Paul Giving Thanks

Our Brother Paul

Welcome to a gathering of the Church in Aquila and Prisca’s home.a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

We are excited to hear from our brother Paul as he is here and going to share about his recent journeys.  We are tantalized by the odors coming from the baking
a post on brother Paulkhubz (Jewish pita bread) that we will enjoy after the teaching and sharing time. 

I look around the group of believers gathered in my imagination, and am filled with gratitude to God for their courage and love for the Messiah.  Many of them have suffered greatly for their faith.  Many know of some that have given in and burnt the worship incense to the Roman gods. Some from this group have been martyred, finishing their earthly journey.

As we listen to our brother share, it is interesting to notice that Paul uses the words for gratitude ~thanks, thank, thanksgiving, thanksgivings, thankful, thanked~ 49 times in his letters. He valued gratitude.

Take the Resurrection Chapter of I Corinthians 15 where Paul shows that without the Lord Jesus rising from the dead, we are of all men most miserable. Here, Paul gives thanks to God who gives us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57). Or how about Romans 7:25 where Paul has been describing the struggle over who will deliver us from this body of death and cries out the solution: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Expressing Thanks

Paul was thankful for people, and told them so.  He was careful to express his thanks to God for these individuals and clusters of believers in the letters he wrote:

  • Romans 1:8 – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
  • I Corinthians 1:4 – I always thank my God for you because of the grace He has given you in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 1:16 – I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers
  • Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.
  • Colossians 1:3 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2 – We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers
  • Thessalonians 1:3 – We are obligated to thank God for you all the time, brothers, as is fitting, because your faith is growing more and more, and your love for one another is increasing.
  • Philemon 1:4 – I always thank my God, making mention of you in my prayers

He showed by example how we are to not only think the thanks, but also express the thanks – first to God and then to other people.

Am I Th(i)nkful Like Paul?

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Not so sure how I am doing on this issue.  I need to be more intentional.  I want to think and express my thanks to God first, and then to others for their faithful walk in the Lord.  What an encouragement it is to remember the godly examples of others who have gone before us or even others walking life right beside us here and now.  Paul’s example is a guide.

Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians

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Way back in 2010 our family got together in a cabin in PA. Our youngest daughter had not even started university yet.  We were meeting ‘significant others’ and the grand-babies were starting to arrive.

The Sunday morning that we were there, we studied together one of Paul’s prayers.  A few months earlier David had gotten all the guys to volunteer to give a talk about a portion of Colossians 1:9-14. They each taught us a piece of this important prayer that Paul offered up for the believers at Colossae. That is a very precious memory to me.

Here is Colossians 1:9-14:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul is challenging the readers by sharing his prayer for them. He is praying for their maturity and growth in the Lord, and for fruitfulness and long-suffering. He ends by praying for them to give thanks to the Father who has delivered them and qualified them for an amazing inheritance.

Thanks, Brother Paul

So as we leave Aquila’s home in our imagination and head out into the world, whether it be Africa, Asia, Europe, America, Australia, or New Zealand … or wherever you go, let’s follow Paul’s admonition.  Let’s think thanks and give thanks to our Father first, and then be a bit more intentional in expressing our thanks to others for who they are and what they’ve done. a blogpost on Paul's thankfulness to believers

Who comes to mind that you give thanks to God for in your life? What about them are you thankful for?

Have you shared that with them lately?

Change

Change

Have you observed when night changes to day?change 4

Darkness fills everywhere and then ever-so-slowly there begins a hint of difference. A little light begins to seep in driving back the much larger but helpless wings of darkness. Inexorable exchange.  Shapes become visible but are colorless. When night actually ends is hard to pinpoint, but sure and steady, comes the dawn.

If you were to define ‘change,’ what would you say?  The exchange of one thing for another?  To make or become different?  Change is a massive field of study in leadership, business, education, technology, counseling, and the list goes on.  That is simply because due to the constant motion in our minds, bodies, lives, societies, and the cosmos, nothing is ever the same.

Attitudes Toward Change

Youth tend to love change; that’s why they often start revolutions, movements, and new paradigms. Older folks tend to fear and avoid change because it requires so much energy to remember the changes, adjust to new people, and learn new patterns.

The old timers know much better what the old creature called “time” does – when an event or conversation passes from the present into the past, time freezes it so that it can’t change. This causes many people to regret the past, and just as many to have anxiety about the future.

Change blog

But, is it really true that time freezes the past? Or is thankfulness a tool that transcends time to change memories, change the present, and even influence my future?

Gratitude Changes the Present

Myriad things in this life promise to change things for the better – that’s what advertisements are all about.  But those products can only change possessions and circumstances that surround you; they are expensive and they grow old.

Gratitude doesn’t take money, family connections, or a fancy education to use it.  It is put into play one little choice at a time, and it can change your past, your present, and your future.

“No amount of regret changes the past.

No amount of anxiety changes the future.

Any amount of gratitude changes the present.”

http://www.becomingminimalist.com

There is so much hope in the thought that gratitude changes things.  It changes the way we view our present circumstances.  We can jump the track of anxiety and just start down the track of gratitude.  We can give thanks right now for what we have right now.

Gratitude Changes the Past

Our Creator, Who knows us better that we know ourselves, has shown us how we are to handle regrets of the past.  “Every saint has a past; every sinner has a future.”  If we need to ask forgiveness, He can help us through that process.  The 7 A’s of Confession is a fantastic resource to work through things.

Be thankful that your past is exactly that – your past. Be thankful that you feel regret instead of glorying in your past darkness.  Be thankful for grace that pulled you out of the miry clay.  You have changed with God’s help, and you can be thankful that He who began that work in you will not stop (Phil. 1:6).  You may be wounded and damaged … and therefore fully usable because our God specializes in broken things.  There is nothing too hard for the Lord, including helping you put your past in its proper place.

Gratitude Changes The Future

If you are consumed with anxiety about your future, come to Him who engineered it and holds it and says it’s a perfect part of a much bigger story.  Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we can pour out our anxieties before Him and immerse them with thanksgiving, leaving Him to work as He wills, and He promises this supernatural peace to come and guard us emotionally and intellectually.

Gratitude doesn’t just change the present, it changes the way we view the past and the future. Engage change! change 1 Download grace and strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thankfulness orally or in a written form.

David taught our family a chorus that he had learned when growing up called: “From glory to glory He’s changing me.” It takes 2 Corinthians 3:18 and puts it to music. As I engage gratitude, God changes me.  He changes my view of the present, He changes the way I process my past, He changes the way I look to the future.  He changes ME to be more like His precious Son, the Lord Jesus.

Let gratitude change you!

 

I Will Be God

 Perfection and Pride

The Story of Hope is a 40-lesson walk through the Bible that has beautiful new illustrations. My coworker and I are moving through this study with three Zulu women.  It is going great. 🙂 Today we did the lesson on the Fall of Lucifer. Fall of Lucifer Lucifer is given an incredible description in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.  He was created by God, perfect in beauty and wisdom, had a covering of precious stones and worshipped God in God’s holy presence.  He was originally blameless in his ways and even had access to Eden, the Garden of God on the earth.

But Lucifer became inflated with pride and started down the road of self-exaltation.  He ended up not just wanting to be like God, but he wanted to be the Most High.

Th(i)nkful and Humility

In reflecting on the fall of Lucifer, I was hit with how often I personally try to be God.  I want to control things in my life.  Instead of humbly bowing before God, and deferring to His choices and wisdom in all my circumstances, I start to evaluate what I think is best, and what should have been done, and what would have been done if I was in control. I go on a little self-worshipping Lucifer-rant.

Being th(i)nkful is really about letting God be God and in humility accepting that fact.  It is saying, “God, because you say it’s perfect, it is perfect, and I will thank you for it.”  Hope, grace, and joy begin to surround my thinking as I download help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance in my life and express that thanks.

That choice is hard.  Let’s be honest!  For most of us, it is difficult to not control things.  Our hands must go up in surrender and open in praise.  We have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  Of course, how can you trust someone if you don’t know them well?  And this is a big key to life: know, love, trust.  We can only build trust by getting to know that person, and then coming to love them.

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Results of “Being” God

In our study this morning we read about the consequences of Lucifer exalting himself to being God.  After some serious self-evaluation, he concluded that he should assume the position of the Creator instead of being second best, merely a created spirit.  He caused the beginning of evil.

In philosophy, my husband tells me, there is no such thing as evil. Like darkness, cold, and falsity, evil is a term describing the lack of something that does exist, and all four of those things find their source in God’s character. God is Light. He is Fire. He is Truth. He is Goodness. In the beginning, God created choice. Lucifer had two options: the Creator or something other than the Creator.  He chose something other than the Creator; he chose himself, and gave birth to the un-Good of evil, becoming known throughout all ages as Satan – “the adversary.”

If anyone had cause for over-the-top thankfulness, it was Lucifer, the anointed, powerful, and musical cherub who stood next to God’s Throne.  But pride inflates our thoughts and ideas to become “the optimal standard of what is true and right.”  He focused on what he thought was wrong and lacking.  Satan did it.  We do it.

Only God is God; We are Not

Psalm 52:8-9a gives a beautiful contrast to Lucifer’s debacle.  “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.  I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.  I will thank you forever.”

Instead of trying to critique God, and instruct God, and be the God of your own circumstances … why not trust in the steadfast love of God forever and thank Him? Exercise your trust in God and revel in His steadfast love.  His Word will stand the test of time and His promises will never fail.  He is completely trustworthy.  As we lean in trust on Him who holds all things together, we can yield control and express our thanks to Him who is the true God, the right God, the only one fit to be God, our great Jehovah.

God is God. God is good. God is good at being God.

Logoth(i)nkful (adj) describing people who choose to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in their life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

No Thanks

No Thanks

Last night one of our colleagues was sharing a story of a very prominent man and his wife.  This man and his wife were highly educated and strongly atheistic.  They had one son together. When their son decided to trust in Christ, they were sorely disappointed.  The last thing they wanted for him was to actually believe in God and live accordingly.  Our co-worker tried to build a redemptive relationship with this man; they would have meals together.  One thing that particularly irritated the man was when our friend would say “thank you.” beach blog He actually ridiculed and harassed him for always saying “thank you.” Since he found it so irritating, our colleague tried to refrain from saying that he was thankful when with him.

Thankfulness is showing that you humbly accept someone else’s help. A self-sufficient person doesn’t need anything from anyone.  They are fine by themselves, and thus feel they never need to say thank you.

The Romans 1 Crowd

Currently, I am embarking on a personal study in the Book of Romans.  This long letter is packed with so much truth; I am eagerly opening and unraveling the first chapter. Wow, it contains a very dark progression after verse 18.  It describes people who knew God, but do not want to honor Him as God nor give thanks to Him.

These people continue to become futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts are darkened.  They claim to be wise, but they become fools, moving further and further away from any sacrifice of thanksgiving to their Creator. Since they are without excuse, they will face a very harsh judgment.

The Psalm 50 Crowd

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 8.24.21 PMThe Psalm 50 crowd is a bit more like you and me. They know about God, but they have gotten lost in empty religious routines, eyes half-open, trying to keep the rules. Righteousness is about a relationship, not rules and routines. But they forgot.

God reminds them that He doesn’t need anything; the sacrifices are for them, not for Him. A Supreme Being really doesn’t need dead animals. “Every beast of the forest is mine. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Psalm 50:10-11). So, He strongly urges them to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving in verses 14-15 and 23.

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgivingand perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (14-15)

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!” (23)

beach blog 1Interesting that God chooses the word sacrifice. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were offered on an altar.  It was costly, took effort and purposeful choice.  And God knows that giving thanks (externalizing credit and fame to someone other than self) doesn’t come naturally to us humans.  It takes effort; it has to be a purposeful choice.  It is a sacrifice to offer up thanksgiving, especially when it is directed to God.

Someone who has cut God out of their lives really can’t be bothered with giving the sacrifice of thanksgiving. They are self-sufficient and don’t owe anyone anything, at least that is what they often believe.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

No Thanks to Ingratitude

beach blog 5In complete contrast to ingratitude, I welcome you to consider the mandate of Ephesians 5:20, “Give thanks in everything” and to join the Psalm 50 crowd in breaking free from routine into a living and thank-filled relationship with your Creator and Redeemer.

Don’t let your thanksgiving be an irritant to unbelievers, like we learned earlier, but do seek to give thanks always for all things, even if it is just to yourself under your breath. 🙂

The big bonus in our day is that you don’t need to keep a stone altar in your backpack. You can offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving at the bathroom mirror, in the driver’s seat, at your work desk, at the gym, or walking in the park.

“I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:17

 

 

 

Fight Back With Thankfulness

Two Secrets

I am going to tell you two secrets.

The Paradox Principle

The first secret is that growing in Christ is built on paradoxes. Things that seem absurd or contradictory prove to be true and right. That is hard for us to really understand. We have to adjust and make new goals and expectations based on those paradoxes.blog on replacement prinicple 1

  • We died with Christ and are alive in Christ
  • The more we die daily, the more alive we are
  • The way up is the way down; and the way down is the way up
  • To save one’s life you must lose it
  • The more we give away, the more we gain
  • We are strongest when we are weak
  • Though poor, we can make others rich
  • We are most sinless when conscious of sin
  • We are wisest when we accept that we know little
  • The more we serve others, the more joy we receive ourselves
  • The more we sit quietly at His feet, the more work we get done for the Master

Notice the paradoxes in 2 Corinthians 6:9-10: as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed;  as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

To overcome the most difficult trials of life, we begin, not by fighting them but by receiving them as from a loving Creator, being thankful in them, and eventually being thankful for them. It is counter-intuitive. A paradox.

The Replacement Principle

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The second secret is the concept of replacement. When we grow in Christ, we desire to be free from sin and the things that easily capture us. A secret to overcoming sin, is given to us in Ephesians 5:4.  Let me illustrate it first.

Don’t you love ‘Before and After‘ pictures? I do.  I love to see messy, dirty things cleaned up and useful.  It is super-inspiring.

But emptying out an overwhelming mess of useless papers, wrappers, and long-expired milk cartons is only half the job. Nature abhors a vacuum; we don’t live in empty rooms.  The empty room needs to be filled with profitable things, with a place for everything and everything in its place.

Even Jesus talked about a house swept clean of a demon, but that demon returned and finding the house empty (not occupied) brought with it seven more.  The end of the story for that person was worse than the beginning.  The room had not been properly filled and was vulnerable to spiritual squatters.

The Weapon of Thankfulness

Replacement is true in human behavior. You don’t just stop doing something; you must replace it.  When you focus on a thing, you give it power, so if you just repeat over and over, “I will not steal, I will not steal,” your mind will be filled with the topic of stealing.  Not good.  For a thief to stop being a thief, he has to start working and then focus on the superlative joy of giving to others in need (Ephesians 4:28). The stealing is replaced with compassion; taking is replaced by giving; evil is overcome with good.

Ephesians 5:1-4 says: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

a blog post on replacementThis passage hits us with a surprise. Paul exhorts us to fight sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk and crude jokes … with thankfulness. Paul didn’t simply shout “stop it,” like Bob Newhardt. He said to replace the sinful behavior with thanksgiving.  We fight back against sin with thanksgiving!

As we actively think thanks and express those thoughts to God and others, we take back ground that has been formerly occupied with sinful thoughts. Being thankful could be viewed as an antidote to sin. We have a weapon in being th(i)nkful.

Summing Up

So did you get the two secrets?  They actually work together.

  1. We overcome trials by receiving them from God with thankfulness.
  2. We overcome sins by replacing them with thankfulness.

How could you start down this road today?  What about having 4-5 blog on opposites 2things written out in an area easily visible like on your refrigerator and when that temptation comes, read those 4-5 things out loud and thank God that He is God, and you are not, and He is trustworthy and will measure out grace and strength to do His will.

“Practically every sin we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness.”  Heath Lambert

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

So, Where Did That Song Come from?

There is hardly a person that has not heard the hit song from the 80’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” One feels inspired to sing along with a smirk, embracing and promoting a stress-free approach to life.  Bobby McFerrin wrote the a cappella ditty back in 1988 after he kept noticing inspirational cards and posters with the slogan. So, where did the slogan come from?

The “Don’t Worry Be Happy” slogan was coined by Meher Baba (1894-1969), an Indian mystic who believed that he was God in human form – the Avatar.  He was silent – as in, he didn’t speak at all! – from 1925 till his death 44 years later, using other means of communication instead. Seems a paradox that the man who coined the slogan would have such a self-exalted view of himself and bring such confusion to his followers about the origin of true joy.

In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988, McFerrin said, “Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think.”

Smiley

smileyemojiClosely connected to the ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ philosophy is the famous Smiley sticker, the inspiration for many of today’s emojis.  Harvey Ball (not Forrest Gump) in 1963 is recognized as the original creator of the famous icon.

a blog on no worries 2I remember growing up in the 1970’s (that’s me with the camera) and buying smiley stickers with my allowance in the Brumunddal Bokhandle. This was a bookstore in the little Norwegian town of Brumunddal where I spent my childhood.  So exciting to spread joy and happiness all over my school books or backpack, really anywhere it would stick! 🙂

Don’t Worry, Rejoice Evermore

There is an interesting connection between “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Philippians 4.  Profound actually!  It is a biblical command to not be worried and to rejoice in the Lord.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Unlike trusting in the words of a Hindu mystic, or just bursting out in a self-help mantra, we can engage in anxiety-free joy because God is in control, and He says that if we take the trials He sends us right back to Him on our knees, He will give us help to cope with the difficulty.

Thankful Even Though …

The letter to the Philippians, written from jail, is about joy (odd, eh?) – joy in God, joy in His people, joy because of what He has done for us, and persistent joy even though times are tough. When times are tough, what does this passage say for us to do?a blog about no worries 4

  • Rejoice in the Lord, because other things and people disappoint us; because He lives; because He is the blessed controller of all my circumstances; because He is working out an amazing plan even though I can’t see it; because He will take me home; because He is coming back to fix this mess down here on earth; because He will make all things new.
  • Let people see you being considerate, because we typically close off and become self-focused when we are hurting; because people will be amazed at the power that causes a suffering person to serve others cheerfully; because when Jesus returns, we should be “caught” serving.
  • Don’t worry about anything, because it wastes energy, time, and sleep, and causes me to eat too much; because it poisons my soul and still doesn’t change the circumstances, because it indicts God for messing things up; because it pushes me to “help God” and to be the savior in the situation.
  • Pray and ask for specific supplies, because He often sends trials just so that we’ll talk to Him and get used to it; because He alone can do miracles, change hearts, heal bodies, heal relationships, bring job offers and business deals, give us great ideas, reveal the real problem, and do it at the perfect time; because at times He holds back until we call out to Him.
  • Make sure you are th(i)nkful, because He designed your trial for you at this time; because He will never leave you nor forsake you; because His Word (especially the Psalms) comes alive during hard times; because He is using the hammer, the rasp, and the furnace to make you into an original masterpiece, the first time in human history Jesus has been manifested in your form, and in your time and place.

One of the keys of not worrying and being happy is being th(i)nkful.  As we give thanks, even for our challenges, we obey the exhortation of Philippians 4:6.  He promises to fill us with His peace that is supernatural and is the guardian of our emotions and minds.

Our confidence and trust in the One who has everything in control is what enables us to be able to say “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

What about using the bridge of this popular song and the Smiley sticker to transition your conversation today to spiritual things with a nonbeliever with whom you interact?

 

 

 

 

Window to Gratitude

A post on perceptions

My View

Looking out the window of our flat here in South Africa I can see the Indian Ocean. This mighty huge body of water is third in the world after the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.  What a glorious sight on most days, always different and always the same in its shades of azure blue, sapphire green, and stormy gray.

I could focus on that the sea-mist coats our car and windows and corrodes anything metal in our apartment, that we have to be on guard for monkeys that would raid looking for food, but I choose to think on the joys.

I can hear the distant waves incessantly crashing upon the shore, and I treasure the sight of it when we have been working hard in different places and return home.  It is like a balm to see the water again. Always different and always the same.

My Worldview

My worldview is my set of core beliefs that clarify and color everything else. If I don’t really believe there is a God, that will shape my moral reasoning, my politics, my view of authority, my ideals in economics, my value of human life and the environment, the use of technology, and so on.

But even if I am a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ, I can harbor some deep error inside my soul where, despite what I and others say I formally believe, I really believe 1) that God is far away, 2) that He doesn’t listen and doesn’t care, 3) that He is busy with more valuable people, and 4) that He is committed to punish me ten-fold for my past.

Choice of Perspective

a post on perspectiveA right perspective of my circumstances begins with a right perspective of how close, loving, and committed my God is to me.  If I go through a hardship and I look up and see God focused on me with two thumbs up and a smile, I may wonder what He is up to … but there is no doubt that I have His full attention and that He has some purposeful design in my circumstances.

If my perspective about God’s presence, love and commitment to me is wrong, it is like rubbing limburger cheese under my nose – the whole world smells awful!  I may say “I’m just being a realist.  I’m just saying the way things are.”  But I am only looking at reality on one level – the physical, earthly level.  My perspective is “under the circumstances,” highlighting a low-level reality that totally misses heaven’s perspective.

“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it.  Others could be given a single weeda post on perception 2 and only see the wildflower in it.  Perception is a key component to gratitude.  And gratitude is a key component to joy.”

Amy Weatherly

Self-Programming

Ever hear two people describe the same event in very different ways?  People focus on different things, and see the same things differently.  Negative people see all the faults. Positive people see the bad but search for and focus on the good and profitable things. Many notice a mixture of both. The way you perceive the view out the window of your life is more of a choice than you think.

You can program your brain what to look for.  When a “search for good” pattern has been forged, it begins to happen automatically.  Isn’t it interesting that you can meet a person who has gone through extraordinary difficulties and is still cheerful and radiating hope?  If in your occupation your job is to find errors, it may be hard for you to disengage that pattern and instead find joys. Keep trying!

What Do You See?

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So….did you see the duck or the rabbit first?  Our brains are amazing.  We can look at the exact same picture and see two different things!!!  The same is true for you and me when viewing our circumstances. We can live “under the circumstances” or we can use the wings of God’s promises to soar up above the storm for a few moments to get heaven’s perspective.  Sifting through the pain, trauma, and pressure, we can find so many things to think thanks about.

Th(i)nkful Challenge

So here comes a challenge to you.  What is a hard thing in your life right now?  Could you think of three things that you could think thanks about concerning that hard thing? I would love to hear from you if you are so inclined.

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Think thanks about the view out your window today.

Am I Sapient?

The Sapient King

In a kingdom long ago there lived the wisest king that ever was.  His fame drove people to come and visit, just to observe this man.  He wrote over 3000 proverbs Affluent parkand 1005 songs, had all the riches he desired, and nothing was out of his reach. He taught people through his example in judging difficult cases – like when two mothers were arguing over one baby.  He built houses and planted vineyards, gardens, and parks with aqueducts and pools to water the trees. He employed skilled musicians and was surrounded by beautiful women.

As his life progressed a growing realization gnawed at his soul: without God, everything is vanity under the sun. Being thankful and content with your work, your wife, and fearing your Creator were the key lessons this man learned and penned in Ecclesiastes.  Thankfulness is intricately linked with wisdom.

What is Sapient?

I am glad you asked. 🙂  I had never really heard it either until I was researching for this post.  It means intelligent, discerning, or wise.  In Hebrews 5:14, God gives a definition of discernment.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

A sapient person is able to distinguish good from evil.

Knowledge-Understanding-Wisdom

Wisdom is more than knowledge that is gained through experience or reasoning – there is nothing worse than a knowledgeable fool!  Dozens of passages and Scripture reveal how these three words are related:

  • Knowledge is retaining the raw material of information;
  • Understanding is the great separator; identifying what is true knowledge, targeting what is false knowledge, and most critical of all, untwisting and separating the true from the false in one lump of information;
  • Wisdom is the ability to take good information, filtered by understanding, and to act on that truth at the right time, to the right people, and with the right motivations and manner.  Fearing a righteous and loving God who is watching me every moment propels my commitment to act wisely (Proverbs 9:10).

Wisdom Includes Thankfulness

So hang on, I am going somewhere with this. 🙂  If our God puts a heavy emphasis on thankfulness, would we not also be wise in doing so?

Being th(i)nkful is a function of sapience or understanding. That my struggles are a result of God not knowing, or not caring about, or not loving me enough is false knowledge. Th(i)nkfulness celebrates true knowledge – that my struggles are ordained by God uniquely for me in order to bring about many “greater goods,” that He is with me, has given me grace, and has given me so many things around my struggle for which to be thankful.

Out of the 135 references in the BibleGood wisdom for thank, thanked, thanks, thanking, thankful, thankfulness, thanksgiving, thanksgivings, thank-worthy, 67 references came from the Old Testament and 68 from the New Testament.

 

Thankfulness is a very practical part of wisdom; it is good and right action that is based on discernment of true knowledge, and it scatters benefit in every direction:

  • Thankfulness is obedience to God
  • Thankfulness is part of worshipping God
  • Thankfulness gives credit to God and to others
  • Thankfulness honors God’s meticulous providence in every detail of our lives
  • Thankfulness uses learning to inspire still more learning
  • Thankfulness among nonbelievers is contagious and creates gospel opportunities
  • Thankfulness is the fruit of really deep and rich theology
  • Thankfulness repels our urges to sin
  • Thankfulness pushes us toward seeking forgiveness and reconciliation
  • Thankfulness builds inward peace
  • Thankfulness blurts out heaven’s perspective when ours is distorted
  • Thankfulness fosters mental health by searching for and focusing on the good
  • Thankfulness displays faith in God as we fulfill His will for us to give thanks in every circumstance
  • Thankfulness trains the brain’s neural pathways to keep looking for things to be thankful for
  • Thankfulness creates fresh air, motivating and inspiring others
  • Thankfulness is part of good leadership, highlighting the good in our challenges
  • Thankfulness sees the silver lining but also focuses on the benefit of clouds, rain, lightning and thunder

There is a pervasive emphasis throughout the scriptures on gratitude. Starting with Leviticus 7:11, where the thanksgiving sacrifice is given as one of the peace/fellowship offerings, and winding throughout the scriptures to Revelations 11:17, where twenty-four elders fall on their faces saying: “ We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken your great power and begun to reign.”

The wise king from long ago learned some indispensable lessons.

Am I sapient? Am I discerning about the information, speculations, and meditations passing through my mind?  Do I act on the true knowledge I have?  Do I celebrate what is true with thankfulness?

Mount Tai Immortal Bridge

Being th(i)nkful is like a bridge that takes you from focusing on self to focusing on all that God is and has done ~ 

 

 

In Beauty and Brokenness

creativityCreativity:  relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to design or fashion something

Creative in Beauty

Our God is creative.

He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 11:3).  In fact, several amazing angels shouted out that His creative glory fills the earth (Isaiah 6:3).  His handiwork is everywhere we look and even where we can’t see with our fanciest equipment, from galaxy clusters all the way down to sub-atomic particles.

When I am faced with these dazzling works, I am so impressed with Him and filled with gratitude.  His creativity is evidence of His existence – why is there so much beauty when the entire earth could be just gray mud and lukewarm water?  He even tests mankind’s limits putting His creativity in the Mariana Trench, in the stretches of the blistering Sahara, and under the ice in Antarctica.  He is boundless power, astonishing imagination, and extraordinary humor.

But it’s not just out there.  He intricately and wonderfully knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-15). I get to breathe today – in Him I live and move and have my being, and He is not very far from any of us (Acts 17:27-28).  I am a unique masterpiece in His marvelous creation (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

creativity 1What a great sorrow to Him if I am just “thankful for” and not “thankful to,” as though I could chalk all of this up to chance, or luck, or random mutation, or a cosmic hiccup.  No!  I must give the credit, the applause, the fame, and my sincerest thanks to this Creator.  It is all His work.

Creative in Brokenness

But…but…but, what about when things are not beautiful?  What about when Adam disobeyed and drew down heaven’s wrath into an enduring and horrendous curse on the entire earth?  What about fallen, broken, selfish and sin-twisted humanity?  What about when well-created things don’t work well anymore?  What about earthquakes, weather extremes, hunger, ignorance, illness, disease, and death?

Our Saviour knows all about that brokenness.  One day in Galilee He had been followed by at least 5000 people who were now hungry and far from home.  He asked his disciples to see what food they could collect to meet the need.  They came up with five barleycreativity 4 loaves and two small fish.  Their solution was broken, insufficient.

But notice.  Jesus didn’t complain about the lack, nor did He just immediately “poof” things into existence.  The Lord Jesus accepted what there was and then amazingly gave thanks (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).

The miracle followed His offering up thanksgiving.  We might take note of the order – I will thank God for the way things are, for the small good things in my difficult situation, and leave it up to Him to change the way things are!  The prayer of thanks came before the physical provision was displayed.

Jesus did this same thing the night before He died on the cross for our sins.  And He took bread, the symbol of His body, and gave thanks (Luke 22:19).  He thanked the Father for the small bread knowing that God would soon break a much more significant “bread of life” for the sins of mankind.

You & Me & the Gospel

Our God’s finest creativity, beauty, and provision for our needs comes through this thing called “the gospel.”  It changes everything.

Zoom up 30,000 creativityfeet and get a big look at earth’s story – full of creativity and goodness, then full of sin and suffering, and then full of hope because God’s restorative creativity that’s just around the corner.

Jesus is the One God sent to enable this coming restoration – this is why He is called the Savior.

The restoration begins with me and you.  Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then died in our place, serving the judgment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  But Jesus didn’t just “open heaven’s door” for us to earn our way to heaven; His death paid for every one of our sins from the cradle to the grave which, when we truly believe, are cancelled all at once!

Beauty Created From Brokenness

It gets better.  When we believe, we are “born again;” we become one of God’s recreation projects for the rest of our lives, changing from the inside out into someone more like Jesus.  And when we die, our bodies will be changed into truly amazing and immortal bodies. And one day, not too far from now, the earth’s brokenness will be changed to shalom (wholeness).

Miracles begin with our thankfulness for the Bread.  Our personal restoration into what God wants begins by our thanking Him.  Thank Him … for Jesus suffering in our place … for the free gift of forgiveness … for the chance to be reconciled with the Creator … for His giving us a new heart … for the health and strength to live your life as a thank you to Him.

HOMEWORK: Actively search out God’s creative beauty outside.  Next, think of God’s provision for your needs.  Express it.  The answer God gives to your cry for help may hinge on you first expressing thanks to Him for things as they are.

Creativity 5.jpeg

“God must’ve had a blast. Painting the stripes on the zebra, hanging the stars in the sky, putting the gold in the sunset. What creativity! Stretching the neck of the giraffe, putting the flutter in the mockingbird’s wings, planting the giggle in the hyena. And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, He made a human who had the unique honor to bear the stamp, ‘In His Image.’”

Max Lucado

 

The Bane of Anxiety

My Nemesis

If I had to pick one bane that I have struggled with throughout my life – one toxic, irritating, distressing, plaguing companion –  it would be worry.  I may try to dress it up and make it not look so ugly, but in reality my worry is actually glaring sinful pride that opposes God (I Peter 5:5b-7).  I think I know what is best.  I want to be in control.

Who is in Control?

This Christmas all of our family – children, spouses and grandchildren – were able to gather together in one place after 2 1/2 years.  This is a rare thing indeed as many of us live on different continents.meadowsix10

I was given a very precious, thoughtful gift from my children.  They recorded their voices reading some of my very favorite Scriptures.  A gift that I will relish for a very long time.  Listening through it, Matthew 6:27 caught my ear as I heard my son’s voice reading.

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  Matthew 6:27

It is almost like we believe that if we are anxious about something, we can change it somehow.

Anxiety“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”

Battle For The Throne

gratitude throneI find that I want to be in control; I want my superior understanding of what is best, my keen sense of order, and my better set of values, to be on the throne.  It is difficult to trust that God has everything completely in control and is sovereign. And even if He is in control, He at times does things in a messy and hurtful way; there seems to be no order, purpose, or reason for an illness, an accident, or a financial reversal.  Thus, I indict my God and conclude that my way is better.

But God is worthy of my trust.  He is in control whether I acknowledge it or not, and His ways are always good, perfect, and right, though they are much higher than my ways – so high that I cannot see them or evaluate whether they are up to my standards (Isaiah 55:8-9).

What benefits, however, I would enjoy if I would embrace God’s perfect and good Providence and see my ever-changing circumstances through this lens instead of relentlessly gasping and grasping at evasive control.

Th(i)nkful and Anxiety

Our Creator knows that humans have a strong propensity towards worry.  Therefore, He has given us advice and commands on how to respond.  In the Matthew 6 passage Jesus tells us to seek the things which are above and other things will come right.  Another exhortation to combat anxiety comes from Paul in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here we are given the admonition of rejoicing in the Lord, remembering that He is near, thereby setting the foundation of being able to pour out our requests to God with prayer and supplication (supplication = asking God to supply), with thanksgiving. We must practice gratitude in our heartaches and challenges.

If you give thanks with your supplication, the Lord promises that a supernatural peace will guard your emotions and mind.  That is pretty cool!

Carefree vs. Careless

You may say that to be carefree, worry-free, seems to smack of not caring or having proper concern. Carefree is different from careless.  We truly care.  We care a lot, too much, and need to direct our care to the One Who cares for us and wants to carry our cares (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows that we struggle to control and He wants us to leave the control to Him and trust in His way.

Recently I have had the privilege of caring for three little ones while their mommy is going through some physical challenges.  anxietyIn reading to them I came across this book called Places You Haven’t See Yet: A Story About Learning to Trust God, SUCH good reading about what to do when you have anxiety.  Pray!!  We pour out our hearts to the Lord with thanksgiving.

The practice of thinking thanks in every situation is an antidote to worry.  One repulses the other.  One will win!  They cannot coexist.

P.S. I included a link to the children’s book in case anyone wanted to get it. 🙂