Gratis

What Is Gratis in Your Life?

Gratis: given or done for free

Don’t you love when you get something for free?  a blog on gratis 1You feel like you got such a good deal.  You received a benefit, but did not have to pay for it. In Norwegian and a number of other languages, the word gratis is actually used for the word free. You did not pay for it. It was gratis.

Have you thought about all the things that you were given gratis just today?

  1. Your body’s involuntary functions (autonomic nervous system) are working gratis – your brain is firing signals, your heart is beating, your organs are filtering, your digestive system is moving! Oh, those who have dysfunction in these areas will tell you to be so thankful!
  2. Your body’s voluntary functions (somatic nervous system) are working gratis – your fingers and eyes are moving without great effort, and your amazing lungs are breathing involuntarily until you consciously take over their function. The aged and disabled will tell us to be so very thankful!
  3. The air you are breathing in – extremely unusual in the universe – is gratis.
  4. Reading the Bible in your own language is gratis to you, though others paid dearly so that you could. Unreached people groups today weep when they first see God’s words in their own heart language!
  5. You have been offered the gift of forgiveness, reconciliation and salvation by your Creator – gratis.

Gratis, Grateful, Gratitude

It is easy to see how these three words are related. From the Latin root word, “gratia,” meaning grace or kindness, come the ideas of “received freely as a gift” (gratis), and “full of grace received and thankful” (grateful), and “returning good will, expressing pleasure, thankfulness” (gratitude). Grace, gift, free, and thankfulness are all related ideas.

We have been given so much every moment of every day, and that strongly calls for an appropriate response from us just as frequently.

Ingratitude’s Curse

“If I did not praise and bless Christ my Lord, I should deserve to have my tongue torn out by its roots from my mouth. If I did not bless and magnify his name, I should deserve that every stone I tread on in the streets should rise up to curse my ingratitude, for I am a drowned debtor to the mercy of God – over head and ears.  To infinite love and boundless compassion I am a debtor. Are you not the same? Then I charge you by the love of Christ, awake, awake your hearts now to magnify his glorious name.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

The way Spurgeon described ingratitude is striking.  He viewed it quite seriously.  He sternly warned himself that he deserved punishment if he did not express his gratitude to the Lord.

I don’t know that we in the 21st century look at ingratitude with such seriousness.  Maybe we should. Instead, our focus is often on what is missing, what lacks perfect appearance or function, what we do not like in our lives … and we highlight the shortcomings by complaining.

Although humans are programmed as problem-solvers and thus prone to focus on what yet needs fixing, wisdom reminds us to frequently step back and remember that this fallen world will never be perfect, that we have it far better than we should, and that we have received so much from the Creator and others (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Choose Th(i)nkfulness

My passion in writing this blog is to inspire you to choose to think thanks.  Yes, it requires a choice. You must choose what you think about. The ruts in your brain may run you automatically into the depths of ingratitude, or may take you simply to the next thing in your day. BUT you can start right now, with God’s grace, to fill in that negative rut and – can I actually say it? – forge a new rut of gratefulness!  I am not sure I have ever met a person in such a rut!

The harvest that comes from choosing to plant seeds of thankfulness is beautiful indeed. a blog on gratis 3.jpgIn Namaqualand, South Africa, there is a beautiful burst of glorious flowers that come gratis with the first rains that end the dry season. An otherwise parched desert produces this kaleidoscopic carpet. What a great metaphor for a dry heart, full of ingratitude, experiencing the spring rains of God’s grace resulting in a variegated burst of th(i)nkfulness.

a blog on gratis 2

What free gifts of grace have you enjoyed today?

 

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

 

 

 

Choose to Think

How Many Thoughts Do You Have a Day?

Have you ever thought about how many thoughts you think a day?

“According to the research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, a human being has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day—and 90% of these are repetitive!”       

I do feel that at least for me many of those thoughts are monkey thoughts, jumping from one place to the next and sometimes in quick succession. 🙂 It’s amazing how quickly my thoughts can run.

In the last week I have had two people send me articles that had reminded them of being th(i)nkful.  By the way, I love that.  Thanks.  It is great fodder for more blog posts.  The topic of our brain and how it works is especially interesting to me.  I love how our Creator made it so that if you concentrate on one thing, there may be benefits that you didn’t even think of.

For example Dr. Earl Henslin, author of This is Your Brain on Joy, claims that the emotions of joy and anxiety travel the same pathway in the brain.  If being th(i)nkful is the primary thought, it pushes out anxiety thoughts.

So How Do You Spend Your 60 000?

What if you could hook up a wire to your brain and all your thoughts would register on a computer monitor?  Wow!  What if an app categorized the thoughts?  What would the printout of your thoughts look like?  choose to think2

I find that convicting and inspiring at the same time!

I love that the brain is not set forever, like drying concrete, but the Lord gives me the opportunity every moment to reprogram, overwrite, and reshape my thought patterns.  I know that through His grace-enabled discipline – choosing the next right thought – that I can wrap my mind and heart around ideas that are pleasing to Him and follow the eight guidelines from Philippians 4:8.  But I must choose what I think, and not let the monkeys of fear, worry, bitterness, discontentment, and envy run wild.

Now it is not so easy to control what you think about.  It is actually super hard. Not impossible, but a fight. It marks the difference between a person who is a slave and a person who chooses to think.

Retraining the Mind

Romans 12:2 says to not be conformed to this world, but “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pretty cool, heh?

Doing the will of the Father is extremely important – it is the test of whether you are a true believer (Matthew 12:50)!  Normal human thinking struggles to figure out God’s will.  You have to renew your thinking – reboot and restart your thinking patterns – to figure out His will.

Here’s a huge way to renew your mind – retrain it to start giving thanks in all circumstances.  Paul wrote that doing so is the will of God (I Thessalonians 5:18). It is good, acceptable, and perfect.

A Th(i)nkful Journal

In order to give thanks, you have to think thanks in all circumstances.  I know this to be true, but even I struggle to put this into practice.

It has helped me to get into a daily pattern of jotting down my th(i)nkful items in a little notebook before I go to sleep. My son Nicolas and his wife Julia got me started on that practice on my birthday over a year ago and that habit has stuck. It takes a few minutes before I turn the light off, but it helps to push out anxious thoughts and helps me focus on th(i)nkful items.

Example of Being Th(i)nkful

Let me close with a recent and powerful example of being th(i)nkful.  Stephanie Wesco, whose husband was shot and killed in Cameroon on October 30, 2018, just 12 days after they arrived in Cameroon as missionaries, wrote these words:

“Even in the midst of all that has happened these last several days, I see so many ways the Lord has guided, protected, blessed, and strengthened us all. Precious memories with my husband are something I’m so thankful for. The eight sweet children the Lord gave us together here on earth are my greatest treasure in the world now.

I’m so thankful for the military escort we were given out of the danger zone. The kindness of the soldiers to my children… One of the men was giving Emmy chocolate, which is her favorite. 😊 My heart broke as we passed the place where Charles was shot, but I know the Lord was our protection and shield as we left our home. I’m so thankful for that safety in passing through that area.

I’m so so thankful for our co-workers, the Sinclair family. This whole tragedy has welded us together as a group, and I fully believe the Lord still has plans for us, even though right now life feels so uncertain in so many ways. I’m so thankful for everyone who is praying and supporting our family in ways I don’t even know about. The body of Christ has taken in new meaning for me. The Lord keeps reminding me though His word and everyone’s words of encouragement that he hasn’t forsaken us. He is always good, always.

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

 

Revealer of our Heart

Season of Opening Boxes

opening box 2

Not sure how things are at your house, but I know for many, these weeks are so busy with boxes.  There are small boxes, and large boxes, fat boxes, and thin boxes.  Secrets and presents are busily being purchased, baked, built or developed to be revealed at the perfect time.

opening box 1The outside appearance of a box can hide a multitude of things.  It is often quite difficult to imagine what is inside.  The actual item may be a lot smaller than the box, but the box is filled with tissue paper as a playful deception. That’s part of the giddiness of Christmas giving – concealing the contents, avoiding the predictable. At the appropriate time, however, the lid comes off and what is inside becomes visible.

Pulling the Lid Off My Heart

The same is true with the human heart – you don’t know what’s inside until the lid comes off. Some of us put more stock, investment, and armor in our façade than others. But with the right amount of pressure or intoxication, the box opens up and … wow!

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.”  Psalm 140:13

opening box 4The Psalmist makes a revealing statement about the righteous person in Ps. 140:13.  Someone who loves God and is cleansed by the Lamb, will surely give thanks. They will have a bent towards wanting to be th(i)nkful.  It will fit for them and not feel out of place.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says that even when the box is suddenly ripped open, one of the first things people should see inside is the giving of thanks.  Yes, there may be hurt, pain, sorrow, expectations in ashes, and a thousand tears, but they will be intertwined with this unbelievable ribbon of thanks. That is God’s will.  It may not be easy all the time.  It is hard work to develop the mindset of thinking thanks about every situation, but it is profitable and fitting because God has designed it that way.

So How Is Your Box?

Opening the box of a righteous person’s heart should expose gratitude and a desire to express thanks.  I don’t know about you, but this was convicting for me.  My heart should be full of giving thanks.

When my thoughts are conflicted with frustrations and disappointments, I should take a reality check.  What is really important here?  Am I getting all bent out of shape because of a trivial thing?  May the peace of God rule in my heart and filter my thoughts so that I can quickly give thanks for His name, His character, and the plan He is working out.

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have a lovely season of concealing and revealing boxes. However, let it be a reminder of your own heart box and what is in it.  Let the Lord pour His grace and strength into you so that you, in turn, can choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks, first to God, and then to others.

opening box 3

 

The Slide of Ingratitude

The Mechanics of the Slide

The physics of sliding down a playground slide has to do with gravity, friction, inertia, and kinetic and potential energy. Your speed will be affected by your weight, the condition of the slide and the temperature.   For a child, there is little that compares with the exhilaration of a good slide.  In Lone Hill, South Africa there was a playground within walking distance of our home that contained a huge slide.  The children were hesitant to climb the step ladder to that slide purely because of its height.

Longest Slide in NYC picture by Tod Seelie Governors Island   

The picture above is “Slide Hill,” the longest slide in New York City, on Governors Island.  Children exude anticipation as they climb up and slide down the famous slide in this new park. A couple of lessons: 1) It takes effort to climb to the top of a slide; and 2) you slide downward quickly.

A Sinister Slide

There is another infamous slide that is recorded in the Scriptures.  This slide is ugly.  It is harsh.  It is fatal and destructive.  It starts out at the top in Romans 1:18 and continues rapidly downward, through twists and turns, to verse 32.  There is a baleful initial description of the ones sitting at the top of that slide.  The people who start down this slide are not thankful.  Ungrateful people suppress the truth of who God is and exchange it for a lie.

1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thankfulness is an antidote to temptation.  The inverse is also true. Ingratitude seems to invite every form of temptation and sin.  I have often mused over how ingratitude seems to create the fertile conditions of sin prospering. My daughter Elly once said that “it is hard for a selfish person to be thankful.” The essence of sin is self – self-absorption, self-preoccupation, self-rule and self-worship. You see all of your blessings as coming from your dreams and your hard work. And yet you are not fully a god just yet, so you are chronically competitive, discontent, and unthankful.

There are two things that sin does not love to do; to honor and glorify God as the source of every good thing, and to thank God for every good thing and for every bad thing He is working together for our good.  Sin wants to replace God with self and with alternate loves that supposedly will bring happiness to self and awkwardly try to fill our God-shaped void.

If you sense that you are not a very thankful person, perhaps it would be good to do some introspection. Why do I not want to be thankful? Do I want to count my many hardships? Is it just that I don’t think about being thankful?  Or do I disregard it?

Cultivating thinking thanks keeps us from beginning down the long and winding slide that is smooth and breezy at the top but becomes indulgent, brutal, empty, and destructive toward the bottom.

“Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles.” –John Piper

 

metal slide

Negative Th(i)nkful

Dennis

This is Pastor Dennis.  He was our co-worker in Johannesburg, SA.  He would often start our worship services at Sandton Bible with the question of: “Aren’t you thankful that you didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning?”

“A help toward personally fulfilling Eph. 5:20 & I Thess. 5:18 may be to continually thank God for all the things that could have gone wrong AND DID NOT; and, for all the things that went well BUT COULD HAVE GONE BADLY’!!! Examples- 1) how many things could have kept us from waking up this morning (countless)? 2) when driving on a 2 lane road and a car safely passes by in the opposing lane – it could have veered into our lane!” – Bob Meyers

There is no end to what we can think thanks about in our lives. When you think thanks about all the bad things that could have happened, but didn’t, you are practicing being negative th(i)nkful.  You could have been in a car wreck on your way to work this morning.  You could have a sore in your mouth that will not heal.  You could have severe abdominal pain right now.  You could have never heard about Jesus and the grace that He offers to anyone who wants to believe.  You could have nothing to live for and be looking for a way to die. You could not have access to the Word of God. You could have been born into extreme poverty.  The list goes on and on.

Think of five things that you are so thankful for that are not true in your life right now. Give that present of thanks to the One who deserves it.

Dennis Chapmon was the eternal optimist.  How inspiring he was to be around.  Yes, I am so thankful that I didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning.  Thank you God, that though Your ways are always good, you chose an easier path for me today in so many ways.