Choosing Gratitude

The Christian Captain from the Townships

It’s a pretty exciting time here in South Africa – we just won the Rugby World Cup! Choosing gratitude 12What’s just as noteworthy is that our first black captain, Siya Kolisi, led the team to the top. He is a Jesus-follower and rose from very humble beginnings.

In the old Apartheid South Africa (1948-1992), white people lived in the suburbs and worked in the cities. Blacks lived segregated in “townships” ringing the cities – places of poverty and crime, tiny homes and tin shacks crammed close together, poor public services, and dismal education.

Siya grew up in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  He was raised by his grandmother and was often unsure if he would have anything to eat during the day.  His favorite toy was a brick.

Reflecting on his childhood, Siya insists he was given the most important things in life – “love and support.” He frequently uses the word “tough” to describe his childhood, yet admits he didn’t realize it was so hard at the time; it was simply all he knew.

choosing gratitude 13He “fell off the wagon” a bit during his teen years even though he identified himself as a Christian. Eventually, he chose to be grateful for what he had, and began to work hard.

“While struggling with a lot of things personally — temptations, sins and lifestyle choices — I realized I wasn’t living according to what I was calling myself: a follower of Christ. I was getting by, but I hadn’t decided to fully commit myself to Jesus Christ and start living according to His way.

Walking alongside a spiritual mentor, I’ve been able to discover the truth and saving power of Christ in a whole new way. This new life has given me a peace in my heart I’d never experienced before. I don’t have to understand everything in life, and there are so many things I don’t, but I know God is in control of it all. My job is to do the best I can and leave the rest in His hands.”  – Siya Kolisi

Thankfulness? In South Africa?

Many people here consider this a struggle. Due to systemic corruption, unmanageable debt, the collapse of the electrical grid, and chronic crime, thousands of skilled South Africans are emigrating every month because they see a collapse coming.  About 15% of the houses on the market now are families leaving.

In a recent sermon series on a scriptural view of emigration, Pastor Des Venter spoke frankly about contentment. Contentment is wanting what you already have. It is focusing on and celebrating the good things in your God-given status quo.  He said we will not be content in another place if we have not learned to be content with our present place. Contentment comes from within.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned to be content in whatever situation he was in. He had learned how to be poor and how to cope with an abundance of funds. He had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Outside circumstances were beside the point; he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

Gratitude Creates Contentment

When you begin to incorporate thinking thanks about your present reality, you foster contentment in your ‘now.’ Many of us are problem-solvers; the downside of that is that we find no rest in our spirit until our issues are sorted out. Stopping for a minute and thinking thanks adds weight to the positive side of the scale and brings you back toward balance.Choosing-Gratitude

In expressing gratitude, your circumstances do not change, your mindset does.

Many South Africans are feeling much better about their country … simply because we won the rugby world cup. Why is that? Because we finally had something positive to focus on, and with hearts of gratitude, our outlook on our other and greater challenges somehow seems more positive.

Choosing to speak out and write down your thankfulness in the midst of hardships takes both hard work and a work of God’s grace. The Lord begins to knit your expressions of thanks into a beautiful creation that only He could provide the fortitude to accomplish.

“… Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 5:20

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 7.46.15 PMThe Choice of Gratitude

“For every Joni Eareckson Tada or Corrie ten Boom, there are countless others whose names and stories few have ever heard, who endure the worst that life has to offer and still come up thankful. Not unscarred, not unmoved, not functioning out of reality like robots, but still spotting reasons for hope and promise. They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.

No, the days don’t always get easier. The nights can still drag until utter exhaustion finally pulls a person under for a few hours’ sleep. But those who say “No” to resentment and “Yes” to gratitude, even in the face of excruciating pain, incomprehensible loss, and ongoing adversity, are the ones who really survive. They stand against the tide of memories, threats, loss, and sadness, and answer back. With gratitude.”

From Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss

choosing gratitude 14

 

“They seem to know that the only thing more debilitating than what they’re going through would be going through it ungratefully.” 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

 

New Pathways

Your Brain and Your Mind

a post on working hard 1Let’s do an experiment. Using your left index finger, point to your brain. Now using your right index finger, point to your mind.

You paused. Yes, you did. We don’t necessarily think of our brain and mind as being the same thing. And they are different.

My husband will ask his students, “Does God have a brain?” and they pause. To say God is brainless just seems so wrong, but they know God is spirit, and a brain is a physical organ, so no, He doesn’t have a brain. David makes fun of the student for a while, but they are correct. God is infinite Mind, but has no brain.

In understanding the relationship between brain and mind, I like the analogy of a horse and an expert rider.  The two work together as one; when you hurt one, the other is affected as well. One day, your brain – that three-pound slab of tofu – will die with the rest of your mortal body … but your mind, an integral part of the soul-spirit, will live on.

Renewing Your Brain

Now. Here is something amazing. Renewing your mind can also renew your brain.

MIND: You have probably heard about renewing the mind, but let’s review quickly. Paul writes about it in several places:

  • Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …”
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 – ” … put off your old self … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God …”
  • Colossians 3:10 – “… having put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

The Lord is our owner; He bought us back. As with any computer or animal that you have acquired from someone else, or a child that you’ve adopted, there is a certain amount of reprogramming that needs to be done to stop the harmful old ways and dysfunctions and build in some new patterns.

We work, with God’s help, to put off old patterns of thought, speech and action. We put on new patterns that both honor God and are better for us. This re-patterning is called renewing the mind.  I love how this concept is developed in How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. We don’t have to remain as we are.

BRAIN: But, how you choose to think about things also changes the physical structure – “the wiring” – in your brain.  In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, wrote what has become known as Hebb’s axiom:

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Endoscope - neuronsThis is an actual endoscope photograph of neurons that have touched so many times, they have now formed synapses and connected. Whatever the thoughts were, they have now become a pattern … for better or worse.

Now follow me. Things we experience – whether a feeling, a thought, a sensation – flow like electrical charges through thousands of neurons (wires) that are arranged in a network. The ends of these neurons, called dendrites, are where electrical charges jump across to another neuron.

OK, a new thought pattern now enters, like choosing to be th(i)nkful.  Repeated charges shooting between two dendrites amazingly will form a new piece, called a synapse, that connects the neurons together to make a new pathway so that those thoughts or reactions will recur more frequently. This is why certain sounds or smells can trigger good memories or bad, and create giddiness or fear.

Hebb’s Rule explains that renewing the mind and renewing the structure of the brain go hand in hand. His research supports biblical truth. You can shape your brain’s neuronal architecture by choosing what you focus on.

A Testimony – Reshaping the Brain by Being Thinkful

I had someone send me this encouraging note regarding how she sought to implement thinking thanks in her life:a brain pathway

The practice of thinking thanks that I learned that day at your seminar has been life transforming. It has been the thing that has gotten me through difficult times. At first it was hard work. My mind would drift off my thankful list down a dark pathway of “what if’s” and I would have to pull myself back. But now it really has become a habit, and therefore it gets easier and easier! PTL for those new pathways in my brain. They have allowed me to sleep and work through difficult times. It is so amazing how God made our brain! Thank you for sharing these great principles with us!

Practicing thinking thanks even when it is quite hard to do so, will bring results. It will get easier as you develop the brain neural pathway of th(i)nkfulness.

Just Right Thinking Is Not Enough

Our relationship to Christ is not simply based on thinking His thoughts and acting the way He does. a worshipper

“We are more than thinkers. We are worshipers who enter into relationship with the person or thing we think will give us life. Jesus comes to transform our entire being, not just our mind. He comes as a person, not as a cognitive concept we insert into a new formula for life.”

(How People Change, Tim Lane/Paul Tripp)

Let God renew your mind and fill it with thankfulness. But go beyond merely seeing His hand or the greater good in your circumstances. Let your thanks be turned into worship of the Creator, loving Him for His names and attributes. Worship your Lord through your thinking.

Singing at My Execution

Arrested by Law

Bali9Andrew Chan was one of the ringleaders of the Bali Nine, a group of Australians who were convicted for smuggling 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia in April 2005. Indonesia is tough on drug offenders. When convicted, Andrew became desperate. He wanted to die, but was afraid to face eternity because of something in the back of his mind from his childhood.

When Andrew was younger, growing up in a Buddhist home in Sydney, Australia, a neighbor named Luke took him to Sunday School, and Andrew heard the gospel clearly presented. What if there really was a life after death?

Arrested By Grace

Andrew asked the guards for a Bible and began reading voraciously.  With a little guidance from Luke who visited the prison, Andrew came to saving faith.  The gospel transformed him completely.

A short time later, the sentences were announced: most of the nine received life sentences; Chan and the other ringleader received the death penalty. Puzzling God’s purposes, Andrew poured himself into ministry. As he appealed his sentence, he used the next 10 years of his life to lead over 200 prisoners to the Lord, baptize them, run Bible-studies, finish seminary online; he even started a church within the prison!

“So I suppose I’m thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I’m studying and, you know, a lot of people might say that it’s probably no use. Look where you’re staying!  But I believe God has given me this time for a purpose.” Andrew Chan, 2012 interview

A1 Bali Execution Song 1Finishing With Worship

Andrew did two things just hours before he died: he married his sweetheart, Febyanti Herewila, and prepared a eulogy to be read at his funeral in Sydney. He was executed for his crimes on Indonesia’s “Death Island” on April 29, 2015.

But Andrew was a man ready to meet his Maker.  Dispelling fear, he led the other prisoners in singing praises to the Lord as the firing squad made ready.  They were on the second verse of 10,000 Reasons when the shots fired.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind …

Dispelling Fear by Calling The Name

In my last blogpost, I emphasized the second phrase in Psalm 69:30: “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” When we magnify the Lord, His hiddenness dissolves and His presence becomes more obvious.

aa Name Dispels FearBut in the first phrase, the Psalmist states he will sing praise to the name of the Lord. In fact, devout Jews refer to God only as “Hashem” – the Name. Proverbs 18:10 likens the name of the Lord to a strong tower; a person who runs to it is safe.

Angst and fear become fidgety around the name of Jesus.  They are unwelcome and ill-fitting guests in His company.  Like darkness that cannot fight back against light, anxiety begins to fade.

Have you ever sung a song that uses the names of God? Remember Jesus, Name Above All Names? My husband wrote a few more verses for that song highlighting more names of the Lord.

Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus, Name above all names,
Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord,
Emmanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.

Jesus, Splendid Creator,
Mighty Sustainer, Sov’reign of all that is,
The Cornerstone, Daystar and Dayspring,
Wonderful Couns’lor, Prince of Peace.

Jesus, Lion of Judah,
Root of Jesse, humble Nazarene,
Anointed One, Son of David,
Blessed Messiah, Coming King.

Jesus, Man of Sorrows,
Kinsman Redeemer, scorned and rejected,
The Lamb of God, spotless yet suffering,
Buried, then risen up from the grave.

Jesus, Faithful and True One,
Alpha, Omega, Ancient of Days,
The angels, falling before Thee,
Join with our voices, echo our praise.

In the morning when I worship the Lord in thanksgiving, I love to rehearse the names of the Lord:  “You are Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, El Roi, Adonai, Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Sabaoth, Jehovah Mekoddishkem, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Rohi, Jehovah Shammah.”

How about creatively designing a thanksgiving song of your own focusing on the Names of God that dispel fear?

A1 Bali 8

Magnify

To Make Larger

Isn’t it fun to see beautiful and intricate details become larger?

a-blog-on-magnifying-3.jpg

The object remains the same size but we make it appear larger by using a lens or electronic device. We see minutiae that was hidden. Tiny particles and movements proudly take their place on a broader stage for all to see.  Your life may have been saved due to man’s ability to magnify.

Speech That Magnifies

We can make something larger with our words, too. I know, you immediately think about the fish stories men tell, but I am not referring to lying or stretching the truth. I mean that we can speak about truths that people have never noticed, or have forgotten, or that have become lost in the spinning morass of competing ideas. God is such an idea, and we can magnify Him by giving thanks to Him in the company of those who seldom think about Him.

The Hiddenness of God

God is not small. But God is hidden. Can’t see Him. Can’t touch Him. Can’t hear Him. An increasing number of people in the world believe He does not even exist because He cannot be detected using the scientific method and our amazing technology.

Even Job, in ancient days, complained, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him” (Job 23:8-9).

Moses wrote “The secret things belong to the Lord,” and Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2), and Isaiah wrote “Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (Is. 45:15).

a blog on magnify 9God is this way by design, hiding Himself from the casual browser and revealing Himself only to those who truly dig and work hard to discover Him for themselves, like those who search for golden rocks in South Africa’s mines.

Moses told Israel, one day, “you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). Almost 3,000 years later, a 17th century French Christian philosopher highlighted the same idea.

“[God] determined that it was not right that He should appear in an obviously divine manner, completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who were sincerely seeking Him.  

He has, therefore, willed to make himself quite recognizable and willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who do not seek Him.”  – Blaise Pascal

Magnifying the Lord

So, our God is hidden – out of sight, out of mind to the world around us. What can we do?

We can season a conversation ever so humbly and tastefully by openly giving thanks to God for … whatever fits … our kids, for a clean bill of health, for our marriage, for a job, for the accident we just avoided, for the peace we feel knowing God is in control, for a confident expectation beyond the grave. Expressing thanks to God, without debating His existence, opens the door for the Spirit of God to confirm to an unbelieving heart that He is there.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30

How do you make God bigger by being th(i)nkful?  The Hebrew word in the above verse for magnify is gadal.  It means: to advance, boast, bring up, exceed, lift up, increase, promote. It is actually a marketing term.

When we speak up and say we’re thankful to God, we magnify Him. Our words focus a mental lens on the God that others have failed to notice. All of a sudden – whoah! – there is God … behind that thing that is going well … behind that virtue you learned in the hard times.

coffee-meeting

What Do You Magnify?

Chances are you magnify something. It begins with what you focus on in your mind. You dwell on it. You’re intrigued by it. You study it out. You worship it in that you give it ‘worth’ in your thought-time priority.

And then you speak … and cause others to push back the clutter and focus on it as well.

Time to magnify God.

Start today.

Regarding Home

The Problem with “Home”

Screen Shot 2019-07-13 at 10.11.09 AMMy life in the will of God right now is a bit crazy. We have two “homes” – an apartment in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, and a mission-owned house in Atlanta to which we return twice a year while we train new missionaries.  It is bizarre to leave home … to go back home!

There are three key elements that help me feel at home: the presence of my husband, music that we play in the house, and a Yankee Candle called Home Sweet Home.  We light this candle, its fragrance fills the place, and my nose tells me I am home.

When God’s Word Finds A Home

My mind and heart are also homes, and many things live in them; some residents bring peace and others cause conflict. This morning I was meditating on Colossians 3, and came to verse 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.”

a blog on the bibleThe Apostle Paul writes that the message about Jesus should be at home in us profusely, filling every room, like that Yankee Candle.  His Word should fill and flavor our thinking, influencing what we want, what we mediate on, and eventually what we say and do.

As we are changed, we end up sharing this potpourri of the soul with each other, exchanging insights, singing deep truths captured in new songs and golden oldies, with heart-compelled thankfulness to the Lord. In True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer wrote:

“A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment.”

Can God’s Mission Be Home?

I want you to know that home can be somewhere else from where you have always known it to be. Because of the great love of our Savior, we can choose to make home where He wants us to go. Yes, it may feel a bit awkward at first, and that we somehow are turning our back on our incredibly loved extended family members, but God pours out grace for us to create home in a new place, embrace His will and, in time, even love it.

a blog on BMW

David and I are presently in the midst of helping out with missionary training at our mission headquarters outside of Atlanta, GA.Our days are full of serving in different capacities from teaching, counseling new and older missionaries, helping with the youth sessions, serving in the nursery, recording videos for the mission … and the list goes on.

There are so many conversations with people getting ready to take their “home” around the world. At times, I feel I get a little glimpse of just how important these days are to our Savior, the Lord Jesus.

As an MK (missionary kid) I am very aware of the costs of missionary life. My family first crossed the Atlantic by boat to make a home in Norway in 1964, when I was 4 years old.  Since then we have always taken flights. 🙂a blogpost about oceanliners

David and I took our four children and made a home in South Africa over twenty years ago. In the group currently going through missionary training here at HQ, there are three people headed for South Africa, all aware of the coming cost of serving cross-culturally.

The idiom “Home is where the heart is” actually means one’s home is made up of the places and people one loves or cherishes most. As we grow to love and cherish our Lord God, we can find home anywhere He chooses for us to be, but in reality and in the long haul, heaven is our home.

I hate to break it to you, but your life will be over soon. Live in such a manner that when you finish, you will be filled with thankfulness and not regrets.Muizenberg Beach huts, South Africa edit #2

What Are You Wearing?

Your Character As Clothing

If your heart characteristics, and your corresponding behavior, could be visualized as clothing, what would your wardrobe look like?aa blog on put off: put on 2

Your suit of stateliness might be hanging there, or your mood-swing blouse with alternating black and white stripes.  The tie-dyed t-shirt of trouble-free unpredictability or your sweatsuit of steadfastness might be folded there on the shelf.  Do you still have that flannel shirt of forgiveness? And where is that cardigan of kindness that you used to wear all the time?

You Can’t Wear Everything At Once

There you stand wearing a winter coat. Oddly, now you try to put on a jacket over top of the coat.  It doesn’t work.  It is way too tight.  You don’t look normal, and you couldn’t act normally throughout your day.  There is a simple point: you don’t wear everything at once. You make a choice each day as to what you will put on.  And when there is a drastic change (cold to hot, office to sport, carpentry to surgery), you put off one set of clothes to put on another set that corresponds to the new demands of the day.

The visual of putting off and putting on clothing is a theme repeated throughout the Bible (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:3,10; 64:6; Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 19:13).

“The figure of changing clothes is, in good Hebrew tradition, an appeal to make an inward and spiritual change.” – Alan F. Johnson

The Replacement Principle – Put Off, Then Put On

aa-blog-on-put-off-put-on-1.jpgThe Apostle Paul used this wardrobe principle in “the twin epistles” – Ephesians and Colossians.  If you are following Jesus, “put off your old self … be renewed in the spirit of your minds … and put on the new self….” 

But in Colossians 3:5-17, Paul repeatedly stresses this change of clothing.  Your old “you” (enslaved to the power of Sin) died with Christ. Now, when you obey the internal impulses of Sin by committing sins, you make a fool of yourself.  You’re a child of the King! Why are you wearing those stinky old rags!?

  • Put to death [the list of sins] – v. 5
  • Put them all away [and another list of sins] – v. 8
  • You have put off the old self – v. 9

  • Put on the new self – v. 10
  • Put on [virtues that are listed] – v. 12
  • Put on love, which ties everything together – v. 14

At the end of this put-off-put-on passage, Paul gives us a hint at the importance of the garment of thankfulness – he mentions it three times in three verses.  This is the only such passage in the entire Bible.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  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.  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

Time To Go Searching or Shopping?

wardrobeHow often do you put on gratitude? Do you know where it is in your closet? Do you even own the garment?  You might need to go shopping.

But owning the garment is not enough. Thankfulness doesn’t just automatically spring from the closet and cling to your body in the morning.  You have to put on gratitude.  And in order for it to fit properly, you must first put off the musty coat of ingratitude.  So often, you think that life stinks, when actually it’s just your old coat.

So, aside from this garment metaphor, how do you actually change? The key lies in Ephesians 4:23 and Colossians 3:10: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

The New You and the New Clothes

The power of Sin used your bodily impulses to force you to commit “sins.” It also messed with your mind pushing you to control your world and everyone in it for your own happiness.  And the world was never fully right, so you were seldom truly happy, focused on the shortcomings of life rather than all that was amazing and good.

Then Jesus came.  Jesus put off the enjoyment of His glory so that He could put on our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21) – how’s THAT for a garment switch! – and then He sent His Spirit to help transform believers.  Your old self died when you believed in Christ (Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3), and the new “you” was born.

Your old reasoning and old habits are your old clothes. You start out your Christian life with them, but they don’t belong in the wardrobe of the redeemed, so throughout your life, you are discovering and throwing away the old and replacing them with new reasoning and new habits.

Th(i)nkful – The All Weather Coat

aa blog on put off: put on 4Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by renewing the mind – learning to think God’s thoughts.  Life isn’t about me; it’s about God.  He is not my genie; I am His servant.  Earth is the unbeliever’s only heaven, and the believer’s only hell.  Hard times aren’t a disaster; God designs them to refine, strengthen, and improve me as an image-bearer of the Creator.

And knowing His lovingkindness, His meticulous care for me, His rock-solid promises, His infinite mind, His unchallengeable sovereignty, and my redeemed pathway, there is so very much to be thankful for.

There! I just bought a new golden jacket called “thinkful,” put my arms into the sleeves, and wow does it feel amazing!  This is a keeper.  I think this might be my favorite coat ever.

4 L’s

What Is Your Biggest Sin-problem?

My grad school professor looked at all of us in class and asked: “What is your biggest sin problem?”a 4 L's post 2 He said that, in order for us to learn to be good counselors of others, we first had to be able to self-counsel.  Our assignment was to identify a sin pattern that we personally struggled with and to track it for six weeks.

And so, we began. We charted when we struggled most, when we failed and gave in to the temptation, and when we were able to resist and have victory.  We studied out how to avoid the places of temptation, to be vigilant during the hours of typical temptation, how to respond when tempted, and how to fight back by renewing our thoughts, replacing the evil with the good. It was a very profitable and eye-opening assignment for me.

4 L’s

I would like to present a tool from James 1 that could perhaps help you fight temptation.  I am certain that, if you are human, you are fighting some kind of temptation.  It may be sexual sin, covetousness, lying, stealing, worry, gossip, anger, bitterness, selfishness, or greed.  The list is long. God can use the battles with these temptations to mold us into the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus, but the fight is REAL.

Here are the 4 L’s:

  1. Locate – identify the temptation (James 1:14)
  2. Link – connect the test with the Lord (James 1:2)
  3. Linger – stay a while with Him and describe the temptation with blatant honesty and cry for wisdom (James 1:5-6)
  4. Lieu – replace temptation with something (James 1:22)

a 4 L's post 3Locating or identifying the temptation is a huge part of victory (James 1:14).  Personally I struggle with worry.  It is insidious and sneaks into the depths of my soul.  I want to comfort-eat to relieve the pressure that I feel and get my mind off the vexatious thoughts. When I react sinfully, I feel badly afterwards because I know that I have not responded in a Christ-honoring manner. So if I am able to shine the flashlight on the temptation by locating it, that is a great start.

Linking or connecting the test with the a 4 L's blog 4Lord is the next key. We are told in James 1:2 that we are to count it joy when we are tested. Jesus said we should ask the Father, “do not to lead us into temptation.” He doesn’t tempt us with sin, but He allows the situation to make us stronger under pressure (vv. 3-4), and to motivate us to call out to Him for help (vv. 5-8).

In my own situation I felt like I could locate the temptation (anxiety) and link to the Lord right away by asking Him for help.  But I find that often my focus is still on the temptation – for instance, I am getting more anxious as I pray. 😦

But when I begin to think thanks within the test, and for the test, I am able to link more profitably with the Lord.  Saying out loud the things that I am thankful for right in the middle of the test, and then giving that thanks to God, grows my strength to fight.

“Count it all joy” means being th(i)nkful

a 4 L's post 5Lingering with the Lord and sharing honestly with Him what I am struggling with, and even what I am tempted to do in sinful reaction, is like releasing the pressure that the temptation builds up. The sin especially flees if I speak it out loud or write it down. You shock yourself as you see your hand spell out the sin.

Rehearsing the promises that 1) God was with me, and 2) He designed and desired me to be victorious, and 3) He made wisdom available for free if I confidently asked just fueled my courage to trust in His help.  If forgiveness was needed, He welcomed me with open arms. As I lingered with the Lord, my focus became different.

In Lieu Of, or the replacement principle, is the action part of winning over temptation. What you focus on you give power to.  If I say “don’t steal this, don’t steal this,” I am repeating “this” and “steal” many times – not good.  If I have the temptation to steal, I should immediately go to the front of the store and pay for someone’s purchase, or give a store clerk some money to say thanks for all of the people who don’t. Look at Ephesians 4:28!

This is the embodiment of being a doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25).  I need to replace the temptation.  Problem with text-gossiping? Put it down and get busy. Think it out! Have a plan ready.a 4 L's post6.jpg

  • Get down and do 10 sit-ups
  • Put on your running shoes and get outside and run
  • Vacuum
  • Take a shower
  • Sing a chorus out loud
  • Read a book that edifies your soul
  • Write down 10 things that you are thankful for right now

Winning?

Hey, this is just a simple suggestion, but it is helping me.  When I did that six-week assignment back in grad school, it made me aware of how advantageous it is to have a plan.  Being th(i)nkful is a key in winning over temptation.

Download grace/help from the Lord to think thanks in every circumstance – even for tests, trials, and temptations – as James 1:2-4 mentions.  Then express that thanks orally or in a written form.  If you are in Christ, you don’t have to live a defeated life!

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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?

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?

 

 

 

 

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 ~