Learning A Secret

The Joy of a Secret

Do you have a secret about how to do something well? Some little-known way to make a meal or a moment really special for other people? Something that is a winner every time? Not a bad secret. Not luscious gossip about another person. Not a way to get rid of people you don’t like. A delightful secret to getting a job done.

Recently I became aware of a secret to making grilled cheese ~ mayonnaise!!! Spreading a layer of mayo on the bread before grilling the sandwich makes it grill evenly, look delicious, and taste like you used butter. 🙂 I was overjoyed to learn this secret, I love knowing this secret, and well, ok, I guess I love passing it along … so it can hardly be called a “secret” anymore.

Learning A Secret Cure

But there is another huge secret that I would love to whisper in your ear. This secret is much more important than grilled cheese. This secret has to do with fighting depression and angst. It is a key to processing life, the downs, dark shadows and despair that come our way.

This secret did not originate with me, but instead with the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. The Apostle Paul had a life and ministry that was hard on his body – hiking mountain passes, coping with his ship going down, and getting attacked by mobs. Sometimes, he received a financial gift; at other times he had to pay his own way. He wrote this from prison:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

Learning Paul’s Secret

Here is Paul’s secret: I have learned to be content.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “content” as an adjective meaning “in a state of peaceful happiness.” Someone has said that “contentment is wanting what you have, not having what you want.”

Whether I am going through a very discouraging time or whether I am riding high on the wind of accomplishment and joy, I can choose to be content and be th(i)nkful. That seems almost impossible. How can I be content, in a state of peaceful happiness, when I feel my life is falling apart? Feels bizarre.

The secret key is how you process the happenings in your life. What are you thinking about? Whose perspective are you choosing?

Fight for the Secret Key

Importantly, Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13 that he has learned the secret of being content. Learning typically means chosen and fought for. When you learn another language, you must choose to do so and then persistently fight to follow through. Paul learned contentment. I wonder how many times he failed while trying to learn.

Can I also learn this secret? Can I craft brain neural pathways of contentment? Of course I can. God gives the “how-to” in the last verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Christ wants me to choose contentment, to fight for contentment, and when I fail, to choose contentment again. Call out to Him for His strength in order to be content with what He has allowed in my life.

The Outside and Inside

But contentment is about my view of things outside of me, my circumstances. My only discontentment should be about what inside of me is unlike Him. I must never be content with the extent of my fallenness, my fleshliness, or my rebel sighs against my circumstances and their Author.

You see, in God’s mind, our externals are about our internals. Our circumstances are meant to test and change our hearts and the hearts of those watching us. He does not waste pain or difficulty. God has designed my challenges and my successes, my wealth and my poverty, my health and my disabilities. He is behind everything in my life. In Isaiah 45:7, our God makes it very plain:

“I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

Isaiah 45:7

Part of the choosing and fighting for contentment is choosing to search for things for which you are thankful. Th(i)nkfulness produces contentment. I can be thankful for what is going well and talk about the “glass half full.” I can be thankful that I don’t need whatever seems to be lacking because God has promised to meet all of my needs.

I can be thankful for pain and loss and sorrow because I am learning, I am dying to my own will, I am becoming deep and not shallow, I am praying more than ever, I am more sympathetic to others suffering in the same way, I am receiving His grace to overcome, I have His presence and attention through this, I may get extra gospel opportunities, I have a hope that this too will pass, and if I die, it will be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Summing up, the secret to fighting depression and angst is to repeatedly express my thankfulness to the Author of my circumstances, and then to fight my way through many, many lessons, with His strength, to learn contentment. Now, go and share your secret with somebody else.

“Be content with what you have for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

Turning Back to Say “Thanks”

One Leper’s Return

One day as Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, He was met at the edge of a village by ten lepers who were keeping their distance, as the Law of Moses required. Knowing Jesus’ reputation as a healer, they cried out to him to have compassion on their suffering.

No one in Jewish history had ever been healed of leprosy. The rabbis concluded that such a healing would surely be a sign of the Messiah. Strangely, Jesus told the ten men to go and show themselves to the priests, something you were to do when you were already healed, as you can read in Leviticus 14.

No doubt puzzled, they did what Jesus told them to and went on their way to Jerusalem. And as they went, they were healed! Can you imagine? A miraculous healing – instantaneous and complete – and the only recorded instance of Jesus healing multiple people at the same time! But more than that, for a leper, the relational healing that would follow as they could again be readmitted to the community that had shunned them for years.

One of them, a Samaritan, immediately turned back, and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and gave thanks. Then Jesus asked in disappointment, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:11-19).

One. Only one. Only 10% turned around and said “thank you.” He said it with a loud voice – I love that part! He must have been overwhelmed with thanksgiving.

What baffles me, and bothered Jesus, is why the other nine didn’t say thank you?? They weren’t thinkful. They didn’t think back. They didn’t turn back. No doubt, they were overjoyed, but they just kept moving forward, running to see the priest and then their loved ones, and perhaps attributing the miracle to Jesus. But they didn’t think, stop, turn back, and say “thank you.”

Think. Stop. Turn Back.

Psalm 107 captures why Jesus was disappointed in the nine. It begins, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.”

The writer then recalls four deadly scenarios where God stepped in to help people: 1) some got lost in a scorching desert, 2) some were prisoners of war, 3) some were suffering a deadly disease, and 4) some were caught in a raging storm at sea.

In each of the four scenarios (vv. 6, 13, 19 and 28), “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” And after each rescue, the writer admonishes (vv. 8, 15, 21 and 31), “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Your Path

In this post, I am not addressing the dilemma of when we call out to the Lord and He does not seem to answer. I want you to ponder what you do after you ask and He gives you exactly what you asked for. What then?

When you prayed for safe travel … and arrived safely.

When you called out for healing … and got better.

When you asked for help on that exam … and completed it having remembered everything you studied.

When you begged for mercy in a troubled pregnancy … and gave birth to a perfectly healthy child.

When you tearfully asked the Lord for encouragement … and a rainbow radiated out of the dark clouds in front of you.

What then?

Will you think, stop, turn back, and say “thank you?”

Will you be the one? A ten percenter?

Or will you be one of the nine … who is just so pleased and happy … and keeps moving forward eager to tell others how your situation turned around? Will you just be “thankful for” and not “thankful to?” Will you make Jesus cock his head and once again wonder how a person can be so helped and yet not turn back to say “thanks.”

Psalm 107 begins by saying that if you’ve been redeemed from a bad situation, you need to say so and give the Lord the credit due to him. When we believers hear the word “redeemed,” we immediately think of being saved, bought back from the hopeless slave market of sin. So, perhaps we can start there with our thanks.

But beyond that, the steadfast love of the Lord has blessed us with so many good things, and answered so many of our prayers for help in the affirmative, that we surely have much to thank him for.

Psalm 107 ends: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

20,000 Thankfuls

How It Started

“Get it on your thankful list,” he yelled as he left the rehab. She had just finished explaining to her counselor something that she really worked hard to complete. Part of the program at this drug recovery center was that every day each person had to make a list of five things they were thankful for. It was an assignment. It felt irritating at first. Actually felt impossible.

Trying to write down anything that she was thankful for felt like walking up a steep hill.

But since she would have to report on what she wrote down at the end of the day, she acquiesced. After a few weeks, the hill didn’t seem quite so steep. The practice of writing down what she was thankful for came easier. It had become a habit … a good habit.

Other people coming through the program soon got into the same required habit. She had started recording the required five things just on the paper she had available, but it wasn’t long before she ran out of paper.

The thankful lists made their way into inexpensive journals. The required list of five things at the end of the day often grew to eight, ten, or even twelve things. She had a nice collection of those journals now. Encouraging to behold.

In fact, Sarah was getting close to finishing three years at the rehab and her thankful list had a running tally of 20,034 to date.

Counselor’s Toolbox

As a counselor I have found that the practice of learning to think thanks and expressing that thanks to God and to others has a place in my “Counselor’s Toolbox.”

In whatever counseling situation that I find myself in, gratitude is a necessary part of finding solutions and remedies.

In Ephesians 5:1-4 there is a interesting contrast presented:

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

Choosing to think and express thanksgiving is the opposite of the sin that Paul is warning the Ephesian believers about in this passage. It is the correct behavior of a person walking worthy of the Lord, walking in love, pleasing the Lord.

How Long Is Your List?

Knowing that practicing gratitude is so helpful, does it alter your own behavior? Do you have a list of things that you are thankful for? I do not have an updated tally for mine. I have so many journals and papers filled up that I am sure it is in the thousands. I do know I kept track of the first 1000.

I encourage you to invest in a th(i)nkful or gratitude journal if you find yourself in a difficult season in your life. It is a well-documented tool of hope and solution. Our Creator God knows our frame and our challenges … and He ordered us to do it.

Virtually every sin that we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness

In the Mundane

Thinking Thanks in the Mundane

“Today I didn’t ‘waste’ the mundane. It was a temptation to view folding laundry as a nuisance. But today it turned into something with eternal value. The Holy Spirit urged me to pray as I folded Josiah’s shirt: I thought about his heart. I thought about King Josiah of the Bible (his namesake) and prayed, ‘Lord, give Josiah the desire to be a man after your heart, like King Josiah.’ Josiah’s socks: ‘Oh Lord, let Josiah be a man that runs hard after You.’

Sarahlyn’s little tea towels: ‘Lord, thank you for a little girl that wants to spend time with me drinking tea. Thank you for her heart to serve.’ Emily’s shirt: ‘Lord, use her mightily and her heart for writing music to glorify Your name. Use her Lord.’ And on and on I prayed until every piece was folded, matched, and grouped together.

The job became a joy and my thankfulness for each person and God’s goodness to me nearly spilled out of my eyes. 🥲 It’s incredible how many thoughts we can have in the mundane that have very little value. That can even be in a spirit of complaining or self-pity, or about something that isn’t good and pure. No benefit whatsoever. They can even be working against God’s best for us. But turn that time into a moment to thank Him and pray, then you’ve done kingdom work. Those are thoughts worth dwelling on. That is worth my time. We have a choice what we do with our minds in the ‘mundane.’ (At any time really.)

What if we choose to meditate on what’s good? What if even in those menial tasks that we can easily resent or see as a less desirable way to spend our time, we chose to use it as an investment… into the heart and soul of another, a deposit for eternity? What if we chose to pray? What if we chose to give thanks along the way? What a difference that would make today AND in eternity.”

This was written by my dear friend, Dawn. She has been a great inspiration to me throughout the years. I love how she takes the everyday mundane and makes it into a teaching tool.

Everyday 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When the Lord says to give thanks in all circumstances, he means giving thanks not just for the hard times, but even in the everyday mundane. I begin by being th(i)nkful, disciplining my thoughts to search for the good, the meaningful behind the mundane, asking His Spirit to guide my thoughts as a radar to spot the undetected.

Formulating that thanks into a prayer thanking the Lord for the gems in the mundane is like making an eternal deposit, turning cardboard into emeralds. In addition to that, when you weave into your prayer specific requests for the people connected to that mundaneness, your intercession not only encourages your own heart, but also brings a blessing for people outside yourself.

How could you be th(i)nkful in the mundane today?

Th(i)nkful Round

Th(i)nkful Round

“Who wants to start?” Nick drew in the attention of his children as they tried to stay the wiggles. They were doing family worship time before bed and it was very difficult to actually sit still and listen. Recently they had incorporated a way to teach the children gratitude by doing a Th(i)nkful Round. “I am thankful forrr …” and the word trailed off while they brainstormed. The responses varied greatly. Sometimes it was profound. Sometimes it was simple. But all the comments pursued thinking thanks.

Putting a specific habit into place takes forethought. It is a mental labor with furrowed brows. The victorious life for the believer is pursuing Christlikeness. Learning to dream the dream that God dreams for you. Finding and walking in the steps He prepared for you. Seeing your life through His eyes. Discovering how He wants to use you for His glory.

Carving and reinforcing brain neural pathways of thinking thanks to God for everything in your life
is a defining part of becoming Christlike.

Colossians 3:17

“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.”

In Colossians 3 there are three verses in a row – 15, 16, 17 – that exhort us to give thanks. It should be pervasive in our lives, the glue that holds things together. Perhaps the Lord urges our gratitude knowing it is extremely beneficial for us as His created beings. Learning to focus on thanks, and expressing it, makes hope ooze out to flavor every element of our existence.

In fact when you focus on the grace that God has poured out, to love us while we were still in our sin, how can you but think thanks?

“It has been said that in the New Testament doctrine is grace, and ethics is gratitude; and something is wrong with any form of Christianity in which, experimentally and practically, this saying is not being verified.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God.

Iron Sharpens Iron

One way to strengthen your Christian growth is through the accountability of friends. It is like iron sharpening iron Proverbs 27:17 says. It is beautiful how we can edify one another in developing these traits. Whether it is in the setting of family worship in the home or just over a cup of tea with friends, community around you is a great influencer. So, before you get up and walk away from your time together, do a quick Th(i)nkful Round.

I have a dear friend who asked me to keep her accountable every week about being th(i)nkful. So every Monday we text each other our th(i)nkful list. I believe we have done this over two years now. It is so cool for me as well. I love scrolling back on our texts, seeing one list after another of things for which we thought and wrote down our thanks to God. It takes only a few moments to do this, but the effect of it in our brains and hearts last a lot longer.

Action Point

So I would love to assign you an action point. 🙂 What are you actively doing to establish a consciousness of thinking thanks? How about letting me hear of strategies that you are putting into practice? Perhaps your ideas will inspire others to grow in this area.

Last night at Grace-Toti we started our prayer time with filling up our thanks basket. It was amazing to see hands pop up all over the place of things for which people were giving thanks to the Lord!

Let’s get the Th(i)nkful Rounds going. May those rounds be frequent and strong… all around the globe.

The Th(i)nkful Challenge

Words are Powerful

A teacher was ready to pull her hair out. The class was rowdy and definitely not quietly doing their work. She finally asked everyone to get out a piece of paper, to write down the name of each class member going down the left side, and then to write one nice thing about each person. Later the teacher collected the papers and compiled each person’s characteristics on their own page. The next day, she handed each student his or her compilation of compliments.

a blog on Joan 2

Years later, the teacher got word that one of her students had died in Vietnam and she was asked to attend his funeral. The soldier’s family showed her that piece of paper from junior-high with the other students’ kind remarks about him; he had carried it in his wallet until the day he died.  Other students at the funeral slowly pulled out their pieces of paper as well and said how much it had meant to them.

This is the true touching story of a teacher at a Catholic school in Minnesota, and it shows the power of encouragement.  The student who passed away in Vietnam was Mark Eklund.

Thinkful Challenge

In this blogpost I would like to challenge you. 🙂  I want you to think of a person in your life that God has used to make you more like Himself.  Perhaps God allowed the influence to be from afar. Perhaps it was a relative or a classmate. God uses so many things to shape us and purify us, but there are certain people who have made a particular impact on your life to move you toward Christ.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Take some time to think. I am sure that there are many, but at least pick out one. After settling on that one, I encourage you to write a few ways that person has been used by God to help you grow spiritually. It may have been just by example; it may have been key comments at critical moments in the formative years of your life; it may have been through an extended discipleship relationship.

When you’ve completed your list, then thank them. Thank God first of all, and then thank the person. The best way is in person, but if you are far away or lack the courage, perhaps a hand-written letter (like, with stamps), or even an email would be acceptable. Yeah, probably not a text.

My Person

My response to the Thinkful Challenge brings me to Joan.  We met up over 26 years ago when our family joined the mission with which we currently serve. She (being a fellow MK and someone who lived in Africa) and I had no trouble quickly connecting.

God used Joan in my life to make me think. Over the years she has influenced me with her life and with her words.

She challenged me in crafting a LPS (Life Purpose Statement).  She encouraged me when I was discouraged. Over and over, she and her husband Paul poured courage into David and me.a blog on Joan 1

I remember one time when we were speaking together at a ladies seminar on the Big Five. We used the theme of the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt as a platform to talk about the most important things to have in your life.

    • Elephant – Life Purpose
    • Cape Buffalo – Building Redemptive Relationships
    • Lion- Spending time with King Jesus
    • Rhino – Accountability Partner
    • Leopard – Spotting Discipleship Relationships

Joan’s favorite animal is the African Leopard.a blog on Joan 4

I felt so nervous to speak to all these women, but Joan would encourage me to just represent Christ. “Jesus does all the work,” she would say, “you are just a tool.”

Once, when she visited us in Africa, she went with me to a fabric store and helped me think of ways to decorate our home. She made things happen. She powered through obstacles.

A huge blessing from Joan is her love for our MK children. She has a special place in her heart for MK’s. No doubt about it. 🙂 The cool thing is that they love her back. She has earned their love.

One of my favorite memories of Joan is traveling to Israel together. It was the best trip of my life. I loved seeing all these places from the Bible come alive. What a gift to experience that adventure.

a blog on Joan 3

When visiting Abraham’s tomb, Joan, Avril and I had to wear big robes for covering. We felt oddly like nuns in this mosque.

We drank water from the well where Jesus had met with the Samaritan woman (John 4). We walked around the Garden of Gethsemane where our Savior wrestled through those difficult moments before dying for our sins on the cross.

There are so many things I could mention, but in the end, I thank God for how Joan pointed me to Christ. The Lord used her in conforming me to His Son.

Thinkful for Joan:

  • She gave words of affirmation when I felt so weak and incapable
  • She represented how a godly woman should invest her life, in discipleship and mentoring
  • She has cared for her mom during difficult years
  • She loves on missionary kids and makes them feel important
  • She is so funny and has a godly irreverence for religious traditions
  • She does cool, innovative and impulsive stuff
  • She has decorated her home in African style, celebrating her memories living there
  • She is a reader
  • She has taught us as missionary ladies about balance in our lives
  • She is not afraid of rebellious kids and loves sinners, like Jesus

Thanks, God, for the influence of righteousness that Joan has had in my life.

I am th(i)nkful.

a blog on Joan

 

 

 

In Everything

In Everything Give Thanks

He had walked into their town, seen dozens respond to the gospel, and helped them start a church. They held a special place in his heart. But after a few weeks, Paul was forced to flee because of intense Jewish opposition.  Timothy and Silas stayed behind with the largely Gentile church.

Thessaloniki, Greece, was the capital of Roman Macedonia. It lay strategically alongside major trade routes. Today, the city has almost a million people.

Paul traveled there from Philippi and had to secretly slip away to Berea, helping the new believers there find Jesus the Messiah in their Hebrew Scriptures. But then, opposition again kicked in, and Paul moved on.

While staying in Corinth for 18 months, Timothy and Silas caught up with Paul and brought good news about the Thessalonian believers standing strong and true in the middle of persecution.  Paul wrote to them expressing his thankfulness and love for them.  It is at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians that this verse is placed:

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In everything we give thanks.

The “everything” doesn’t deserve the thanks; it’s the sovereign God behind “everything” that deserves the thanks.  He has got this.  He knows what He is doing.  He can be trusted. For the Thessalonians, their present circumstances were hard, and thus, more than any other church, Paul taught them a lot of prophecy – the hope of Jesus’ return. If we struggle to thank God for the present, we can always be thankful for the hope we have that sufferings will be one day be rewarded, and this broken world put right.

New Testament Overview

My husband just completed teaching NT Survey here in South Africa.

NT class

Just for fun, I sat in on his classes and took the exams along with the other learners. I am amazed at how those books are coming alive to me the more I study them. One of my favorites is Colossians. It is similar to Thessalonians in that Paul sent them a personalized letter, but also in that there is a strong emphasis on giving thanks.

Colossae was situated inland from Ephesus.

Paul never made it there, but Epaphras who came to know Paul in Ephesus, went to Colossae and shared the gospel with them. He cared for their spiritual well being. Paul wrote “Colossians” to this group of believers. All four chapters have a verse referencing being thankful. Chapter three has three verses in a row (3:15-17) that give direct commands to be thankful, much like I Thessalonians 5:18.

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

It Is God’s Will

“In everything give thanks, come what may,” is a very good motto to live by. But, to up the ante, it is not just a good motto to live by – it is God’s will for us, His directive to us. When Paul wrote that to struggling believers in Thessaloniki, he gave no wiggle room. There was no excuse for certain personalities or ethnic cultures or passing human emotions where expressing thanks just wasn’t done.

There was no escape.  Given that “everything happens all the time,” they were to constantly be looking for things to be thankful for.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.

Thinkful List Today:

  • God has given us grace to power through Covid-19 so far
  • David teaching an overview of the New Testament to hungry learners
  • Food to eat today
  • We have a bed to sleep in
  • Headache has not been bad today
  • That when I have pain and discomfort Lord Shammah is with me
  • This life is a vapor and soon I can be with the Lord
  • I got to clean the balcony today and had hot water and soap to do it
  • I got to have discipleship with a friend
  • If God wants me to give thanks, He will enable me to do it

 

 

 

Art of Thankfulness

Art

Are you artistic? Are you creative?  Some people have a creativity that fashions perfect moments out of ordinary ones, makes old wood and rusty metal into works of beauty. Others of us have to wait for inspiration.

Creativity is intelligence having fun, turning up the color, pushing beyond the bounds of the normal into the imaginative.  A person with an artistic bent can take a basic subject and express it, illustrate it, and expand on it creatively.

Isaiah was an artist. He wrote to people who were pressed down and discouraged and creatively inspired them toward the art and discipline of thankfulness.

Thankful for God’s Creativity

Having lived on three different continents for at least a decade each, I have grown to love people and their cultures. I love their diversity. I love how we are all basically the same, and yet so complicatedly different.  Food, clothing, language, customs, celebrations and values distinguish one culture from another. But all of us want to be accepted and loved. And all of us need redemption.

Our God is amazing. He created each one of us from the same source.  Noah and Mrs. Noah had the genetic DNA to provide for the awesome diversity we see around us. God is the ultimate artist. Just stunning that millions and millions of unique people could come from that one couple.an impartiality post

God Is Impartial

Presently in our world, equality is very fractious topic. Our differences have created inequities, which in turn cause pain. People are mistreated and abused. That trauma leaves scars, and painful responses build even greater pain and separation.

We protest and fight for equal rights.  It is understandable. We want the wrongdoer to be paid back for the wrong he has done. We want there to be justice without partiality.

The problem is that our world is broken. It got messed up. When sin entered, our perfect world was infected with selfishness and a growing desire to worship things instead of God. Selfishness and greed allowed prejudice to take root in our thinking, creating in-groups and out-groups, the haves and the have-nots. The longer our cultures drifted from God, or ran from Him, the more we rejected His truth that there should be no partiality.

an impartiality

Before the cross of Jesus, there is no difference between ethnicities and genders. We all stand guilty and in need of a Savior.

Before the Judgment Throne one day, we will also stand completely equal. No one will have extra favors because of family or wealth or connections.  The only thing that will matter is whether we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

The Art of Thankfulness

0828ONLINE_Feat_CMExpressing our gratitude is both an art and art appreciation. An “aesthete” is a person who appreciates art. Most of us cannot handle a day in an art museum; we move through at a good speed stopping only to acknowledge famous things. Aesthetes move slowly, and often, not at all. They are emotionally intelligent people who can just stare at a painting, moving their focus here and there to notice the details and just drink it all in.

Thinking and expressing thankfulness to God is being an aesthete in his art museum.  It stops our tendency to walk on by, and focuses on the details in His painting, the hues and contrasts in color, the choices of light and shadow. Such thankfulness, can both amaze and comfort us. This artist KNOWS what He is doing. He is a Master.

On Which Part of the Painting Do I Focus?

In chapter 12 of his book, Isaiah lays out a solution to the struggles that we face. The people around him were very discouraged. They had suffered from the Assyrians and had gone through great turmoil and hardship, but in the middle of their difficulties, Isaiah points to hope in God their Savior. He directed their eyes to other parts of the vast painting, where darkness will be abruptly ended by a hero emblazoned in a golden glow.

We have a similar hope in God who alone, through the work of Jesus on a cruel cross, can forgive us, save us from the wrath to come, birth new spiritual life in us, send His Spirit to indwell us as a Comforter and Guide, begin His lifelong work of transforming us from the inside out, and give us the hope of a home with Him forever. If we could take a peek at the fate of the unrighteous, we would never stop saying “thank you.”

You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), some translators say, “God’s original masterpiece.” Your life, with its light and dark streaks, bright colors and dull grays, is His workmanship.  How do you assess His work?  Are you a critic or an aesthete?

Children stand too close to God’s painting of their lives; they see just the color in front of them. It is not until our waning years that we are often able to get a better perspective, standing back from the painting, to see His design.  Even then, we still look at everything through a smoky glass, which will be taken away when we arrive Home.

an impartiality post 2A culture is a much bigger painting, involving all of the paintings of individual lives and how they flow into each other. One theme in art is that bright colors represent joy.  How wonderful it can be, then, when humans of every color bring their unique palettes to the greater canvas of culture.

True, the darkness of fallen sinfulness covers some canvases, but the image of God can also be seen in every culture. Smallness is a fear of colors not in our palette; largesse is thankfulness for all colors and looking for ways in which those colors, including our own, can be redeemed and used by the Master painter for His glory.

From Thorny Problems to Thankful Proclamation

Our Pastor Des here in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, shared this devotional on this topic.

Our attitude of thankfulness is:

          1. Fueled by remembrance
          2. Founded on trust in a sovereign God
          3. Strengthened through proclamation”

How victorious to move our focus from the thorny problems around us to the solution of God. He has made a way of reconciliation. He has forgiven. He has paid for all the injustices. He gives mercy and freedom to His restored image-bearers, and enables us to show those qualities to others.

We can trust the Righteous Judge to set all things right in His time.  In this world we will have struggles and injustices.  There will be pain and sickness and persecution.  But in Christ we are headed to a better place.

 

an impartiality blogpost

“For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Colossians 3:25

Anxieties Dissolve

A Cabin Called Prayer

A Blog on Hiding Places 1

The warm welcoming glow emanated from the windows. It looked so nice in there. Safe. Clean. Warm. A place where I could get a new perspective, His grid, on what I was struggling with. In my mind, I hurried through the cold and dark to the front door and knocked. The door swung open even before I really knocked hard. He invited me to sit down by the fire. Chai tea was already prepared just the way I liked it. 🙂  How did He know?

We engaged. I poured out my anxious thoughts and then as I looked on His face, it was like the confusion and anxieties started to wane.

He reminded me of truth. He said that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope will not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Anxieties Were Real

My anxieties were real. There were concerns that seemed so heavy and quite serious. I pointed out to Him that this was important indeed. He didn’t chide me, but listened carefully. I realized that as I was delineating my problems He didn’t seem surprised or upset. He calmly gave me a thumbs up. Hope was returning in this secret place.

He encouraged me to remember the gospel of how He had taken all those worries, all my sinful attitudes of unbelief, all my cravings for control on Himself at the cross. He had paid for all of that and He had risen from the dead to satisfy the debt. No longer did I have to shoulder the burden of being the “captain of my own fate,” or serve as God’s advisor by offering Him “better ideas.”

He now is shaping me into a new person. He is creating Jesus in Karin. I can live the rest of my days with His grace and view my challenges through His eyes.

Oh, to dream the dream that God dreams for me.

The anxiety fueling my thoughts was dissipating. When I focused on eternity and that God had everything in control, the dark fingers of anxiety couldn’t keep their grip. It fell off and disappeared like smoke. Anxiety is real, but it isn’t reality.

Yes, I will have lots of trouble here in this earthy life. God has warned me it is coming. He also has exhorted me that I am to run to Him with my anxiety and immerse it in gratitude and He will replace it with supernatural peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

How to Run to the Secret Place

I am talking about a ‘secret place’ in your thoughts, a little cabin called prayer. You can be right in the middle of a huge crowd and still duck into your ‘secret place.’  It is a deliberate choice to abide in our Lord and think His thoughts. It is being renewed in your mind. A Blog on Hiding Places 2

We are happier and healthier when we frequently excuse ourselves from our current rooms of busyness and fretting and talk to Him by the fire in the ‘secret place.’ As you spend time with the Most High, He gently restores a correct view of your present circumstances.

“So it doesn’t matter if you are struggling with pornography, anger, bitterness and resentment, or any number of other sinful habits. You do not find true freedom from those things from simple willpower or knowledge.

It is when you submit your heart to God’s Spirit and walk with Him that you will begin to take off the works of darkness and put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). As you celebrate Him and grow in your wonder of Him, alone and in community with other believers, you will find the old sinful characteristics losing their appeal, and new godly character beginning to take shape.”

A Blog on Hiding Places 3

You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance.  Selah.  Psalm 32:7

Here is a good article to fight anxiety:

Strategies To Fight Well, by  

(Click on Jim Newheiser’s name to get the link to the article)

The Eight Gates

Jerusalem’s Gates

The excitement was almost palpable. We were in Jerusalem! I had dreamed of this day for most of my life.  I was going to see with my own eyes the old city and think about how the Lord had been in this place. We hurried along the walkways and came up to the huge Jaffa gate. Let me introduce you to the one city that is truly “holy.” 🙂a blog on city-gates 9

Jerusalem is not only one of the oldest cities in the world, but has a huge prophetic part to play in the future. Walking those old streets made the scriptures come alive to me.

Old city Jerusalem has eight main gates strategically placed in its walls. History oozes from these old walls; if we could only hear them speak!a blog on gates

The Walls of My Mind

I was especially interested in learning that the eight gates remarkably illustrate the eight things that Paul tells us to think about in Philippians 4:8.

What if we pictured our minds as old Jerusalem? Only thoughts that fit the Philippians 4:8 qualifications were allowed to enter and roam the streets. Let me describe the eight gates to you and connect them with the eight things we should meditate on.  This is so cool! 🙂  First, let’s look at the verse:

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.                                                          
                                                                              Philippians 4:8

1. Jaffa Gate – What is True

When coming up from Tel Aviv, the Jaffa gate is the gate you see first. It is shaped like a “L” with a door on either side. Here is an interesting true tidbit about the Jaffa Gate. In 1917, British general Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, but got off his horse and went in by foot to show respect, desiring to avoid comparison with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s haughty entry in 1898.a blog on city-gates 1

Let’s connect the Jaffa Gate with the True Gate.

Ask yourself. Is this thought true? Am I thinking about something that is a lie? Is my meditation in accord with what is true? Only thoughts that are true are allowed to enter my ‘Jaffa Gate.’

2. Zion Gate – What is Honorable

The first mention of Zion in the Bible is in 2 Samuel 5:7 when King David captured the fortress of Zion.a blog on city-gates 4

Here, David and I are standing in the Zion Gate, which has bullet marks clearly visible from the 1948 war. Victories in battle give a soldier honors, so connecting Zion Gate with honor is perfect.

The Evil One loves to fill our thoughts with shameful things that we think no one else will know about.  Is this thought honorable? Opposites of honorable are shameful and ignoble.

Do my thoughts fit through the Honorable Gate?

3. Dung Gate – What is Just

The Dung Gate is the place where the refuse of the old city was carried out to the Hinnom valley (Gehenna) where the fires never died. It is located close to the Temple Mount.

a blog on gates 3The Dung Gate and the Just Gate could easily be connected by the fact that our just reward for our sin is death. All our righteousness is as dung, filthiness (Is. 64:6). We justly deserve punishment, but God instead has given us His righteousness.

Do my thoughts reflect things that are just? Just is defined as based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. That qualification would be a good checkpoint for my thoughts.

4. Golden Gate – What is Pure

a blog on city-gates 5What a neat picture for the Golden Gate to be linked to the Pure Gate. That gate will be opened when the Pure and Holy One comes. The Messiah has already entered the predecessor of this gate once before riding on a donkey a few days before He died to pay for my sin. Soon He will return to claim His rightful kingdom.

In myself, I cannot attain pure thoughts because of the sinful person that I am, but as I allow my Savior to control my thoughts and renew my mind to be like His, pure thoughts will dominate.

Four Gates Down, Four To Go!

a blog on gates

5. Lion’s Gate – What is Lovely

The Lion’s Gate and the Lovely Gate both start with ‘L.’ If one looks carefully on the wall on both sides of the top of the gate, you can see lions. This is close to the location where Stephen was martyred.

a blog on Gates 4

Sometimes lovely thoughts are difficult thoughts. Stephen died for Christ because of his great love for Him. He gave the greatest gift he could for His Savior ~ his life. And when he died, Stephen saw Jesus, who had been seated at the right hand of the Father, stand.

Are my thoughts lovely?

6. Herod’s Gate – What is Commendable

Herod was the greatest known builder in the Middle East in ancient times. He built Masada as a palace, the city of Caesarea on the coast, the Herodium palace, and he rebuilt the second temple and the mount on which it sat.  The stones at the wailing wall today were laid by Herod. Though he was a wicked man, his building achievements were commendable. a blog on gates 5

This Commendable Gate would check whether my thoughts were constructive, innovative, and worthy of approval. Would it bother me if someone could see my thoughts projected up on a screen? Would they be approved by an inspecting king?

7. Damascus Gate – What is Excellent

This gate was the busiest gate around Jerusalem and brought you to the main road heading to all points north in Israel and to Syria. This would have been the gate a rabbi named Saul left on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus. This road was likely the one next to which Jesus was crucified.

a blog on city-gates 7There is nothing in Scripture about a hill called Golgotha or a mount called Calvary. “The place of the skull” was next to a road; it still is today.  Romans crucified criminals beside the main road to teach a lesson to passersby of what happens when you disobey Roman Law.

Jesus was the Excellent One. The Perfect One. Because He died as a perfect human, the curse from Adam could be reversed. We can partake in the results of His death on the cross. He saves us.

Are my thoughts clear, creative, and consistent with the gospel? Do I live and think in light of that Good News? Are my thoughts excellent?

8. New Gate – What is Praiseworthya blog on gates 7

This is the most recent of the gates. It was opened in 1889 to allow easier access for worshippers in the Christian quarter.

The New Gate is connected to the Praiseworthy Gate. We must find new ways to continually praise the Lord because He is the Praiseworthy One.  If, in our thinking, we are looking for things to praise the Worthy One, other thoughts that do not line up those sentiments will feel out of place.

Final Check

So there you are. These are the 8 gates that need to guard our minds.a blog on gates

  1. True Gate ~ Jaffa
  2. Honorable Gate ~ Zion
  3. Just Gate ~ Dung
  4. Pure Gate ~ Golden
  5. Lovely Gate ~ Lion’s
  6. Commendable Gate ~ Herod’s
  7. Excellent Gate ~ Damascus
  8. Praiseworthy Gate ~ New  

 

 

If your thoughts fit into these eight gates, you will have no trouble thinking thanks.

a blog on gates 11

 

a blog on gate 11