Th(i)nkful in the Gauntlet

What is a Gauntlet?

A gauntlet is an intimidating, frightening, and sometimes dangerous set of tests that must be endured or gone through in order to reach a desired place or an end goal.  

Remember in the movie, “First Knight,” IMG-7223how Lancelot willingly volunteered to run the gauntlet? There were blades, spikes, swords, bludgeons, paddles, and heavy balls whirling about him at different speeds, and from different directions.

He had to have excellent timing to avoid the sharp blades and dexterity to slip between the huge obstacles.  Those watching were holding their breath because the odds were not good that he would make it to the end unharmed.  But he did. 🙂

Perhaps you are in a gauntlet of sorts right now.  Life is full of challenging storms, warped pavement, intimidating obstacles, repetitious hurdles, and bends in the road through which God is trying to move us toward a closer relationship of trust with Him.

Our Gauntlet

David and I have our own gauntlet that we are running.  We are headed back to the mission field this evening.  Our plane leaves Atlanta 41968135_10160844145675273_4747634137211338752_naround 10 pm and we arrive in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, on Thursday morning, Lord willing.  These past few months we have been so busy preparing and packing … and today we go.

As we head out on this third missionary journey, I have been eager to embrace staying th(i)nkful right in the process.

Yes, there are times when I have cried so hard because we will be further away from our kids and grandchildren.  And the upcoming test of learning Zulu is daunting to me.  But putting feet to the th(i)nkful idea has brought such joy and peace.

Keeping Steady

There’s something that I do when I go through hard times that the Lord has encouraged me with.  I seek for a Bible verse to be an anchor for my soul that I can memorize and feed on.  Often I am able to come up with a little tune for the verse, and I sing it as I hurry about to accomplish the tasks and challenges before me. That little tune runs with me and inspires me to keep my thoughts where they ought to be…on Him.

Psalm 73:28 is my Zululand anchor.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God, I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works.”

Last evening, we had a final visit with our precious son and his family.  After enjoying pizza together we went up to the children’s bedroom and sat around singing songs and praying together.  We sang my little Psalm 73:28 chorus with Nicolas easily picking up the guitar chords.  What an indelible memory and gift that was for me as we leave.  I am so incredibly blessed!

My th(i)nkful list:

  • God never leaves me nor forsakes me; He is equally present on the other side of the earth
  • This life is a vapor; heaven is not now, but it’s coming (gauntlets don’t last forever)
  • My husband loves to serve the Lord and is eager to push himself out of his comfort zone to learn a new language and serve new people
  • We have an incredible prayer support team.  They are “holding the ropes” for us
  • Going through this packing process has simplified my life; it feels so good to not have so much stuff
  • Josh and Celeste and their children Face-timed us this morning to say goodbye and tell us that they are praying for us
  • My Dad is so proud of us and promises to pray often
  • Dan and Deb Willoughby are receiving us into their own home a few days on the field to let us get our feet
  • Justin and Stephanie and precious boys came down the weekend before to just be together
  • Pastor Chris, Joe, Greg, Mac, Doug, Dr. Miles, and Steve laid hands on us and prayed over us on Sunday, with an entire congregation surrounding us as they sent us out
  • Psalm 73:28
  • I am not coughing
  • I don’t have a headache
  • Jonny and Elly in China are following our journey
  • We get to bring our pillows and our soft duvet
  • Julia wanted me to teach her hand-quilting last night before I left
  • The Indian Ocean is beautiful and magnificent and we will be very close
  • We have an incredible hope in Jesus and His work on the cross

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

 

Thanksgiving is Giving Credit to Someone

Who Gets the Credit?

Have you ever noticed how many people get up and leave when it’s time for the credits at the end of a movie?  Here you have enjoyed a great story representing countless hours of work that a huge team has slaved over, but you don’t really care who all gets the credit.  I wonder if we do that in real life.

Thanksgiving is an act of humility.  Expressing thanks is saying that credit or praise belongs to someone else; to God or to other people.  Arrogant pride says I’m not sufficiently served by others; I did it by myself.  I am self sufficient.  I don’t want to owe anyone anything.  I internalize the credit and externalize the blame.

But life with Jesus Christ is so different.  He designs things so I can’t do it by myself.  On purpose!  He wants me to see that I need Him.  Desperately.  And then when I succeed, or maybe just survive an ordeal, I must give Him the credit.  He is to be thanked!cameron-patterson-co-business-accountant-handshake-office

When you take the time to shake someone’s hand and say “thank you,” you are giving that person credit.  You acknowledge that they did something that was beyond your control or ability.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” Arnold H. Glasow

Are there people in your life that need to receive credit from you?  What about your God?  Do you thank Him for who He is and what He has done?

Thanksgiving is giving the credit to someone else

fullsizeoutput_ffdGiving flowers at the end of a concert, or a conductor pointing his finger to orchestra members in gratitude, are gestures of someone giving credit to another.  Speeches given by award recipients typically deflect praise and thanks to parents and friends.  Christian coaches and quarterbacks throw their thanks to teammates and to Jesus Christ.

We give thanks when we release the credit from ourselves and give that credit to another.  When God exhorts us to give thanks in every circumstance, He knows that is for our own good. It is a self-sufficient and thankless society that will call a day dedicated to giving thanks to God “turkey day.”

agrace

A family “saying grace” before a meal

We receive a blessing, something the Bible calls “grace,” when we release the credit.  This is why a family holding hands around the table and giving thanks to the One who provided the food they are about to receive calls it “saying grace.”  It’s profound, just like our amazing Lord Jesus said in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

So, resolve this week to pass along credit to three people in your life, thanking them for who they are to you or what they’ve done for you. And then also talk to your Father, and the Son, and the Spirit about the credit they immensely deserve for all that they have done in you and for you.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward1208gift

 

Th(i)nkful for ABCD

Not All Poverty Is Created Equal

We learned some great lessons last week in “community health evangelism” training (CHE). One principle we learned was that helping the needy in Majority (3rd) World countries can be divided in two categories:

  • One category is called Relief – stopping the bleeding in emergency situations such as after an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami where people are completely helpless and needing gifts of food, water, and healthcare just to survive. Think of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37.
  • ABCD8The second category is known as Development – helping the needy by working with them to improve their general living conditions, developing their skills, giving them a hand up and not a hand out. Think of Israel leaving part of the harvest for widows like Ruth in Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

This second category is what I want to highlight. A central part of development is refusing to answer every problem with outside money, and refusing to do for people what they can and should do for themselves.

What is ABCD?

In the world of development, ABCD – ABCD4Asset-Based Community Development – is helping a struggling community improve itself by sitting down with residents and inquiring about what they already have.😊 When Moses resisted getting involved with God’s plan, God asked him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). That’s where we begin. We look at what is, not at what is missing.

“What skills, gifts, abilities, tools, supplies, and time do we already have here in our community?” At first, many reply “nothing,” and you might agree at times.  But as the moments go by, people start to mention things, and in time, you end up with a list.  The CHE team does this in “neighborhood surveys” and then brings people together to discover how their combined skills and abilities can begin to make changes.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

ABCD7This approach promotes a philosophy of thankfulness and a “can do” spirit.  In other words, a community looks to its own members to identify what assets are already present around them.

CHE teams share preventive health tips along with moral teaching and gospel truth.  Having a good and meaningful life is not just physical well-being, but also emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial health that only the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. Even an atheist said so!

How are ABCD and Th(i)nkful similar?

abcd.jpg

By focusing on assets, we search for things that perhaps we had overlooked before that we can think thanks for.  That is just what th(i)nkful is about – looking for things to think thanks about in every situation and expressing that thanks orally or in a written form.

God’s thanksgiving commands are not just for the rich and wealthy, but even for the majority of people in the world who are poor.  And it is humbling, tear-jerking, and convicting to watch someone with nothing discover that they have enough to help someone else.

Emotions are real but they are not reality, and a dose of th(i)nkfulness can turn a pity party into non-stop praise for God’s provision. Th(i)nkfulness focuses on what God has provided and sees His meticulous Providence in keeping us from what is missing.

I ASKED GOD

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.

Anonymous Civil War Soldier

 

The Brain and Thinking

Our Amazing Brains

When God created mankind in His likeness, He gave us an amazing brain. Simply put, the brain controls the mental and physical processes and the actions of a human being.brain 3

Ready for a big word?  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life.

It can be shaped very much like a ball of Play-Doh, albeit with a bit more time and effort. 🙂

Scientists claim that the brain is capable of being re-engineered – its shape, size, and functions modified – and that we are the engineers.

“Thought changes structure … I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and trauma.” ~ Norman Doidge, Canadian-born psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

Complaining and the Brain

My friend, Joanna Chapmon, sent me an article on how complaining affects the brain.brain 1 This is a visual of what happens when we constantly complain.

The neural pathways that we engage in when complaining actually change the shape of the brain, causing us to complain even more!

When we instead choose to be th(i)nkful, we can also change our brains. By choosing to think thanks about every situation in our lives we change the shape of our neural brain pathway making it easier to think thanks in the future.  Our brains are not stagnant, but continually change as they are programmed through repeated thoughts and attitudes throughout our days.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22

The admonitions in scripture from Ephesians 4:23 and Romans 12:2 sure make a lot more sense in the light of this discovery – we must renew our minds.  But amazingly, by doing so, we can actually change the inner workings of our brains to make renewed thoughts flow more naturally.  The Lord wants us to worship Him with our thoughts.  When we choose to think thanks, we are obeying His will for us as stated in Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18.  Give thanks always in every circumstance!

Th(i)nkful’s Benefits

The brain article mentioned pointed out:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision-making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Although there can be physical reasons for why someone becomes clinically depressed, there are often major reasons connected with the person’s thought patterns. Just think of the positive effects on a person’s brain when he/she engages in a pattern of th(i)nkfulness.

gibbJane Gibb, a dear co-worker of mine, shared with me how she was struggling with some stress at a particular time. She decided to engage thinking thanks about that situation, and as she cultivated the thought pattern of looking for things to give thanks for in her situation and started writing things down, the stress lessened.  She benefited.  She was putting God’s Word into practice by renewing her mind.

Challenge

So how are you programming your brain these days?  You are programming yourself whether on purpose, or not.  Do you naturally gravitate towards complaining about a situation or do you instead look for things to be thinkful about in that situation?

I challenge you to begin aggressively carving out some new th(i)nkful neural pathways that will not only help you grow in Christ as He desires, but also benefit you physically as well.

Further study:

  • Professor Richard Restak, Optmizing Brain Fitness.
  • Dr. Caroline Leaf, a South African neurologist,  has done extensive work on the thinking and the brain.

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Second Right

Anxiety My Enemy

Anxiety is not my friend.

I have had a propensity towards being anxious as long as I can remember.  Philippians 4:6, which says, “Don’t be anxious about anything,”  has been a place where I have parked often.

Recently I had a friend point out some valuable insights into that passage. When you consider the verses that surround the famous verse 6, you get a better picture of what Paul was exhorting the Philippians to do.

4 Rights

Let’s take Philippians 4:5-9 apart. There are 4 Rights in this passage – Right Awareness, Right Praying, Right Thinking, and Right Practice.

1. Right AwarenessRight Awareness

(v.5 CSB) Let your graciousness [gentleness, reasonableness] be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  When we are in a conflict or facing hard circumstances, that pressure can cause our words and reactions to be filled with spikes and poison.  We need to realize that God is right here in our presence (Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Hebrews 13:5-6), and we are right there in God’s presence (Ephesians 2:6, Hebrews 10:19-22)!

Every sin that we commit is a result of a wrong view of God. If we practiced His presence, we would sputter and fume less and speak to Him more.  Jesus tore down the curtain into the Holy Place by His work on the cross, and we are allowed to enter in without a priest and speak to the God who created or permitted these circumstances!  The Lord is near is a great reminder that we should turn our thoughts toward Him and pour out our hearts.  He is there observing us; He fights for us; He prays for us. He is at hand in formulating the trial and filtering the toxic to get us to trust Him and talk to Him.

2. Right Praying.

(vv.6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgivingRight Praying 2 let your requests be make known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This SECOND RIGHT is the one I want to emphasize. In the middle of instructing us to ask God to respond to our needs in specific ways, Paul adds “with thanksgiving.”  We are to pray earnestly (“please help with this”) with thanksgiving (“thanks for this”). We need to think thanks about what is testing us and express that thanks to God.

How do we do that?  We choose to look for things that we can be th(i)nkful for right in the difficulty.  It is after praying this way that the supernatural peace comes that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In fact, some would argue that thanksgiving is the trigger for downloading God’s peace.

3. Right Thinking.Right thinking

(v. 8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things.

Having rolled my burdens onto the Lord, it is amazing how quickly I grab them back and then stress over them as though I am the only God who can fix them.  Paul writes that the battle is in our meditations. I need to focus on what’s true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  By way of contrast,  what we should not think about are things that are untrue, improper, dodgy, blameworthy, evil, dubious, unethical, shameful, ignoble, and disgraceful, to name a few.

4. Right Practice.

(v.9) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So after we have now learned this new way of living – right awareness of the Lord’s presence right here, right now, right praying that always includes thanksgiving, and right thinking that fuels our outlook and conduct, we are to DO this over and over.  We practice this.  We are not just hearers of the Word, but doers.

Second Right

Being th(i)nkful is a direct cure for anxiety.  When we worry, we are not trusting that God is in control.  When we are th(i)nkful, we are resting in His sovereignty and choosing to meditate on all the things we can be thankful for instead of untruths that fuel our anxieties.

Dr. Shelbi Cullen, my counseling internship professor at Master’s Seminary, shared these thoughts to help me help others, but I have found that it is first helping me.  🙂

  1. Remember that the Lord is right nearby.
  2. Pray hard with thanksgiving.
  3. Think the right way.
  4. Practice these things.

Practice th(i)nkfulness to vanish anxiety

Th(i)nkful for Truth

What is Truth?

Truth – any statement in accord with fact or reality as known in the mind of God

True – fidelity to an original or standard; if something lines up with Truth it is true.

Sometimes the best way to define something is to say what is the opposite.92E02B33-75E6-4B48-9324-C3B52B40A131  Truth has no elements or shades of unreality.  Something that is true is not a lie.  It has fidelity (loyalty) to the standard. It is true to the original.

A picture of truth is when Jesus claimed that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  He is truth personified.

While Jesus is the living Word of God, the Bible is the written Word of God. John 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Bible is Truth.

  • Psalm 119:160  “You word is true from the beginning: and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
  • John 8:32 – “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
  • John 16:13 – “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. “
  • John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
  • Galatians 2:5 – “We didn’t yield in submission to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “rightly handling the word of truth”

Truth Belt

God’s Truth is described as both a belt and a sword in Ephesians 6:14-18.  It holds the armor together but as a sword it also pierces between the soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Why Be Th(i)nkful for Truth?

If we have no standard, there is nothing to shape our worldview or perspective. There is no objective standard of right and wrong – humanity just makes rules up as we go along.

Without Truth there is also no meaning, value or purpose to our lives except what we subjectively make up to give ourselves and our friends and family some happiness.  Without Truth, everything that happens in life is without design – just a matter of random fate, luck, chance or fortune. But when we acknowledge Truth, everything changes. We have a solid anchor to hold us steady.

The Value of “Speaking Truth into Someone”

snowrope-e1532456704174.jpgWhere I grew up in Norway, snowstorms at times would bring “whiteout” conditions where you couldn’t see a few feet in front of you. If a building near town was 20-50 yards away, a whiteout was dangerous. Some people got lost and their frozen bodies weren’t found until spring. So the town put up a rope fence tying the buildings together.

Truth is like that rope line; without it, you’re on your own and death is likely.  The value of having truth spoken into your life by a friend is immeasurable; it brings you back to the straight line in a swirl of circumstances, emotions, and panicked reactions.  A friend helps realign our perspective – –

“Wait!  Our God is in control.  He has allowed your failure … designed this illness … sent this financial reversal … to accomplish a number of things for His glory and your improvement.  Your pain has nothing to do with Him being angry; He didn’t spare His own Son from pain.  He is not wringing His hands or pacing around His throne.  He is looking at us right now and whispering  ‘perfect.’ You’re not in this alone. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and I am here for you as well. I’m so sorry it hurts, so sorry, but our God is up to something.” 

Changes in perspective bring changes in emotions, changes in our conduct, and at times, changes in the outcome.  Just recently I was going through a mental battle.  Difficulties and different trials were pressing on my thoughts; I was increasingly dominated by sad feelings.  And then, I had a dear friend “speak truth” into my life.  Wow!  What a change.

Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak truth in love to each other in order for us to grow up in Christ.  This means mostly grace seasoned with salt that stings at times (Colossians 4:6) but not the other way around. If you trust a person’s love, there are few things better than sitting back together and “truth-telling” – stating the good things that are true, thankfully gasping at the bad things that didn’t happen, and mulling over our God’s promises and presence that never change.

Thank you God for being Truth, for giving us Truth, and for enabling us to speak the truth in love to one another.

Th(i)nkful for Normal

The Mistake of Ignoring “Normal”

normal walking

Last evening David and I were going for a walk to get our steps in and stretch our legs.  As we briskly moved along, it hit me what a lame person would give to be doing what we were doing. Just walking.

Movements, abilities, and the painless comfort that I don’t even think about would mean so much to another person.  My whole life is full of seeing, doing, touching, tasting, smelling and hearing things that I don’t fully value or appreciate.  Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

Different Makes Me Thankful for Normal

When I lose the ability to do something, I become acutely aware of how much I miss it.  And on the other hand, when I regain a lost ability, or when the pain finally goes away, I am so very thankful.  Getting lost in a city or travelling for a long time in the third world makes me so glad for the normal of home.

When we spend time with our dear friends who are battling cancer, struggling with an ongoing disability, living with disease, or coping with advancing age, we resist feeling guilty that “the lines have fallen to us in pleasant places,” and we become so very thankful for our “normal” life, which is actually an amazing gift of grace on this curse-ravaged earth.

When Different Becomes Normal

But as many of you know, our “normal” can change drastically in a short time to something very different than we ever expected.  Sometimes we learn that this detour is actually our new main road.  We then have the opportunity to discover things to be thankful for in that new normal.  And if the human outlook seems bleak, we who believe in Jesus have a final and ultimate normal to look forward to – standing face to face with our Redeemer, free from pain, full of the love, joy, and shalom that our Creator initially designed to be our “normal.”  What hope!

Being Th(i)nkful for “Normal”

You can turn “normal” into thankfulness.  How?  Get out a piece of paper.man writing on a piece of paper

Write down 10 wonderful things about your “normal” right now? Which of the five senses do you enjoy? What pains don’t you have? What police station, court, morgue, hospital, or funeral homes haven’t you visited lately? What extreme weather conditions are you enduring right where you’re sitting reading this blog post?  How much gunfire and shelling have been happening outside your window? How much food is in your refrigerator and pantry?

Have you ever been at a prayer meeting where the leader asks for praises to begin the service?  Often it gets all quiet.  How neat it would be to have someone say: “I am so thankful that I could hear you make that request.” 🙂 I think of what it must be like for a born deaf person to hear for the first time.  I have inserted this video of a little deaf boy hearing his father’s voice for the first time.  When his eyes show that he is aware of something new, something different, it is like he enters Narnia ~ a whole new world. If you have already been walking around in the Narnia of hearing, you sure have a lot to think thanks about.

Th(i)nkful people spot opportunities to give thanks in the minutia – for seeing rainbows in soap bubbles, hearing a baby’s laugh, smelling freshly mown grass, and touching a rabbit’s ears. A thinkful person imagines what would happen if all of this mundane “normal” stuff was taken away … and expresses that thanks in verbal or written form.

So when I am tempted to complain about doing my normal responsibilities, like shopping, normal 1let me instead be th(i)nkful for my car, for my ability to drive to the shop, push a cart, have the funds, make decisions from often hundreds of choices … and so on. As the familiar meme says, “what if we had tomorrow only what we thanked God for today?”

 

Getting into the habit of thinking thanks turns “normal” into a celebration.

 

Can’t Stop It!

Abounding Water

overflowing 4Whether you imagine Iguazu Falls in South America, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Niagara Falls in New York, or the Laguna hot springs in the Philippines, each gives us a strong image of abounding water that can’t be stopped.  Strong, smooth, steady, and striking in their beauty, the abounding flow cannot be held back and rushes over the edge.

Some synonyms for abounding: very plentiful, abundant, considerable, copious, ample, lavish, profuse, boundless, prolific, inexhaustible, generous, galore.

Abounding Thanksgiving

The Apostle Paul once wrote to new believers in a town called Colossae. He had never met them, but as with so many of his letters, he wanted to straighten out their understanding of Christ and then help them see how that would straighten out the way that they lived life. He told them to focus on the foundation:

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7

Inexhaustible thankfulness, he said, is an integral part of the very foundation of the Christian life. In one sentence, Paul used four metaphors! The rooting of a tree, the construction of a building, the settlement of a colony, and the overflow of a waterfall.

sodaburstThe word translated “abounding” from the Greek unfortunately has no English equivalent.  It means “to super-abound, to be excessive, to go way beyond.”

We’re not talking about something mild, occasional, or comfortable here. Because of the gospel of Christ, we’ve been rescued, ransomed, redeemed, restored, adopted, declared righteous, vested with an inheritance, given a different road, a different Guide, a different purpose, and a different destination.

We need to literally bubble up and burst with thanksgiving, like the bottle of soda you dropped just before the party. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 15:58 where we are told to always abound in the work of the Lord.

Abounding and You?

A person growing in Christ should be abounding in thanksgiving.  This is a basic Christian-life skill.  It’s fundamental.  So what does that look like for me?  Is this something that just happens naturally or do I need to consciously work on thinking thanks in order to abound in thanksgiving?  Duty begins with discipline but can end up as a delight.

There can be no doubt that God desires us to be thankful. How about trying to just think of one thing today that you could express thankfulness for to someone?

Drop.  Trickle.  Flow.  Gush!

Thankfulness and Sexual Sin

Connection Between Sexual Sin and Thanksgiving

Studying what the Bible has to say about thanksgiving over the past couple of years has yielded some fascinating truths.  I knew that being thankful was a good thing and that God was honored by it, but I am learning that thankfulness is, at the same time, a comfort and a powerful weapon.

There are strategic placements of contrast throughout the Scriptures.  Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Using this same replacement principle in another letter, the apostle Paul contrasts sexual sin and thanksgiving.

Watchman Nee once summarized Ephesians as “Sit, Walk, Stand.” In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul is helping believers understanding the contrast between the sinful patterns of the old life and the new walk of faith and love as a regenerate Jesus-follower.  Then, he says something eye-opening.

“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. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  Ephesians 5:3-5

Regret

Instead of engaging in sexual sins, obscenity, sexual talk, and sexual humor – wholly improper and out of place for believers – there is to be thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving is the replacement, or can we say cure, for sexual sin.

Sexual sin is rooted in a heart that is discontent with God’s ways and what God has provided and seizes control to get its “deserved” comforts and pleasures. Rebel willfulness ignores the commands of Christ, and even what is healthy in the long run, and runs off into pornography, adulterous relationships, fornication, sexual abuse, and the list goes on.  The 180 degree opposite is a th(i)nkful person, learning to be content, celebrating what God has provided rather than chafing and brooding over what is missing. Dr. John Street writes:

“Giving thanks to God is an integral part of being a Christian – a child of God.  This is particularly true in the life of the believer as it relates to sexuality.  Those who are discontent and unthankful for how God has made them will often be greatly tempted to indulge in sexual deviancy.”  Dr. John Street, The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, p. 305

Learning to Be Content

In life you can almost always boil down your struggles to whether you serve Self or God.  God doesn’t hate our bodies and cravings.  He designed them.  He wants us to enjoy our bodies to the fullest.  He even uses the picture of how we love ourselves in showing how we are to love others because it is a given that we love ourselves.

Thinking thanks about your situations will help you be content.  There is a peace that comes from filling your mind with gratitude.  God is in control.  He knows what is so hard for you right now.  He also has given us His Word to help us.  Rather, let there be thanksgiving, He says, to combat sexual sin and temptation.

“Gratitude is the opposite of every sin we commit.”

Freedom

Breaking free from sexual sin is a huge battle.  The doom may scream at you – “You are a slave! A prisoner! You’ve been in this too far and too long to ever get out!” Regret overcome 2 You need hope and a powerful weapon!  Heath Lambert, author of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, said something in a lecture that grabbed my attention.  He said that “gratitude is the opposite to every sin we commit.”

There is hope.  It could start with thanksgiving.  In I Corinthians 10:13, Paul wrote that with temptation there is also a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.  I strongly believe that one of the great ways of escape is th(i)nkfulness.


Hey, it’s always good to get a little feedback.  I received this note from a person who reads my blog:

Dear Karin, I just want to thank you for your teaching on thinkfulness. We are in a really difficult place right now but God is good and He is ever-present and His hand is at work. The unknown is always so scary though, but as I was journaling this morning I was just considering how powerful thinkfulness is, and how thankful I am to be able to use it in being victorious. So I just wanted to thank you for being willing to share this concept that the Lord put on your heart, it is a huge blessing to me!

3 Benefits of Being Th(i)nkful

1. Being Th(i)nkful Helps Us Process Life

Inspiration 1 IBM Electronice Data Processing Machine by NASA 1957

Here’s a processing tool. This is a picture of an IBM computer lab taken in 1957. The computer does its primary work in a part of the machine we cannot see, a control center that converts data input into information output. The computer is able to process information that has been entered into its memory bank. How far we have come from these huge machines to our I-phones processing info right in our hands.

Th(i)nkful is a processing adjective.  It describes a person who is processing things happening around them, in them, and to them, taking the input and converting it to gratitude.

Th(i)nkful (adj):  choosing to download grace/strength from the Lord to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.

We process all the time.  Mostly it happens automatically, the brain repeating the same neural pathway that we have taught it to do over and over again. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to process life differently.  That takes effort; it moves us out of our comfort zone.  It is hardest at first, just like blazing a new trail through the woods or forming any good habit, but with repetition, it becomes easier.

2.  Being Th(i)nkful Breeds Inspiration Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. I have received inspiration from hearing how other people did something.  I have a friend who is always reaching out to her neighbors with brownies, building relationships.  When I hear about her doing that, it inspires me to do likewise.

Taking the mental effort to think thanks about what is going on in my life and expressing that can be very inspiring to others.  They may feel an urge to also be th(i)nkful about their circumstances. An added benefit is that if you write down your expressions of gratitude in a journal, you can inspire even yourself years later as you reread those pages.

3.  Being Th(i)nkful Is Obedience

The Bible is full of exhortations to be thankful.  I Thessalonians 5:18 spells it out starkly:  In all circumstances give thanks. Both Ephesians and Colossians, the Twin Epistles, give specific commands to be thankful.  Colossians has a verse in each of its four chapters dealing with being thankful and in the third chapter there are three verses in a row that urge the reader to be thankful.

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                                                                               Colossians 3:15-17

canine-dog-pet-cute-fur-nose-ears-training-sitting-obey-obeying-begging-780x520

Have you ever taken a dog to obedience school?  It is pretty tricky to teach obedience to a dog.  In training, you give them a series of tests to see whether they will overcome, still obey, and do what they’ve learned.  If successful, you will enjoy the company of your canine to an even higher degree. When we learn obedience, just like our four-legged friends, we become a joy to our Father.

If we love the Lord, He says we will obey His commandments from the heart.  The commands of Christ were given by Him as our Creator for our benefit, to keep us from scars and destruction, and to push us toward a flourishing life. And He sends tests to see whether we will still obey, and with the tests He makes His grace downloadable.  Thankfulness in the good times is easy; thankfulness amid the dark wind and waves is altogether different.  We should obey, but in our obedience is also our overcoming.

So….there you have it!  3 blessings that come from being th(i)nkful:

  1. It helps us process life
  2. It serves as an inspiration to others as well as to ourselves
  3. It honors God by simply obeying

 

Inspiration 4