself in a way that pleases Him as I walk through this life.  God’s ultimate expression of love was shown through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who God chose before the foundation of the world.  Before I knew Him he loved me and provided a way for me to be with Him forever, both in this life and beyond.  I have been reconciled to God and made right with Him through that one precious, glorious act and I can do nothing but be eternally thankful to Him who saved me soul and redeemed my life.

Thank you, Father, for your words that always bring life!